The great outdoors. It’s beautiful, and the best way to experience it, is to spend time in it. Camping is one of the best ways to do that. Obviously, when camping, you need camping equipment.
Depending on what sort of camping you like to do, this list may not be for you. This list is for the most common sort of camping – Tent camping. There are others, such as wilderness camping – bringing only essentials and fending for yourself. There’s also RV camping – where you take your RV to a spot and stay there. People who don’t do RV camping generally seem to not regard it as camping, (I’m one of those people), but for the sake of due diligence, we’re including it.
Personally, camping with few pieces of camping equipment has the most appeal to me. Although my partner won’t settle for anything less than a proper tent. I love the raw experience of a tarp, groundmat, and sleeping bag. Making my own shelter lets me experience the wilderness in the way it should be. However many places do not allow wild camping, so make sure to check your local laws on the matter. For example, in the UK, wild camping is only allowed in Scotland and places like the Lake District, and parts of Dartmoor.
So, we’ve decided to make a list of the 10 items of camping equipment you really should bring on your camping trip! In the future, we’ll also make a list for the essential items you need if you want to go camping in it’s most minimalist form.
Probably the most obvious, you’ll need a tent for tent camping. There are so many different types and sizes of tents, and naturally they have vastly varying price ranges. Bear in mind, that something like a 4 man tent can hold more than 4 people. When I went camping, we once had 9 people in my 4 man tent, although we were all sandwiched in. If you can, test out the tents in store before you purchase. That way you know exactly what you’re getting.
Beyond the size, there are different types of tent. These include:
- Basic Ridge Tent – This is pretty much two vertical poles and a ridgepole connecting them. The cover is stretched outwards into an A shape. They’re more stable than you’d think, and you can get them in a one man size, or a giant one that can hold groups of people. The only downside is usually a lack of headroom.
- Dome Tent – This is the one I see most commonly, personally. Shaped like a dome, with two poles crossing each other in an X shape, curving downwards to make the dome. The poles usually slot into the corners of the groundsheet, to prevent it from simply flinging up and straightening out. They’re pretty stable on the smaller sizes, but as they get bigger, they get more unstable.
- Geodesic and Semi-Geodesic Tents – Geodesic tents are designed to be as stable as possible, making them the most commonly used tents when climbing very tall mountains, that have high winds. The poles in this tent criss-cross across the surface, intersecting to form triangles. This is what gives it its stability. The Semi-Geodesic tents are similar, but generally feature fewer poles, and are used for less extreme, yet still windy conditions.
- Instant Tents – These are definitely the easiest tents to set up. Generally, all you do is take it out of the bag, and it’ll unfold into a tent, because of how it’s coiled. They’re not the most stable, however they have been created to be more robust, and you can get them in pretty large sizes. So if time is of the essence, this is probably the best option. To put it away, you need to faff about a bit, twisting it in specific directions to fit back into the bag properly, so practice before you go camping.
- Inflatable Tents – Highly uncommon, inflatable tents are pretty expensive, and pretty heavy. Even though it’s so heavy, it’s pretty simple to set up. You just need to peg the corners, turn the compressor on, and watch as it inflates itself. As it’s so heavy, it’s not very good if you’re planning on hiking to your chosen campsite. As far as planning camping equipment goes, you want to minimize weight.
- Khyam Tents – This is another simple option, as the ridgepoles are contained in the tent at all times, but are detached from each other. To set it up, you just take the tent out, snap the poles together, and pin it down. They can be a little pricey though, and you can get varying levels of setup ease from the company.
- Tunnel Tents – Tunnel tents can get very large, and are most commonly used for families camping in a single tent. Although the dome shape it has isn’t the best for headroom, they get around it by only having the poles make a semicircle roof, attached to straight poles that elevate it high enough for plenty of space.
- Vis-à-vis Tents – These tents were made popular in France, but you can probably tell that from the name. The way they’re set up, is basically two smaller tents, connected by a larger central room. The smaller tents are face to face, hence the name. It’s great for multi-gender camping party’s as they can each have the own privacy of their own tents, while still being connected to the rest of the group.
