Camping

Camping Checklist: Essential Gear to Take Camping

Are you thinking about going camping? What should you take with you? Here's our beginner's guide to camping to get you started.

We live in a fast-paced society. Work, keeping appointments, running errands, tending to household chores; by the end of the day, you feel like you’re going to collapse (and probably do, right on your couch or in your bed!)

All of that chaos can leave you feeling run-down, detached, and just completely exhausted. While planning an elaborate vacation on a tropical island at a 5-star resort would certainly be wonderful, you’re budget probably doesn’t allow for such lavishness.

Fortunately, there’s a way that you can get away from it all, kick back, relax, and reconnect with your loved ones, yourself – and nature – without breaking your budget.

How? – By going camping!

When you’re feeling like you need to take a break from reality, camping is just what the doctor ordered. Spending some time in nature unattached to your demanding schedule and disconnected from electronics and the never-ending stream of information is exactly what you need to recharge your batteries and feel less like an automaton and more like a human again.

If you’ve never been camping before, you might be feeling a bit concerned about what to bringing. While you want to “get back to basics”, you still want to be comfortable and have all of the essentials on-hand to ensure your excursion is a success.

So, what should you bring? In this guide, we’ll share a list of all the basics that you’ll want to take along on your first camping trip.

A Tent

The first (and most basic) essential that you’ll want to have for a camping trip is a tent. Shelter from the elements is absolutely essential, and a tent provides the portable shelter you need to stay warm, dry, and comfortable.

Best Budget Backpacking Tent
Best Budget Backpacking Tent: Complete Buyer’s Guide

With so many different styles, types, and sizes to choose from, however, trying to select the right tent might seem like a daunting experience. Here are some tips to help you make the right choice for your needs:

  • Size. You’ll want to make sure that you choose a tent that offers enough space for you and your comrades to spread out, but you don’t want your tend to be so big that setting it up and breaking it down is a pain. Consider the number of people who will be sharing the space and make sure that the tent can accommodate everyone. It should offer enough room to fit all of the air mattresses and/or sleeping bags you plan on using. Before you buy, it’s a good idea to get inside a set-up floor model so you can see how much floor space and head room it offers. Make sure there’s enough space for you to sit up without pumping your head and enough room for the tallest member of your crew to fully stretch out. As a general rule-of-thumb, choose a tent that has a capacity for two people more than the actual number of people who will be using it; for example, if you’re camping with 6 people, opt for an 8-person tent.
  • Three-season style. A three-season tent is comprised of a body, mesh panels, and a rainfly. All of these things combined provide you with shelter from the elements, as well as the ventilation that’s needed to avoid stuffiness and dampness inside the tent.
  • Privacy. If you’re camping with a big group or young children, you may want to consider a multi-room tent. A 2-room tent features two spaces that are separated by panels that can zipper shut, closing off one section of the tent from the other. A 3-room tent is the same basic design, but it also features a screened-in “porch” on the exterior, which is great for changing out of shoes and clothing or for storing gear apart from the main “living” area.
  • A tub floor. You never know when it’s going to rain. To avoid getting flooded out, opt for a tent that features a one-piece sub floor that’s constructed of waterproof fabric. These floors are seamless, so water can’t penetrate through.

