Camping trips have gradually become one of the favorite ways that millions of people around the globe use to escape from the busy city life, enjoy nature, and get the rest and positive experiences they have been craving. If you are new to camping, or even if you have few camping trips behind your back, you may want to read on about the essential camping gear for first-time campers. Even if you are planning to visit a camping-friendly location, you should never underestimate the risks of going underprepared – missing just one or two of the essential pieces of gear may make your camping trip much more difficult, less enjoyable, or even tiresome. We have prepared some gear advice for first-time campers who are about to pack their luggage:
Keep it Simple!
One of the major mistakes that first-time campers make is to bring more things than they really need. Keeping it simple is a surprisingly good methodic to follow when preparing for camping trips – it saves time and effort, and it can help make your trip much more pleasant.
Bringing too many things causes all sorts of problems. For starters, you will need to spend a lot of time packing, unpacking, and setting up the camp. Then packing when you leave, and finally unpack when you get home. This could take hours, depending on the gear you have brought. In reality, you need three things for your camping trip – food, water, and shelter. Of course, we will go over some of the additional gear that you need to bring, but we are trying to emphasize the fact that going overprepared is not necessarily a good thing.
Shelter is considered essential but, depending on your location and preferences, it might not even be a necessity. Warmer climates and a look at the weather forecast can tell you whether you can sleep in the open – and this is a great way to enhance your camping experience, really getting in touch with the outdoors.
Even if the weather conditions end up worse than expected, you can always find shelter in your car, truck, or RV. Of course, it is important to mention that tents do not take a lot of space, so bringing one is still recommended – even if you do not end up using it. I usually pop up a small tent just for storage regardless of where I’m sleeping. One tip though if you are planning to spend the nights outside, especially in the South: consider bringing a mosquito net.
People who have not spent time in the wilderness may easily underestimate how easy it is to get dehydrated. It’s so important to keep hydrating properly when you’re outside 24/7. Every camper should bring a good water bottle – there are countless to choose from. My choice is a wide-mouth, soft plastic 32oz Nalgene brand bottle, it’s a tried-and-true water bottle for camping and hiking. If your camping spot does not have a reliable freshwater source, then you will need to think about this as well – you can either boil water from a natural source, filter your water, or you can simply pack large jugs with the rest of your luggage. Never go on a camping trip underprepared when it comes to water!
Food is another thing to keep simple. It is up to you to decide what types of food you should bring – meat, vegetable, and fruits are, of course, the all-time favorites of most campers. Pre-cooked meat like smoked sausage is very handy when camping, and makes clean-up a lot easier than raw meat.
What you must pay extra attention to is food preparation – if your spot has electricity, then I like to use an electric griddle to cook everything on. If not, then consider getting a small gas stove. I prefer a single-burner propane stove instead of a big traditional two-burner camping stove. These are incredibly affordable, easy to carry, and as simple as it gets. All you need is a small propane tank, and you can rely on them to warm or prepare food, as well as to boil water (for coffee!).
If you have been out in the wild at night, then you know how dark it really gets. It is nowhere close to ‘city levels’ of darkness. Expect it to be very dark, and you should be prepared with proper light sources. My trifecta involves a lantern, headlamp, and a small flashlight. The latter two are very handy and easy to carry, while the lantern is the perfect light source for your camp or tent. Bringing more than one lantern is recommended if you want to make your camping spot extra bright, which I recommend if you are camping with children.
Do not forget to pay attention to the power requirements of your light sources – load them with fresh batteries, and make sure to bring reserves if you plan on staying for longer. In fact, this is so important that I choose my lights according to power source first when I buy them, I have made the mistake of buying a lantern that uses C batteries, which was inconvenient and expensive. Now I stick only to AA and AAA sized batteries so that I can use rechargeable batteries and solar charger that I already have.
Fire is not essential, especially if you are camping in a warm period. Of course, there is no doubt that a campfire is still something that most campers want to have – it is the coziest place to spend the night, prepare some food, and enjoy awesome company. If you are not bringing firewood, then do not forget to take a small, reliable hatchet with you.
Starting the fire may be tricky, so remember to bring some tinder, matches or another reliable fire/spark source. And, of course, always follow the campfire safety guidelines to protect yourself and nature.
One thing that first-time campers rarely hear about is the importance of bringing some sort of rope – preferably, paracord. Why paracord? Because it is sturdy, affordable, and can come in handy in all sorts of scenarios. Need to set up a tent? Paracord. Need to hang a hammock? Paracord. Tourniquet? Paracord. Dog leash? You guessed it – paracord. Once you have a few camping trips on your belt, you will start realizing how much cordage you end up using for all sorts of things.
The pocket knife is the last essential piece of gear we want to talk about. It is a must-have because it will come in handy when dealing with pretty much all of the gear listed above. You will need it to prepare food, and you will certainly use it while setting up a tent or a hammock.
Whenever you are working with rope, you will need that knife. Do not cheap out when it comes to knives because you certainly do not want to end up with one falling apart in your hands. A good, sturdy, fixed-blade knife can last you decades if taken care of properly.
You can learn more about my camping knife opinions in our Ultimate Knife for Camping video.
Camping is a great way to get outside, change your scenery, unplug and get some fresh air, and it doesn’t need to be complicated. A few key pieces of gear and you’ll be on your way to an outdoor adventure soon!