If you’re camping in a developed campground, you will have some facilities such as fresh water and bathrooms that you will not have in other more remote campsites. Remember to plan your gear according to where you will be camping.
In addition to your camping tent, you’ll need a few more items to make camping an enjoyable experience. Below you’ll find a beginners list for essential camping gear that you’ll want.
- Camping tent: When choosing a tent go for a larger size if your budget allows. The factory number of people rating tends to be a bit tight for most people. For example, if you’re two people get a three person tent. Having a little more space is really nice, especially when you have extra gear or a dog. For a family of four, go with a 6-person rated tent. At some point, you’ll most likely run into cooler weather at night and/or rain. To prepare for cold weather and rain, make sure to get a rainfly with your tent. Most come with a rainfly but can also be purchased separately if it is not included with your tent. Also, we highly recommend purchasing a tent footprint if yours does not come with one. A tent footprint is basically a tarp that goes underneath your tent to protect you from wet ground.
Smart tip: Before going on your first camping adventure, practice setting up your tent at home.
- Sleeping bag: Pick a bag that will keep you warm in the coldest camping conditions that you expect to use it in. This means you will need to pay attention to the temperature rating of the sleeping bag. Our preference is to sleep in a bag with a temperature rating this is at or below freezing as long as we are not snow camping. It is easier to take off layers or unzip the bag if you are too hot. Mummy sleeping bags tend to be a bit warmer.
- Sleeping pad: Some people find sleeping while camping to be a challenge. Having a sleeping pad helps promote a good nights sleep. We recommend that you don’t skimp on a sleeping pad. Pay attention to the thickness of the pad and the R-Value. Thickness helps prevent you from feeling the ground and the R-Value the warmth rating. The higher the R-Value the higher the insulation value, which mean the warmer you will be. An R-Value of 4+ is usually good for colder temperatures. Most sleeping pads have sets of air chambers; on some budget pads you’ll see larger gaps between the air chambers. The gaps have decreased padding and if you are a side sleeper you may feel the ground at the gap spots.
Smart tip: Many times you’ll get to your camp spot in the afternoon. Don’t wait until it gets dark to setup your camping area. Set up your tent and blow up your sleeping pad before it gets dark.
- Headlamp: Most campsites don’t have built-in lighting. This means that when it gets dark you’ll want to have your own light source. Often times, such as when cooking in the evening, you’ll want to have light and have your hands free. Headlamps are ideal for many camping activities and we highly recommend them. Need to go find the marshmallows for s’mores or go to the restroom in the night? A headlamp is the tool you will want.
- Camp stove: Consider a two-burner propane camp stove as they are easy to transport, not super expensive and allow you to cook a variety of meals or boil water. There are specific propane canisters for these types of stoves. They are smaller and light-weight. If your stove does not have an auto-light feature, make sure to bring a lighter or matches to get the stove started.
- Cooler: Consider how long you will be out camping and then ensure your cooler can retain ice long enough to keep your perishables cold. Many of the newer coolers have better insulation which increases the ice retention but it comes at a steep cost.
- Pots, plates, cups and sporks: Coffee? Dinner? You’ll need all the tools for food prep and then to eat it. While you can just use your home utensils and plates, there are camping specific ones that are designed to be durable and lightweight. Also, consider bringing some biodegradable soap and paper towels (or a camp towel) to clean your items off after each meal.
Smart tip: Use a clear plastic bag or bin to carry all your kitchen gear (and other gear too). Often times you’ll just need to grab one item like your coffee mug and it’s much easier to find it when it’s in a clear container. If you do decided on the clear bin, keep your camping items in it so that the next time you go camping you’ll be ready to go.
- Camp Chair: Some people may call these an optional item but after setting up camp and a small day hike, you’ll want to watch the sunset in a comfortable seat (and maybe with a nice cold drink in hand). Camp chairs are ideal for a comfortable downtime and for sitting around the fire. We highly recommend one. Also, camp chairs can be used for other activities too like going to sporting events.
Smart tip: If you’re in a hot area, consider a camping char with a mesh back. It will keep you cooler and if it does rain it will dry quicker.
- Daypack: Once camp is set up, you’ll want to do some exploring around. A daypack (basically a small backpack) is ideal for day excursions. Pick a daypack that can carry all the items you may want on your hike. Water, food, and maybe a rain jacket in case the weather changes. The lighter weight the daypack is the easier and more enjoyable your hike will be. For hydration, some people like just having a water bottle and other like using hydration bladders to stay hydrated on the trail. We like hydration bladders as they are easier to have a drink on the go and we also like having a backup water bottle in the pack.
Smart tip: It’s wise to have multiple water containers (bladder and bottle or bottle and bottle). Water is a really importing out on the trail and in case one of your water sources leaks, it’s really nice to have a backup.
- Multi-tool: Make sure you have the functions you need for what you plan on doing. A multi-tool is great for for camping because they contain many of the tools you’ll want while out in the woods. Multi-tools usually contain a knife, saw, pliers, etc. and can often even be used as a hammer. If you plan on using your multi-tool for more than just camping having a few extra tools can be nice a bonus. If you plan on using the multi-tool knife blade for meal prep, consider the length and size of the blade, you don’t want to get stuck trying to slice up some items for dinner and have a wee little blade that is not right for the job.
Smart tip: Your hands are important and hurting them if a blade bends or a saw breaks is not something you want to do out in the woods. We highly recommend quality steel multi-tools from well-know brands with long warranties (when they believe in the product, it’s a good indicator that you can too).