Dispersed Camping Checklist: What to bring on your next trip

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So you’ve found the perfect dispersed campsite for your upcoming trip. You’ve picked your dates, the weather looks ideal, and you’re all set to hit the road for a few nights out under the stars. The final item to prepare for your trip is getting out your camping gear and ensuring you have everything you need to enjoy yourself.

We’ve created this dispersed camping checklist guide to share some of the specific items you’ll want to consider bringing on your trip, as well as provide an overall car camping gear checklist guide that you can refer to while packing up.

Let’s get started!

Dispersed Camping Checklist Guide

Dispersed Camping Essentials

Before we jump into a complete camping checklist we thought it would be useful to start with some of the essentials specific to dispersed camping. You’re more than likely to have a good tent, sleeping gear, and other basic camping equipment, but in the following section we’ve highlighted some specifics for dispersed camping that you may not have thought of.

Packing for your dispersed camping trip means making sure you’re prepared to be self-sufficient since you won’t have the comforts of a developed campground to rely on. Top of mind when packing should be water storage, waste disposal, and a few items to increase your comfort and campsite cred.

Dispersed Camping Checklist

Here are out top five essentials for dispersed camping:

1. Water Storage Container

Most dispersed campsites you’ll find don’t have a reliable water source. You may occasionally camp next to a river or stream that might allow you to filter the water, but we certainly wouldn’t rely on it. Given that, you’ll want to come prepared with enough water to last your entire trip. This includes enough to fully extinguish a campfire as well!

For this, we highly recommend a large, durable water container. Generally speaking, the bigger the better, but you’ll want at least 5 gallons to start. You can check out our top pick for a great water storage container below:

Our Top Pick

Scepter Water Container for camping

Scepter Water Container

The Scepter Water Container holds 5 gallons of water and is incredibly durable. The cap makes it easy to pour into water bottles and it holds enough to last for most weekend camping trips.

2. Portable toilet

Properly disposing of human waste is a critical element of Leave No Trace camping and essential for minimizing your impact while dispersed camping. You won’t find any bathrooms out there, so having a plan before you arrive will make sure you’re camping responsibly and comfortably! At a minimum you’ll want a good trowel to dig a cat hole, but if you can avoid burying your waste that is even better.

A simple portable camp toilet will go a long ways to keep your campsite clean and avoid polluting any nearby waterways. Simple is better here, and we recommend the following option:

Our Top Pick

Reliance Luggable Loo

The Luggable Loo is a simple, yet effective portable toilet. The seat snaps on securely and the entire package is very durable. Perfect for dispersed camping.

3. Camp Blanket

Ok, time for a little comfort. There is no denying that dispersed camping doesn’t have all the comforts of staying in a developed campground. One way to up the experience is to pack a cozy and durable blanket for around camp. This can keep you warm, make a nice picnic blanket, and is perfect for those nights when you can’t have a fire.

Our top pick for camp blankets is the stylish and functional Rumpl Puffy Blanket. It comes in a variety of sizes, but all share the same durability and are incredibly warm.

Our Top Pick

Rumpl Puffy Blanket

The Rumpl Puffy Blanket is the coziest camp blanket around. Not only will it keep you warm around your campsite, but it is made of durable materials and packs down nice and small.

4. Cooler

A good cooler is the workhorse of your dispersed camping set-up. It keeps your drinks cold, helps keep animals from getting into your food, and even makes a decent work surface for preparing meals. Most coolers will keep ice for a day or so before you’re left with a watery mess to deal with. If you want to avoid that, we can’t recommend a Yeti cooler enough.

Yes, they are expensive. But you will thank yourself over and over for making the upfront investment when you still have an ice cold cooler four days into your camping trip.

Our Top Pick

Yeti 45 Cooler

Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler

The Yeti Tundra 45 is simply the best cooler on the market. Incredibly durable and keeps ice frozen for days. If you’re looking for a great camping cooler, look no further.

5. Map of the area

It is very important to have a good understanding of where you are when dispersed camping. You need to know whether the land your on is public or private, where that forest service road leads, and what trails are in the area. For this, we highly recommend a GPS app on your smartphone that allows you to download maps for offline use.

Read more about our favorite apps for dispersed camping here.

While there are plenty of these apps available, Gaia GPS is by far the best of the bunch. The premium membership gets you tons of base maps (our favorite is the National Geographic Trails Illustrated) and lets you download them so you’ll always know where you are even without cell service:

Our Top Pick

Gaia GPS Premium

Gaia GPS is our go to app for offline navigation while camping, hiking, biking, and more. The map layers are detailed and offer tons of options that are sure to suit your needs. The ability to download maps for offline use makes it an essential tool for outdoor adventures.

Campsite Basics

Now that you’ve packed some of the essential camping gear specifically for dispersed camping, its time to take a look at the rest of your set-up to ensure you have these campsite basics:

Tent/Shelter

A good tent is one of the most important pieces of equipment you’ll want to bring on your camping trip. Since you’re dispersed camping, weight isn’t a critical consideration, and we recommend focusing on comfort and space.

