Co-Authored By: Normand Bourque
Whether you camp at a campground or hike miles in to find the perfect spot, having the correct gear is essential to make your trip as successful as possible. With tons of options to choose from it’s hard to really narrow down what you need, every manufacturer adds in their own special thoughts and ideas to make the best options to fit as many needs as possible. Here are my recommendations on what I feel is essential gear to help make your outing a true success.
Tents are the staple when it comes to camping in the outdoors, they protect you from the elements and offer a sense of security. Not all tents are created equal, some are designed for Backpacking and are intended to hold 1-2 people with minimum weight. These typically give you just enough room for yourself/partner and a small vestibule to protect your pack from the elements but do not allow you to stand up. Others are bigger, cabin or dome tents intended for car camping they typically offer more room and conveniences however heavier and bulkier to carry. Below are my recommendations of tents of various sizes.
Coleman Carlsbad Fast Pitch Six Person Tent With Screen Room
Sometimes you just want to sleep in, but during the summer when the sun rises at five am it’s hard to do so. The Coleman Carlsbad Tent features dark room technology which blocks out over 98% of light, now if they can only make those crows quiet I’d be set. The tent is super fast to setup with pre-attached color coded poles and hub all you have to do it lift it up and connect into the grommet holes and you are set. making the tent 50% faster to set up than ordinary dome tents. The dark room also keeps your tent 10% cooler making your sleep that much more comfortable on those warm summer nights.
REI Kingdom Tents
The Kingdom series from REI offers versatility, ample room and great additional options including an attached garage that you can use to store your gear and not take up space in the actual living quarters. The Kingdom tents come in four, six, and eight person options with a peak height of 6’3” it offers lots of head room, and features such as a divider gives you privacy while the other people sleep. First time setup this tent took me about 45 minutes, the instructions are written fairly easily but I do recommend watching there setup video to make it that much easier. Once you get the hang of it with two people it should only take 20-30 minutes.
Kelty Camp Cabin
If you are looking for more of a cabin style tent, than the Kelty Camp Cabin would be for you, with vertical walls and simple set up this four person tent allows the most standing room in it’s class, The open roof allows for great stargazing in the wild, and the grommets are color coded with the poles to make setup a breeze. This tent took me thirty minutes to set up on a windy beach day by myself, so under ideal conditions this should be a simple ten minute setup.
Big Agnes Fly Creek HV 2
If your looking for a backpacking tent that offers great ventilation, ample headroom, easy setup, and ultra light you can’t go wrong with the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV tent series. The tent is a breeze to set up in only ten minutes, there special pole system allows for higher and wider headroom for comfort sitting up, and weighing in at just under two lbs for the two person tent it’s super easy to pack and carry. Not to mention the genius clip system for attaching the fly and the adequate vestibule allows you to keep the door open and still stay dry in a light rain.
Another staple when it comes camping, sleeping bags are your lifeline to keeping warm and comfortable at night, with different variations and temperature options available it can be hard to choose. The ratings are based on a survival rating so a 30-degree sleeping bag is designed to keep you alive above 30-degrees but not necessarily comfortable, and what can keep one person comfortable at 30-degrees may not keep another person comfortable. Types can range from rectangular, to mummy, to double wide. Mummy giving you the most warmth as it cradles in your body heat, to rectangular being roomier, while the double gives the option of sharing the warmth with your partner. Fills can be synthetic offering you typically more weight per fill, to a down fill which gives you the lightest and often warmest option, although could sacrifice waterproofing in wet conditions. Here are a few good options for various sleeping temps:
Kelty Tru Comfort Series
The Tru Comfort series from Kelty come in a 35 and 20-degree option (child, adult, and double wide versions) with synthetic fill, it’s a great economical mummy style bag that packs some really cool features. It offers a special pocket for storing your smart device, includes an integrated “blanket” which can be used to help insulate you more or placed to the side on those warmer summer nights, if you still get toasty the bottom opens up to stick your feet out. It’s a bit on the heavier/bulkier side so I wouldn’t use it back packing but it’s great for car camping on those late spring summer excursions.
The North Face Cats Meow
The Cat’s Meow is North Face’s lightest most compressible synthetic bag. It’s superb water resistant covering provides security in knowing that even if it gets a little wet it’s still going to keep you warm at night. It offers great options based on your size, gender, and preferences from short to extra long styles, and even having the zipper on the left or right side. It has plenty of room to wiggle those toes and move around while still keeping you warm and cozy. If you are looking for a mid priced bag with a 20-degree temp rating this is a great choice.
