Planning your first camping trip? Here’s the best camping gear for beginners. We include tents, stoves, coolers, chairs, and lots more to make your camping trip a success. This camping starter kit covers the basic essentials for your trip.
Heading out into the great outdoors? Perfect. Before you go, make sure you have the basics.
In this post, you’ll learn what you’ll need for a successful trip into the wilderness – or at least the local campground.
Table of Contents
Guide to the Best Camping Gear for Beginners
When you’re new to camping, and setting out on a grand adventure, whether for the first time or you have a couple of trips under your belt, it’s hard not to get carried away on a shopping spree when compiling a list of ‘things I need”. I know, trust me!
To help you out we have compiled a list of essentials you need (and sometimes more than one). Back-ups of certain items, like a flashlight, can be absolute lifesavers.
After all, the last thing you want is to be fumbling around in the dark tripping over your tent and everything comes crashing down in a big heap. Don’t laugh, many a camper have done just that.
Type of Camping Gear: Weight Considerations
The type of camper you are will determine the style of gear you need.
- For example, if you are a hiker then all of your gear will want to be lightweight and compact because you have to carry everything yourself so lighter is better.
- If you are camping during a horseback riding adventure then you don’t want to overload your horse.
- If you are camping from your car then you are lucky enough not to have to worry about weight. Unless of course, you are the unlucky one lugging it all to the campsite which may not be as close as it looked when you arrived.
Planning a campfire? Check out 6 Ways to Start a Campfire
Camping Start Kits for Beginners: 18 Items
Here we will cover the essentials. Handy tips and tricks to help you on your way, questions you need to answer to ensure the product meets your needs, and the qualities you need to consider when purchasing your camping gear.
All of the basic questions to get you started and on your way to enjoying the great outdoors as soon as possible.
Handy Hint #1: Buy a lock down tub to keep in the car. Perfect for holding emergency backup extras like spare batteries, an extra light, rope etc.
1. Tents and Accessories
Firstly, and most importantly, you are going to need a tent. Not just any tent, one that checks all the boxes for your needs, climate and taste.
As this is the one thing you don’t want to be replacing often there are certain things you need to consider when purchasing your first tent. Some of these you may have thought of and other things may be new to you.
Like always having some extra tent pegs of varying lengths to secure your tent. Different surfaces need different pegs. For example – you will need longer pegs for sandy areas like a lake shore or camping on the beach.
6 Considerations when purchasing
- Number of people
- Weight (lightweight for hiking)
- Size when stowed in its carry bag
- Accompanying accessories
- Where you are likely to be setting it up. Forest floor, rocky shale or hard clay? The ground makes a big difference and you will need pegs of varying lengths for different earth types.
- How easy it is to set up and the ability to withstand weather changes are also very important factors to think about.
This may seem like a lot, but most things are included with the tent, you just need to check before you buy. Carrying additional tent pegs is always an excellent idea, just in case the wind picks up and you need additional fastenings.
Recommended tent: AmazonBasics 4-Person Tent This is a 3-season / 4-person tent. Check current price.
More reading: How to fold a tent like a boss (dome and cabin)
*Helpful Tip – Even if your tent is waterproof, many experienced campers invest in a fly sheet or tarp in case of heavier rains.
Fly Sheet / Tarp
If your tent does not come with a fly sheet already, then this is highly recommended. Nobody wants to wake up to the steady drip drip of raindrops on their forehead in the middle of the night.
A fly/tarp large enough to cover your tent and surrounds is also a good idea if camping in damp areas, that way you have somewhere to sit outside on nice dry chairs out of the dew and drizzle.
2. First Aid Kit
Even the most experienced campers, hikers, and outdoorsmen would never think of leaving home without one.
This is an essential piece of camping equipment to cover every situation from a scratch to an invading army of creepy crawlies that may find their way into boots, tents and outdoor gear. A first aid kit can literally be the difference between surviving in the wild or not.
There are specialty First Aid kits covering every outdoor adventure you can imagine so take a moment to think about the environment you will camping in and what you are likely to encounter.
It is also a good idea to brush up on your first aid knowledge and or training. Whether or not you need it, be prepared if someone stumbles over the cooler or trips over a tent rope spraining something.
4 Things to consider when purchasing
- Fauna you are likely to encounter (spider or snake bite)
- Your knowledge on how to treat yourself and others if something does go wrong. Remember when camping you could be a long way from your car when injured.
PrepBay Tactical First Aid Kit is lightweight, durable and compact making it ideal for hiking, biking and all forms of camping. Set out in easy to follow sections enables you quick access at a glance in times of trouble. It also makes it easy to know what you need to replace. Check current price.
