Camping is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors. If you are new to camping, the first thing you should do is become familiar with the basic camping gear and camping essentials that you will need to get started. You need a shelter, which could be a tent, cabin, or RV; and you need a bed, which could be a combination of sleeping bags and pads, cots, air mattresses, and comforters. Once your shelter and bedding is selected, you need to eat, which may or may not require cooking utensils.
Put together your own camping starter kit with our tips and advice on the basic caping gear and equipment you need to go camping for the first time.
What Gear Do I Need?
First time campers usually start out as tent campers, who are also referred to as car campers because they carry all their campground needs in their car (rather than an RV). Your first tent need not be expensive, but it should provide adequate weather protection. Similarly, you can find moderately priced sleeping bags that work well too. With a little care and maintenance most camping gear will last for many years. And depending on your eating habits you may need nothing more than a cooler, a bag of charcoal, and a spatula. You can go camping on a budget with these three essential camping items and a few tips.
1. Camping Tent
Why do you need a tent? A tent shields you from the wind, sun, and rain. A tent protects you from unfriendly outdoor pests like flies, mosquitoes, and noseeums.
A tent provides a place to store clothes and other gear out of the weather. And a tent offers you a place to go for a little privacy. Remember there's nothing wrong with sleeping out under the stars, weather permitting. But sooner or later you'll likely need a tent. Choosing a camping tent is not as hard as it may sound.
Check out these features to look for in a new tent.
2. Sleeping Bags and Sleeping Pads
Making a bed at the campground is easy. First you need to have some type of padding to cushion you from the hard ground. There are inflatable pads and various closed-cell pads that work quite well. On top of the pad you'll place your sleeping bag. If you're a beginner, you're probably summer camping, so you won't need an expensive sleeping bag. A lightweight rectangular sleeping bag will do. If it gets too warm, you may opt to sleep on top of it with a sheet and/or blanket. Don't forget to bring a pillow. Sleeping bags are made from different materials, read this to learn how to choose the right sleeping bag for you.
Outdoor cooking is enjoyed by many whether at the campground or in your own backyard. So if you're a backyard chef, you already have lots of recipes to try at the campground. If not, you can always get by with a cooler of drinks, sandwiches, and snacks. Most public campgrounds provide a grill and picnic table at each campsite. With a bag of charcoal and a spatula you're ready to make steaks, hot dogs, and hamburgers on the grill. Add a propane stove, a skillet, and a few pots, and you're ready to cook up lots of stove-top meals.
Get a Dutch oven, and now you can bake at the campground too. Depending on your cooking skills and equipment, you can make meals at the campground that can rival home cooking. For some great meal ideas, check out these camping recipes. and get packed with a list of the essential chuckbox items.
Where To Buy Camping Gear
When shopping for camping gear, check out Wal-Mart or Target first. They have the best prices. Next I recommend visiting your local sporting goods store, where you can usually check out tents that are set up on the display floor. Get in them, lay down, and ask yourself if they are roomy enough. Check for the basic features mentioned above. There are many quality tents available in the $100-$200 price range. For online shopping, I recommend Campmor, Cabela's, Coleman, Sierra Trading Post, LL Bean, and REI, or check out the best stores for discount camping equipment online.
Make A Camping Checklist
A camping checklist will help you remember essential items, like the can opener or your toothbrush. Make a list of your camping gear and refer to it every time you go camping. Revise it as needed. I've created a basic printer friendly camping checklist that you can use to get started.
Updated and Edited by Camping Expert Monica Prelle