Spending time in the outdoors isn’t just a refreshing way to recharge and reset — it’s been one of the only activities for many since the pandemic began, and a budget-friendly one at that. According to research, being around nature can improve mental health, reducing stress and anxiety.
While going to your local park might be a daily part of your routine, there’s no better way to soak in that fresh air than to go camping. Whether you’re going on a day trip, a grueling backpacking excursion, or just a regular campout, there are some essentials you need to bring on the trip to ensure a seamless experience.
Since preparation is key when it comes to camping, beginners can learn to channel their inner nomads with a camping checklist. For instance, it’s recommended that campers bring quick-drying clothes and their own toilet paper. However, there are still some other items that can make your trip go as smoothly as possible.
Stocking up on all the necessities will set you up for success, and help you save money, resources, and sanity so that you can make the most of your adventure. A little planning goes a long way — here are the best camping essentials to maximize your date with Mother Nature.
Luminaid 2-in-1 Camping Lantern/Solar Phone Charger
A good source of light and a full phone charge are two things you always need when going camping. This genius product combines the two, making sure that you’re never left in the dark again. No battery is required, thanks to a solar-powered charge. The lantern uses LED light and has five different brightness settings. When fully charged, this lantern can provide up to 100 hours of light. It can be packed flat for easy storage, and to inflate it, just twist with your hands.
CAMPROS 8-Person Waterproof/Windproof Camping Tent
Forget cramped and crowded tents — this eight-person alternative can fit the whole family, and then some. It even contains a divider curtain to create an additional room and provide some privacy. It’s completely waterproof and windproof, culminating in a refuge from whatever might come your way. Suitable for any season, this tent can be set up by two people in a matter of minutes. Multiple reviewers post video proof that this spacious tent is massive, and built with attention to detail.
Wealers 11 Piece Camp Kitchen Cooking Set
Invest in a camp kitchen cooking set so that you don’t have to live off canned beans for the entire trip. This durable cotton cookware kit comes with everything you need, including stainless steel grilling utensils, scissors, tongs, knives, and a plastic cutting board. The case itself promotes organization, keeping each item snug in its designated area when you’re on the move. If you travel with a BBQ or camp stove, this kit is a must.
AOTU Portable Camping Stove
A pocket-sized camp stove is essential for heating up delicious meals on the go. Using propane or butane fuel, AOTU’s wind-resistant stove has a built-in ignition, which is a rare offering for this low price. As one Amazon buyer puts it, it’s “as good as stoves that cost much more.” If you don’t want to make a full campfire, this is a practical and convenient purchase. It’s not huge, but that’s kind of the point for an on-the-go oven.
Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Hammock Double & Single with Tree Straps
Whether you’ve completed a hike or are looking for the ultimate way to enjoy the sunset, there’s no better way to unwind than swinging on a hammock. This one by Wise Owl Outfitters comes with tree straps and is available in one and two-person options, constructed from heavy-duty parachute nylon. This sturdy hammock supports up to 500lbs, and can even be slept in. One happy buyer states, “For the price, I don’t think you’ll ever be able to find a hammock that can rival it in quality or comfort.”
Lunatec Aquabot Sport Water Bottle/Mister/Camp Shower
Staying hydrating is important, and so is pre-filling your water bottle, in case you don’t come across a safe drinking source. This bottle by Lunatec won’t just keep your thirst quenched with up to a liter of water — it has a pump mechanism that allows for three settings: mist, shower, or stream. This allows you to bathe, wash your hair, stay refreshed on hot days, or use it as a squirt gun on unsuspecting friends. It’s an affordable DIY alternative to pricy portable showers, for those looking to save, but not stink.
Creative Green Life Jumbo Insulated Cooler Bag
Plastic coolers can be heavy and frustrating to lug around when you’re already exerting energy on your trip. This jumbo insulated cooler bag offers a smart fix to that, with a tote silhouette that’s easy to carry around, and features premium thermal foam insulation. When you’re not keeping your camping provisions cool, this sturdy bag can be used for picnics and grocery store trips. Along with impressive capacity, an extra front pocket is a nice touch that allows smaller items to be easily accessed.
QOMOTOP Ultra Thick Self-Inflating Camping Mattress
If the idea of a sleeping bag sounds too much like roughing it, take a look at this ultra-thick camping mattress that self-inflates, so you’re not left breathless. It’s 4 inches thick and can sleep 2 people, and the brand touts it as being ideal for car and motor camping as it does weigh just over 13lbs. Still, compared to the traditional memory foam mattress, it’s incredibly lightweight, and the inflatable aspect is a game-changer. When you’re not camping, it can be used as a guest bed.
SWTMERRY 3-Season Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags can help make overnight camping more comfortable, but choosing a bag that’s not too hot or too lightweight can be difficult. That’s why we recommend this cotton-based, three-season choice, which has earned thousands of ecstatic testimonies online. It’s not overly thick or bulky and packs into a small and compact shape which can then be placed in the included carry bag with straps. Your slumber will also be comfier and protected from moisture on the ground due to a waterproof shell.
