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If you’re just starting to think about camping, you might be overwhelmed with the choices of equipment out there. Tents, cooking gear, safety gear – there is a lot to think about. 

 

But even if you’re a seasoned camper, there may be items that you don’t think about adding into your gear until it’s too late. You may have camped 50 times and not needed a rain fly, for instance, but you’ll miss it if you don’t have it and it starts to rain cats and dogs.

 

To help out both the new camper and the seasoned pro, we’ve created this handy list of essentials. We’ve considered both comfort and practicality to suggest everything you might need, from campsite essentials to the best survival equipment.

 

Campsite Essentials

Whether getting back after a long day of hiking or just a place to put your feet up and relax in the great outdoors, your campsite will be home while you’re camping. Here’s the basics of what you’ll need to be comfortable and secure.

 

  • Tent, Ground Cover, Stakes
  • Sleeping bags
  • Sleeping pads
  • Lighting: Headlamps, flashlights, lanterns
  • Extra batteries and/or lantern fuel
  • Camp chairs or stools
  • Toilet paper
  • Hygiene items (toothbrush and paste, hand sanitizer, soap, towels, etc.)
  • A well-stocked first-aid kit
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent 

Optional:

  • Camping Table
  • Pillow
  • Cots
  • Sunshade or Tarp (useful if rain is predicted)
  • Portable camp shower

 

The size of your tent will depend on the kind of camping you’ll be doing, and how many people will be with you. Ground cover and stakes may be optional if you’re a seasoned camper using a hammock tent. 

 

Don’t think of a sleeping pad as a luxury. When you’re camping, you need all the rest you can get, and sleeping on uneven, bumpy ground isn’t conducive to that. Sleeping pads come in all styles, some of which are quite compact when folded and stored.

 

Cooking/Food Preparation

Even if you don’t think you’ll be cooking, you’ll still need some items for mealtimes. At the very least, you’ll want a means of boiling water.

 

  • Mugs, cups, water bottle
  • Plates and/or bowls
  • A sharp knife
  • A pot for cooking and boiling water
  • Cooking utensils
  • Eating utensils
  • Locally sourced firewood
  • Matches/firestarters/lighters
  • Biodegradable soap and sponge
  • Towels
  • Cutting board
  • Bottle opener and can opener
  • Trash bags (pack out what you pack in!)

 

Optional

  • Cooking grate or grill rack
  • Camp stove and fuel
  • Cooler (if you’ll have perishables)
  • Ice or ice packs
  • Camp sink or bin
  • Coffee pot 
  • Large water jugs

 

Depending on how light you want to camp, you can get away with very few cooking and eating tools. If you’ll be camping with your family, however, you’ll want cooking gear that makes outdoor mealtime easier. If you’re packing light, you may be able to use a pocket knife in lieu of a sharp kitchen knife. Just make sure to keep it clean.

 

Weather Protection

Being prepared for the weather can mean the difference between an enjoyable camping trip and a miserable one. If you’re traveling light, keep it to the essentials. Think about layers when it comes to clothing. It’s easier to take off a light jacket over a sweatshirt than to try and maintain your body temperature between a t-shirt and a heavy coat.

 

  • Rain poncho
  • Socks
  • Windbreaker or warm jacket
  • Socks
  • Gloves and hats if it will get cold
  • Socks
  • Long underwear
  • Socks
  • Rainfly

 

Optional:

  • Dry bags
  • Extra blankets
  • Rain pants/quick-drying pants or shorts

 

Staying dry and warm is essential. There is a reason that socks is on the above list repeatedly. Not only are wet sock miserable to be in, but walking in them will rub your feet raw, and wearing wet socks for a long period of time will result in foot fungus. 

Tools

While tools are critical to a successful camping trip, it’s possible to get by with just a few if you get the right ones.

 

  • Pocket multi-tool with a knife, corkscrew, and pliers
  • Cord, tie-downs, and/or bungees
  • Mallet
  • A survival management multi-tool
  • Duct tape

 

Optional:

  • Tent and air mattress repair kit
  • Small broom and dustpan

 

The key to keeping your tool list under control is to focus on multi-purpose items. The key is to go for quality since you’ll be depending on a single tool to do many jobs around the campsite. For instance, a survival management multi-tool, like the Woodman’s Pal, will allow you to clear brush from around your tent, chop firewood, and even act as a weapon if the need should arise, and because of its quality construction and design it will hold up well through years of camping trips. Plus, the Woodman’s Pal comes with a belt sheath, making it easy and safe to transport without taking up additional room in your backpack.

 

A little planning and a good sense of what you’ll absolutely need will make camping – with your family or while hiking into the backcountry with friends – enjoyable, comfortable, and safe.

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