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What to Bring Camping

Thinking about what to take camping can be overwhelming for first-timers. What kind of sleeping bag should you take? What size tent is best? How much food should you take? All of these questions can be intimidating, to say the least!

But don’t worry! You’ve come to the right place. This comprehensive guide will help you identify what camping gear you must have in order to enjoy your next camping trip!

The Camping Essentials Checklist

In order to help make gathering your camping essentials easier, check out the following checklist to make sure that you have all the gear you need for your next camping trip.

Shelter System

  • Tent
  • Waterproof rainfly
  • Ground cloth
  • Rubber mallet
  • Tent stakes

This is arguably one of the most important things that you will take with you on your next outdoor adventure. Shelter while camping can make or break your experience! Be sure that when you are gathering your supplies that you have each one of these items. But how do you determine what is best to take with you?

There are many different tents on the market to suit a wide variety of camping styles. Before you go out to your favorite gear shop to purchase a tent, be sure to consider what kind of camping you’re going to do first!

1. Backpacking

Backpackers carry all of their gear inside of a backpack to get to where they want to go. To that end, the goal that all backpackers should have is to buy as light a tent as they can afford. The reason is that the lighter the tent, the further you can go.

In addition to going further on the trail, lightweight tents also help reduce the risk of injury. Common injuries that happen to backpackers are things like shin splints which can be caused by walking under a heavy load for too long.

A good thing to keep in mind when looking for a backpacking tent is to try to buy a tent that is less than 2 or 3 pounds total. This includes the tent body, the rainfly, the ground cloth, and the stakes. Most 1 or 2 person tents are great for backpackers because they are lightweight and provide just enough space for you to be comfortable.

If you plan on going backpacking with someone and you are planning on sleeping in the same tent together, consider buying a 3-person tent and splitting up the load. Buying a 3-person tent to sleep 2 people gives you plenty of space to stretch out after a long day on trail.

Backpackers tend to skip taking a rubber mallet for staking out their tents because that same task can be accomplished with a rock. Be careful though when using a rock to stake out your tent as rocks can bend or break your stakes if you hit them too hard or at an awkward angle.

2. Car Camping

If you go car camping, you’ll be able to buy a much bigger tent compared to if you were going backpacking. Like with backpacking tents, you’ll need to determine how many people you are planning to sleep inside the tent before you plan on purchasing it.

Another thing to consider is how you plan on using your tent and what seasons you plan on going camping. When camping during the summer, it definitely helps to take a tent that might be a little bigger than you need so that you can help air circulate through the tent while you’re sleeping. It’s also helpful to have a tent that you can fully stand-up in so that you’re not cramped while you get in and out of the tent.

Be sure to always carry a rubber mallet when car camping to help drive in stakes. Rubber mallets work great for this because they provide enough force to put stakes into the ground, but the softness of the rubber absorbs some of the excess force that could potentially damage your

Sleeping System

  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping surface
  • Pillow

After shelter, your sleep system is the next most important thing to take along with you. There are a ton of products on the market to suit a wide variety of campers. So what is the right thing for you?

Again, you’ll need to consider the type of camping that you’re going to be doing!

1. Backpacking

  • Sleeping Bags

As discussed with shelter, the goal that backpackers have is to get the weight of their pack as low as possible. With that in mind, there are a few considerations to make when choosing the best sleeping bag to use while backpacking.

But before you decide on a sleeping bag to bring along on your next trip, you need to know what materials are used to make sleeping bags warm! The inside material is known as fill material and there a couple of options on the market; down-filled sleeping bags and synthetic-filled sleeping bags.

Down fill tends to be much lighter than synthetic fill, which would make it the option that most backpackers tend to gravitate to. These sleeping bags are also great because they compress down to a very small size, which makes them ideal for stuffing into a backpack and leaving room for the rest of your gear!

The downside with down-filled sleeping bags is that they need special care to use. First and foremost, never get these bags wet! The down inside the bag depends on being lofted (nice and fluffy) for it to keep you warm. When down gets wet, it’s unable to loft up properly, which means that it will not keep you warm!

With that in mind, synthetic bags are a great option if you are planning on going into an area where you expect to get wet or if the temperatures at night would be low enough to make getting your sleeping bag wet dangerous. Synthetic bags are great because they still retain some of their insulating properties when they get wet. So, while it won’t be the most comfortable night’s sleep you’ll ever get, you will at least have some warmth provided in the event that you get your bag wet.

Synthetic-filled sleeping bags also tend to be less expensive than down-filled sleeping bags, which makes them ideal for beginner backpackers. If you spread out your money on different pieces of gear, you’ll be able to afford better pieces of gear in the other essentials, which will help you have a well-balanced kit.

