10 Camping Gear Essentials to Make Nature Feel Like the Home It Is


Tis the season for outdoor recreation, including camping! If you are a first-time camper, it’s important to know what camping gear should bring on your outdoor adventure so that you stay healthy, safe and happy. The right camping gear will make your experience in the woods more exciting than frightening and more relaxing than stressful.

The key to packing for a camping trip is to bring items that minimize weight and maximize comfort and utility. The following 10 camping gear essentials take into consideration all of your needs.

1. Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag is perhaps the most useful item while camping. The first thing to look for when shopping for a sleeping bag is its temperature rating. Bags are generally divided into three types: “summer season” (35 degrees Fahrenheit and higher), “3-season” (between 10 and 35 degrees) and “winter” (10 degrees and lower). When a sleeping bag is rated at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, for example, this means that you will remain comfortable if the temperature drops no lower than 20 degrees. It’s important to choose a sleeping bag with a temperature rating that is slightly lower than the lowest temperature you anticipate that you will encounter. That way, you can ensure you do not feel chilly at night.

Next, you want to consider a sleeping bag’s insulation. Synthetic insulation is the most common and preferred choice, as the material dries quickly and insulates even if it gets wet. It is also durable and non-allergenic. However, synthetic insulation doesn’t pack down as small, so it is less convenient than other versions, like goose-down insulation, which comes with a higher price tag.

The last main consideration is size. Be sure to pick a sleeping bag that has the side that best befits your height, weight and sleeping movement patterns.

Campmor has summarized the best sleeping bags for each season, age-group and gender.

2. Sleeping Pad

Sleeping pads offer cushioning and insulation. The dirt ground doesn’t necessarily provide the most comfortable of surfaces and often, sleeping bags are not enough. When choosing a sleeping pad, consider the thickness of the cushioning, the length and width of the pad and its weight and ability to be packed easily.

There are foam pads, air mattress pads and self-inflating pads. Check out REI’s selection of sleeping pads to make sure you are buying the one fit for you!

3. Tent

Now, where would camping be without the tent? Key considerations: weather conditions, number of people camping, weight and price. Also, are you or any of the other people you are camping with handy and thus able to set up a more complexly designed tent? Or, do you need something easy to pitch?

A tent’s size is important, so that you (and whomever you are with) are able to sleep in there comfortably. Meanwhile, choose a tent that is able to withstand the worst possible weather situation you could encounter.

Solo tents typically range from 2 to 3 pounds while 2-person tents generally weigh 3-5 pounds. Tents can range from $100 to $500. Check our REI’s best-seller half dome 2 tent for inspiration.

4. Stove

The stove you bring on your camping journey depends on the season. For summer, it is suggested to bring a canister fuel or integrated stove system. In the winter or at high elevations, a liquid-fuel stove works best. If you are just planning to boil water, use a canister integrated stove system. For an ultralight system, opt for a canister fuel stove. For large groups, choose a liquid fuel stove. Check out REI’s selection of backpacking stoves.

5. Cookware

Unless you plan on subsisting on granola bars and water, it’s a good idea to bring along a few cookware items, so that you can prepare food that will keep you sane, even if it means warming up a can of refried beans. Check out REI’s selection of cookware.

6. Cooler

Especially in the heat of the summer, there are some items you are going to want to keep cool for as long as possible – water, fresh fruits and vegetables and more. REI boasts a long list of cooler options that befit any of your camping needs.

7. Lantern

Sure, part of the experience of camping is creating your own fire. However, once the sun goes down, the fire is put to rest and you head off to bed, there may be that moment in the middle of the night where you hear a noise and want to go check it out or simply have to take care of some “business.” A lantern is essential for these moments. Pick a lantern that is versatile, lightweight and that shines bright!

8. Chair

Unless you want to be sitting on the ground the entire time you’re camping, you’ll want to bring along a lightweight, fold-up chair, where you can observe your campsite and the surrounding nature comfortably. REI offers a large selection of camping chairs.

9. Knife

Self-explanatory. A knife is all-purpose and you’ll need it. Don’t just bring along any ol’ knife. Instead, opt for one that doubles or triples or quadruples in utility – opening cans and bottles, fishing and cutting food, among other uses. The knife you bring along will likely be your go-to gadget for just about everything useful.

10. Rainshell

Mother Nature cannot be conquered, but she sure can be resisted. When the rain begins to fall, you’ll be wishing you had thought ahead and brought along a rainshell jacket. Choose from REI’s wide selection.

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Camping image via Shutterstock