Author: Joe Coleman
You’ve decided you want to try camping out. Congrats! Getting outside can become a lifelong passion and respite for everyday life, and I hope it’s everything you want it to be! That being said, buying camping equipment can be daunting when it doesn’t need to be.
Getting a camp spot at a national or state park is a great way to get into camping. Most first-time campers will be car camping in the frontcountry, so we’ll start there. Finding the best car camping gear will be simpler than the best gear for backcountry camping.
Unless you plan to sleep in your car, a tent is the central piece of must-have camping gear. The rule of thumb here is to get a tent that fits one more person than sleeping in it. If you plan to put two people in your tent, go for a three-person (unless you really like each other).
We don’t recommend sleeping directly on the ground unless you want to be really hardcore. Sleeping pads can get pretty expensive, so go for a closed-cell foam pad if you aren’t sure camping is for you. You can get a decent one for $20-40, but it’s only for warm weather use.
Whether you sleep hot or cold will determine what rating your sleeping bag needs to be. On average, women tend to sleep colder than men, so women’s bags are usually rated for slightly lower temperatures than their counterparts. Most people will find that a bag rated from 40-50 degrees is likely enough for summer camping. If you want something that works for camping and everyday life, opt for a heavy-duty blanket instead.
You don’t need to go out and buy a pack built for a small elephant. A day pack somewhere around 20 liters is enough to carry water, snacks, a small first aid kit, and a jacket. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on this initially, especially if you’re just hiking shorter trails. If you plan on hiking with the family (internal link to family camping gear), then consider upping the size of your pack.
This is where you have some options. You can go for the classic two-burner Coleman stove, and that’s a great all-around choice. Alternatively, you can go for a cheaper one-burner or a small backpacking stove. If you just want to boil water, a backpacking or one-burner stove is plenty. If you’re a certified camp chef, you want two burners.
First Aid Kit
You don’t need a large kit; you just need something you know how to use. You can put one together or buy an already made one. Whichever you choose, you want to be able to treat basic injuries you may run into when camping, mainly cuts, scrapes, bruises, or the occasional sprain.
A headlamp or lantern is plenty here. In a pinch, your phone’s flashlight will work too, but it isn’t your best option long-term.
You want comfortable clothes you can move in that are appropriate for the weather. Whatever you wear, make sure you have supportive athletic shoes or boots with good grip.
In the end, what’s the best camping gear? It’s the gear you already have! Used gear is an awesome choice as well. If you have something that works, don’t break the bank for new camping gear until you’re sure you need it.