So you’ve decided that it’s time to try out camping! A quick internet search or stop at your local outdoor equipment store can be overwhelming, not just in the amount of camping equipment available, but also in price. It can be really difficult to decide on what you actually need, especially as a first-time camper. No worries! Here’s a breakdown of the core camping essentials for beginners.
Before You Buy
- Always read reviews! People who already own the items often note the durability and actual usefulness of equipment. This will let you know if it’s worth your money.
- Check it out in person if you can. Pictures and box information only tell you so much.
- Remember to look for warranties. A lot of expensive camping equipment have them, and they can save you a pretty penny later down the road.
Even if you’re on an overnight trip, you need a place to sleep. Look for tents that are both sturdy and easy to put up. Figure out how many people will be going with you. From there, you can decide on how big your tent will need to be—as well as how many hands you’ll have to help you put it up. You need the tent to keep out the elements like rain, so make sure to check if it’s labeled as waterproof.
First Aid Kit
While everyone hopes a camping trip will be perfectly safe and it probably will be, it’s not wise to plan on it. Better safe than sorry. Pack a well-stocked first aid kit just in case. You can buy a lot of great, slickly packaged first aid kits at outdoors and sporting goods stores, but you can also build your own. REI has a good checklist to help you build a first aid kit. So do the Boy Scouts of America.
Good bedding is almost as important as a tent. Find a self-inflating mattress pad to save on space and effort without skimping on comfort. A sleeping bag is vital even if you aren’t camping someplace cold. You’ll be surprised how much temperatures drop once the sun goes down. Always check the sleeping bag’s temperature rating.
Even if you don’t want to cook, a cooler is a good item to bring. You can keep beverages nice and cold. You can also store cold cuts and condiments for a quick meal. If you do plan to cook, make sure you get a cooler big enough to store all the ingredients that need to be kept cold. A camping cooler should be well insulated and fairly easy to move. Rolling coolers don’t work well on uneven ground.
One of the highlights of camping is a campfire. Even campgrounds that prohibit open fires often supply a grill or contained fire ring. Bring a good multipurpose lighter—the kind with a trigger mechanism and a long neck— with a lot of fuel left. Cigarette lighters, while cheap and easy to pick up on your way out, are going to make lighting a fire a challenge, especially if your fingers are cold.
We’re including pots, pans, plates, and utensils in this category. Even if you don’t plan on cooking, at least bring plates and utensils to eat with. Disposable ones blow away in the wind and are easily dropped as litter by accident. There are a lot of cheap, lightweight options that you can easily pack up. For pots and pans, look for lightweight and durable sets with a versatility.
Eating standing up in the woods isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Look for lightweight folding camping chairs that are still comfortable. While you can use card table chairs perfectly well, once you sit in a camping chair with arms and a built-in cup holder, it will be hard to go back.
What else should you bring? A lot will depend on your environment. Having a store of good bug spray is smart because mosquitos like to show up in places where they shouldn’t be. Always bring rain gear, like lightweight jacket shells with hoods, even if rain is not in the forecast. Weather can be a fickle thing and bring rain gear along is a good habit to get into. Lighting is a necessity. Pick up a good flashlight and some nice and bright stationary lighting. Electric lamps are a great choice. A knife or multitool is also a good idea. These have a lot of uses, from helping with camping site set up to first aid (sterilize it first) to cooking (sterilize it first).
Are there any other essentials for beginners you would recommend? Let us know!