Planning to camp for the first time this summer? Or perhaps want to upgrade some of your equipment? Either way you should consider the Essential basic camping gear below. People often ask “What do I need to camp?”, well very little really!
Please note this article has Amazon affiliate marketing links. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases.
For basic camping you don’t need all the bells and whistles. Although the latest gadgets and best gear might make your time under canvas more comfortable, this article is a look at the essential items you need to go camping. So, assuming you have enough food and water (or shops/pub nearby!) all you really need are:
Now some would say you need a sleeping bag and camping matt or cot. While I agree camping is more comfortable with those items, I know plenty of people who have camped using blankets and duvets. Either they sleep on the floor, take a spare mattress from home, some foam, a lilo (pool mattress), a yoga matt or more blankets.
These days when I go camping, my seven seater Citroen Grand Picasso (I know yawn!) is full of gear. There is barely enough room for my two excited kids and wife who is convinced we have forgotten something. But in the early days of camping I made do with far less.
You really can camp with just the bare essentials, so we’ve picked out a few that will mean you can sleep under canvas without investing vast sums of money.
The tent is the cornerstone of your camping set up and no list of essential basic camping gear would be complete without one. Of course, you could just sling a hammock between two trees or build your own bivouac, but we will assume you are want a waterproof and bug proof shelter.
The most important factors when choosing a tent are that it is suitable for the weather you are likely to experience and that there is enough room for your group. Choose a waterproof tent. 3,000 mm waterproof rating is the minimum I would go for, although I prefer 5,000mm – we get a lot of rain here in the UK.
Size matters. And consider that a four person tent is a tight squeeze for four, so it is always more comfortable to size up. For example, get an six person for four of you, or a three of four person for two of you. If you’re backpacking or on a trekking holiday and so carrying your tent, then weight is key (so perhaps don’t upsize!).
I really like tents with a sewn in groundsheet. This stops bugs and other local wildlife from getting into your sleeping space. If you are car camping size/weight is not an issue. So a tent tall enough to stand in is great, as are other bonuses such as blackout rooms, inflatable poles, an awning and a separate sleeping and living area.
If you are looking for a tent suited to trekking and backpacking the Camp Minima reviewed here is ideal. Coming in one, two or three person sizes it is super lightweight and is great in all weathers. The two person costs $269/£195/€230 on Amazon.
If you are looking for low cost, then Coleman tents are cheap and good enough quality for an infrequent camper. In terms of value, at $99/£72/€84 on Amazon, the Coleman Sundome 4 person tent is tough to beat and also comes in two, three and six person versions.
We have reviewed some excellent high quality tents by Skandika. Check out the 6 person Skandika Copenhagen, the 6 person Skandika Gotland and the 8 person Skandika Montana blackout tent. You can purchase Skandika tents through Amazon in the UK and Europe, I highly recommend them.
Sometimes with a full moon, well lit campsite and a clear night full of stars it is almost too light when camping. But more often than not you will find yourself stumbling around a pitch black tent unable to find your toothbrush. A midnight trip to the toilet, a late night walk back from a pub or preparing food after dusk all require light.
At the very least you should bring a torch – relying on your mobile to light your way will quickly lead to a drained battery. A headlamp is a great option as it keeps your hands free, also lanterns are good for inside the tent or illuminating outdoor communal areas.
There are many companies making torches but Vont Innovations are particularly good. They have a great range of lightweight LED options that are not heavy on the battery use. Check out the Vont Ultimate Survival Kit on Amazon, for just $43/£32/€38 you get two headlamps, two high power torches and two lanterns.
Now in a list of basic camping gear essentials, seating is a little controversial. After all you can always sit on the floor or a convenient log. So when asked ‘What do I need to camp?’ a chair is not very often in the top three listed items. However, it should be!
On a beautiful sunny day sitting on the floor is all well and good, but at night the temperature drops and the ground quickly cools. Also camping is quite tiring and sitting on the floor won’t help relieve any aches and pains, particularly if you are the wrong side of 40 like me!
Having an actual chair makes such a difference to your comfort that I would say it is essential. There is almost nothing better after pitching your tent up than putting your feet up in the sunshine with a beer in a comfortable chair. And if your chair has a drinks holder even better!
Something like the Coastrail chair with lumbar back support plus cooler, cup holder and side pocket would provide a fairly luxurious seat for just $55/£40/€47 on Amazon. Alternatively, if you want a no frills you can pick up basic seating on Amazon from around $11/£8/€9.
The rest of what you will or won’t need is entirely dependent of your preferences and where you are camping. If you are at a festival or a busy campsite with onsite bars and restaurants you don’t need a stove, but might want ear plugs. Likewise if you are camping in the wild you’ll need adequate food and water, but ear plugs are not required.
Do your research, if you are camping where you can’t have fires then logs and fire lighting gear are a waste of space. And if you don’t have kids there is no need to take colouring books, games and endless supply of snacks (although they are recommended)! But you should always take first aid kit and plenty of sunscreen.
What do I need to camp? Very little! If you have these basic camping gear essentials you can get away for a few nights. Check out our beginner camping gear guide for more comprehensive article.