There’s something to be said for enjoying the great outdoors.
Fresh air, sunshine, time to relax and exercise are all part of the joy of camping.
Camping technology has come a long way in the past several decades, making ‘roughing it’ a lot less rough than you might expect.
Whether you went camping in Boy Scouts years ago, have never been or are just looking to upgrade your gear, we’ve sifted through the options and found the best of the best in essential camping gear.
Top 26 Best Camping Essentials
1. UCO Storm Proof Matches
One of the basic rules of camping is to always have a way to start a fire. These storm-proof matches light even when they are wet. They are also wind-proof for about the first 15 seconds they’re lit. That gives you time to ignite kindling and get a fire going without wasting match after match or, worse, trying to light it with a cigarette lighter.
Do be aware that these matches do not light like a polite kitchen match. They have a very robust flame and should not be lit by smaller kids.
2. Texsport Heavy Duty Camping 24″ X 16″ Grill
This folding camp grill is light-years ahead of trying to cook food on a flimsy screen or by jamming the food onto the end of a stick. This grill, while a bit heavy at six pounds, is built to take the elements without the paint chipping or peeling off. Whether you’re grilling up fresh-caught fish, boiling water or baking potatoes, this grill gets the job done. It’s capable of handling heavy pots and cast-iron skillets without any unintended collapsing, making it a great investment for your camping trip.
3. Flame Retardant Quilted Oven Mitts
Out in the wilderness is a bad place to burn your hand. By having a few oven mitts along on the trip, you can cook with confidence and not ruin your clothing by using it as an impromptu pot holder or mitt. These are also great for patting out embers from the fire that land on your clothes or gear, stopping the fire before it can start.
4. SterlingPro Coffee & Espresso Maker
While out camping, nobody expects you to forgo your morning cup of Joe. It’s also excellent for making iced coffee and tea, both hot and cold. You can even use it to make hot chocolate. If you’re not alone on your trip, having a carafe such as this to make drinks will save you fuel and allow everyone to enjoy their drinks together. The top seals to avoid attracting bugs, and you can rinse the entire apparatus with just a few cups of water.
5. Light My Fire Original BPA-Free Tritan Spork
These eating utensils are lightweight and serve as a spoon, fork and a blunt knife. Forget about carrying a fistful of cutlery. One of these per person and a communal knife or two for cutting meat will be all you need.
These are made out of BPA-free plastic, making them safe to eat from for the duration of the trip and saved for next time. Their low price also makes it economical to use them for packed lunches when you’re home, too!
6. Coleman Camping Oversized Quad Chair
After a long day of hiking, swimming and other activities, hunkering down on a rock or log is not very comfortable. When it comes to camp chairs, this is one of the best on the market.
Not only is it lightweight and easy to pack, it has a cup holder built right in. There’s also storage on the side, which can be used for stowing small items.
7. Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock
Hammocks are great for lazing around in during the day, but they’re also an outstanding sleeping option in warm weather. This hammock is safe for up to 400 pounds and comes with its own stuff sack, but you’ll need to buy suspension straps separately. Breathable and lightweight, this hammock is a great addition to any camp.
8. Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth BPA-Free Water Bottle
Nalgenes have been the water bottle of choice for hikers, backpackers and campers for over 20 years. Made from BPA-free plastic, they are nearly impossible to shatter. The lid is tethered to the bottle so you can’t misplace it, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and colors.
These wide-mouth bottles also accommodate just about every filter on the market today. Some hikers like to use one for water and one for reconstituted food, such as oatmeal, because these bottles can withstand temps of up to 212 degrees.
Nalgenes can also withstand cold down to -20 degrees without bursting, as long as you leave a little head room at the top to allow for expansion.
If you’ll be camping in areas where you can use local wood for fires, this hatchet is the best tool for the job. Fully forged as a solid piece, you’ll never have to deal with the head flying off at an inopportune moment. If you’ll be packing in firewood, a hatchet is still a good idea for digging cat-holes or a latrine.
This tool is well-crafted and superbly balanced. As long as you oil the leather grip, it will last the rest of your life and can then be passed down.
10. Gerber Prodigy Serrated Edge Knife
Having a good knife at camp is essential. You’ll need it for everything from cutting meat to shaving kindling. When it comes to good camping knives, this Gerber is top of the line. It’s easy to keep sharp and will be one of the most useful tools you take with you on your trip.
In addition to one big knife, you will want a small multi-tool as well. This one is the best option for camping, as it includes two blades, a can opener, a bottle opener, a corkscrew, a small pair of scissors and several other useful implements.
You never know exactly what you’ll need in camp, so it’s best to come prepared with a varied tool collection. This Swiss Army knife fits the bill.
12. LE LED Headlamp
A headlamp is so much easier to deal with than a hand-held flashlight, and this is the best headlamp for camping because it also includes a red setting. Using the red setting avoids the issue of ‘losing’ your night vision every time you turn on the light.