Mountain Hardware Wraith
If you are looking for a bag that will keep you warm in extreme temperatures the Mountain Hardware -20 Wraith bag is for you. With it’s 800 fill down Q shield technology it’s made to keep you warm even if the down gets wet, yet still breathable so your sweat escapes to prevent hypothermia. This bag comes at a premium price and is made for true alpine adventurists, but if you are in the market for a premium sleeping bag that has all the latest bells and whistles when it comes to technology this is your bag.
LL Bean Down Sleeping Bag
If you are looking for a cold weather bag but don’t want to spend the hefty price tag of the Mountain Hardwear consider the L.L. Bean 0-Degree Down Sleeping Bag. This bag also has the down treated for superior water repelling. With it’s 650 fill rating it provides great insulation and leg room at a very affordable price.
The newest trend is sleeping in a hammock at night, this provides the most “one with nature feeling” while still protecting you from the elements. Hammocks provide a super light way to travel and have options for bug netting and rain-flys to protect you from the elements. There are two styles of hammocks, one that provides an asymmetrical design which allows more of a flat sleeping surface, and the more traditional curved design. The curved design is considered more of a lounging around the campsite, although a lot people do sleep in them full time as well. The hammock allows you to be above ground which in the later seasons can keep the chill of the ground off you especially with an insulated pad, which we will get into later.
Eno Single Nest Hammock
The Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) single and double nest hammocks provide you with a quality economical choice in suspended options, both can hold up to 400 lbs and offer lots of color options to match your style. The 70D high tenacity nylon taffeta provides durable lightweight fabric that can hold up to normal wear and tear.
Kammock Roo Hammock
The Roo Double Hammock from Kammock is one of the most durable hammocks you can buy. It’s super tear resistant and triple seamed were it counts the most, the diamond ripstop material reduces stretch making every hang comfortable, with a max load of 500 lbs you and your friends can hang around for a while. Their suspension system is second to none allowing the least amount of damage to trees while hanging.
Klymit Traverse Double Hammock
Klymit which is known more there their sleeping pads (mentioned later) recently introduced there first crack at a double hammock, the Traverse Double features a diagonal seamless hem for extra strength and support where the body naturally rests. It’s designed to withstand stretching and snagging with 70D ripstop nylon it’s super tough, holds up to 400lbs, and packs down incredibly small. With it you also get everything you need to hang your hammock in a small package.
Hennesy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Classic
If you are looking for a hammock that has everything the Hennesy Backpacker Classic is for you, its asymmetrical design allows for a flatter sleeping surface, while the included rain fly and bug netting protects you from both the elements and those pesky mosquitoes. The hammock itself has a max load of 200lbs so it’s made for 1 person but don’t let that discourage you from getting a luxury hammock with all the bells and whistles included.
Bonus: Tentsile Connect Tree Tent
If you want the functionality of a hammock but the security of a tent, the Tentsile Connect Tree Tent provides an awesome suspended tent feel. The Connect is a two person tree tent with a removable rain fly and several netting options to give you total freedom. A tree tent does require more practice setting up as it requires 3 places of support and the practice to keep the floor level. You could also include a third person by hanging a hammock under the tree tent.
Sleeping pads allow air, foam or both between you and the ground and provide a little more comfort to your camping experience. They come in numerous types and styles both insulated and non-insulated, either for the floor or your hammock setup. You can get them super thin or as think as four to five inches. These are not your typical blowup mattresses these are designed to be super lightweight and packable. Below are just a few options available to you.
Klymit Static V Luxe
The Klymit Static V Luxe hits the sweet spot where comfort, performance, durability, and lightweight packability come together. With a 30” width it provides plenty of room to roll and I love how the sides are raised a little bit to help you stay on your pad,.They have a unique body mapping which helps maximize comfort, for a thin sleeping surface this pad is extremely comfortable. If your in need of a bit more insulation on those colder nights they also offer an insulated version.
Therm A Rest EvoLite Plus
Therm-A-Rest is THE name when it comes to self inflating mattresses, they have been around for a while and have the market covered. Their EvoLite Plus doesn’t disappoint, if you are looking for the best value in a backpacking/camping mattress that offers comfort and convenience, than look no further. The EvoLite Plus combines both air and foam making this thin mattress really comfortable. With the build in reflective technology it also helps to insulate by reflecting the heat back to your body.
