Essential Camping Gear for a Smooth Outdoor Adventure

Before you go out and connect with nature, pick up the gear you need to have a stress-free trip.

Walking through REI or Dick’s Sporting Goods, you’ll see rows of multicolor tents, different styles of sleeping bags, and stacks on stacks of coolers. It’s a similar experience when you shop online for camping gear. It’s easy to get sucked into the world of gear and to spend hours perusing all of your options. 

But what do you really need for a smooth and enjoyable camping experience, and what’s a waste of money? While you’ll have to account for certain factors like the temperature and fire bans in place at your campsite when you’re gathering your gear, you’ll need these basics no matter what. 

Camp Bench Seat

Dometic GO Compact Camp Bench
Dometic

Folding chairs are great and necessary, but a camp bench seat is also a must-have. If you purchase a high-quality seat, it can hold hundreds of pounds – meaning you don’t have to bend over to the ground every time you need to grab something from your cooler. Of course, it’s also a great extra seat to have, and it can serve as a table in a pinch.

Camp Stove

Women using camping stove
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If your campsite has a fire pit, you may be able to get by without this one. But if you want a guarantee that you’ll be able to eat hot food, definitely invest in a camp stove. There are plenty of options, including stoves with windscreens in case you’re camping in windy conditions, but a basic camp stove will have everything you need to scramble eggs, heat up some soup, or boil water for your coffee. Check out this wood burning stove from Patagonia.

Outdoor Kitchen Set

That camp stove won’t be much use if you don’t also have the utensils you need to cook on it. While you can always bring a spatula or a ladle from your kitchen, these items are easy to forget while you’re packing. Buying a dedicated outdoor kitchen set and keeping it with your camping gear will help you avoid that problem altogether. Take a look at this compact kit from REI.

First Aid Kit

Young man wrapping friend's arm in a bandage
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Speaking of kits, don’t leave home without your first aid kit. If you already drive around with one in your car, that’s great. Check that it’s stocked with all the supplies you need, look at the expiration dates on the antibiotic ointment and any medication it includes, and replace whatever’s expired or running low. But if you don’t have a first aid kit on hand, pick one up before you head to the campsite.

Read More: 5 Reasons To Spend Your Next Vacation Camping

Sleeping Pads

Sleeping pad with pillow inside a tent
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On my last camping trip, I made the mistake of not bringing a sleeping pad. A yoga mat will not cut it, let me tell you. It boils down to this: if you don’t get good sleep at night, you’re going to be too tired and sore to enjoy your camping trip during the day. An air mattress could work great, but if you’ve got the budget, invest in a sleeping pad designed for camping. Take a look at REI’s expert advice on how to choose a sleeping pad.

Camp Loveseat

Okay, while this isn’t a must-have, a camp loveseat can come in extremely handy. Of course, you can snuggle up on a loveseat, and it’s definitely more comfortable than a camp bench. But it also gives you more space for drying towels or clothes in case it rains on your camping adventure. There are plenty of low loveseat options, which are perfect for getting close to your campfire.

Bug Repellent

Parent spraying bug spray on child
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The chances are good that you’re going to need bug repellent. Wear long sleeves (shirts and pants) to prevent bug bites, but also buy bug repellent as well. Traditional bug sprays and creams are the most effective way to prevent bug bites. Light a candle or a lantern, or safely build a campfire, to keep bugs away as well. 

Water Bottle Filter

LifeStraw four-packs on a shelf
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On a hot day or a long hike, it’s easy to drink all your water without realizing it. The LifeStraw Go water bottle has a solution. According to LifeStraw, it “protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, chlorine, organic chemical matter, dirt, sand, and cloudiness; improves taste.” The membrane microfilter will have you drinking safe water in no time.

Overalls

You’ll thank me later! The extra pockets come in super helpful when you’re setting up or tearing down your campsite, or if you decide to spend a day of your trip fishing. This pair from Patagonia has all the pockets you’ll need, plus they’re extremely durable, meaning this might be the last pair of overalls you ever need.

Headlamp

Woman reading at night with headlamp on
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Holding onto your flashlight while you desperately search for the car keys (or cell phone, or toothbrush…) that you dropped at your campsite can be a pain. And you can hike at night with a flashlight in hand, but a headlamp makes it easier. Pick one up before your next camping trip for less hassle and more time spent enjoying what you love.

Read More: Camping and Glamping Options for Appreciating Nature This Summer

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