This model is comfortable and will come in handy after sunset, whether you’re in camp or still on your way back to tuck in for the night. Hands-free light, especially in red mode, is excellent for in camp. The white LEDs are useful for reading before you sleep or digging through your pack in the darkness.
13. Ultra Bright LED Camping Lantern
If you need to illuminate space for more than one person, a camping lantern is a great idea. This particular model is the brightest one available and will illuminate a large area, making it a great item to have in a multi-person tent or at the water’s edge if you’re doing some night fishing.
Just don’t turn it on once everyone is accustomed to the dark unless it’s an emergency, as it will be blinding! Use you red headlamp for trips to the latrine at night.
14. Suunto A-10 Field Compass
Whenever you stray into the wilderness, you need to have a good compass for navigation. This one is lightweight and clearly marked so that you cannot become lost. It even includes a lanyard and a snap lock so it won’t be lost along the trail. Unlike some of the cheap compasses available, this one also features fixed declination and jewel bearing to ensure accuracy.
15. Frogg Toggs Chilly Pad Evaporative Cooling Towel
Outdoors is no place for your terrycloth towels from home. They take forever to dry and will mildew. This Frogg Togg cooling towel, however, is designed to be kept wet and keep you from overheating. Harnessing the power of evaporation, this towel is all you need to stay cool and comfortable for your entire trip.
16. Sawyer Products Insect Repellent
In camping areas, bugs such as chiggers, fleas, mosquitoes and mites can spread disease and cause you a lot of discomfort. By dousing your clothing in permethrin, bugs will stay away for up to six weeks! It’s as effective as 100% DEET and is odorless once it has dried. Permethrin is completely safe for use and has been approved by the EPA.
In addition to carrying waterproof matches, you will also want to carry a secondary method of starting a fire. This fire-starting kit includes the strikers you will need, and also includes a waterproof compartment for tinder and an emergency whistle. The whole kit is held together with a lanyard.
This is a complete survival kit that will help you stay alive and also attract help if you were to get lost, suffer bad weather or have another emergency. It includes a sewing kit, guidebook for survival, a multi-tool, fishing line and a bunch of other items that will help you in an emergency.
19. Cascade Mountain Tech Carbon Fiber Quick Lock Trekking Poles
Trekking poles help you to stabilize your balance, especially when you are carrying a pack. These carbon fiber poles are among the lightest and most durable available, making them an excellent choice for everyone from a weekend camper to a months-long Appalachian Trail hiker.
20. Camelbak Men’s HydroBak Hydration Pack
Hiking and camping take a lot of sweat, especially in warmer weather, and dehydration can make you feel terrible. This Camelbak is lightweight, comfortable and will allow you to drink on-the-go. You can wear it by itself or under your backpack, and the mouthpiece is compatible with most in-line water filtration systems.
21. Teton Sports Scout3400 Internal Frame Backpack
This 55-liter pack is perfect for longer treks or if you are carrying a lot of gear. The internal frame allows the load to be spread evenly over your shoulders and hips so your back will not be strained. While you can easily pay hundreds of dollars for a backpack, this Scout from Teton is among the best in its size class and is very wallet-friendly.
22. Therm-A-Rest Basecamp
A proper camping pad is essential to your health. Some campers and hikers will attempt to go without, believing they are just for comfort. A camping pad provides essential insulation and prevents your body heat from being leeched out into the ground through the floor of your tent.
This pad is a great three-season option and will keep you warm during chilly nights in the wilderness. In warmer weather, you can stretch out directly on the pad and eschew your sleeping bag, if you are so inclined.
23. Coleman 5-Piece Aluminum Mess Kit
Unless you plan on eating nothing but cold foods for your entire outing, you will want to have a method for cooking your meals. This aluminum kit from Coleman is the best value for the price and is also quite lightweight. It also nests together to take up minimal space in your pack.
24. Coghlans Stainless Steel Utensil Set
For cooking in camp, you will also want some utensils. This set includes a spatula, a spoon and a two-tine fork, which should cover all of your needs. They’re easy to clean and also have a handy hole in the end of the handle for hanging them up with your bear bag.
25. ALPS Mountaineering Extreme 2 Person Tent
Unless you plan to sleep solely in the hammock, you will likely want a tent. This tent offers room for two and is acceptable for three-season use. It’s a free-standing, three-pole design and is easy to set up and take down, and it also includes its own rain fly. The entrance is spacious and the fly creates two vestibules for your gear. Before you head out on your trip, make sure you familiarize yourself with this tent. While setup is quite simple, you may have to do it in bad weather or in the dark. Practice makes perfect.
26. Teton Sports Celsius Flannel Lined Sleeping Bag
Weighing in at seven pounds, this is not a sleeping bag you will hike long distances with. However, for camping, there’s nothing better! it is extra-large, meant to fit one person with room to spare or for two people to share it with a snug fit.
Lined with flannel and fitted with an adjustable mummy hood, this bag is great for anyone who doesn’t like the claustrophobic feel of lighter bags. You can even zip two of these bags together if you have a sleeping partner, as they are compatible with all bags of their same type.