  • Sleeping Pads

An underrated piece of gear that is actually really important to your sleep system is the sleeping pad. Sleeping pads are critical in providing enough insulation between you and the cold ground.

Sleeping pads come in a variety of weights, shapes, and materials. So how do you choose the right one for you? Consider the R-value that the pads you’re considering bringing have. R-value is the amount of insulation that a pad can provide you. The higher the R-value, the warmer you’ll sleep. The lower the R-value, the less insulation will be provided.

Try out a few sleeping pads by laying down on them in the position that you typically sleep. If they are uncomfortable in the store, they will likely be uncomfortable on the trail. Go with the pad that gives you the maximum R-value and comfort while also being as light as possible to help reduce your pack weight.

2. Car Camping

  • Sleeping Bags

Finding sleeping bags to use while car camping is a pretty easy job, especially when compared to finding a suitable sleeping bag for backpacking. Besides fill material, the only real thing that you need to consider is the temperature rating, since car campers don’t need to worry about carrying their sleeping bag with them on their back from camp to camp.

Temperature ratings vary from brand to brand. If you find a brand that you like, stick to it for buying future sleeping bags because it will help you know the amount of warmth that company is capable of producing in their sleeping bags.

While you might be tempted to buy the warmest bag that you can, really think about the temperatures that you’re likely to encounter at night. Are lows going to dip down below 30°F? If so, bring that 0°F rated bag. You’ll sleep nice and warm all night long!

But if temperatures at night are going to be relatively warm, bring a sleeping bag that will allow you to sleep comfortably. A good rule to follow is that you want to bring a bag that is rated to handle temperatures no lower than 10°F than the forecasted low. For instance, if the low is supposed to be 40°F, you don’t need a sleeping bag rated for temperatures lower than 30°F.

  • Sleeping Pads

As mentioned above, R-value does play a part in what you should bring to sleep on while car camping. Air mattresses are a great option that a lot of car campers bring with them to sleep on. The thing to keep in mind with air mattresses is that they don’t typically have too high of R-value.

If the temperatures are supposed to be low at night, consider also bringing a higher rated R-value pad to put on top of your air mattress. That way you’ll get the benefit of sleeping comfortably on an air mattress, but also the insulation benefit of a sleeping pad.

Something that might be even better than air mattresses are foldable futon mattresses. Futon mattresses are excellent compared to air mattresses because they offer all of the comforts of an air mattress, but they carry none of the risks of deflating due to cold air or getting punctured. There’s definitely nothing less fun than discovering that your air mattress has deflated in the middle of the night. If you can fit a foldable futon mattress, these are excellent options to sleep on instead of air mattresses!

Camp Kitchen Gear

  • Camp kitchen knives
  • Cutting board
  • Stove
  • Pots and pans
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Cooler
  • Camp dishes (plates, bowls, cups)
  • Camp cutlery (forks, knives, spoons)
  • Scrub brush for cleaning dishes
  • Spatula
  • Tongs
  • Marshmallow roasting sticks
  • Water bottles
  • Trash bags
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Bottle opener
  • Can opener
  • Salt and pepper shakers

 

Camp kitchens are going to vary from person to person so much. While there are some essential things to bring along, everything really comes down to personal preference. The most important thing to bring is a way to manage your trash. Trash bags are a non-negotiable thing to bring as there really is nothing worse than showing up at camp and realizing that there isn’t a way to manage your garbage!

When considering what to bring for your kitchen, consider the type of meals that you want to make. Are you totally fine with eating rehydrated food from a backpacker meal? Then all you need is a stove, a pot to boil water, and a spoon!

If you want to get a little fancier than that, consider buying a camp cookbook for ideas on recipes that are perfect for camping. Pay attention to what each recipe calls for and be sure that you can bring that piece of gear with you.

Just remember that when you’re camping, there isn’t a kitchen sink to wash your dishes in (unless you bring one with you) so try to minimize how much you’ll end up needing to clean!

Safety Gear

  • First aid kit
  • Bear spray
  • Water purification system

Camping sometimes results in minor injuries that are easily addressed when you have a basic first aid kit. You can choose to buy a premade first aid kit or you can choose to make your own. In either case, be sure that you bring enough supplies to take care of the number of people that you are going camping with.

Campfire Essentials

  • Wood
  • Lighter
  • Hatchet
  • Firestarter
  • Shovel

Check first that the area that you plan on going camping allows campfires before planning to bring campfire supplies. Sometimes the conditions are too dangerous to have a fire due to dry conditions. If you have a fire when there is a fire ban, you not only risk starting a wildfire, but you also risk potential fines and jail time!

