Ah, the great outdoors! There’s nothing quite like getting away from it all and spending a weekend in the woods. The fresh air, the wildlife, and the lack of electronics make camping an amazing experience that everyone should have at least once. What do you bring when you go camping? I don’t know about you, but I have a whole slew of must-have camping essentials that I never pitch a tent without. Check out these necessary camping items, and be sure to pack them for your next camping trip! Here’s some advice from frequent campers across the U.S. and Canada.
1 A Sharp Knife
According to Canadian Darren Luong, one of the most essential tools for camping is a good knife. While it might not do you much good if you run across a bear, a knife can help you survive in other situations. For example, how else are you going to chop up those onions for your hot dog? From fishing to setting up the tent to cooking and more, you’ll certainly need a sharp knife. In fact, you may want to take along two: a basic camping knife, and a multi-tool with several useful items.
2 Fire Starters
A campfire is a must-do camping activity! You can spend your hard-earned cash on fire starters from the store, but it’s a better idea to make your own! The “DIY” factor adds to the epic status of your camping excursion, after all. Texas camper Jay Webb uses dryer lint and a lighter for a quick-burning starter. You can also cut newspapers into bits, roll them up, tie them with dental floss, and dip them in melted wax, as camper Lauren West suggests.
3 Pool Lounger
What? A pool float? That’s right! According to outdoor enthusiast Brooks Swigart, this is a great budget option that works practically as well as a Thermarest sleeping pad. Of course, you can always splurge on the more expensive option, but a pool raft does the job! It’s light, and it rolls up nice and tight to fit into a backpack. If you have the space, you could also opt for an air mattress. Bonus: if you hit a campground, you may have the chance to use it as intended – to relax in the pool.
4 Hydration Pack
It’s absolutely essential that you stay hydrated while camping, especially if your trip is during the summer months. Hydration packs are better than water bottles, since they are hands-free and can hold a lot more water. These come in all shapes and sizes, so shop around until you find one you like. Nic Goodwin, a night photography enthusiast, prefers packs with automatic sealing functions to prevent leakage.
You’ll definitely need some kind of pot or pan for camping. The traditional cast iron pan is great, but it takes a long time to heat up and it’s really heavy, which makes it not exactly ideal for long backpacking trips. Frequent camper Adam Shaw recommends titanium cookware, saying, “Titanium transfers heat extremely quickly… it is also very light! You save weight and fuel.”
6 A Sleeping Bag
This may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many campers head into the woods without one. A blanket and pillow won’t cut it—bring the sleeping bag so that you can seal in heat and keep out moisture.
7 Camp Food
Have you ever noticed that food always tastes better when you eat it in the woods? I’m convinced that this is literally the only reason that people actually buy Dinty Moore Beef Stew. Aside from canned soups, other good camping foods include hot dogs, bagels, and, of course, s’mores. Definitely don’t forget the s’mores! Elizabeth Vincent, a camper from Nebraska, loves the Russian version of s’mores. To make it, all you have to do is create a ball of dough, fill it with chocolate, and then cook it on a stick over the fire.
8 Comfortable Shoes
Michael Hughes, author of Arizona Animals A to Z, prefers using lightweight, comfortable shoes as opposed to heavy hiking boots during wildlife photography excursions. Choose shoes that are comfortable and have thick soles with plenty of traction.
9 Rain Protection
Murphy’s Law says that if you go camping, it will rain. So be prepared! Choose a tent that won’t collapse from a little water, and bring clothes to keep yourself dry. A warm, weatherproof coat is always a good idea. You should pack a tarp to lay out underneath your tent, so that no water will soak through the floor and into your sleeping bag during the night.
Be prepared for rain, but also be prepared for sun! Nothing ruins a camping trip like a horrible sun burn. Keep a bottle of sunscreen in your backpack, and be sure to apply it each morning.
11 A Flashlight
This is the digital age, but that doesn’t mean you should rely on your phone for light. As we all know too well, iPhones don’t have particularly long battery lives. If you’re sleeping in the woods, you need to be able to see your way around, just in case. Be sure to bring a reliable flashlight with new batteries.
12 A First-Aid Kit
Last but not least, be sure to pack a first-aid kit! You never know what you might get yourself into while camping. Maybe you’ll run into that bear (unlikely, but possible), and you’ll almost certainly get a cut or a blister. Make sure you have the proper first-aid equipment for minor scratches, bug bites, and scrapes, as well as more painful situations like burns and broken fingers. Camping isn’t really any more dangerous than tinkering around your own kitchen, but you can never be too careful, or too prepared.
There’s no doubt about it—camping may be one of the simplest forms of vacation, but it does require a lot of gear! This list will help you make sure you have all the essentials for your next (or first) camping trip.
Are you a seasoned camper? What do you like to take on camping trips? Let us know in the comments!