- Pod-Style Tents – This style of tent is gaining popularity, due to the very large surface area, multiple rooms, and have a setup similar to the Vis-à-vis tents, with a main room, and several rooms branching out from it like spokes on a wheel. The downsides are naturally the weight, as such a large tent needs a large amount of parts. This makes long hikes with this tent arduous at best. Some pod-style tents allow for detaching of several of the ‘pods’. That way you can take only the amount of rooms you need.
- Bell Tent – Very uncommon, and very impractical for anything besides mild conditions, they do great for the warm weather. Featuring canvas panels, this allows for better temerature regulation in warm weather, but is a downside in the cold. It’s a great tent to have for a large amount of people, but it weighs a lot as a result, and the amount of space you get may not be worth it.
Now you know about pretty much every sort of tent there is. You have to now decide which one you’ll be adding to your camping equipment list. Are you hiking long distance, or driving right up to your destination? Is it a big group, or only one or two people? Is excess comfort a priority for you, or do you not mind roughing it? Once you can answer all these questions, and any more you may have, you’ll be able to make the best choice on what tent you need.
2. Sleeping Bag
As far as camping equipment goes, a sleeping bag is pretty standard. There are many different sleeping bags though. The temperature rating ranges from summer, to 3-season, to winter sleeping bags. There are two main shapes of sleeping bag:
- Rectangular Sleeping Bag – This is the most basic sleeping bag. Shaped like a rectangle, it offers plenty of footspace, as opposed to sleeping bags that taper inwards. Sleeping bags keep you warm by holding non-circulating ‘dead’ air inside the bag, so more room means less warm. They can often be ‘doubled up’ by attaching compatible zips from 2 bags, giving even more room, or allowing you to snuggle with your partner when camping.
- Mummy Sleeping Bag – This sleeping bag shape is the warmest sort, with a narrow figure, from top, tapering to the bottom. They also feature a hood that covers the top of your head, giving extra protection from the elements. They’re designed to maximize warmth, and minimize the weight of camping equipment you’re carrying. They are great sleeping bags for hiking, and cold weather camping.
Now that you have the shape of your sleeping bag, you need to decide on the temperature rating, so you know when to use which sleeping bag. You don’t want to use a heavy winter sleeping bag in the middle of summer, and vice-versa. There are generally 3 temperature ratings:
- Summer – The temperature rating for summer sleeping bags is usually +35°F (2°C) and above
- Three Season – This ranges from +10°F to +35°F (-12°C to +2°C)
- Winter – These are for temperatures from +10°F (-12°C) and below
Now you have the temperature rating, so you know what bag is most suitable for the time of year and location. What’s next is the type of insulation. Generally, there are 3 different types:
- Synthetic – The only downside to synthetic insulation is usually its inability to pack down as well. While this makes it worse for taking up space, it makes up for it in many other ways. First, it’s cheaper than Down insulation. Typically made from polyester, it’s also quick drying, and insulates well even when wet. It’s no surprise that this is the most popular form of insulation among your average camper.
- Goose-Down – Goose-Down is more compressible than synthetic, and more durable, so it’s a great option as long as you aren’t planning on getting it wet, as it’s not as good at drying out. However, you can get water resistant Goose-Down insulation, which helps a lot with that problem.
That’s pretty much the main variations of sleeping bag. You can get additional features such as stash pockets inside, sleeping pad sleeves, or a shell and lining. Hopefully that’ll allow you to choose the one you need to add to your camping equipment for your next camping trip.
