14 Essentials for Great Camping: Gear Recommendations
As we’re back from our first camping trip of the season, we thought it’d be a good idea to make a list (and check it twice) of our most essential camping gear recommendations to ensure that you’ll have a great trip in the great outdoors.
- Tent – Unless you’re a purist and want nothing between you and the stars (and the wind, rain, bugs and forest critters), you’re gonna want a good tent. There are a lot of options out there, but we recommend making sure they have these features: 1.) Breathable… you don’t want to be sweltering in a dome that won’t let any air through (we learned that the hard, sweaty way) 2.) Keeps the Rain Out – be sure to get a tent that comes with a Rain Fly, this extra layer goes on top of the tent to keep things nice and dry. 3.) Easy to Put Up & Breakdown - This is critical… especially for those times when you arrive at the campsite after dark or you’re just too tired to deal with packing things back up before heading back to town in the morning. Our favorite tents have always been able to assemble in 5 – 10 minutes. 4.) Folds Up Nice & Tight - No one wants to lug and store a bulky tent, so it’s critical that it fold up into a nice, compact bag.
- Sleeping Bags - We’ve got three requirements for sleeping bags: 1.) Keeps you warm, 2.) Doesn’t take up a lot of space, 3.) It’s lightweight and easy to carry. We’ve got the men’s and women’s version of the North Face Cat’s Meow 20 Degree Sleeping Bag - they zip together so you can get nice and cozy on cold camping nights.
- Sleeping Pads – Your sleeping bag can be as cozy as possibly, but it still won’t be able to do much to cushion you from the cold, hard ground all night long. It’s amazing the difference you’ll experience with a good sleeping pad between you and Mother Nature’s floor. Our sleeping pad of choice is the Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Sleeping Pad because it’s compact, self-inflating and durable.
Leatherman / Swiss Army Knife - Do not leave home without a great multipurpose knife. Whether you’ve got to cut twine to hold up your tarp, open a can (or a bottle of wine!) or you just need something to spread PB on your PB&J sandwich, a Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife will make your life so much better when you’re out in the woods. For everything from setting up camp to cooking, you’ll be glad you’ve got a trusty tool like this.
- Headlamps & Lanterns – Flashlights are fine and good, but nothing beats the ease and convenience of a good headlamp. Of course it’s likely that you’ll blind your camping buddies a time or two just by looking at them, but it’s better to leave them seeing spots for a few seconds than to stumble through the campsite in the dark. Headlamps come in all shapes and sizes – we like the ones that have a tilt feature for the light (fewer accidental blindings) and brightness level options like the Petzl Tikka.
- Matches or a Lighter – A good camping experience means at least one good campfire, so unless you’re super-proud of your ability to rub sticks together, make a flint out of a rock or using your glasses & the sun to light up a flame, you’re gonna want matches or a lighter. I suggest both, actually.
- Camp Chairs – Some hardcore outdoorsy folks might consider camp chairs a luxury, but we don’t leave home without them. After a long day hiking and exploring, it’s nice to settle back into a comfy chair and just watch the fire flicker in front of you. Check out this post by Amelia over at Tales of a Mountain Mama to get a feel for the differences and things to look for in different camp chair styles.
Camp Stove – While we cook most of our evening meals on the campfire, it’s no fun to wait around for the coals when it’s first thing in the morning and you’re HUNGRY. That’s why we love the camp stove for early morning breakfast prep. If you’re cooking for a crowd, there are larger two burner camp stoves, but we prefer the the smaller single burner MSR Whisperlite Camp Stove - it works great for two people and is easy to pack up and store. The small size also makes it ideal for backpacking.
- Cookware – A stove won’t do much good unless you’ve got some pots & pans to cook on! We love a nesting sets like this Texsport Trailblazer Black Ice Hard Anodized Cook Set - it’s got a frying pan and 2 sauce pans that are large enough to boil pasta. And the non-stick surface is a HUGE plus for clean up. It’s compact enough that you can take it backpacking, too.
- Kitchenware – After trying to scramble eggs with a plastic fork only to have the plastic melt into our breakfast (yuck), we quickly learned the importance of keeping a quality set of forks, spoons, knives and cooking utensils handy. Sure you can try to remember to pack all the utensils from your kitchen each time, but we found keeping a batch of utensils just for camping, like this Coleman Dining Kit, makes life a LOT easier. Oh, and never underestimate the usefulness of a spork! It’s the utilitarian camper’s favorite utensil
- Trash Bags- Campers’ first rule: Leave No Trace. Don’t forget to bring a stash of trash bags with you so you can keep your campsite tidy and more importantly, free of nighttime critters who like to forage on whatever you may leave laying around – especially if it’s yummy.
French Press - No one wants to deal with an angry bear early in the morning… especially when it’s your caffeine-deprived campmate. For those coffee loving campers out there, you can’t go wrong with a French Press. Simply pour in your coffee grounds, add boiling water that you heat up on your camp stove, wait a few minutes then press! You’ll have a great cup of coffee to while enjoying your peaceful camp surroundings. The Thermos Nissan 34-Ounce Vacuum Insulated Stainless-Steel Gourmet Coffee Press is a great option – it’s not only shatterproof, but it’s also insulated to keep your coffee warm for a couple of hours. Next time we have to upgrade our French Press we’ll go with that one.
- Bug Repellent - Getting chewed up by mosquitos and other bugs can make for a miserable camping trip, so don’t forget to pack you favorite bug spray to spray on your skin, clothes and tent. We also love the Off! PowerPad Mosquito Repellent Lamp - the flame is safely contained within the lantern so there’s little risk of accidentally setting something on fire, but more importantly it works like crazy! We usually use a couple of these lamps on our campsite and have never had much of an issue with mosquitos.
- Great Food & Snacks - Ummm, do I really need to say more about this? Yummy food is the proverbial icing on the happy camper’s cake. In addition to the big meals of the day, be sure to stock on up plenty of chips, trail mix and granola bars. Check out our Camping Recipes page if you’re looking for unique ideas for your campfire meals.
If you’re interested in other types of camping gear, be sure to check out the Marking My Territory Gear Store. We’ve worked with Amazon.com to provide a great selection of products for camping, camp cooking and hiking
Have any questions about the gear we’ve recommended or think we’ve left something out? Drop us a line down in the comments section – we’d love to hear what you are your must haves for a happy camping experience!