Camping is a great way to get outside with friends and family or even by yourself. What you should take on your camping trip depends on what type of trip you have in mind. Many campsites have shared bathrooms and running water. Most also include a place to park your car, a picnic table and a spot to pitch your tent. You should consider your specific needs instead of relying on a generic checklist, but the list of essential items for most trips remains the same. Go into any camping store, and you will be bamboozled by the vast array of equipment and supplies available, and it would be easy to get carried away.
Let’s start with the most obvious camping-specific equipment: sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, and all that other stuff that immediately comes to mind when you think of camping.
Sleeping pads and Sleeping bags
First, you need to have some type of padding to cushion you from the hard ground. Like tents, sleeping bags come in different weights and handle different temperatures, so you have to do some research to find the one best suited for you, where you plan to camp. If you’re a beginner, you’re probably summer camping, so you won’t need an expensive sleeping bag rated for cold weather.
Shoes or hiking boots
Like everything else here, you have a million choices. Depending on the type of trip you’re taking, you’ll want to buy some hiking boots or shoes. Trail runners are light but have no real traction or ankle support, so they’re best for the nimble-footed who prefer to jump around. Boots are clunker but sturdier, so they’re good for people who like a lot of grip in their shoes and who like to jump into mud piles. Hiking shoes are the Goldilocks of each of those, they are lightweight, have good traction, and solid durability.
In the backpack world, there are three main distinctions for sizes: overnight, daypacks, and long haul. If you’re camping, you arguably don’t need a backpack at all. Which you need depends completely on what you plan on doing.
Tents come in a variety of sizes and in a variety of types. Most tents come in two varieties: three-season and four-season. Four-season tents have more durable fabric that can handle snowdrifts, while three-season tents are good for just about anything. Most tents in the $200-$300 range are pretty good nowadays, so you pretty much can’t go wrong. You’ll need something to sleep in, so a tent should be at the top of your priority list.
Treatment Tablets and Water Filtration Systems
For a slightly more portable solution, Iodine tablets like these $6 Potable Aqua Treatment Tablets work. If you’re camping, you should bring along as much water as you’d possibly need in your car, so it’s easily accessible. If you’re backpacking, however, that’s not an option, so you’ll need a water filtration system.
Flashlights, Lanterns, and Headlamps
In the early stages of camping, it’s quite a shock how dark it is in the wilderness! So you want something to help you see at night. Don’t rely on campfires for your source of lighting. That light won’t help you when you are off to the toilet, or too far away from it. Get the brightest and best you can afford; you won’t regret it.
First Aid Kit
You need a first aid kit for camping. Include the usual bandages, aspirins, and gauze here, but also toss in some hiking-specific stuff like moleskin for blisters, bug sprays, and Aloe Vera for burns.
Get a map of wherever you’re going before you get out there, and then learn how to read it and not to rely on GPS, even if you bring a stand-alone satellite GPS unit.
Whatever you buy and pack, just make sure to consider your climate, needs, and environment. If you want to get some fishing in, in which case you’ll need a pole, permit, and some bait.