Hot days, cold nights—camping can be hard work. From building fires and finding water to carrying your possessions, having the right gear makes everything easier and more comfortable. Generally speaking, what you need depends on the level of camping you are attempting. I used to consider myself pretty tough because I only brought a tent, a sleeping bag, and change of undies for an overnighter and added toothpaste and face wash for longer trips. Of course, I usually went with a group that was much more prepared. So, ask yourself, where are you camping? How rustically? Will you be chopping your own wood, catching your own food or buying groceries at the general store at a state park? For the purpose of this blog, we’ll stick to tent camping. Even RVers like to rough it every now and then.
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When you’re camping, your tent is your first line of defense and it takes the brunt of the elements. That’s why it may be a good idea to invest a bit more to ensure a comfortable and sturdy structure that is lightweight and easy to erect. With all of those expectations, the Sierra Designs Nightwatch is a great option. With a height of over 43-inches and a wider than average door, it offers plenty of room for two, as well as storage for their gear at a fairly reasonable price.
Truthfully, a good night’s sleep is pretty important on a camping trip to maintain stamina and morale. When you are sleeping in a tent—or even more so in the open—you aren’t always guaranteed a soft and even surface. The Thermarest NeoAir All Season Sleep Pad reduces the loss of body heat and inflates manually to allow you a greater amount of control of your sleeping comfort. It has a rugged construction, weighs only a bit over a pound and compacts to the size of a 32-oz water bottle.
I’ve used a variety of sleeping bags and have found that you typically have to trade warmth for weight. That is not true with the Aektiv Outdoor Mummy Style Sleeping Bag. Lightweight and super thin it is a mere 3-pound and 5-ounces. It can fold to a size that can fit into most backpacks, but there is also a warmer model that is great for temperatures down to 15-degrees F. Both are breathable with a waterproof exterior and extra padding at the top for increased comfort.
Although everyone should pack a flashlight, it is always better to bring more than one. This reduces the likelihood of having your only source failing and leaving you in the dark.
The waterproof Princeton Tec Quad Headlamp and Mini Maglite set features a headlamp with three brightness levels and even a strobe for emergencies. The Maglite mini flashlight is small and lightweight with two settings making it a great spare light in your pack.
Reliable Fire Source
If the weather is anything, it is unpredictable—even when you’ve done all of your research before camping. When it’s windy or rainy a fire is an especially welcome addition to your campsite, but your normal lighter or matches won’t work in these conditions. Fortunately, the UCO Stormproof Match Kit light rain or shine. The come in 25-packs with three strikers burn for 15 seconds—plenty of time to get a fire started.
Another cool option is the Survival Flint Laces. Although they look like regular shoelaces, the rubber ends hold tiny striking rods. With one strike, there is enough spark to start your campfire.
Most RVers are experts at making the most of limited storage space. With collapsible cookware you can get more into a smaller space. This is also helpful when you are backpacking and carrying everything with you. The fully-functional Sea to Summit 2.8 Liter Cooking pot weighs only 10 ounces an takes very little space.
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First Aid Kit
Of course you can assemble your own, but the REI Backpacker Multiday First Aid Kit provides everything in one place with enough room that you can add to it if you want. Also, I think it’s a good idea to keep one with your camping gear, one in the house, and a third one in the car.
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Another item that should be included in your car, as well as your pack is a good multitool. By definition, they perform a variety of functions and are small for easy transport. This Leatherman Wave Multitool with Leather/Nylon Shealth is 100-percent stainless steel and has 17 separate tools including a range of knives, files, pliers and wire cutters, and even a bottle opener among others.
Basically, there are many gadgets that might improve your camping experience. When it is all said and done, however, I believe these to be the top pieces of essential gear for tent camping. Of course, make sure to wear sturdy footwear and dress in layers. Plan for emergencies, bring the necessary gear, and keep your pack lightweight enough to easily carry.
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