Camping for Beginners: Gear & More
Adventurer & Photographer
As social distancing becomes the new norm, camping is becoming more popular than ever before. It’s the perfect activity to make folks feel like they’re going on a vacation, without having to travel too far from home, or be around large crowds.
Sleeping outside isn’t for everyone, but if you’re willing to give it a shot and not sure where to start, we’ve put together this comprehensive guide to camping for beginners. For starters, know that you don’t need all of the best gear to start out with, you just need the basics.
The Basics (Gear)
We don’t recommend going out and buying a bunch of new gear for your first camping trip. First of all, that’s not very eco-friendly, and secondly, it’s going to be very expensive. Buying used or second-hand gear is the best way to get into camping. After that, you can figure out what type of gear you like best and slowly purchase quality, made-to-last items.
- Tent: Practice setting this up at home before you go out. There can always be a chance of bad weather, and you want to make sure you’re prepared.
- Sleeping bag: Sleeping bags are nice to have as they provide more warmth, but if you don’t have the budget for one, simply bringing blankets from home can work as well.
- Sleeping pad or cot: Sleeping pads like Thermarests are meant to provide insulation and comfort from the cold and hard ground. There are many inexpensive sleeping pads out there, but we recommend a lightweight inflatable pad if you’re willing to invest.
- Headlamp: Headlamps are the best source of light for camping because the light follows you and you’re able to go hands-free while cooking, setting up the tent, etc. However, lanterns, campfire light, and flashlights all work great as well. Make sure you check fire regulations at the campsite before making a fire.
- Cooking Stove: A simple two-burner cooking stove will work best. The Coleman Classic is our favorite. Two burners are great in the morning so you can cook your breakfast and make your coffee at the same time. Make sure the stove is working at home before you take it out. If you can’t afford to spend money on a stove, just bring cold foods or foods you can cook over a campfire grill like hotdogs and burgers. Again, check fire regulations.
- Cooler: To us, coolers are essential if you plan to bring any drinks or cold foods. Soft coolers bags are great for saving space in the car.
- Kitchen items: Depending on what your meal plan looks like, you’ll want to make sure you have kitchen items to eat and cook off of like plates, bowls, utensils, pot, pan, spatula, cutting board, etc. If you don’t own camping-specific kitchen items, just bring plastic and metal items from your own kitchen. Don’t forget a dish scrubber, biodegradable soap, and a towel to clean your dishes. We think it’s best to keep your camping kitchen gear in a bin that you bring every time you go out, so that you don’t forget essentials like olive oil and salt.
Gear You Won’t Want to Forget, but Likely Already Own
- Pillow: Seriously, this is a must if you want to get any sleep! Just bring the pillow from your bedroom, there’s always room in the car to squeeze that in.
- Lighter: If you plan on cooking with your stove or making a fire, you’ll definitely need a lighter. We recommend always having at least two lighters with you, because they’re easy to lose.
- Fuel for your camp stove: Duh! You know that.
- Coffee for the morning: Duh! You definitely know that one.
- Dessert: For some of us, there’s no way we’d forget the s’mores, but when there’s a lot to pack, this one can be hard to remember. You’ll thank us later.
- Camp chairs: These are optional, as many campsites have picnic tables with benches, but camp chairs are nice for sitting around the fire or drinking your coffee in the morning sun.
- Water: Many established campgrounds have water spigots available, but always check before you go out. If not, bring a large water jug and fill it with water to keep reusing.
Where to Go Camping
We recommend reserving a campsite at an established campground to make it easiest on yourself. Check to make sure the site offers facilities like bathrooms and water. Recreation.gov is a great website to help you find and reserve campsites in America. Finding good campsites can be an adventure, and one you’ll definitely get better at the more you go.
You may not be showering for a few days, but you can still manage to keep your hygiene in fair condition. Just bring the basics!
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Face wash & small towel for drying face
- Bug spray
- First aid kit
- Optional: biodegradable shampoo
“There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” Be prepared for unexpected weather! Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, bring a rain jacket. If you’re in the desert and it’s hot during the day, it will likely be cold at night.
- Rain jacket
- Extra underwear and socks
- Fleece or wool layers for warmth
- Hiking shoes & camp shoes (Crocs are the best camp shoes, fact!)
- Gloves and warm hat
- Sun hat
- Hiking clothes