Best Selling Tents

Bestseller No. 1
KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Repellent, 4-10.5 oz cans
  • KIWI Camp Dry Heavy Duty Water Protect provides a tough, long lasting and breathable water protection that becomes odorless when dry
  • Ideal for tents, tarps, boots, hunting apparel, outdoor gear, boat covers and patio furniture
  • Treated material stays odor free after drying
  • Keeps water out while still allowing article to breathe
  • Silicone bonds to leather/fabric to create an extremely tough water barrier
Bestseller No. 2
Selkirk Design Ultralight Food Bag Hanging System - Includes a Waterproof Bear Bag, Pulley System with Paracord Nylon Ropes & Carabiners, Rock Sok, and Instructions
  • WHY THE SELKIRK SYSTEM? Have you ever tried tying a rope around a rock, tossing it repeatedly, breaking branches, and finally getting to hang your food from a branch? It's not fun. Instead, put a few rocks into the Rock Sok and use our 2-to-1 pulley system to quickly & easily hang your food
  • HOW EXACTLY DOES IT WORK? Put a couple rocks in the Rock Sok, tie off the rope and easily toss it over a branch. Then our 2-to-1 pulley system makes it as easy as possible to raise your food. The ropes and carabiners act like a pulley - meaning you only need half the pulling force to raise your gear
  • WHEN WOULD I USE ONE? The Selkirk Design System is perfect for camping, hiking, backpacking, back country fishing, etc. Anytime you have the need for a bear sack, you can use this kit to hang your food & gear safely on a branch. The Rock Sok only weighs 6.5OZ, so you can carry it anywhere
  • PEACE OF MIND - Finally, a peaceful night's sleep or a worry free day hike away from your camp without the concern of waking up to or returning to a ramsacked campsite.  Whether it is bears, wolves, cougars, raccoons, or even your dog and kids - easily hang your valuables where only you can retrieve them
  • 30-Day 100% Money Back Guarantee! WHAT IS INCLUDED? 1 Bearbag, 1 Rock Sok, 2 Ropes, 2 Carabiners & Waterproof/Tearproof Instructions
SaleBestseller No. 3
Go Time Gear Life Tent Emergency Survival Shelter – 2 Person Bivy Tent – Use As Survival Tent, Emergency Tent, Survival Bag, Survival Tarp, Bivy Sack - with Survival Whistle & 20FT Paracord (Orange)
  • Compact Emergency Shelter: The Go Time Gear Life Tent is a weatherproof 2-person tent made from tear and puncture-resistant PET mylar with an interior that reflects 90% of your body heat. You'll stay warm and dry in wind, rain, and snow. Ideal in any backpack while camping and hiking or even a car survival kit.
  • Waterproof and Windproof: Our emergency storm shelter weighs just 8.7oz and packs down fast in a 5.25” x 3.25” stuff sack. Our reusable survival kit allows you to escape the elements and winter weather without weighing you down.
  • Quick Set-Up: Our thermal emergency tube tent sets up fast between trees. Weigh it down with rocks or gear for extra stability. If no trees are available, wrap it around yourself as an emergency sleeping bag, blanket, bivvy bag, or bivvy sack.
  • 120 Decibel Whistle and 20FT Paracord Included: Engineered for emergencies, our Life Tent includes a 120-decibel whistle to alert rescuers up to 1-mile away. The 550lb nylon core Para-Synch drawstring can also be used to tie down or repair gear and backpacking supplies.
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Sleeping Bags

When you’re sleeping out in nature, basic blankets won’t cut it; instead, you’ll want to invest in a quality sleeping bag to keep you warm and cozy.

Check the temperature rating of the sleeping bag and consider the time of year when you’ll be camping. If you’re going out during the warmer weather, a summer sleeping bag should work just fine; however, if you intend on camping again after your first trip or you just want to ensure that you’re ready for any type of weather Mother Nature throws your way, a 3-season bag is a better idea, as you can adjust it according to the temperature.

Another suggestion: avoid the “mummy-“type sleeping bags and instead, go for a standard rectangular sleeping bag; it will give you a lot more room to spread out.

Sleeping Surface

You’ll also want to bring along a surface to set your sleeping bag up on. While an air mattress might be tempting, if it gets cold, it won’t do you much good, as there’s no insulation; plus, there’s a chance that it could pop or deflate, and even if it doesn’t, you’ll need to worry about inflating and deflating it.

With that said, we recommend a sleeping pad. These pads are specifically designed for camping. They provide a bit of cushioning between you and the ground, and they also act as a layer of insulation from the cold earth.

Look for something that’s made of durable, high-quality materials that have insulating qualities; the higher the insulation value (known as “R-value”), the better.

