This summer we’re excited for some warm, outdoor and dare we say maskless get-togethers with good buddies. Camping especially sounds like a terrific way to relax and celebrate.
But after so much time indoors, you might be feeling a little rusty. Whether you need some camping tips, or you think you’re a squirrel, we have you covered. Read on for a brief guide on camping accessories and gear. Trust us, it’s all in the details.
The difference between enjoying camping and hating it comes down to gear and planning. To that end, the first thing you need to figure out is if you’re going to be backpacking or car camping.
Are you loading up a pack with everything you might need and hiking over a mountain pass? Or are you chilling in a campground? Now, a lot of gear can be used for both situations, but there’s no earthly reason to do a week in the backcountry with a heavy cast-iron pan. Beyond the John Muir aesthetic, of course.
If you’re an absolute beginner, we’d recommend car camping first. You can load up your car with everything you can think of. Plus, you can reuse things from home without having to buy them. Just look up a few checklists online to make sure you grab the basics.
Then, look at the weather report. We really can’t stress that enough. Now, we’ll assume you have basic gear, clothes, a first aid kit, water containers and all that figured out. As for accessories you may not have thought of...
Hiking & Activity Gear
Trekking poles: These are more useful than you think if you have a heavy pack, or if you’re going long distances. Are they sexy? No. But you know what? Real men have knees.
Headlamps: Headlamps are really handy for outdoor exploring. Sometimes you’ll really need both hands. Maybe you’re tying down an errant tent stake, cooking, reading or battling wild packs of badgers. Black Diamond is a classic choice.
Tents: Tents aren’t really an accessory, but when buying or renting one look at the number of people you have that will be sleeping in it. You can fit four people in a four-person tent, but if the weather is nice and you don’t need to conserve body heat, those four people will be a lot more comfy in a six-person. Unless you’re all into cuddling. We ain’t judging. Also, look at the season. Summer tents are not fun in the winter.
Sleeping Bags: When buying a bag, consider the temperature rating of the bag. Sleeping bags have two temperature ratings — comfort and lower limit. Try to avoid lower limit. Marmot and Montbell are good brands if you need some serious warmth. We’ve also heard good things about the Big Agnes Dream Island, which should be rewarded for name alone. Consider a double bag if you’re going with a snuggly buddy.
A sleeping bag liner can also make a huge difference. It is like a soft sheet for your sleeping bag. Not only is it much warmer, it also makes cleaning your bag way easier.
Or, instead of a bag, use an insulated quilt if you don’t like being constrained. We like the Kamok Firebelly.
There are also new wearable sleeping bags. These are like Snuggie versions of sleeping bags, and they let you shuffle from tent to campfire like a human marshmallow. Just keep in mind many of these are not rated as warm as a traditional sleeping bag. Check out the Selk’bag Nomad or REI’s Crash Sack.
Sleeping Pads: Sleeping on a raised cushion will make you dramatically warmer and happier. Go luxurious. Check out a thick inflatable Therm-A-Rest or their imitators. Many of these can also double as camp chairs with conversion kits.
If you’re car camping, you could also use a thick air mattress. It doesn’t have to be a camping one. Or, consider a cot, like a Helinox.
The Hammock: A portable hammock can replace a tent and sleeping pad entirely. They’re obviously not as warm as a classic tent & pad, but these also come in handy as a napping accessory. ENO, Sea to Summit or Grand Trunk are good options.
Pillow: Sure, you could use some rolled up clothes. But why not treat yourself with an inflatable pillow? ThinBlueMtn makes a great one.
Camping Chair: Drink a beer by the fire. Helinox makes one for backpacking, otherwise you can be pretty happy with your old beach chair and a blanket.
Lights: A lantern is invaluable for a good cozy camp. Streamlight Siege AA and Fenix are well-liked. Christmas-light style string lights are also fun and make for homey feel. Look into MPowered and Revel.
Camp Showers: These aren’t necessary if you’re by a campground with a shower, but otherwise these can be wonderful if you’re spending a week in the bush. Solar showers can give you nice warm water in a mildly enthusiastic trickle. We like Advanced Elements or Reliance Products.
Travel Towel: These are towels which can dry very quickly. Before bed, warm up a washcloth and give your face a good scrub... you’ll sleep much better.
Cooking & Fire
Stoves: Ultralite stoves weigh almost nothing and come in a wide variety of styles. The SnowPeak LiteMax Stove is great for getting a pot going. If you’re by your car, go with a standard Coleman Stove. With a couple of burners you’ll feel like you’re in a real kitchen. If you just need some hot water, the JetBoil system is great for getting a cup of coffee in under three minutes.
Silverware: Don’t bring your actual kitchen utensils. That’s way too much to clean. Get a spork! There are tons of these but Light My Fire does a great one.
Coffee: French presses are great for camping. Aeropress makes a great one. Or, the Stanley All In One Adventure Coffee System lets you make your morning brew without a stove.
Pots and Pans: Primus or MSR make ultralites for backpacking. Otherwise you can simply take your kitchen gear on an adventure.
You can cook a hell of a lot of things with a good cast iron. Bake an outdoor cobbler to really impress.
Cups: You really only need one good one. SnowPeak and others make a highly insulated cup that can keep tea or soup warm through an entire cold day.
Plates: Tupperware can double as a bowl for dinnertime and a container for leftovers. Less to keep clean is always ideal.
Knives: You’ll always need one. Get a Morakniv for a basic knife, Leatherman Skeletool multi-tool or classic Swiss Army for everything else.
Firestarters: If you’re backpacking and getting serious about your kit you’ll want a ferro rod. But a basic Bic lighter from a gas station will work pretty damn well in most circumstances. Just have a backup and don’t let it get soaked. Waterproof matches can be a lifesaver, too.
Water: We won’t be going too much into water filtration but you can get simple filters to screw onto your Nalgene or gravity-fed setups like GravityWorks. It really depends on how many people are relying on it. The Steripen also works better than you might think as a lightweight option.
Bug spray/bug netting: DEET in your bug spray is ideal, but we’ve never liked thinking about if that stuff’s good for us. Not gonna look that up, either...
Booze: Do you really need our help, here? You know you need to bring whiskey.
Cooler: Get a YETI if you can. They’ll keep your food and drinks ice cold all weekend long.
Power Sources: Portable chargers and power inverters are very useful. Having a charged phone is vital in an emergency. Anker & Bestek make great options.
Shovel and Biodegradable Toilet Paper: When you feel the call of nature, you never know when nature will call right back. Leave no trace!
Wet Wipes: Finally, yes. Seriously. You will be everyone’s MVP.
Taking your friend or significant other car camping for the first time without any creature comforts is a great way to make sure you’re going alone next time. Camping and hiking gear have taken monumental leaps since you were a boy scout. There’s no reason to be filthy, hungry or cold these days. Good luck, and have fun out there!