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With summer upon us, it’s a great time to go outside and get away from it all. While figuring out which gear to bring may seem overwhelming, it really doesn’t have to be that complicated. Before you hit the road, let’s talk about the basics as well as a few items worth spending a little more on to help you and your family or friends enjoy a memorable trip in the great outdoors.
9 Essential Pieces of Camping Equipment
Here are 9 pieces of equipment that you’ll definitely want to have before going camping
- Tent — even if you plan on sleeping under the stars, it will make sense to have a tent in case of inclement weather or emergencies.
- Water bottle or hydration system — Staying hydrated while camping is a crucial part of being safe. A good rule of thumb is to bring two gallons of water per person per day if you don’t have a reliable water source at your camping location
- Weather-appropriate clothing — Packing the right clothing for the weather conditions can make the difference between an enjoyable camping trip and pure misery. Having layers and a rain jacket is ideal to ensure you’re covered no matter the weather.
- Lantern, flashlight or headlamp — Even if you have a fire going it’s always good to have a flashlight on hand to ensure you can navigate safely in the dark.
- Cooler — Having a good cooler to keep food and drinks in can make a big difference especially on multi-day camping trips. Upgrading to a cooler that can retain ice for 4-5 days is worth it and can be found for under $50.
- Portable grill or camping stove + fuel — Always check the campsite to see if they have grills available. If not, you’ll want to bring something to cook your food and remember to bring extra fuel. If you plan on using the campfire to cook having a grill rack will do the trick.
- Toilet paper and hand sanitizer — Even if your campsite has bathrooms it doesn’t necessarily mean there will be toilet paper or soap.
- First aid supplies — This is a must-have. It’s best to be prepared with a standard first aid kit, even for minor cuts and splinters.
- Graham crackers, chocolate, and marshmallows — Got to make sure that you have something fun to do over the nightly campfire!
Camping Equipment to Splurge on
When it comes to camping gear, there are certain things that you’ll want to splurge on. This is especially true if you are a frequent camper or are planning on using it a lot. With some types of camping equipment, it just makes a lot more sense to spend a little more upfront for something that will last longer rather than something cheaper that will break after a few uses.
The first is a good tent. This is something I learned the hard way when I brought a pop-up tent thinking the ease of setup was most important. While set up was easy, it was also easy for the wind to blow the tent down and collapse the tent on us while we were sleeping. Spending a little more on a sturdy tent is well worth it.
Another thing where quality can really make a difference is in a sleeping bag or sleeping pad. After all, you’ll be spending 6-8 hours a day with it, so you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable and protects you from the elements.
Consider Renting Camping Gear (Instead of Buying)
The cost of buying all new camping equipment can add up quickly. And if you’re on a tight budget, you might be looking for ways to go camping on the cheap. If you don’t want to sacrifice on quality, one possibility is to rent camping gear. There are many companies (both online and local) that allow you to rent things like backpacks, tents, and sleeping bags. This allows you to get high-quality gear for a lower price than buying it outright.
Another option to consider is borrowing, sharing, or buying used equipment. While you might not want to share a sleeping bag with someone else, sharing a tent can make a lot of sense. Many outdoor enthusiasts have a TON of gear and would be happy to let you use or borrow it. This can give you an idea of whether camping is going to be more than a one-time thing, and what gear you’ll need.
6 Amazing Places to Camp
And now that you’ve got all that great camping equipment, here are a few places to consider trying out on your camping trips this summer
- Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee — several different kinds of camping are allowed in the Great Smokies, and you’ll be close to many other types of attractions as well.
- Shenandoah National Park, Virginia — amazing views of waterfalls and forests within driving distance of much of the Eastern United States.
- Arches National Park, Utah — if you’re a hiker who appreciates amazing views, you’ll want to be sure to check out Arches National Park.
- Glacier National Park, Montana — amazing views of the eponymous glaciers are the big draw here.
- Acadia National Park, Maine — commune with nature featuring over 17 million acres of forest and 6,000 lakes and ponds.
- Big Bend National Park, Texas — kayaking, rafting, and canoeing along with plenty of backcountry camping are a feature of this remote national park.
- Los Padres National Forest, California — the redwoods and views of the pacific ocean,
If you’re just getting started, hopefully, these trips can provide some inspiration for a lifelong joy of nature.
The Bottom Line
Going camping with your friends or family doesn’t have to break your budget. While there are some camping essentials you’ll want to splurge on, there are other areas where you can stretch your dollars. This can include renting equipment instead of buying it, borrowing, or sharing with friends. No matter what your outdoor adventures look like, make sure to have a plan for it and fit it within your budget.
Save more, spend smarter, and make your money go further
Dan Miller is a freelance writer and founder of PointsWithACrew.com, a site that helps families to travel for free / cheap. His home base is in Cincinnati, but he tries to travel the world as much as possible with his wife and 6 kids. More from Dan Miller
Before you hit the road, let’s talk about camping equipment to help ensure a relaxing trip in the great outdoors.
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