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It’s been a crazy year but it’s also become the perfect year to camp!! So many of my friends have started camping because it’s the “social distancing thing to do”. Today I decided to round up all of my favorite camping essentials for you. I’ve organized the list into general camping essentials, cooking camping essentials, emergency camping gear, and toiletry essentials for camping.
Also if you’re new to camping check out my camping guide for beginners and download my free camping checklist here. It’ll be super helpful in the planning of your next trip.
GENERAL CAMPING ESSENTIALS
A good tent will last you a lifetime!! My dad bought a tent 20 years ago and it’s still working like a champ!! The best tip I can give you for buying a tent: ignore how many people it says can fit in the tent. Our tent says it’s a 5 person tent, but it’s really a 2-3 person tent. A good rule of thumb is to divide the “occupancy” listed by the manufacturer in half (example: a 6 person tent will really fit 3 people). Also never buy a tent without a rain fly. I didn’t realize that was an option but apparently it is. A rain fly keeps the rain off your tent when it rains which is super important. My recommendation for a small family tent is the Coleman 8-person tent. Our friends use this tent and it’s great! Plenty of space and it’s easy to walk around in (you don’t want to crawl around a tent, that’s just not comfortable). Don’t forget to practice setting up your tent and waterproof your tent before you go on your first trip.
Extra Camping Stakes
You should always carry extra camping stakes with you. Camping stakes are cheap and they tend to bend when you put them in the ground. You can get cheap camping stakes (not the super cheap ones though) or you can splurge on these stakelights that will prevent you from tripping over your tent at night.
We used to sleep on an air mattress when we camped but it wasn’t comfy and it would deflate as the temperature dropped at night. So we’ve moved on to camping cots and it’s the best decision ever!!
To make our camping cots even comfier, we put a camping pad on top of the cot. If you don’t get the camping cot, then at least splurge on a camping pad!! Here’s the famous thermarest camping pads that are super comfy:
Our thermarest is over 15 years old and it’s still working like a champ. It’s expensive but it’ll last you a lifetime. For a more budget friendly camping pad, check out the Sleepingo Camping Pad.
The best tip I can give you about selecting a sleeping bag is to read about the “temperature” rating. If you don’t need a super warm sleeping bag, then I recommend the Coleman Palmetto Sleeping Bag. It’s inexpensive and you can zip it together with another sleeping bag to make more of a bed (snuggle up together for your romantic getaway…haha).
You could get cheap camping chairs at a local store but they’ll be super uncomfortable. Splurge a little (not too much y’all) and get some comfy camping chairs. We use our camping chairs all the time (bbq’s, baseball games, camping, etc). We love our Kijaro Dual Lock Camping Chairs, they’re sssssooo comfy!!
We have these camping lanterns/flashlights and love them!! It’s a lantern/flashlight combo and they’re perfect!!
We own like 3 different types of headlamps but these are the best!! They’re easy to put on (especially if your hair is up ladies), they tilt/angle down, and they have a red light option. Why does the red light matter? We went camping recently and the bugs were going crazy over our white headlamps. Have you ever tried to set up your tent while being attacked in the face by grasshoppers?!?!? It sucks!! So we’re not leaving these headlamps at home again, that’s for sure!!
SOLAR POWERED LIGHTS
I love lights around our campsite. It just sets such a relaxing mood and it makes it easier to get around at night. If you have electricity at your campsite then just take some Christmas lights (no joke y’all). If you don’t have electricity at your campsite then check out these solar powered lights.
We don’t use our camping axe every trip we take, but we do use it on occasion. I definitely feel like it’s important to have incase you need to chop something down or you want to practice your axe throwing skills.
We just recently started using a water jug and it really does make life so much easier. In the past we would just buy gallons of water but it wasn’t a good use of our space in the car. Our water jug is space efficient and it’s easy to use the spigot to pour water into smaller containers.