If you are looking for a mattress with the comfort of home with not a lot of bulk than the Exped MegaMat is as luxurious as you can get. It is mega in size and comfort with a mix of foam and air, at 4” thick it is super cushiony and a dream to sleep on. Don’t let the thickness and size fool you this mattress still packs down fairly small for it’s size and has an included pump for easy inflation and adjustability.
Klymit Hammock V
Just as the description states this is a sleeping pad for the hammock sleepers. The Hammock V comes in both insulated and non insulated styles. Their signature body mapping technology with well placed non-slip zones holds the pad in place, and the shape of the pad allows it to wrap around you in comfort, as well as help to hold in heat. It fits both standard and double hammocks so no matter what you bring on your camping trip this pad will fit.
Unless you are Cody Lundin of Dual Survivor footwear is a give in it provides protection from the ground as well as support where needed. Waterproof, non-waterproof, sandals the choice is yours. I don’t need to get into too much detail as mostly everybody wears footwear.
Adidas Outdoor Footwear
I won’t get into specific styles as everyone has different foot types and fit preferences. I will mention that Adidas Outdoor has come up with some really great looking and fully functional shoes/boots for pretty much any outdoor need. I find the look and styles to be pretty cool and in some styles they even integrate continental tire soles for super traction on rocky and wet surfaces. I tried the Terrex Swift R with Goretex, and they are my favorite all around, everyday sneaker, and I know if it starts to rain my feet will stay dry with the Goretex lining.
Hoka One One
I unfortunately suffer from bad knees, but I don’t let that stop me from being active. Luckily, I discovered Hoka OneOne, they are known more for their running shoes but they also make great hiking and trail running shoes as well. They are super cushy but still offer great stability, and they come in both waterproof or standard styles. Their website is very intuitive allowing you to choose how much cushion and stability you want in a shoe and they make recommendations from there. One thing I did find out is they do run a little small, so I would order at least a half size up, to have additional toe room especially if you do a lot of downhill climbing. I have found my knees do not ache nearly as much when I am wearing these and they come is some fun colors as well.
Another well known company that still puts out quality products to this day. Teva’s are world renown for durability, ease and can travel with you no matter the terrain. They can grip to virtually anything and you don’t have to be afraid to take them swimming or to cross rivers, they are the ATV of the footwear world. Whether you are looking for a flip flop style or a sport sandal, Teva has them as well as a selection of shoes and boots.
Darn Tough Socks
Your shoes mean nothing without a pair of great quality socks. Whether camping, hiking, or just lounging around wool socks make all the difference. I know some people are thinking WOOL IN THE SUMMER? Yes, wool is the preferred material for any type of outdoor activity. It’s moisture wicking, naturally antimicrobial, and still insulates when wet. The people at Darn Tough have wool socks down to an art form. They have special machines that are able to weave the wool into finer threads making them softer and more durable than any other sock on the market, they are backed by a lifetime guarantee, and made right here in Vermont, USA.
When I’m camping I love versatility, having one article of clothing that can serve many purposes is ideal for me. I love convertible pants because most times when you wake up it’s chilly, yet as the sun comes out and warms the earth you can just zip off the bottoms and continue with your day. An insulated yet breathable jacket covers you in various scenarios while camping. Below are some of my top companies and clothes that I love.
Kuhl is by far my favorite clothing line for camping, the materials they use are top notch and provide incredible freedom of movement, remember the convertible pants I mentioned earlier Kuhl’s Renegade Convertible pant is literally THE most comfortable pant I have ever worn. The fabric is super stretchy yet durable and can survive anything you put in front of it. The pockets are adequate for storing camp essentials you may need close by, and the zippers are hidden so they don’t even look like convertible pants.
Kuhls Airkraft shirt is also top notch allowing freedom of movement and superior moisture wicking capabilities. You can wear this on the hottest of days and even though it’s long sleeve, it has perfectly placed vents to keep you cool while cutting wood for the fire or laying in the hammock. I haven’t tried everything from Kuhl yet but I’m sure everything from them would be just as top notch.
Mountain Khakis comes from Jackson Hole Wyoming, they make high quality clothing for the working person in a variety of styles. Like their name states they make really durable khakis that can work harder than you do. Whether you are setting up camp, changing a tire, or moving bails of hay, their line of clothing is sure to help you get the job done. I love their flannel shirts they are super warm and comfortable and can be worn in any season.
Mountain Hardwear makes quality backpacking gear and clothing. They use the latest in technology to bring you the best of the best when it comes to equipping you with what you need. Every other category I mentioned up above Mountain Hardwear will have something for you as well. I just mention them in clothing because I am a big fan of their Thermostatic Jacket it uses the latest in synthetic insulation to bring you warmth without the bulk. In spring and fall this jacket is always with me, it never disappoints, and it packs down super small.