Here are a few of our top picks for dispersed camping tent:

Sleeping Bag

The best sleeping bag for your trip will largely depend on the time of year and the overnight temperature you can expect. For most campers, a three-season sleeping bag will be the most versatile. We recommend a temperature rating of between 20 – 30 degrees for most trips.

Our Top Pick

NEMO Disco 30 Sleeping Bag

The NEMO Disco 30 sleeping bag is the perfect blend of warmth and comfort and won’t break the bank. It comes in both 30 degree and 15 degree ratings. The unique shape is perfect for side sleepers!

Buy at REI

Sleeping Pad

Comfort is king when dispersed camping, and one of the most important pieces of equipment to get a good night’s rest is a sleeping pad. There have been some incredible advances since the days of foam sleeping pads, and we always recommend investing a bit of money in a good sleeping pad.

Our Top Pick

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

The Exped MegaMat 10 is the most comfortable sleeping pad on the market in our estimation. Do yourself a favor and ditch your old sleeping pad for something you’ll actually enjoy sleeping on!

Buy at REI

Camp Kitchen

Food

What food you bring will come down to personal taste, how much you want to cook, and how long you plan to be out camping. We always recommend bringing at least a few backpacking meals, just in case things don’t go to plan and you need an easy dinner.

Our Top Pick

Mountain House Adventure Weekender Kit

This pack of six Mountain House meals is perfect for your weekend dispersed camping trip. Simply add boiling water and you’ll be enjoying a tasty meal in no time.

Camp Table

A good camp table will be the keystone of your camp kitchen. You’ll cook, prepare food, and maybe even use for a card game or two. Stability, weight, and size are the key considerations here.

Our Top Pick

Coleman Outdoor Camping Table

A good camping table is the heart of your outdoor kitchen. While there are fancier versions available, we think this sturdy aluminum version from Coleman is the perfect dispersed camping companion.

Water Container

As mentioned above, a durable water container is a critical piece of equipment when dispersed camping. Plan on bringing more than you’ll need as it beats the alternative of running out of water. Don’t forget to plan on bringing extra if you’re going to have a campfire, as you’ll want to fully drown it before heading off to bed.

Cooking Pots & Utensils

A basic backpacking kit will work, but we like to bring an upgraded set of cookware when dispersed camping. Something sturdy, packable, and easy to clean are all features you’ll want to factor in when choosing your set-up.

Our top picks are shown below:

Camping Stove

You want your camp stove to be easy to operate, simple to pack, and very durable. Whether you’re heating up coffee, whipping up a gourmet dinner, or simply roasting marshmallows in a pinch, you can’t go wrong with the Coleman classic camp stove.

Our Top Pick

Coleman Classic Camp Stove

The Coleman is a classic for a reason. Consistent performance year after year and a simple yet iconic design make this our top camping stove pick.

Buy at REI

Other Camp Kitchen Items

Extras & Miscellaneous Items

Camping Chairs

There isn’t much better than sitting around the fire at your dispersed campsite swapping stories and reflecting on the day. A good camp chair needs to be sturdy, light, and comfortable all at the same time. Our top pick is below:

Our Top Pick

NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair

The NEMO Stargaze is the ultimate in camping comfort. Get the chair that will upgrade your camping experience for years to come.

Buy at REI

Power Bank

If you need to keep you phone or other electronics charged you’ll want to bring a good battery backup or powerbank. The size you need will depend on what you need to charge, but we always recommend going with a little extra capacity just in case. Anker makes our favorite power banks for camping.

Our Top Pick

Anker Portable Power Station

The Anker Portable Power Station is the best in class for charging electronics at your campsite. With six charging ports everyone will have fully charged devices, and the durable construction makes is camping approved.

Other Miscellaneous Items

Personal Items

First-aid Kit

Don’t skip this one! Bringing a well-stocked first-aid kit will have you prepared for bumps, bruises, and minor cuts when you may be miles away from civilization. Don’t forget to periodically go through your kit to check expiration dates and restock on supplies.

Our Top Pick

Adventure Medical Kits Explorer

The Explorer series from Adventure Medical Kits is stocked with a complete set of supplies for four people for up to seven days.

Buy at REI

Multi-Tool

A good multi-tool is a campers best friend, and you want this to be a durable and functional model. A basic knife, pliers, and a few screw driver heads are the basics, but you’ll be surprised at how often you use the features of an upgraded model like our favorite below:

Our Top Pick

Leatherman Signal Multi-tool

The Leatherman Signal is the top all around multi-tool to bring on your next dispersed camping trip. A solid set of features combined with bomb-proof construction makes this a multi-tool you’ll use again and again.

Buy at REI

Other Miscellaneous Items

Wrap Up

Packing for a dispersed camping trip doesn’t have to be overwhelming. With a good checklist to use, some solid gear recommendations, and a bit of advance planning you’ll have everything you need to enjoy your next trip.

If you’re looking for more resources on dispersed camping, check out some of our state specific dispersed camping guides below:

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