A foldable table isn’t a “must have” but sometimes it comes in really handy. Normally our campsites have picnic tables but not always. A foldable table is also nice for when we want to spend our day at the lake/river away from the campsite.
If y’all have been following our camping adventures, then you’ve probably seen our hammock. I love our hammock!! It’s affordable, it’s comfy, it’s easy to set up, and it doesn’t take up space in our car.
Music is a must have for a relaxing weekend. My coworker has this Megaboom Bluetooth Speaker that I’m obsessed with and definitely recommend!! We play the Megaboom in a cafeteria with over 300 middle school students and the whole cafeteria is jamming out to it y’all. It’s a legit speaker!! If the Megaboom Speaker is out of your budget though, then check out the Oontz Angle (we use this all the time).
We use our pocket knife frequently while we’re camping. We have a simple pocket knife and then we also have our Swiss Army Pocket Knife. I love my Swiss Army Knife, it has so many great tools in it.
COOKING CAMPING ESSENTIALS
Texas has a lot of burn bans y’all so we decided to purchase a camping stove just in case (gotta love Texas though). The Coleman Gas Camping Stove is a nice alternative when we can’t set up a grill/fire. It’s also really easy to set up for some breakfast omelets!! Check out our omelet in a bag recipe here!!
Y’all check out the GSI Pinnacle Camper Cook Set. I ABSOLUTELY LOVE it!! Our friends have this set and I’m always wanting to steal it from them. It’s so compact but useful at the same time. We haven’t splurged for this yet but it’s on my Amazon wish list!! The GSI Camper Cook Set has small pots for cooking, plates, and little cups perfect for your morning coffee or oatmeal!! If this is out of your budget, then check out this more affordable option here or head over to your local dollar store to purchase some reusable items there.
The Jetboil is one of our best camping purchases ever!! It’s compact and it heats up water in like 2 minutes!! Perfect for MRE’s, coffee, and my morning oatmeal!!
I’m not a coffee drinker but my husband drinks like four cups a day. He recently got this coffee press for Christmas and he says it’s amazing! You can also invest in the coffee press attachment for the JetBoil but make sure you buy the correct size. I’ve also heard amazing things about this Aeropress Coffee Maker from several members of my camping group but we haven’t tried it out yet.
Everyone in our camping crew has a different colored yeti mug, that’s how much we love these mugs. We love the fact that they keep our drinks warm but also they don’t burn our hands while we’re holding them. I also love the GSI backpacker mug which is more affordable and more compact than our yeti.
I love these little spork utensils. I hate the fold out ones that you’ll see online; they’re heavy and awkward to eat from. These sporks are my favorite!!
Cooking utensils are ssssoo easy to forget. This little set up is so compact and helps me remember things like bottle opener, cutting board, cooking spices, etc. If you have problems remember to pack things (like me), then check out my camping checklist here.
Biodegradable dish soap is a must have. Let’s be kind to the environment y’all, mother nature is the reason we’re camping after all.
You can wash your dishes over an open faucet but it always seems like a waste of water. It’s also messy and takes forever to wash your dishes that way. A collapsible sink makes it easy to clean all of your dishes and it doesn’t take up a lot of space in your camping bins.
Speaking of washing dishes, I love washing with a rubber sponge when we camp. Normal sponges take forever to dry and I don’t want to pack up a wet sponge when it’s time to go home.
A Dutch oven is a great addition to your camping gear. You can make so many yummy meals in a Dutch oven placed over your fire.
There are many different methods to packing spices for your camping meals. You can add your favorite spices to a pill organizer from the dollar store or you can just purchase a pre-made spice container to save on time.
MEASURING SPOONS AND CUPS
I’m picky about my food, even when we’re camping. I hate my oatmeal when it’s too watery so I always carefully measure things. These collapsible measuring spoons and measuring cups are perfect for camping. They’re lightweight, easy to clean, and don’t take up a lot of space in our camping bins.
Skewers are perfect for roasting some brats over your fire and for those late night smores craving. We just recently bought this set and I honestly don’t know what took us so long to invest in these little things.