Best Selling Sleeping Bags

Bestseller No. 1
Beckham Hotel Collection Bed Pillows for Sleeping - Queen Size, Set of 2 - Cooling, Luxury Gel Pillow for Back, Stomach or Side Sleepers
  • Superior Comfort: Our cool pillow is encased in a 250-thread count cover, and filled with a soft down alternative.
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  • Safe & Sound: These bed pillows are made in an OEKO-TEX Standard 100 factory that ensures textiles meet high safety and environmental standards.
  • Easy Clean: Unlike a memory foam pillow, our side sleeper pillow is designed to make life as easy as counting sheep! Simply pop them in the washer and tumble dry.
  • No Shift Construction: Whether you're a supine sleeper, a power napper, or you love a sideways siesta - our cooling pillows for sleeping can accommodate! The plush bounce-back design will shape to your favorite position.
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TruSkin Vitamin C Serum for Face, Anti Aging Serum with Hyaluronic Acid, Vitamin E, Organic Aloe Vera and Jojoba Oil, Hydrating & Brightening Serum for Dark Spots, Fine Lines and Wrinkles, 1 fl oz
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SaleBestseller No. 3
SmartyPants Kids Formula Daily Gummy Multivitamin: Vitamin C, D3, and Zinc for Immunity, Gluten Free, Omega 3 Fish Oil (DHA/EPA), Vitamin B6, B12, 120 Count (30 Day Supply)
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Cooking Supplies

You’ll also want to make sure that you bring the necessary essentials to prepare meals. There are a few basics that you’ll definitely want to bring along, including:

  • A camp stove. A traditional camp stove, which features two burners and is powered by propane, is really all you need. It’s lightweight, easy to transport, and easy to set up. It also offers enough space to hold skillets, pots, and even a camp coffee pot (you’ll definitely want to bring one of those along, too!). Make sure you pack a few canisters of fuel to be on the safe side. Also, we suggest trying it out before you head out, just to make sure you know how to work it.
  • A cooler. Since you won’t have a fridge, you’ll need to keep your food and drinks cold somehow! Make sure you opt for a high-quality, durable cooler that offers enough space to accommodate the perishable foods you plan on bringing, as well as a few cold beverages. The thicker the insulation, the longer your stuff will stay cold. If you’re packing for a large crew, a cooler that features built-in wheels and handles is a great choice, as you’ll find it’s a lot easier to tote around.
  • Pots and pans. Bring along at least one frying pan and one pot.
  • Plates and cups. While you don’t want to use anything breakable, you should also avoid single-use products to reduce your waste. Reusable plates, bowls, and cups that are made of non-breakable materials are ideal. You can wash them down when you’re finished and use them over and over again.
  • Cutlery and cooking utensils. Again, you don’t want to bring your best stuff, but you also should avoid single-use items. Instead, opt for inexpensive and reusable spoons, forks, knives, spatulas, tongs, mixing spoons, etc.
  • A coffee pot. We mentioned it above, but it’s worth mentioning again; make sure you bring along a portable coffee pot that can be used on a camp stove so you can brew up a fresh cup o’ joe when you need a pick-me-up.

Lighting

While a campfire can certainly serve as a source of light, it won’t do you any good when you’re trying to get ready for bed in your tent or you need to make a trip to the bathroom.

Portable lighting is essential. Pack plenty of flashlights and battery-operated lanterns. Headlamps are great, too, especially when you need to see what you’re doing but also need to use both of your hands.

A Utility Knife

A utility knife is another must-have. You don’t need anything crazy, but something that offers the basics, such as a foldable blade, a can opener, a screw driver, etc. This tool will come in handy for so many different reasons; cutting kindling, slicing food, opening cans, etc.

Best Backpacking Knife
The Best Backpacking Knife Under $100: Reviews & Buyer’s Guide

Water Bottles

Staying hydrated is always important, but particularly when you’re out in nature, hiking, playing, or just soaking up the sun. Make sure you bring something that can hold plenty of water; ideally, it should be insulated, too, to keep your H2O nice and cool. An easy to open lid is important, and you may even want to opt for something that has a clip that you can connect to a belt loop for hands-free portability.

