Congratulations, you’ve made a great decision to camp for the first time (or at least decided to make camping a regular activity)! This is an exciting time – planning your trip, scouting for campsites and purchasing your camping gear.
It may become overwhelming to enter a camping store for the first time. You’ll be presented with a vast array of gear, equipment and supplies. It’s easy to get carried away, and the last thing you want is to end up purchasing too much stuff you don’t actually need.
There are plenty of gear and equipment that you think may be good to have but are not imperative to your outdoor trip. It’s ideal to start with the basics and slowly grow your list over time.
When purchasing outdoor equipment, it’s a case to case basis. Sometimes price doesn’t always equate to quality and sometimes, you simply get what you pay for. It’s important to choose gear and equipment based on your personal needs and what you think will best work for you. It’s ideal to do some research and read reviews about a product first before making a purchase.
Here are the top 5 most important camping gear and equipment that every camper should have:
Not only is this the most obvious, but also one of the most important. Every camper needs to have a good quality, waterproof tent. There are a multitude of types, models and varieties to choose from and it’s important to focus on looking for one that will cater to your needs. If you plan to hike often then camp out after, an ultralight tent is suitable for you. If you will mainly camp and have your car nearby, then size and weight shouldn’t be an issue.
What to look for in a camping tent:
- Space – Will you be using the tent by yourself or are you sharing with others? One thing to remember is that a 4-person tent sleeps 3 adults comfortably.
- Ease of set-up and pack-up
- Size and weight
- Seasonal variety – There are what’s called 3-season tents which are ideal to use all year-round except for winter. 4-season tents, on the other hand, can handle the deep of winter and snowdrifts.
You have a tent to sleep in which means you’ll also need other gear that will help make you sleep comfortably like a sleeping bag, sleeping pad and some pillows. Sleeping bags also come in a variety of models. Each one has a different size, weight and texture and can also handle different temperatures.
A sleeping pad, usually air-filled, is what will sit between the floor of your tent and your sleeping bag. This will make sleeping more comfortable, especially if you’re not used to camping yet.
As for pillows, you can opt to bring one from home. But if you’re hiking or backpacking, you need something more compact. Camping pillows are usually small in size - foam or air-filled.
When you’re spending the night (or nights!) outdoors, you can’t just rely on your bonfire or moonlight for lighting. You’ll need a reliable source of light not just for emergencies but for tasks like cooking, eating, going to the bathroom, playing games, or even sleeping in your tent.
As a new camper, you’ll need at least 2 good quality lights – a flashlight and/or head lamp and camping lantern.
- Flashlights and head lamps – Flashlights are generally cheap, handy and portable, most definitely easiest to choose. Head lamps offer the hands-free convenience, which is useful especially if you’re setting up camp during after dark. These smaller lights are mainly for personal use.
- Lanterns – There are 3 types of outdoor lanterns – gas, candle and electric. While all of these types offer their own pros and cons, many new campers go for the electric variety. Lanterns are more versatile and are great for lighting up a larger area of a trail or a campsite.
Want to learn more about camping lanterns? Read our Camping Lantern Buying Guide here.
Flashlights, head lamps and lanterns all have different models and features, so it’s ideal to choose one that will fit with your outdoor lifestyle. Choose features that you will actually use and will be truly useful to you. Don’t forget to bring an extra set of batteries!
What type of clothing you should bring to camp depends on altitude and season. It is also important to check the weather forecast of the dates of your trip. Layering is encouraged (even in the summer) as weather is unpredictable. For starters, regardless of weather, invest in a good pair of sturdy hiking boots. Aside from your day clothes and sleep wear, bring a waterproof jacket, a couple of thick wool socks, gloves, a beanie and a swimsuit.
A complete first aid kit is a must-have for every camper. Everyone is encouraged to bring one to every trip, what more if it’s an outdoor trip? The outdoors are tough and accidents are more likely, so you have to come prepared. You can assemble your own kit or purchase one that’s ready (preferably one that’s tailored for hiking and camping).
Quick Camping First Aid Kit Checklist:
- Different sizes of adhesive bandages
- Gauze pads/roll
- Sterile wipes
- Allergy and pain medicines
- Antiseptic creams or ointment
- Eye drops
- Safety Pins
- Sunburn Relief Spray
- Mosquito/Insect Repellant
Aside from a complete first aid kit, every camper should also invest in a camping toiletry kit, medicine kit (for personal medication) and a tent repair kit. Other must-haves include a watch, map, compass, whistle, pocket knife, small shovel, binoculars and flares in case of emergencies.
The above-mentioned items are the most basic gear and equipment each camper should have, but of course, there are plenty of other important items that are needed especially if you’re camping alone. If you’re camping with a group, you can assign and share the following items:
- Pre-packed meals and snacks
- Cooking and eating equipment
- Foldable table and chairs
- Tarps, rope, bungee cords, duct tape, trash bags
- Entertainment (playing cards, radio, board games etc.)
Once you’ve experienced camping, you’ll get a good grasp of what you missed and what you will need to bring next time. Slowly build up your camping gear stash until it’s complete, but don’t forget that the goal is to pack light!