So you have camp setup with all your gear, now it’s time to cook some dinner what to do? Well depending on your situation you have numerous options available to you. Do you have a firepit, or a camp stove? Either way there are some great products that can make dinner a success as well.
Primus Kamoto Openfire Pit
The Primus Kamoto Fire Pit is awesome, nothing beats an open fire while camping, and if the place you are camping at either doesn’t have a fireplace or practices leave no trace, the Kamoto still allows you to enjoy an open fire for cooking or keeping warm. It’s intuitive design allows it to fold up inside itself, be carried, and set back up easily. It’s made from stainless steel and powder coated steel for long lasting weatherproof durability. and with the included cooking grate you can easily have a fire going and burgers cooking in a matter of minutes.
Primus Openfire Pan
If you have a firepit and need a good surface to cook on. Primus offers an openfire pan in both small and large. The openfire pan has a 3 layer system which consists of 2 stainless steel layers with an aluminum layer in-between. The Aluminum has unsurpassed thermal conductivity so it gets hot and stays hot easier and longer. The legs are plenty long enough to fit over most fires and unscrew from the base for easier portability. I cooked bacon on this and I tell you nothing tastes better than bacon cooked over an open fire.
Bass Pro Shops 3-Burner Propane Stove
If you don’t want to cook over an open fire and want controllable constant heat than BPS has a great stove that can do it all. With three burners to work with you can make a pot of coffee while cooking up some morning eggs. The stove is well built and fairly easy to use. It all folds into itself and has nice wind resistant sides to keep the flame going on those blustery days.
FinexUSA Cast Iron Pans
If you have never cooked on cast iron before you are truly missing out on an amazing experience, super durable and even more beautiful to look at. Finex cast iron cookware is simply the best of the best, the “fine” in Finex means only the finest quality, and you can tell the minute you hold them in your hands, exquisite craftsmanship, pre-seasoned cast iron grill pans and skillets made to last with Finex’s lifetime guarantee. The Grill pan has nice deep slots that trap fat and make awesome looking grill marks. The beautifully designed handles don’t get hot while cooking over the stove or open fire.
Lodge Camp Dutch Oven
Cooking beans on an open fire is by far my best meal, adding in all the ingredients in the morning and letting it simmer all day is just pure satisfaction. With the Lodge Camp Dutch Oven you can easily make beans, soup, or campfire stew. It has everything you need for camp cooking, the internal legs allows it to sit perfectly over the coals, the bail handle allows it to hang from a tripod and the cover can easily be converted to a griddle. The dutch oven is a staple for any camping trip, and with the Lodge Camp Dutch Oven it’s all that and more.
Staub is a french company that makes high quality enameled cast iron cookware, their 13” Double Handle Fry Pan performed superbly on any cooking surface I threw at it. Eggs slide right off the pan after a simple seasoning, and due to it’s enamel it’s super easy to clean, and looks beautiful in any camp kitchen.
Having a good all around camping knife is essential for food prep, making camp, and processing firewood. There are hundreds of manufacturers who make quality knives out of different materials and handle types. It’s always good to find out what your main purpose for the knife will be and shop around from there. Below are just a few of my favorites.
Esee Knives By Randalls Adventure and Training
Randall's offers training and survival courses at their headquarters in Alabama, and based off of their experiences they decided to create there own line of various knives. Crafted in the USA with quality materials and workmanship, their dedication shows in every piece of cutlery they produce. The Esee Knives have great ergonomic handles, full tangs and great metals that stay sharp which is what you want in a quality knife. My favorite camp knife is the Esee 4, the 4” blade works great for cutting rope and dicing vegetables for dinner. The sheath comes in different styles that can mount to your pack or your belt loop, making it easy to access whenever it’s needed.
SOG knives are well known for their durability and workmanship. They are known mostly for their work with the Navy Seals and providing them with quality knives to get them out of any situation. That’s where the Seal Team Elite knife comes in. It may be a bigger knife then what you need it for, but I use it for batoning and chopping wood. With it’s 7” blade partially serrated and full rasp back it can tackle anything you throw at it with ease. The stainless steel blade makes it great for working near or in water, and the nylon sheath is one of the best around, allowing you to insert the blade no matter what direction it’s facing.