We always keep a few MRE’s on hand in case of an emergency. Sometimes we’ll eat them if we’re to lazy to cook, so they definitely come in handy. Our favorite meals are the Mountain House Lasagna and the Mountain House Beef Stroganoff.
I remember the first time I ate a pudgy pie, it was amazing! You can make so many yummy dinners and deserts with these little pie irons. Follow me on Pinterest and you’ll find some of my favorite pie iron recipes.
Nalgene bottles are great for hikes but they can also be used to keep your sleeping bag warm. You boil some water in your jetboil, pour the hot water into your Nalgene bottle, and place the bottle in your sleeping bag!
EMERGENCY CAMPING GEAR
You should always carry a life straw with you when your camping, hiking, and anytime you’re enjoying the great outdoors. A life straw is super light weight and will filter any source of water for you.
WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM
If you think you might need to filter a lot of water, then invest in this LifeStraw water filtration system. It’s fairly affordable compared to the other water filtration systems. Since we only plan to use ours in an emergency, we went with the cheapest and most effective. If you plan to use a water filtration system on a regular basis, then you might want to invest in a better system.
FIRST AID KIT
Any type of first aid kit will do, but you need to have something on hand in case of emergencies. You can put together your own first aid kit using items you have at home or you can purchase this pre-made first aid kit here.
We purchased our Spot Messenger a few years ago and we’ve used it multiple times. We use the Spot Messenger to communicate with our family members, letting them know we’re safe and doing good. It’s nice to know that even if we don’t have cell phone service we can send an SOS message if we’re in trouble and need help. We only pay for the “service plan” when we’re going to use our Spot Messenger and we cancel it until we need it again.
I’ve never had to use an emergency blanket so I can’t actually tell you my personal experience with one. I’m assuming it’s going to be amazing but I’m hoping I never have to find out. It’s only there for an emergency, otherwise I never plan to use it.
Rain ponchos aren’t known as a fashion statement but they’re good to have on hand. You never know when the weather can take a turn for the worse.
Again, you never know when the weather can turn for the worse. We keep waterproof matches on hand just in case of an emergency. We’ve used them once or twice actually so they definitely come in handy.
We use our hand warmers and feet warmers on a regular basis. I guess they’re technically for an emergency but my feet and hands get super cold sometimes. Throw a package of feet warmers and hand warmers in your camping bins just in case you get cold at night.
Our car inverter is probably considered an everyday essential by others but we haven’t actually had to use it yet. I think it’s good to have on hand though in case of an emergency. Some people use it to pump up their air mattress, others use it to plug in their hot plate, and I might use it to plug in my blow dryer. What can I say, I hate cold wet hair…hahaha.
TOILETRY ESSENTIALS FOR CAMPING
Normal towels can take up a lot of space in your camping bins and can take a really long to air dry. Invest in some good camping towels for your next trip.
Place all of your toiletries in this handy little toiletry bag. I’ve had this bag for years and it’s perfect for camping. It fits all of my items in the nice compartments and it has a hook for hanging the bag. The hook comes in super handy when there’s no counter to lay things down on. I just hook the bag onto the side of the sink and it works like a charm!
We’ve been using these biodegradable wipes for years now. We don’t always have access to a shower or running water when we camp, so these little wipes come in super handy.
BIODEGRADABLE TOILET PAPER
Do I really need to explain the importance of caring toilet paper? Even if you’re going to be camping close to a public restroom, you never know when they’ll run out.
We purchased this camping shower a few years ago but we still haven’t used it yet. We always seem to make it back to our campsite after dark and by then the water is cold. I’m certain if we could make it back before the sun goes down, the water would be nice and warm. Maybe I’ll try it out one day here at home for y’all.
Those are my top camping essentials y’all. Yes there are a million other camping items you could buy but this is a good place to start. Again if you’re new to camping check out my beginners guide to camping and my free camping checklist.