The 2021 Camping Gear List For Beginners

Have you had more than enough of the inside of your house for a lifetime? If your summer plans involve leaving the house, you may be considering the tried-and-true summertime option of heading to a campsite. Our camping gear list for beginners will make the great outdoors just that – Great!

Having been there before, I know it’s overwhelming. However, with a few simple pieces of camping equipment and a bit of knowledge you’ll be ready to enjoy nature.

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What is so fun about camping?

Whether you love everything about being outdoors or just need the kids to get their energy out, camping offers something for everyone with a low barrier to entry. You get the opportunity to bond with those you camp with (or take a break from loved ones back home).

OutdoorMaster Tents, 4/6/8 Person Camping Tent with Dark Space Technology, Easy Setup in 60 Seconds, Weatherproof Pop Up Tent for Camping with Top Rainfly, Instant Cabin Tent - Blue, 4 Person

On top of that, you’ll feel a genuine sense of accomplishment at the end of your trip. Camping is a simple, easy way to reset and return to regular life refreshed.  

What should a first-time camper know?

To start with, the outdoors isn’t a scary place. That being said, there are a few basic things you need to know ahead of time to prevent less than ideal experiences.  

1. Safety

While you don’t need to take a Wilderness First Responder class before heading out, carrying a basic medical kit and knowing how to use it will help. We’ll go over a few good ones later!  

2. Be prepared

Have your gear laid out sometime before the morning of your camping trip. It’s a good idea to practice setting up your tent, blowing up your sleeping pad, and using your stove at a minimum before you go. Create a list and check it twice. It’s anything but nice to show up to camp and realize you forgot your propane!   

3. Be respectful

This goes for the land you’re on and the people around you. Starting out, you’ll probably be in a larger setting with plenty of other campers around. That’s a good thing! Work out whether you like camping in low pressure situations. However, make sure to monitor noise levels and pick up your trash.   

Camping Gear List for Beginners 

Now onto the fun (and potentially confusing part): The Gear! This camping gear list for beginners highlights the 10 essentials that you want to make sure you have and feel confident in. 

1. Tent

The tent is where it all starts. As a rule of thumb, tents lie to you about their capacity. A “2 person” tent will fit the average person and some of their gear comfortably.   

Consider your comfort needs when deciding what size tent to buy. If you’re on the fence or will be camping with a family, size up. Space is a premium and nothing ruins your outdoor experience faster than a cramped tent. Having put 5 people in a 3-person tent before, trust me on this one. 

If you don’t need much room or you really like the person you’re camping with, feel free to go with the smaller size.   

Most people don’t prefer to start camping alone. If this is you, a great entry level 3-person tent is The North Face Stormbreak 3.   

If you need more space, the Coleman Sundome 4 is a reasonably priced option.   

If you’ll definitely be alone,  need less space, or want a lighter tent, a popular budget option for solo backpackers is the Naturehike Cloud Up 2.   

2. Sleeping pad 

When it comes to sleeping pads, you have three main options:

  • Foldable foam pads
  • Inflatable pads
  • Self-inflating pads

Most people will choose one of the first two, which we will talk about here, but they all have their place.  

A foldable sleeping pad, also known as a closed-cell foam pad isn’t usually as comfortable, but it is more durable and affordable.  

Reputable outdoor brand Nemo makes the Switchback foam pad. Alternatively, a more affordable choice is the Therm-A-Rest RidgeRest Classic. If you aren’t too picky, this will only set you back about $20 and does the job!  

Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad - Mat, (Large), Ultralight 14.5 OZ, Best Sleeping Pads for Backpacking, Hiking Air Mattress - Lightweight, Inflatable & Compact, Camp Sleep Pad  

In contrast, an inflatable pad will be much more comfortable, and usually warmer, but can suffer from durability issues if camping in a rocky area.   

A good budget option is the Klymit Static V. Klymit is a brand specializes in budget gear that will actually last and is worth taking the time to look at. A higher-end option is the Big Agnes Insulated Q-core SLX. While it’s a mouthful that comes at a cost, this warm 3.25” thick sleeping pad will have you reconsidering your mattress.   

3. Sleeping bag 

If you’ve been into an outdoor store, you may be familiar with the fact that a sleeping bag costs almost as much as the tent that it’s in. While enthusiasts don’t mind spending $300 to envelop themselves in a down cocoon deep in the woods, maybe you aren’t there yet.  