If you want to bring one “tool” that will handle any unique issue that may come up then the line of Leatherman Multi-Tools in your answer one tool that can give you pliers, screwdrivers, scissors, file, and more in a convenient pocket sized tool. The Wingman gives you 14 tools in a small package with a nice belt clip or a carrying case. it’s durable and prevents you from bringing a tool box to the camp site.
Having a good quality cooler is essential to hold all of your perishables, last thing you need is to run to the store mid trip because your cooler failed to stay cold. A high quality cooler will keep your food cold and fresh for a longer period of time than a less expensive cooler. Below are my picks for best coolers.
Pelican Products has protected defense and emergency equipment for years, there super durable hard cases are relied upon for military and commercial use around the world. Their Elite Coolers fall under the same category of durability with two inch thick insulation lockable covers, options for tie downs and many more. I used this on my latest camping trip this year. I filled it with 2 bags of ice on Wednesday and when I left on Sunday, my food was still ice cold after 5 days. They claim it is bear proof and have tested it in the wild for proof. and I don’t doubt it. The 50qt cooler empty weighs in at 17lbs, so filled to the brim would require another body. If you want the best cooler money can buy The Pelican sits at the top.
Ozark Trail 26 Quart High Performance Cooler
Typically I wouldn’t recommend anything that is considered a “Walmart” brand product, but the Ozark Trail 26 Quart Cooler was super impressive, especially for the price. It claims to hold ice for 4 days, I used it for 2 days and my items where still pretty cold with only 1 bag of ice from the start. It is much heavier over all than the Pelican at 16 lbs and half the size However, it has a great handle and easy to use locking mechanisms. If you need a smaller high performance cooler for a decent price this Ozark Trail Cooler will do the trick.
When the sun goes down and there is still plenty of fun left to be had having a quality lantern, or flashlight is a huge asset, not only will it provide light but also a sense of security. You want a light that has a good battery life associated with it as well as bright enough to complete the task at hand. Below are some of my recommendations.
Coleman Quad Pro Lantern
This versatile lantern from Coleman gives you the option to use it as a lantern plus can be broken down into 4 separate LED lights. The functionality is great allowing you and your party to each carry their own light for reading, eating, or exploring the campsite at night. Each personal light has three lighting options plus a spot light feature allowing you to adjust the correct brightness to your activity. Best yet, once you attach it to the base, it recharges those lights for next time. The lantern also allows you to plug in a USB so you can charge your portable devices.
Goal Zero Lighthouse 400 Lantern
The Goal Zero Lighthouse Lantern is a super bright 400 lumen lantern packed with additional features. It’s fairly compact with a rechargeable lithium ion battery that can last to a reasonable 18 hours. It has a built in phone charger so your never with a low battery, other great features include a hand crank and a solar charger which is sold separately. It’s versatility allows you to hang it, stand it or store it with it’s simple design.
Petzl Actik Headlamp
Should you get to camp later or need something to light the way without sacrificing your hands a headlamp is a great way to go. The Petzl Actik Core is a 350 lumen headlamp packed with great features at a reasonable price. Petzl refers to it as a “Hybrid” it comes with a rechargeable battery but can also be powered by 3 AAA batteries. On the low setting you can expect to get about 100 hours on a single charge. It has a good selection of beam patterns as well as a red distress light, and if it starts to rain on your parade, don’t worry, it’s water resistant. This light will allow you to easily set up tent guy lines at night should the wind start to pick up, or light your way to the community bathroom.
Fenix PD35 LED Flashlight
The Fenix PD35 is one bright light coming in at a whopping 960 lumens it can be seen from a mile away. Not that you may need something that bright, but it’s good to have it should you ever need it. It’s super portable and has four different power options and 5 brightness levels ranging from 14-960 lumens, it has a brightness for any situation. I love that it comes with a holster, pocket clip and lanyard so it can be as versatile as you are. The rugged aircraft aluminum body has a great grip and ruggedness to it, and should you drop it into a stream, no worries it’s waterproof up to two meters.
Summit 3D Maps
Every person who explores the outdoors should have a great map to keep track of their progress, whether you are attacking a particular mountain range or just want something cool to show your hiking/camping friends. The people over at Summit Terragraphics offer really amazing 3D maps to hang on your wall for various ranges and national parks. They are finely detailed with raised topography and elevations, and can br purchased with or without framing.
So That’s it, this is my Essential List for a Successful Camping Trip. There is always more things that can be considered, obviously water and food is a big one, but I’ll leave that up to you, the reader. Thank you for taking the time to read my article and See You On The Trails!