Camping season is in full swing, which means that there’s no better time to plan that camping trip you’ve been considering. This is a prime time for novice campers to explore the great outdoors and absorb the beauty of nature. However, there are some camping essentials you’ll want to make sure you pack away before hitting the trails.

What to pack really depends on what type of trip you have in mind. Small day hikes are much different than camping or backpacking. But, bottom line, the best suited camping gear for any situation really has to do with weight and packability no matter what your trip entails.

It’s important to identify your specific needs instead of just relying on a general checklist.

No worries – whether you’re brand new to the camping life or a camping veteran just looking to cover your bases, we’re here to help.

So let’s start with the 10 most basic camping essentials. No matter what kind of camper you are, the list of essentials for most trips will generally remain the same.

1. Tents

First and foremost, you’ll need shelter. A tent should be right at the top of your priority list. However, it’s not as simple as just picking out the cheapest tent and stowing it away in the trunk to hit the road. Tents come in all different sizes, materials and seasons. Three-season tents are great for just about anything except for harsh, cold winter conditions. Four-season tents on the other hand have more durable fabric that can handle just about anything that mother nature might throw its way. Ultralight tents can be a great choice if you’re a backpacker, but if you plan on lounging and hanging around your campsite more often than not, heavier tents might be your preferred choice. These heavier tents tend to have more space.

2. Sleeping Bags

Okay, now that you’ve got something to sleep in, now you literally need something to sleep in. Similar to tents, there’s a little more thought that goes into picking out the perfect sleeping bag. Different weights, lengths and temperatures can all affect a good night’s rest, so be careful when picking out the right one. But most people don’t just want to settle on the right sleeping bag. After all, it is the hard, cold ground you’ll be sleeping on. To make your stay a little comfier, most people like to invest in sleeping pads, too. These air-filled pads sit between your sleeping bag and the ground so there’s a cozier buffer between you and the earth.

3. Backpacks

If you’re camping simply to escape the reality of the real world and relax in a beautiful setting, you arguably may not even need a backpack. However, if you’re anticipating a more adventurous camping experience, picking out the right backpack can be one of the more important camping essentials you bring along. Again, there’s different types of backpacks you’ll need to consider that best fit your needs. Day packs, overnight and long haul backpacks all have differentiating features – all of which will be handy to know depending on what you’re doing. One feature that is consistent between all three is that you’ll definitely want one that feels lightweight and comfortable, but has enough room to store all of the backpacking essentials like snacks, water, a first aid kit, flashlights and other camping must-haves.

4. Flashlights

Speaking of flashlights, make sure that this is one item on your packing list. It can get especially dark in the woods at night, so you’ll want something to help you see, whether it be a flashlight, headlamp or lantern – or all three! That being said, make sure all batteries are charged and ready to go and pack a spare pair just in case.

5. Attire

Hiking boots, sneakers and comfortable clothes that you’re willing to get a little dirty is the type of attire you’ll want to pack. Don’t make the mistake of packing anything too nice or fancy because to no one’s surprise, the woods can get muddy, dirty and messy. Pack clothes that not only are you willing to get a little dirty, but clothes that are comfortable. You never know when you might go on a spur-of-the-moment hiking or biking adventure.

6. Maps

There’s a pretty solid chance that you’ll have very limited to no cell service in the woods. As much as you’d love to count on your GPS, it’s best to play it safe and have a plan B just in case your cell phone doesn’t cooperate. Albeit a bit old school, printing out a paper map or trail route can be your best friend. You’ll want to know how to get to your destination, how to find your way around the campsite and how to leave. Familiarize yourself with your surroundings and the map so you’ll feel as comfortable as possible. Generally speaking, there will be maps available to campers at the nearest ranger station, but just in case, it’s best to come prepared with your own.

7. First Aid Kits

Although no one wants to plan for any accidents, it’s best to plan ahead and be prepared. No surprise that a first aid kit makes the list of camping essentials. So what should be inside? The necessities; aspirins, band-aids, gauze, Neosporin and some camping-specific things like bug sprays and aloe.


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