First Aid Kit

While you certainly hope you’ll get through your trip unscathed, it’s far better to be prepared. With a first aid kit, you’ll be able to tend to any unexpected cuts, bruises, scrapes, burns, bug bites, or blisters that may pop up.

The easiest option: purchase a pre-assembled first aid kit that features all of the essentials, including:

  • Bandages (in an assortment of sizes)
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Burn cream
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Gauze
  • Medical tape
  • Iodine
  • Disposable sterile gloves
  • Tweezers
  • Pain relievers
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Cough medicine
  • Sun burn relief cream
  • Antihistamine tablets and cream
  • Eye wash
  • Distilled water

You could also make up your own first aid kit. If you do, make sure you include these basic essentials. Also, if young children will be traveling with you, make sure you bring along kid-safe medications.

Best Selling First Aid Kits

SaleBestseller No. 1
Band-Aid Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose Portable Compact First Aid Kit for Minor Cuts, Scrapes, Sprains & Burns, Ideal for Home, Car, Travel and Outdoor Emergencies, 140 Count
  • 140-piece Johnson & Johnson All-Purpose Portable and Compact Emergency First Aid Kit for use at home, in cars, outdoors, dorm rooms, camping, offices & on-the-go. Helps care for minor wounds, cuts, scrapes, burns, itches, pain, skin rashes & insect bites
  • All-purpose, compact first aid kit includes essential first aid and wound care supplies like cleansing wipes, gauze pads, assorted bandages, rolled gauze, antibiotic cream, itch stopping cream, acetaminophen caplets, an instant cold pack, and much more
  • Emergency kit includes a variety of Band-Aid Brand Adhesive Bandages in assorted sizes for minor wounds, as well as Band-Aid Brand First Aid Products gauze pads, non-stick pads and rolled gauze for larger minor wounds
  • Includes full size 0.5 oz Neosporin plus Pain Relief topical cream to help prevent infection while relieving pain and full size 1.0 oz Extra Strength Benadryl Itch-Stopping topical cream to help soothe itching
  • Travel first aid set also contains Tylenol Extra Strength acetaminophen caplets and a Bengay Non-Medicated Instant Cold Pack to help ease minor aches and pains, as well as 2 pairs of gloves and a helpful first aid guide
SaleBestseller No. 2
First Aid Only 299 Piece All-Purpose First Aid Emergency Kit (FAO-442)
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deftget 163 Pieces First Aid Kit Waterproof IFAK Molle System Portable Essential Injuries Medical Emergency Equipment Survival Kits for Car Kitchen Camping Travel Office Sports Home
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Toiletries and Cleaning Supplies

To tend to basic hygiene, make sure you bring the basic toiletries and cleaning supplies. Examples of products that you’ll want to have on-hand include:

  • Bar soap (packed in a portable, waterproof container)
  • Shampoo
  • Sanitary products (if needed)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Comb/brush
  • Toilet paper
  • Towels/hand towels
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Multi-surface spray cleaner (biodegradable is ideal)
  • Paper towels
  • Trash bags

Even if the campground has a restroom and a general store, you’ll still want to pack these items with you. If the store is out of soap or the bathroom runs out of toilet paper, you’ll be happy you came prepared!

Camping Chairs

Even if your campsite offers a picnic table and benches, you’ll still want to bring along a camp chair; these chairs are a lot more comfortable than those metal or wood benches.

Best Backpacking Chair
Best Backpacking Chair: Complete Buyer’s Guide

Camp chairs that are collapsible are ideal. We also suggest investing in something with a high back for better support, as well as arms that come complete with built-in cup holders for your comfort and convenience.

