Essential Camping Gear: Don’t Leave Home Without It

Camping out under the stars on a summer night can be a truly magical experience to share with friends and family members, but only if you have the right camping gear to make your trip a pleasant one. With summer well on the way, dust off those camp tents and make summer camping reservations. Ensure you have these essentials before your trip begins.

Sleeping Bag: Depending on the temperatures where you camp, you may prefer a lightweight summer sleeping bag or a heavy-duty insulated one. Down sleeping bags provide protection against the elements when you’re sleeping outdoors. Look at a sleeping bag’s comfort rating for more information on the temperature range it can handle.

Shoes: Hiking boots are a must-have for trips that include mountainous terrain. These boots grip rock and can take a beating if you trip over tree roots or other trail hazards. For a “walk in the woods” style trip, you can try hiking sneakers or trail shoes. These offer some of the same benefits as hiking boots—including stability and comfort walking long distances—but weigh and cost less than traditional boots.

Jackets: Again, you’ll want to stock up on jackets capable of handling the elements. For a spring or summer hike, a simple windbreaker or lightweight, water-repellent rain jacket generally fits the bill. For spring and autumn, consider a lined field jacket to keep you warm in windy, chilly weather. For those winter hikes, you’ll need a parka capable of handling the low temperatures.

Backpack: A backpack stores essentials for car camping, while a hiking pack will hold gear for the weekend and week-long hikes. These packs are multi-functional; many offer hip belts for added support and most have external straps perfect for holding water bottles, bandanas, sunscreen and more.

GPS: While a trail map will come in handy and a compass helps if you know how to use it, a GPS keeps you on track at all times. Purchase a portable GPS and charge it fully before your trip, then check your coordinates instantly. If you purchase a GPS with messaging capabilities, you can send for help even in the remote woods.

Cooking: You need to eat when camping. A portable camp stove is perfect for boiling water and cooking many basics. Consider lightweight enamel cookware for cooking and eating. Basics such as a knife, cutting board and can opener will help you prepare dishes easily. Of course, if you prefer to roast hot dogs in the fire, you can do that, too.

Tent: This is essential when camping, so consider a multi-season, water-resistant tent that holds two to three people. If your family is larger, scale up your tent accordingly or give each individual a tent.

When you’re in the woods, you’re limited to what you’ve got on hand so don’t leave any of these items off the list. Shop for camping gear early to enjoy the widest selection of items and take advantage of seasonal sales.