Eager to explore the great outdoors and experience the wonders of camping, but don’t know where to start? Camping can be intimidating for first-timers because you’ll be removed from the everyday comforts of civilization. But with thorough planning and preparation, and perhaps the guidance of an experienced camper, it can be an unforgettable experience that you’ll want to repeat.
To get you started, here’s a shortlist of must-have camping equipment for beginners.
8 Essential Pieces of Camping Gear that Beginners Need
A suitable tent is one of the most important pieces of camping equipment for beginners, particularly if you plan on spending the night outdoors or if there’s a chance you’ll get caught in the rain or cold. However, buying a tent is a sizeable investment.
So, if you’re a beginner, research the types of camping tents and weigh the pros and cons of each. Evaluate the tent’s weight, capacity, and features compared to your camping preferences (type, duration, and geography of trips, typical camping weather, whether you camp alone or with a group). For example, a 3- or 4-season tent is good for most types of weather but factor in the tent weight, set-up complexity, and cost.
Check out online forums and customer reviews, as there’s nothing quite like first-hand user experience. You may also want to borrow or rent different kinds of camping tents and “test run” them on your first few trips. Once you get a better sense of what you want (and don’t want) in a tent, you can go all-in and buy one of your own.
2. Sleeping Gear
Another important piece of camping gear for beginners is sleeping equipment, especially if you’re going on an overnight excursion. A sleeping bag is often the go-to because it’s lightweight, easy to store, and does not require any setup. Keep in mind that there are different types of sleeping bags, varying in temperature rating, insulation type, shape, and other design features like pockets, hoods, liners, shells, and zippers.
Additionally, remember to get a sleeping pad as well. This is like a lightweight cushion that will support and protect your body from the cold, hard ground, and provide some comfort for a restful night’s sleep. These also come in different formats, such as manually inflatable, self-inflating, and closed-cell designs.
To round out your sleeping gear, make sure to pack a pillow. But don’t just grab one from your bed! Get a pillow that’s specifically for hiking, like inflatable pillows that you can stow away in a backpack.
3. Lightweight Plates and Cutlery
Nothing beats a good meal after a long excursion, and you’ll likely need something more substantial than a sandwich or protein bar. Bring plates and cutlery so that you can enjoy a filling meal to regain your strength.
If you have access to running water at the camping grounds, go for reusable plates and utensils made of plastic, enamel, wood, or metal. You don’t necessarily have to buy these if the ones you have at home are lightweight enough to pack and carry in a bag.
Alternatively, if you don’t have access to running water or don’t want to carry bulky eating tools, go for disposable plates and cutlery. Just make sure to clean as you go and leave no trace behind to avoid attracting (more) insects. Pro tip: if you don’t want to bring several pairs of spoons and forks, consider bringing sporks or chopsticks instead.
If you plan on cooking, bring portable pots, tongs, a knife, and food containers so that you can easily prepare your meals and store any leftovers.
4. Water Bottle or Flask
No matter what the weather is when you set out on our excursion, you will likely have worked up a sweat by the time you’ve set up and settled into your campsite. Make sure you stay properly hydrated by bringing enough drinking water for your entire trip and always keeping some handy.
Go for a stainless steel insulated bottle that maintains the temperature of your beverage for extended periods. That way, you can enjoy a cold drink after a long excursion, or a warm cup of coffee while watching the sunrise.
Flobottle can keep your beverage cold for up to 24 hours, and hot for up to 12 hours. It comes with BPA-free guard straw, sipper, and strap, plus a 10-oz storage capacity for small, loose valuables (or snacks!). Shop it in different colors to match every personality and style.
5. Foldable Table and Chair
A campsite wouldn’t be complete without a space to sit, rest, and relax as you spend time in the great outdoors. Another useful piece of camping equipment for beginners is a folding table.
Bringing a portable table will enable you to comfortably eat, play games, or simply chat. It can also function as storage space for items that cannot be placed on the ground, like food and beverages. To complement your table, you’ll also need foldable camping chairs. Go for products that are made with lightweight, synthetic materials so that they won’t be too heavy to carry, can dry quickly in case it rains, and won’t corrode if they get wet.
For short day trips, a mat may suffice if you don’t mind squatting and being so close to the ground. Ideally, use a mat that is made of water-resistant materials instead of fabric. This will allow you to sit comfortably even if the ground is mildly damp. Just be careful about where you spread your mat; you might accidentally sit on a path of ants!
6. Camping Gear Accessories
To complete your campsite and make every trip comfortable, beginners may also consider bringing the following camping gear:
- Portable lights - If you’ll be making your way back by sunset, flashlights may be enough to guide your way. But if you’re staying overnight, bring an upright portable light, like a lamp. These are a must if you’ll be caught outdoors after sundown or spending the night at the campgrounds.
- Portable stove - If you’re planning to cook, bring a portable stove to prepare fresh, hot meals. Alternatively, if you’re with an expert camper, you might bring fire starters and use a bonfire to cook your food.
- Cooler - Aside from keeping beverages cold or prolonging the lifespan of ice, a cooler is also useful in keeping raw meat frozen or chilled before you cook it.
These are great to have handy and ready, should you need them. But they might not be necessary for every trip, particularly for short day trips.
7. Toiletries and Personal Care
Stay safe in the outdoors by packing the following essential camping products for beginners:
- Bug spray - This will protect you from the discomfort of insect bites, and potentially contracting illnesses transmitted by insects.
- Sunscreen - Even if the weather isn’t particularly hot or sunny, your skin will still be exposed to harmful UV rays, so apply and re-apply sunscreen throughout the day.
- First aid kit - At a minimum, pack bandages, gauze, cotton, and antiseptic wipes to treat minor scrapes.
- Hygiene kit - You’ll be exposed to the elements, so bring travel-sized toiletries, as well as rubbing alcohol and sanitary wipes.
8. Garbage Bags
Most camping grounds follow the seven “Leave No Trace” principles. This involves ensuring that you don’t disturb the ecology of the campsite and leave everything as you found it.
Bring sufficient trash bags for your trip (it’s better to bring too many than not enough) and dispose of your garbage appropriately, even if it means having to bring it back with you.
Are you planning on bringing your pooch with you? Read our blog on how to keep your dog hydrated!