Clothing System

  • Jacket
  • Long-sleeved shirt
  • Short-sleeved shirt
  • Underwear
  • Pants
  • Extra socks

Layers are your friend when going camping. When it gets cold, you can add on layers like jackets and long-sleeved shirts. When the temperature goes up, you can take those layers off! A good rule to remember when considering the clothing that you should bring is that it’s easier to cool down than it is to warm up. Bring plenty of warm clothes and you’ll be sure to enjoy your camping trip no matter what the weather does. 

Comfort Essentials

  • Bug spray
  • Rechargeable fan
  • Foldable chairs
  • Bluetooth speaker
  • Camp games

After you have gathered all of the other essential pieces of gear to make sure that your shelter, sleeping system, kitchen, safety, and nighttime management system is in order, it’s time to start thinking about comfort items!

The only limitation here really comes down to personal preference and the space that you have!

Nighttime Gear

  • Flashlight
  • Lantern
  • Headlamp
  • Extra Batteries

Each of these items is excellent for bringing along with you to make sure that you’re able to see at night. The absolute best and easiest to use in almost any situation are headlamps. Headlamps are great because they allow you to use them without your hands, which will help you manage your light and whatever you’re trying to do at night. They also can be hung up inside a tent so that you can use them similarly to a lantern!

FAQ’s

What to bring camping for beginners?

The best thing to bring with you when you’re just starting out is what you can afford to bring! Don’t worry about going out and buying the top-of-the-line piece of gear. A good tip here is to focus on building out your kit by upgrading one piece of gear at a time.

Start with your shelter and then move on slowly upgrading one piece at a time. In no time you’ll have a bomber set up that you’ll be able to use wherever you go!

What should I bring for camping?

Make sure to always have:

o  Shelter

o  Sleeping System

o  Water management system (water bottles, water purification)

o  First aid

o  Food

Outside of that, you can really add as much as you want for comfort.

What should you not bring camping?

This really depends on the style of camping that you’re going to do. If you’re backpacking, really try to get your pack weight low. In general, you want to have your pack weigh no more than 30lbs. But it really comes down to personal comfort. Some people try to get their pack weight below 10lbs! To get to that level, you need to make choices on what is necessary to bring and what isn’t.

If you have shelter, a sleeping system, and something to eat food with, you really don’t need to bring too much else.

For car camping, the only things that you shouldn’t bring are things that you would worry about getting dirty, lost, or damaged! Outside of that, you really want to bring things that are easy to clean and store.

What kind of food should I bring for camping?

This one depends on the style of camping you’re going to be doing. If you’re backpacking, you want to bring around 2lbs of food per day that you plan to be on trail. Focus on bringing lightweight, high-calorie foods. Freeze-dried meals are a great thing to stick inside your backpacking kitchen because they’re light and full of calories.

For car camping, the only limitation on food is how much room you have in your car and in your cooler!

What are the essentials things needed in camping?

As mentioned before, be sure to bring at a minimum:

o  Shelter

o  Sleeping system

o  Water management system

o  Food

What should a teenage girl bring camping?

Teenage girls really don’t need to bring much extra for camping outside of the essentials. Bring along the things you normally need when you’re at home and you really don’t need much else!

If you are backpacking, one thing to bring along would be a way to pack out any used feminine products. These tend to not be biodegradable and one of the things to keep in mind while backpacking is that you want to follow leave no trace principles. That way, you can leave the wilderness the way that you found it and you can dispose of those products the next time you’re near a trash can.

What are fun things to bring camping?

Never underestimate the power of board games! If the weather turns sour and you can’t spend time outside of your tent, board games will help pass the time until the weather passes.

When the weather is good and you want to spend time outside, yard games are excellent to bring along. Pick your favorite yard game and take it along!

If you’re looking to spend more time outside of camp, be sure to bring along your hiking boots and a map to hit up some nearby trails!

What should you not forget when camping?

Out of all of the tips you might learn about camping, the number 1 tip to never forget is to stake down your tent, every time. Unless you want to have to chase it down or pull it from the trees because the wind picked up unexpectedly, stake it down.

Also, consider how you’re going to organize your gear. For backpackers, separating your gear into bags will help keep your kit organized and easy to access. For car campers, clear storage bins are excellent for managing all of your gear.

Outside of that, you’re going to make mistakes. And that’s ok! Remember that you need to take note of the things that didn’t work out as well that time and try to find a way to fix it for next time.

What to bring camping with kids?

The best thing to bring when you’re camping with kids is a multitude of fun activities. Kids crave novelty so it’s important to bring several things to do outside.

 

Outside of activities, make sure to bring extra layers for your kids because kids tend to get cold more quickly than adults and there is no quicker way to end a camping trip than when your kids are cold and crying!

The Camping Essentials Interactive Checklist

Comments
  • Jane Hopkins
    February 11, 2019

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    • Christopher Noland
      February 11, 2019

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