The Ultimate School Camp Checklist

Beyond the books, school bags, and lunch boxes, there’s the outdoor classroom offering lessons to be learned in self-discovery, life skills, and leadership – and with the right kit comes the confidence to kick butt! If you’re reading this, chances are your child is embarking on a school, Cadets, Scouts, or Guides hiking trip – maybe even starting their bronze Duke of Edinburgh award! Your task? Getting the gear to kit them out!

We know the conundrum: you want the gear to be functional, warm, and comfortable… but you’re not confident that they’re ever going to use it again. In this blog, we’ve unpacked the ultimate checklist for your child’s upcoming outdoor camp or expedition, having rustled up some advice on the most important and expensive items you’ll need (sleeping bags, mats, packs, and shoes), as well as other affordable, middle-of-the-range, and premium gear for beginner hikers.

Put the pencils down, lace up, and let’s hit the track!

A boy wearing a backpack looking up at tall trees.

In this guide, we’ve rustled up some advice on the most important and expensive items you’ll need. Image: Caribee

Sleeping Bag

Consider Packed Size, Weight, and Warmth

A sleeping bag is one of the most critical pieces of gear, as it’s the difference between a comfortable sleep and a cold, sleepless night. Packed size, weight, and warmth are the most important considerations here.

Avoid Bags Designed for General Camping

These are heavier and have a bulkier packed size, so not suitable for carrying in a rucksack. Instead, look for sleeping bags that are between 1-1.5kg if possible, with a suitable packed size. For more information on how to choose lightweight sleeping bags for hiking, check out this article here.

Two teenagers asleep in sleeping bags in a tent.

Pick a bag that’s as warm, light, and compact as possible for your budget. Image: Alamy

Bag Rating

If you’re unsure about the temperature rating, we recommend choosing a bag with a comfort rating (not a ‘lower limit’ or ‘extreme’ rating) that is 5 to 10 degrees lower than the average temperature it will be used in.

Synthetic for Affordability, Down for Longevity

Synthetic sleeping bags are popular with campers and hikers alike, as they’re inexpensive, faster-drying, and will still provide some insulation when damp (compared to down).

A down-filled sleeping bag will offer more warmth for weight than a synthetic bag. When taken care of, a quality down bag can last for years – so it is a good investment if it’s going to be used over and over again.

A girl in a sleeping bag, lying on top of a mat, within a tent.

A sleeping bag is the difference between a comfortable sleep and a cold, sleepless night. Image: Goal Zero

Accessorise for Extra Warmth

A thermal sleeping bag liner is a lightweight way to increase the warmth of a bag by a few degrees and is extra insurance should the temperatures drop unexpectedly.

An emergency or space blanket comes standard with most first aid kits, so that can always be used to add insulation under a sleeping mat, or on top of a sleeping bag for extra warmth in a pinch.

We’ve also got some extra tips on how to make a sleeping bag warmer, which might be handy to read here.

We Recommend:

Sea to Summit Trek Sleeping Bags

A step up in durability and price is the Trek range from Sea to Summit, available in three different sizes: the Tk1 (5°C), Tk2 (-1°C), and the Tk3 (-6°C). This is a classic bag and a high-quality all-rounder, suitable for hiking, travel, and camping.

A group of teenage hikers with packs.

Closed-cell foam mats offer limited comfort, but are super lightweight and don’t cost a lot. Image: Wilderness Escape Outdoor Adventures

Sleeping Mat

The Same Goes…

For a more technical trip where weight, warmth and packed size are again very important considerations – a bulky and heavy mat will be uncomfortable to carry.

Air-filled mats are generally the most compact, lightweight and compressible options for lightweight adventures. In cold conditions, however, air beds do not offer adequate insulation – so you will need to choose one that does.

Self-inflating mats have open cell foam which has cores or holes cut out so they can be compressed down, which are a bit more luxurious but are slightly heavier than air-filled mats.

The third option is closed cell foam mats which are dense rolls of foam that can’t be compressed. These offer limited comfort, but are super lightweight and don’t cost a lot.

We Recommend:

Sea to Summit Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat

A go-to option here would be the Ultralight Insulated Sleeping Mat from Sea to Summit, as this packs down to 23L x 11W x 11H cm, is 5cm thick (providing decent padding) and has an R-value of 3.3 to insulate against the cold from the ground.

It represents great value for money, as it’s insulated, compact, and offers enough thickness even for side sleepers to be comfortable. Plus, it’s consistently a top seller with great reviews, and we’ve had it in our range for years.

Some schools won’t allow air-filled or self-inflating mats, as both of these styles can be punctured. If that’s the case, a closed-cell foam mat is the only sleeping mat option. This can also be used under another mat in colder conditions for extra insulation, and for other activities such as yoga or gym – so it won’t gather dust in the shed after the trip!

Two campers wearing packs, pointing ahead.

If you can fit all your gear in a smaller pack, you’re on the right track! Image: Sea to Summit


The Right Style and the Right Fit

Look for a long, thin top-loading pack, not a zippered travel pack. Harness fit is the most important factor, so have your pack fitted in person if you can.

The hip belt must be snug as it carries 60-70% of the weight, and the shoulder straps need to be rounded over the top of the shoulders. A pack should also have an internal frame that distributes weight onto the hip belt.