Best Selling Camping Chairs

Bestseller No. 1
Coleman Camp Chair with 4-Can Cooler | Folding Beach Chair with Built In Drinks Cooler | Portable Quad Chair with Armrest Cooler for Tailgating, Camping & Outdoors , Black, Roomy seat: 24"
  • Built-in cooler: Keeps up to 4 cans cold and easily accessible
  • Hours of comfort: Thanks to fully cushioned seat and back
  • Convenient features: Side pockets, mesh cup holder, adjustable arm heights
  • Dimensions: 24 inches wide; 18.1 inches high
  • Built to last: Strong steel frame supports up to 325 pounds
Bestseller No. 2
STRONGBACK 2.0 Elite Camping Chair, Original, Lime Green/Grey
  • Award winning, patented, lumbar supportive design aligns your body posture to provide relief to your spine and ease tension throughout your back
  • 2-YEAR WARRANTY - Best in the marketplace! Durability Guaranteed. See manufacturer for complete details. Contact Strongback Chair directly for warranty issues after 30 days of purchase. Warranty not valid on 3rd party purchases
  • Spacious ergonomic seat designed to align hips and back for maximum comfort and relaxation; Made for people 5'8" and over (see the STRONGBACK Guru Chair for people 5’7” and under)
  • Easy to use and lightweight - the perfect portable chair for camping, travel, picnics, beach trips, sports, concert events and other outdoor activities; includes a backpack style carry bag and cupholder
  • Heavy-duty, durable construction with a 300-pound weight capacity
SaleBestseller No. 3
Tommy Bahama Backpack Cooler Beach Chairs - Blue Floral
  • INSULATED COOLER: The portable cooler chair has a big insulated cooler at the backside of the chair which is accessible even if the chair is completely folded. The cooler can hold up to six cans and ice to keep your drink cool at the beach or camping site.
  • EXTRA STORAGE & FUNCTIONALITY: The outdoor portable chair provides extra comfort including a flip-over pillow for head and neck support, foldable towel holder, side pockets which features Insulated beverage or storage pouch, Cell phone holder/ cup holder. Extra storage pocket along with the cooler at the backside.
  • STURDY, STRONG & LIGHTWEIGHT: The portable beach chair is made of a lightweight aluminum frame and 600-denier polyester fabric which makes this chair a strong, rustproof, durable to last for seasons. The beach/camping chair is specially designed for heavy people and has a weight capacity of 300 lb(136 kg).
  • ADJUSTABLE & PORTABLE: This reclining beach chair is adjustable to 5 reclining positions including lay flat. It also offers hands-free portability by adjustable padded shoulder strap to carry it as a backpack after folding it totally. Rubber carry handle makes it more convenient to carry with your hands.
  • VIBRANT COLOR VARIATIONS: Tommy Bahama Foldable Beach Chairs comes with three variations. (1) Blue-Floral (2) Blue-Pinapple (3) Multi colored stripes

Food

Of course, you’ll want to make sure that you pack up some yummy snacks and nourishing meals. But again, you aren’t going to have access to a fridge or microwave, so the meals and snacks you’d usually munch on at home might not work at a campground. Instead, you’ll want to bring easy to prep and easy to cook items, or things that don’t need to cooked. Examples include:

  • Dehydrated foods
  • Trail mix
  • Cereal bars
  • Dried fruits
  • Nuts
  • Instant coffee/tea
  • Oats
  • Deli meats/packaged meats/cheeses
  • Eggs
  • Butter
  • Milk
  • Beans
  • Pasta
  • Bread
  • Popcorn (that you can cook on a campfire, of course!)
  • S’more supplies

Those are just some suggestions. When it comes to the food you bring camping, just be smart and plan ahead. Make sure all perishable items are properly packed and stored in your cooler (and of course, be sure you bring along plenty of ice and ice packs so that your cooler stays nice and chilled).

Additionally, it’s a good idea to pack your perishables in air-tight, waterproof containers so that they won’t be exposed to water as the ice in your cooler melts.

Drinks are also important. Of all the beverages you pack, it goes without saying that clean water is an absolute must; however, you can also pack some other beverages, such as juices, sodas, and even some adult libations (for those who are 21 and over in your party, of course!).

Adrienne is a traveller and blogger with many years experience of the outdoors life. An adrenaline junkie at heart she loves to try different sports and activities all year round. With a degree in journalism she combines her love of sports with writing here at BeActiveOutdoors.com Contact adrienne@beactiveoutdoors.com

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