3. Stoves and Cooking Gear
Toasting marshmallows around the campfire making s’mores is the perfect camping tradition, but a lot of people prefer not to live on s’mores alone.
Yes, I think they’re crazy too, but for those that don’t, choosing the right stove can be the difference between a great camping trip and a trip home in icy silence surrounded by starving loved ones. And you know you’re going to want your morning coffee.
Compact cooking stoves and equipment make it easy to feed friends and family when camping. All you have to do is decide how big of a stove you need.
There are tiny lightweight, incredibly compact personal cooking systems preferred by hikers who have to carry their own gear, like a Jetboil which packs neatly in your backpack or saddle bag. Check the current price on Amazon or REI
Coleman’s hugely popular classic propane stove is durable, easily disassembled for cleaning and fuel efficient.
Rust-resistant with adjustable wind block panels allowing you to cook with larger pans and twin adjustable burners it covers all your needs in one compact package. Check the current price.
Handy Hint #2: Always carry a couple of extra propane fuel canisters. There’s nothing worse than trying to eat a half-cooked meal. Yuk. When buying a stove, look for one with big wind-block panels. Constantly relighting your stove can try your patience.
Light, compact cookware ensembles make your camping experience more pleasant. Non-stick ensures easy cleaning and easily stackable means they are easy to keep out of the way reducing campsite clutter. These two factors help deter wildlife from wandering into your campsite excited by the smell of food.
If it’s all put away cleanly, then the chances of those pesky raccoons sounding like they are playing the drums on your pots-n-pans and waking you in the middle of the night pans is drastically reduced.
4. Let there be Light! Torches, Lanterns, and Headlamps
I can’t state enough the importance of adequate lighting when camping.
Of course, it’s very romantic to watch the sun go down enjoying the sunset with that special someone, but then when you find yourself groping around in the dark looking for something it’s just embarrassing. The easiest way to reduce your chances of this happening is to pack adequate light.
This can come in the form of lanterns, flashlights, or headlamps.
Providing a large amount of light, lanterns can be hung from trees, tents, or any overhead object to light your entire outdoor area.
This is very convenient leaving your hands free to do other things like cooking dinner. They also provide an element of safety to reduce your likelihood of tripping over things and deterring wildlife to an extent.
It’s a good idea to have a spare in case one is misplaced, smashed from falling, or has a mechanical issue becoming very dim.
Flashlights / Torches
An essential for telling stories around the campfire, flashlights are one of the first things campers think to pack. Powerful beams to light your way when walking in the darkness around your camping area they can also be a first aid tool.
If on the remote chance something goes wrong and you need help, they are a beacon for rescuers and search parties to zone in on your location or used to signal for help.
Because of this, an adjustable beam is recommended. Check the current price.
Handy Tip #3: Always pack extra batteries for your lanterns, torches and headlamps.
A great little light source leaving your hands free while illuminating exactly where you are looking, these are very popular with a lot of people.
Comfortably set on your forehead it’s easy to forget they are there so just make sure you don’t bump them on anything, especially if in close quarters like caves or thick brush. Check current prices on Amazon or Pelican.
*Headlamp tip – angle the light slightly downward so you do not blind people when you are talking to them or looking at them. They really appreciate it and this helps keep a peaceful campsite.
Coolers, Esky’s, Chilly Bins, no matter what you call them, they are the lifeblood of camping the world over. Keeping your food fresh and safe from critters is crucial.
Because yes, we love bears but do you really want to look one in the eye as you emerge from your tent in the morning?! Food storage is key to a successful camping trip. Here’s how to keep bears away while camping.
Choosing your cooler depends on several things. Number of people, duration of your trip, weight – if you need to carry it to the campsite or it can sit nestled in the back of your car, just to name a few. So, how do you choose?
How to choose the right cooler for you
Like most people, I know the first question you are tempted to ask is ‘how many cans does it hold?’ and yes, that is very important but other factors need to be considered when buying your first cooler. Here is a list of considerations:
- Material – stainless steel through to a virtually indestructible Rotomoulded plastic construction, the material impacts the lifespan, durability, temperature control via insulation material and weight of your cooler.
- Drainage – coolers these days can have an ice retention of up to four days depending on how much they are opened and closed so easy drainage is key to keeping your food fresh. Choosing an esky with a drainage system allows you to drain excess water as the ice melts without having to remove all the food to tip it out.
- Construction – hardy handles, latches and lids means easy transport and great food freshness with good seals. A handle breaking halfway to the camp site and watching all your food go tumbling across the ground is very undesirable – so good construction is key.