It’s important to note that the average woman sleeps colder than the average man and sleeping bag temperature ratings reflect that. Look for a gender-specific sleeping bag or a unisex bag with a men’s and women’s temperature rating on it that’s appropriate for the kind of camping you plan to do.   

For men, the Marmot Trestles 30 is a good place to start your search.  

For women, the Kelty Cosmic Synthetic Fill 20 is a great entry-level choice.  

If you’re in search of a sleeping bag for the kiddos, you can’t go wrong with the Coleman Kids 50 Sleeping Bag. It has a fun, glow-in-the-dark design and features a snag-free zipper. 

4. Pillow

You might have seen the ads that claim the main thing that contributes to poor sleep is your pillow. When it comes to camping, this adage holds true.  

I know it feel ludicrous to spend $20-40 on a pillow for camping, but rest assured it is completely worth the investment.  

Still not convinced? Try sleeping on your sweatshirt and then pick up a Klymit Pillow X or Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Pillow and have your life changed. Opt for the larger size option, it’s worth it.   

5. Hiking shoes 

If your plans don’t involve leaving the campsite, feel free to breeze past this one as your regular athletic shoes will suit you just fine. However, if you’ll be hitting some of the hiking trails near you, proper footwear is crucial! 

If you think you’ll hike or camp more than once or twice in a year, buying a pair of hiking boots or shoes is a worthwhile investment. Columbia is a great entry-level option for both men’s and women’s boots that also come in wide sizes. If you’re looking for a shoe option, Merrel is the go-to brand for both men’s and women’s sizes.    

6. Cooking surface

While you can make great cold food at camp, there is something quite comforting about a hot meal by the fire.  You can opt for a stove or a grill as your choice of cooking surface.

For smaller parties, the gold standard is the Coleman Classic 2 Burner.  

Coleman Gas Camping Stove | Triton+ Propane Stove, 2 Burner

My choice for outdoor cooking is an outdoor charcoal grill and the Weber Jumbo Joe Grill is my favorite. I can fit my large cast iron skillet on it and make dishes that rival anything I can make in my home kitchen.

If you plan to go all out and need a workhorse, choose the Camp Chef Explorer or the aptly named Big Gas Grill.   

7. Fire 

The quintessential piece of the camping experience. You need exactly what you think to get a fire going: wood and matches.  

As a beginner you probably won’t be chopping down a tree for wood. Be sure to grab a bundle or two of firewood from your local grocery, hardware store or even online prior to your camping trip.

A fire starter is good to have if you aren’t bringing lighter fluid or don’t feel confident in your fire-making skills (it’s an art!). This one from Coghlan’s is cheap and does the job just as well as any more expensive one.   

8. Hygiene and Medical

 

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Hiker First Aid Kit - 67 Pieces

Consider the hygiene and medical basics that you would travel with like soap, hand sanitizer, and Band-Aids. Remember that you’re out in nature and want to keep the bugs and sun at bay, so pack your bug spray and sunscreen.   

For medical kits, Adventure Medical is the go-to. The Mountain Series or Sportsman Series have great options from day hikes to weeklong trips.  

 Make sure you know the basics of how to use your kit. Having 50 pieces you don’t know how to use is much less useful than 15 that you do!   

9. Headlamp 

Just because it’s dark out doesn’t mean you have to shut everything down! And when nature calls in the middle of the night, you don’t want to be roaming around in pitch darkness. The Petzel Tikkina headlamp can be had for about $20 and will suit all your needs. If you need to buy in bulk, this two pack from GearLight is a great, affordable option!   

10. Knife 

We round out our camping gear list for beginners with one of the most handy items you’ll require – a knife. You aren’t hunting for your food, so a small pocket knife will be all you need. Here’s a few uses for a knife during camping:

  • Food Preparation
  • Cutting Rope
  • Opening Packages
  • Can Opener

Gerber Gear 31-003941 Ultimate Knife, Fixed Blade Survival Knife with Firestarter, Steel/Green

A simple Swiss Army Knife will have everything you need. If you really want to step up your game then go for the Gerber Gear Ultimate Knife. It’s a fixed blade option that can handle any camp knife tasks you throw at it.  

Our Final Thoughts on Necessary Things For Camping

Just in case it isn’t obvious, make sure you also have appropriate food, water, and clothing! Pack extra just in case and you’ll thank yourself later. With preparedness and these 10 necessary items for camping, you’ll be well on your way to maximizing these upcoming summer months!

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