Our Essential List of Must-Have Camping Gear

February 10, 2021

Before you set out on your first camping trip, do you have everything you need? It’s not just about the marshmallows for the kids and the beer for the adults. You need to consider the camp gear you need to survive, too. From finding the right tent to wearing proper clothing and boots, here are some of the must-have camping gear you need for your camping setup.

The Tent

Unless you plan to go SUV camping, you’ll need a tent. Choose a three-season tent that offers additional accessories such as a rainfly and a footprint, along with all the stakes and tie-downs you will need on windy days or for sudden storms. Tents will tell you how many people can sleep inside, but as a good rule of thumb, remember to allow extra room for keeping backpacks and other gear tucked inside. For instance, a three-person tent is designed for a couple, their two backpacks and maybe a dog.

Your Bed

Inside the tent, you’ll also need camping gear to construct your sleeping arrangements. Depending on how large or tall your tent is, you might opt for a cot if you need more mobility and don’t want to sleep on the ground. However, at a minimum, get a self-inflating camp pad.

On top of your pad, you will need a sleeping bag. For summer months, you can get away with even a pair of sheets, but a three-season-rated sleeping bag is an excellent place to start. For winters, consider a four-season mummy bag made of down insulate. Don’t forget a pillow! Aim for an inflatable camping pillow. You can also bring one from home, but make sure it’s not cotton, which can stay damp from sweat.


Even family-friendly public campgrounds provide minimal lighting, so make sure to bring your own. For starters, you should carry an LED flashlight or headlamp. A hands-free headlamp allows you to cook after dusk and safely make your way to the bathroom.

Around the campsite, consider a few solar-powered lanterns to offer some ambiance as a soft illumination.


Many campgrounds offer potable water sources, provided by spigots scattered throughout the campsite loop. However, many people find the taste a bit off-putting and prefer to bring their water. Whether you invest in a water container you fill up at the campground or pack some bottled water, make sure to have enough water to keep everyone hydrated throughout the weekend or however long you plan on camping.

Suppose you plan to camp remotely and gather water from a nearby river. In that case, one piece of must-have camping gear is a water filtration system, such as those made by LifeStraw and some treatment tablets to remove any bacteria.

Cooking Supplies

must have camping gear

While you can cook over a fire, it’s much easier to prepare meals with a camp stove. Whether you choose a solo-style canister like a JetBoil or a classic Coleman stove, bring along all the cookware, too. Some cookware is designed to be used only with its brand, whereas other cookware like a cast iron pan or Dutch oven is durable enough to place directly over a campfire.

Besides that, pack utensils, knives and a cutting board, plates and other necessary cooking items like foil and seasonings. Want coffee in the morning? Bring along a percolator or compact, portable coffee maker, as well as some mugs.

Cleaning Supplies

After meals, you’ll need to clean up so bring along any supplies you might need for that. Pack a trash bag to carry out recyclables and waste, as well as biodegradable dish soap, a scrub and a folding sink basin if you like.

Clothing and Hiking Boots

Another must-have camping gear? Proper clothes and hiking boots. Unless you’re car camping leisurely at an RV resort with paved walkways and sites, you need yourself a pair of solid hiking boots, preferably ones that are waterproof with a good tread. Make sure to pack a pair of breathable wool socks to protect your feet, too.

When it comes to clothes, think in layers and pack thermals, fleece button-downs and a raincoat or outerwear for a wet day at the campsite. Bring a hat or bandana to keep the hair out of your face and your scalp protected from the sun.

If you plan to bring along any equipment, such as cameras or handheld devices, keep them secure and away from the elements inside a protective case.

First Aid Kit

Make sure to bring along a First Aid Kit. From bandages to antiseptics and everything in between, make your own or pick up a kit from a recreational store. There are countless varieties available, so choose one designed for your family size.


Wi-Fi isn’t always an option out in the wilderness. Even campgrounds seemingly close to cities can have spotty service, so don’t rely on a cell phone. Instead, always carry a regional map to help you find your way back to camp or around town. It’s extremely practical.

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