A Big Pack is a Heavy Pack

A 65L size rucksack should provide plenty of space to carry a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, clothing, first-aid kit, and basic kitchen gear. If you can fit all your gear in a smaller pack, you’re on the right track (see what we did there?). However, if you need much bigger than 65L, you may need to reconsider the gear you are packing.

A group of teenage hikers wearing packs.

We’ve got a selection of gear options for all budgets. Image by Snowy Mountains Grammar School

Accessories Aren’t Always Necessary

A detachable day pack or removable rain cover are handy, but these features add weight.

We Recommend:

Caribee Cadet 65L Auscam Rucksack

The Caribee Cadet 65L Auscam Rucksack is the ideal choice if you’re looking for a basic design that fulfills the standard requirements. It features a padded back and hip belt, an aluminium frame for distributing weight, and molle webbing attachment points for carrying gear externally.

Deuter Aircontact Rucksack

The Deuter Aircontact range offers premium comfort and durability out of all the packs in our range, available in a variety of sizes with slimline fit options too.

The Aircontact back system provides padding and ventilation, and you can get achieve your ideal fit with the pivoting help belt. An adaptable shoulder harness also provides maximum comfort when carrying gear. This is the best option for those who are confident it will get used repeatedly in the future.

A Keen boot standing on a wooden ledge.

Hiking shoes and trail runners are appropriate for day hikes, but higher-cut hiking boots are better for multi-day expeditions. Image: Keen


Fit Your Footwear (If Possible)

Sneakers are not going to be heavy-duty enough for hiking. In general, hiking shoes and trail runners are appropriate for day hikes with a daypack. For a multi-day expedition with a heavier rucksack, sturdier and higher-cut trekking boots are required.

If you can, have your child’s hiking boots properly fitted. Take the time in-store for your child to try them on with appropriate socks, walk around the store if possible, and up/down stairs etc. Pay attention to slippage and rub spots.

Allow Wiggle Room for Toes!

There should be space for toes to wiggle and enough volume in the shoe to adjust for feet swelling in warm weather. The heel should not slip up and down, and the sides of the shoe should be snug against the foot without crushing toes, to avoid sideways slipping.

Break in the Boots

Allow plenty of time for the shoes or boots to be broken in before the trip, to ensure they’re comfortable. For more information on how to choose footwear, have a read of our hiking shoes and boots guide here.

A group of teenage girls wearing packs and hiking boots.

Allow plenty of time for the shoes or boots to be broken in before the trip. Image by Limavady Grammar School


A basic 3 man dome is suitable, approx. 3-4 kg. For a hiking-specific expedition, aim for a 1-2 tent weighing no more than 2kg. For more information, read up on our top 10 best-selling hiking tents for this year.


The brand Trangia is safe to use, and includes pots and pans. For hiking, gas stoves are light, simple, and compact, but pots and pans are extra weight. For more information, read up on our top 10 best selling hiking stoves for this year.

Pots and Pans

Alloy is light, but not the safest to eat from. Hard anodised is better, yet expensive. Stainless steel is a good balance. For hiking, you can probably manage with a bowl and cup that you can both cook in and eat out of, to save space. The Sea to Summit X-Pots are collapsible and lightweight, so a great pick.


Again, consider weight. You probably only need a fork and spoon, depending on what is being cooked. The Sea to Summit Titanium Cutlery 3-Piece Set is a fantastic lightweight but durable option:

Rain Coat

Look for a basic, seam-sealed jacket that allows a few layers to be worn underneath.


Not cotton! Look for polyester, polypropylene or merino wool.

Extra Set of Warm Clothing

As with other camp clothing, look for merino wool or synthetic fabrics. For hiking, lightweight is best. Lots of layers are the most versatile way to achieve adequate warmth.


Just the basics, don’t go overboard: toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. For laundry, the Scrubba Washbag is the ultimate portable washing machine for getting rid of off-grid grime! For hiking, keep the weight down: simply a toothbrush and small tube of toothpaste is more than enough.

A teenage girl using a Scrubba Washbag out on a cabin deck.

The Scrubba Washbag is the ultimate portable washing machine for getting rid of off-grid grime! Image: Scrubba

Two teenagers wading through water in the outdoors, holding a wash bag and towel.

Don’t go overboard with toiletries, you just need the basics. Image: Sea to Summit

Sun Protection

Hat, sunscreen and sunglasses. For hiking, look for small sunscreen containers, or transfer some from a large container into a smaller one to save weight.


A 1-litre water bottle is versatile – just make sure they don’t leak. For hiking, consider a water bladder that fits into the pack. This allows for easy efficient drinking whilst hiking.

A girl sitting on a rock drinking from a water bottle.

A 1-litre water bottle is versatile. Image: Nalgene

First Aid and Medication

A basic kit with adhesive plasters, cleaning swabs, resuscitation mask. An elastic bandage is also very useful. For hiking, keep weight and size in mind – only take what you will need. You should be able to make a kit that fits into one hand.


A basic, lightweight digital camera will capture all the memories. For hiking, just focus on what’s compact and light.


Hand-held torches or a head-torch. Head-torches are lightweight and versatile, keeping your hands free for camp duties.

Two teenagers standing on the top of a rock wearing packs. The sky is clear blue.

A basic, lightweight digital camera will capture all the memories. Image: Sea to Summit

What do you remember most vividly about your first hiking trip?