- Cost – the old adage ‘get what you pay for’ definitely applies with coolers. Having said that you don’t need to go out and spend a million dollars, there are great coolers within every budget.
Yeti coolers are among the top-rated of all coolers and available in every size you could possibly need.
Bear-proof, sturdy enough to stand on and with excellent construction, drainage and additional extras like anchor point tie down slots to fasten to your truck or boat, it’s got it all. Check the current price on Amazon or Dick’s Sporting Goods.
More reading: How Long Does Ice Last in a Cooler? 4 Types Compared
6. Sleeping Gear
Making the right choice with your sleeping gear makes the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and a shivery one.
Just like Goldilocks, you don’t want one that makes you too hot or too cold, you want one that keeps you just right and snugly so you enjoy your time in nature!
Sleeping bags come in all sizes, thicknesses, and weights. The region you will be camping in, climate and normal weather conditions will impact greatly the style of sleeping bag you will need.
Alpine or Equatorial, waterproof or lightweight? These are the factors to consider for the type of camping you will be enjoying.
5 Things to consider when purchasing
- Weight: Specialty lightweight options are available for hikers or you can opt for a 4 Seasons type that covers most general climates.
If you are headed into the snow and below-freezing temperatures then a specialty sleeping bag will be needed. Rest assured (yes, I know) no matter where you intend to camp there is a sleeping bag for you. Check the current price.
Handy Hint #4: Take a minute to clear away rocks, pine cones, branches etc. before erecting your tent. There’s nothing worse than rolling over in the middle of the night and trying to sleep on a rock!
For hikers, this may not be an option but for normal straight-out-of-car camping, investing in a thin air or foam mattress can make the difference between tossing and turning all night or sleeping like a baby out in the wilds.
As we all know, when walking in nature the ground is never dead flat, there are undulations, small indents, and general unevenness.
A small layer of insulation between you and the ground keeps you warmer and makes that uneven ground seem to disappear. Well worth the investment if you are staying for longer periods, not just a one or two-night trip.
Investing in a thin sleeping pad can make the difference between tossing and turning all night or sleeping like a baby out in the wilds.
REDCAMP Self Inflating Sleeping Pad with foam interior takes all the bumps out of an uneven surface, adding warmth and comfort to your camping experience.
Plus, you have the added benefit of a built-in pillow … one thing a lot of campers forget to pack! Check the current price.
You might also consider a tent heater to take the edge off of those cold nights.
7. Outside Gear
Chairs are one of the most forgotten items by those new to camping. So many people get excited and think – tent, sleeping bag, cooler, check, check and check … let’s goooo!
Then after they’ve set up and go to sit down, all of a sudden, the blame game starts with ‘who forgot the chairs?’
Fold-up camping chairs these days are lightweight and come with all sorts of nifty extras. Pockets to put your book, sunscreen or whatever you have on you, giant cup holders for drinks, and there are even some designed to hold a wine glass.
4 Things to consider when purchasing
- Back support
- Additional padding
If you’ll spend hours reading a book or relaxing, some good back support and additional padding are important. Please do check the size before ordering because unpacking your chair to find it child-size may make things a little awkward for the rest of your trip.
Core Equipment: Padded Hard Arm Chair well and truly deserves its top-ranking status with added support, a sturdy durable frame, additional storage pockets, and an oversized cup holder.
Easy to set up, pack up and stow in its own travel bag, many an afternoon can be enjoyed in comfort. Check the current price.
Not an essential but well worth a mention, hammocks are so popular I have seen hikers take them instead of a tent!
One of the best outside accessories to include in your camping equipment, they can also double up as a place to sleep and a makeshift storage area to get things off the ground after a rain.
The only problem you may have is that everyone wants to sit in the hammock so you may have to buy more than one. But the good news is there are double hammocks for those romantic getaways.
3 Things to consider when purchasing
- Materials (rope can cut into your skin)
More reading: Ultimate Guide to Camping with a Hammock [Beginners]
8. Survival Gear: Axes, Tomahawks and Knives
An ax or a tomahawk are fantastic tools to include in your camping gear. Some parks include firewood for campers to reduce risk of infestation of invasive bug species so having something to cut the wood into kindling to start your campfire is a good idea.
Chopping wood, splitting wood, cutting rope or whittling, depending on the task you need done will help you choose the most appropriate tool and size needed. After all, it’s hard to chop wood with a pocket knife.
There are multi-tools specially designed for camping incorporating all of the above as well if you would prefer an all-in-one option.
Most campers find something midway is enough to do any job they require. Smaller than an ax and bigger than a knife, a small axe or tomahawk can accomplish nearly any task.
An ax with sheath is a handy camping tool Choose one that is compact and strong enough to accomplish basic tasks. Smaller than an ax for ease of handling, a hatchet is a great, lightweight alternative.