3. First Aid Kit
As an essential in your camping equipment, a first aid kit is something you should take. It’s better to have and not need, than need and not have, especially when it comes to your health and safety. As for what things you want in there, here’s a list:
- Various Sizes of Adhesive Bandages
- Hydrocortisone Cream – This reduced inflammation and swelling
- Antiseptic creams and ointments
- Gauze pads
- Anti-diarrhea medicine – If the water you drink isn’t properly purified, you can get bad stomach problems
- Hand Sanitiser – You want to make sure your hands are clean before eating
- Sterile wipes
- Tweezers, scissors, safety pins, and knife
- Butterfly Bandages – Great for closing small cuts
- Sunburn Relief Spray – Although you should take sunscreen and use it, its useful for if you forget, or the sun is stronger than anticipated
- Painkillers and Anti-inflammatory medicine
Some additional options include duct tape, super glue, emergency blanket, and any prescription medicine. Super glue was designed for sealing war wounds, which is why they are better at sticking your fingers together than anything else.
You should also take the time to learn at least basic first aid skills, as it’s no use having tools at your disposal that you can’t use properly.
You probably won’t need such a large knife, but you do need to take the most appropriate knife for the situation. Ranging from tiny pen-knives to machetes, having the right tool for the job makes the job so much easier. In the many places, there are several laws regarding carrying a knife, so make sure you read up on it before you purchase one.
First, you need to decide between a regular knife, and a multi-tool. Generally, a multi-tool does it all fairly well, but a knife does its job perfectly (provided you bought a decent knife). Do you need all the contraptions such as a bottle opener, wine de-corker, pliers, ruler, etc.? While I believe that everyone should own and carry a decent multi-tool at all times, when it comes to camping, they’re not always the best option.
Secondly, do you want a fixed blade, or folding? Many places only allow folding knives with less than 3″ of blade to be carried in public. A fixed blade has much more stability and robustness than a folding blade. However, the folding blade beats it out in terms of storage and safety. You can’t cut yourself on when your knife is folded away. Fixed blades are great for cutting up wood, or slicing food, as there aren’t any moving parts for dirt to get stuck into. Folding knives do carry the risk of folding on your fingers if you’re not careful. Make sure you get one with a locking mechanism.
In general, the blade should be made of stainless steel. You won’t need a serrated edge for anything, and if you wanted to use it to saw wood, you’re better off getting a wire saw. A non serrated blade is also much easier to sharpen.
When it comes to length and weight, this comes down to how you’re going to use it. If you’re chopping down bushes, you’ll want a longer, heavier blade. If you only need it for cutting rope, a smaller, lighter knife will do.
Everybody’s camping equipment list should contain a knife. Keep your eyes peeled as we will be doing a list of different knives to bring camping.
A flashlight, headlamp, or lantern is an essential piece of camping equipment, unless you plan on doing everything in darkness when the sun goes down. Deciding which is best for you, depends on what you’re doing.
A flashlight generally gives you the highest brightness possible. If you are operating in complete darkness, or need to light up areas in the distance, a good flashlight is the perfect choice. The main downside is that when you’re using it, you have one less free hand, so if you’re doing menial tasks, it becomes cumbersome.
A headlamp fixes that problem. Being able to wear it on your head, it allows you the freedom to use both hands, while giving light. The downside is that these are the smallest form of lighting, and are only good for short distances.
The lantern is the last option. Great for lighting up the surrounding area, it’s perfect for setting up in the middle of your camp. There are 3 types of lantern:
- Electric Lanterns – These are the easiest option. Not having to worry about refilling gas, or accidentally setting fire to your camp, an electric lantern is great, giving you light at just the push of a button. They are dimmer in general than their fuel based counterparts.
- Fuel Based – Of this type, there are three sources. Liquid, Propane, and Butane. They are generally the brightest option, and generate heat. This can be a good thing or bad thing, depending on the situation. They are also fairly noisy and bulky.
- Candle Based – This last option is great for providing a nice quiet ambiance. Usually containing one or more candles, they don’t provide a lot in the way of lighting.
Whatever you choose, make sure you don’t cheap out and get something that’ll break halfway through a task.