LHKNL 2-pack Headlamp Flashlight
Flashlights are useful on camping trips but can be bulky, especially on late-night walks when you want to stay hands-free. Our solution is a headlamp flashlight, which illuminates effortlessly. This headlight comes in a two-pack and has an LED mode and a motion sensor mode, with an ultra-bright light that can be used for fishing, night jogs, cycling, and more. It’s 100% waterproof and rechargeable, with tons of functions for the price.
Morpilot Multi Tool & Fire Starter 15-in-1 Swiss Army Style Set
A unique alternative to the standard Swiss Army brand multi-use knives, this kit similarly has a 15-in-1 function with multiple tools and a fire starter. It also includes a compass and whistle, making this a necessary survival accessory for all travelers, both novice and experienced. Amongst other critical uses, it acts as a saw, fish scaler, screwdriver, corkscrew, and knife. One reviewer calls it a “good starter at a fair price” while another said the compass “points perfect north.”
GOSUN Survival Gear Solar Oven Sun Cooker
Camp stoves and DIY cooking tactics can be fun, but having a more high-tech option might be necessary. GOSUN’s Solar Oven Sun Cooker has a tube that is loaded with food and cooks without any monitoring required. In just 20 minutes, this small but powerful machine can go up to 550-degree F but remains cool to the touch. It even includes its own cleaning tool for when you’ve finished the task at hand. For one user, when the sun shines, “I can roast some veggies, cook quinoa, or dry kale.”
Cascade Mountain Tech Adjustable Aluminum Trekking Poles
Even if you do have mobility and are able-bodied, trekking poles can help with hiking rugged, steep, or icy terrain. A step up from your average walking stick, these come in a pair and are made from durable aluminum, with adjustable locks that let you set the size. These poles provide support and stability, along with relieving pressure. They can also increase your walking speed. For campers with knee or back problems, all of these factors can make for a more pleasant (and less achy) adventure.
MSR Dromedary Bag Water Reservoir
On many camping checklists, it’s suggested to bring multiple gallons of water. But that can get costly, and many consider it wasteful. Instead of purchasing all that plastic, make the one-time investment in this collapsible water storage, which contains a BPA-free food-grade lining. Available in 4-liter, 6-liter, and 10-liter sizes, this eco-friendly and cold-resistant water reservoir also helps you maximize packing space, as it can be collapsed. Useful for transporting drinking or bathing water.
NEMO Stargaze Recliner Luxury Chair
Basic folding chairs might be inexpensive, but they’re not at all ergonomic. If you sit on one for too long, it can cause neck and back pain. Skip the discomfort and spend a few extra bucks on NEMO’s reclining stargazer chair, which will let you soak in the night sky (or roast s’mores) like never before. It also has a built-in cup holder and nook for your phone. Suspended on poles, the chair reclines smoothly on any terrain, featuring a supportive headrest for maximum relief.
TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Camping Backpack
Don’t make a rookie mistake and bring an everyday backpack or duffel bag on your camping or hiking trip. The innovative construction with padded lumbar, waist, and shoulder straps on this accessory from TETON means that your back will never have to bear the load again. Along with multiple pockets and compartments, it contains an internal frame that reduces backpressure. This hiking pack can hold up to four days worth of supplies, and even has a sleeping bag compartment at the bottom.
Waterdrop Gravity Water Filter Straw
A water purifier is vital for spending time in the wild — you never know how safe water you come across will be, and if you run out, this purifier is a fantastic solution that will ensure you’re always prepared. A four-stage filtration system with an activated carbon fiber filter ensures that no harmful bacteria get through to your water. One buyer claimed that it saved her life and “made really dark brown water taste fresh“ in a short amount of time.
Alpine Start Premium Instant Coffee Packets Medium Roast Blend
You can’t exactly bring your Keurig machine on a camping adventure, so the next best thing is a high-quality instant coffee like Alpine Start’s medium roast blend. This instant java comes in single-serve packets for added convenience, and these grounds even dissolve in cold water or cold milk for a refreshing iced drink on a hot day. While most Amazon reviews for instant coffee are filled with complaints of weak or watery flavor, this one has many satisfied customers. One says “Alpine Start is the first I’ve tried that doesn’t taste burned.”
El Paso Designs Mexican Woven Camping Blanket
A woven blanket is a versatile must for camping — it can be used as a surface to eat, sunbathe, or do yoga on. If you’re camping in your car instead of a tent, it’s a comfortable base for you to stargaze on. Plus, things can get chilly at night, and a warm but lightweight Mexican blanket wrapped around your shoulders is the best way to stay cozy. Plus, this brand donates proceeds to a clean water charity.
Nemo Helio Pressure Shower
Not having shower access is a downside of camping and even a dealbreaker for some would-be campers. That’s an issue of the past, thanks to modern portable shower technology. Nemo’s award-winning Helio portable pressure camp shower has a 7-foot neoprene hose that can be held overhead, like a handheld showerhead, providing sufficient pressure, unlike the other gravity camp showers on the market. This 11-liter option provides up to seven minutes of strong water pressure.