Rather than bring a small toolbox, you can probably get away with a multitool, like this one by Gerber.
The Gerber Truss is my favorite multitool. I’ve had it for more than a year and we take it hiking and when we’re filming. It’s equally good at opening cans as tightening camera mounts.
All your tools in one place is extremely convenient. Consider a quality multitool for your next camping trip.
A vital and essential tool to include in your camping gear, it’s best to have more than one knife. The humble knife is your best friend in the great outdoors and can be used for basically anything around the campsite.
From helping with cooking dinner to making a clothesline to dry everything after an unexpected bout of rain. A little buddy to put in your pocket and take with you everywhere.
5 Things to consider when purchasing
- Size (you probably don’t need a machete even though you may want one)
- Blade length
- Does it lock open?
- Can it attach to your belt solo or you need to buy a pouch?
Grand Way’s Spring Assisted Folding Pocket Knife is a hardy, rust-resistant knife. Reliable with a locking mechanism, the durable steel blade is able to hold its edge without sharpening for a long time, and comfortable grip. Check the current price.
Handy Hint #5: It is always a good idea to have a backup knife in your gear. It’s one of the most used and useful tools you have and need.
9. Dry Bags
A dry bag is a waterproof bag. The tops usually roll down so you store a surprising amount of gear in them by just unrolling and adding more.
Perfect for hiking, rafting, fishing, or boating they are a great addition to your camping gear, especially to store your electronics just in case of rain. Or crossing a river, or going fishing … well you get the idea.
Anything that cannot get wet or is essential for safety like radios, first aid kits, and any electronic devices are best stored in a dry bag just to be safe. Check the current price.
The only two considerations when purchasing are:
- how many do I need?
- how big do I need them?
With endless possibilities and uses, a coil of rope or cord is needed more than you might think.
For makeshift clotheslines to hang your towels on after a swim or to tie something up so critters don’t get at it in the middle of the night, whatever you may come across or need, a spare length of rope is one of those indispensable things every camper uses.
Dakota Gear’s Paracord 550 is high quality, strong and durable. Resistant to UV light, rot and color fading.
For makeshift clotheslines to hang your towels on after a swim or to tie something up and hang from a tree so critters don’t get at it in the middle of the night, whatever you may come across or need, this is one of those indispensable items every camper uses. Worth the investment to keep an extra in the backup tub in the car. Check the current price.
Handy Hint # 6: Temporary clotheslines strung between two trees are best made with brightly colored cord. This will reduce the likelihood of you accidentally walking into it and injuring yourself.
11. Accessories and Essentials
Preparation is key when in a remote area and unable to just ‘run to the store’ to buy another one of whatever you just ran out of.
Spare batteries, extra cooking fuel, a flashlight, a spare knife, rope/cord, extra dry bag, a tarp, additional bug spray, waterproof matches/lighter, map, whistle, and sunscreen. While you can open a can without a can opener – it’s just simpler to bring one along.
These items are part of the basics that every camper will run out of or need at some point when camping regularly.
Stowing a few basics in a backup tub will help in emergencies, cut down on frustration and ensure your family or group has a great trip for the entire length of your stay without having to come home early.
If you are going somewhere other than a campground, you should bring some survival gear with you. Here is some must-have survival gear to consider.
Helpful Tip – write a camping list to ensure you don’t suffer those ‘I can’t believe I forgot to pack…’ moments. It’s uncomfortable when you forget a pillow, towel or cooking utensils. (And don’t get me started on the toilet paper!)
Think You’re Ready To Go?
Taking a moment to think about the camping gear you are purchasing is the biggest investment you can make for yourself and your family.
Considering the terrain, climate, and activities that will be filling your days and choosing the right gear, camping will return the favor by providing joyful memories that last a lifetime.
The most popular way to relax and enjoy the outdoors, millions of people around the world go camping to unwind, reduce stress and regain some balance in their lives. Whether you are an experienced outdoors person or a novice, the right gear can make your time in nature so much easier allowing you to take it easy, put your feet up and slow down in this fast-paced world we live in.
And there you have it – the best camping gear for beginners!
What is your must-have camping gear? Let me know in the comments!
- About the Author
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Bryan Haines is a co-founder and blogger on GudGear – and is working to make it the best resource for outdoor gear and guides.
He loves the outdoors and has hiked the Andes, kayaked the Galapagos, and biked and camped around Nova Scotia, Canada.
He is a travel blogger at Storyteller Travel and blogs about photography at Storyteller Tech. He is also co-founder of Storyteller Media, a company he started with his wife, Dena.