6. Food, Water, And Camping Equipment For Cooking
Obviously you’re going to need to eat, and drink, so you need to bring food, water, and something to cook it on as part of your camping equipment list. Of course you can go full Bear Grylls and hunt your own, but most people are averse to it. Taking water with you is more something for very short periods of camping. If you’re camping for longer, purifying water is the way to go. You can do this through several methods:
- Boiling – Temperatures exceeding 122°F (50°C) is generally enough to kill all bacteria harmful to humans. The procedure of boiling water to kill bacteria is to bring it to a rolling boil for 1-3 minutes. If you’re in a higher altitude, you should boil for longer. After boiling, cover and allow to cool before drinking.
- Filtration – Filtration is another great way to make water safe to drink. A proper filtration system will use both chemical and physical processes to remove all bacteria from the water. It’s a good idea if the water you have has dirt and bits in it, as it’ll remove those as well.
- Distillation – This is a great, but long winded process of creating clean, safe, water. The way it works is that you boil the water, and collect the vapour that is released as it boils. It takes a while doing this, but it is effective at removing bacteria, germs, salts and other heavy metals such as lead, mercury and arsenic.
- Chlorination – The last option is the easiest, although you should take care when doing so. You can buy water purification tablets or liquid for your camping equipment at many outdoors stores. It shouldn’t be used with pregnant women, those with thyroid problems, or for extended periods of time. It does also leave the water with a pretty nasty taste, but as it kills everything, it’s a small price to pay for piece of mind. You can buy neutralization tablets to get rid of some of the nasty taste as well.
Regarding food, take only as much as you’ll need. If you’re carrying around a lot of food you don’t need, it’ll take its toll. The best options are non-perishables. Things like:
- Dry Foods – Pasta, noodles, instant rice, soup and drink mixes.
- Freeze-Dried/Dehydrated Foods – This is what military ration packs generally consist of. They last for years, and taste pretty good.
- Canned Food – Stuff like baked beans, tuna, chili, soup, fruit, veg. All great for keeping you going, and can be eaten hot or cold.
- Spices – When you cook food, you want it to taste nice. Bringing some allspice, or Tabasco sauce is usually enough to spice up boring meals.
While you can bring a frying pan, it is a large item. Getting something like a Mess tin is much better, as it’s smaller, very light, and is easy to eat from.
Make sure you never keep food inside your tent. You can keep the rest of your camping equipment near your campsite, but keep your food away, and preferably tie it up a tree. If you live in an area with plenty of wild animals, they may come over from the smell of food and attack when they see people there. It’s especially true with bears.
7. Toilet Roll
You need to wipe. You can go and use big leaves if you want, but I’m sure you’d prefer to wipe with something a little more substantial. Basic luxuries like toilet roll aren’t essential camping equipment, but you’ll regret it if you don’t have it. The upside is that paper is biodegradable, so you don’t need to worry about it.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be toilet roll. You can use a small pack of tissues, or even wet wipes, although the latter isn’t biodegradable, so you’ll have to keep it on you until you find a proper disposal area.
When you need to do your business, dig a small cathole, away from normal camping areas or paths. When you finish, bury it, and place some rocks on top to discourage critters, and an upright stick so other campers know not to use the same spot.
A good tip if you do plan on bringing toilet roll, is to remove the inner cardboard, and fold it up to save space.
You can also use a DIY bidet from a plastic squeeze tube and some soapy water. Spray over your behind, clean with your hands, then use the rest of the soapy water to clean your hands. Use the sanitizer mentioned earlier as well to make sure they’re clean.
You should also bring other toiletries such as:
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
- Razor and Shaving Cream (Or alternative)
Camping isn’t an excuse to be incredibly scruffy and dirty, so don’t do it.
8. Sleeping Pads
This is also a non-essential piece of camping equipment, but it makes your life so much easier. There are many different typed of sleeping pad. They include:
- Foam Roll Mat – Even though they’re not very thick, usually around 1/2″, they provide much comfort from the rocky ground. You can either buy a dedicated foam roll mat, or just grab a yoga mat. They’re essentially the same thing. They are very lightweight, cheap, and well insulated. You can’t puncture a foam roll mat. That means it’s fine to carry on the outside of your pack. I generally roll it up, and wedge it under the hood of my backpack. You can also get folding ones.
- Self-Inflating Pad – Comfortable and compact, the self-inflating pad is incredibly easy to use. Just lay it out, open the valve, and it’ll inflate automatically. No need for mindless pumping! They provide excellent insulation, and are usually made of a stronger fabric than the air pads.
- Air Pads – The most comfortable option, air pads offer incredible insulation and luxury. The downsides of it is that the lighter and more compact you want it, the more expensive. Not only that, but they’re prone to punctures, so unless you have a puncture repair kit with you, you’ll have to deal with the hard ground if it happens.
Your choice of sleeping pad depends on your budget, and the area you’ll be camping in. You don’t really need a super soft pad if you’re sleeping on completely flat land.
9. Firelighting Materials
Being able to start a fire with nothing but a couple sticks and some string is impressive, but difficult, and impractical. If you are in dire need of warmth and the ability to purify water, and cook food, you don’t want to spend ages rubbing wood against wood in the hopes of an ember. If you’re in wet weather, you can basically kiss all hope goodbye. Bringing firelighting materials in your camping equipment makes it so much easier. The most important part is the material to ignite the fire. This can range from matches, lighters, Zippo’s, a magnifying glass or eyeglasses, or even batteries with steel wool.
Whatever you bring to ignite the fire, you need to make sure it catches, and stays lit. This means having tinder (Not the app), kindling, and then the fuelwood. Tinder is the initial fire catcher. It’s used to ignite the kindling. It’s usually very small, very dry, and easily combustible, but doesn’t burn out quickly. Some great examples of tinder are:
- Wood shavings
- Dry grass
- Bird down
- Dry pine needles
- Dry tree bark (Birch is especially good)
Once you’ve got the tinder going, add kindling. This is what builds the fire up even more to be able to get the proper fire going. Kindling means anything bigger than tinder, but smaller than fuelwood. That means small sticks and branches. Once again, they need to be dry. Also be careful to not smother the fire. Go slowly, and build it up. If you do too much too fast, the fire will die, and you’ll have to start again.
Once the kindling is going nicely, you can start adding the fuelwood. Nothing thicker than your wrist is necessary, and once the fire is burning well, as long as you continue addind fuel, it’ll keep burning.
When you leave camp, remember to put out the fire and quench all embers. Remember Smokey Bear alright? Only you can prevent forest fires.
10. Spare Clothes
This last piece of camping equipment isn’t actually camping equipment, but we’re including it anyway. Having a spare set of clothes is essential to your mental health, cause you’ll hate it if you have to deal with wearing wet soggy clothes all the time if you get soaked through. Even if you only bring one extra pair of clothing, it’s enough if you are careful.
If you get drenched, when you set up camp, switch into your dry clothes and make sure not to get those wet. Keep your wet clothes close to you or the fire to dry them out. In the morning, put the hopefully less wet clothes back on, and keep your dry clothes in your backpack, preferably in a dry sack.
Beyond a second set of normal clothing, bring extra pairs of socks and underwear. If you get your socks wet, change them at the earliest opportunity. Trench foot is no joke, and if you continuously wear damp, cold, dirty socks, you’re at risk of getting it. Besides that, trudging around in soggy socks isn’t a nice feeling. If your socks get wet and you’ve changed them, keep the socks as close to your body if you’re hiking, as your body heat should dry them out over time. Also, wearing the same pair of underwear day in day out is pretty disgusting. So change and wash them regularly.
So there it is! 10 (almost all) essential camping equipment that you should really take with you next time you go camping.
As an ending comment, make sure you bring a trash bag with you as well, and clean up all your rubbish. ‘Leave no trace behind’. Follow that ethos when camping, to make it more enjoyable for everyone, and better for the environment!