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In 2021, we can all use a little more time outdoors, and camping is one of the best ways to do it. Whether it’s a backpacking adventure, camping in a tent, or an RV, there’s nothing like being outside, connecting with nature.
To get the most out of your camping experience, you need to be prepared. The last thing you want is to realize that you’re missing a key piece of camping gear right when you need it. To help, I’ve created a list of the best camping essentials for 2021. Whether you’re an experienced camper or a beginner, you can use it as an equipment guide for the upcoming camping season.
Our List of Essential Camping Gear
As you go through the items below, keep in mind that you won’t need everything on the list. Not even close. I’ve included the obvious stuff, the necessary things for camping, and I’ve also thrown in some cool camping gadgets. It’s up to you to pick and choose what you want to take along. With that in mind, let’s hit the list!
Picking out the perfect camping tent can be tough. There are hundreds of models to choose from, with many different features. Make sure you have enough space for the number of people who will be camping. If 2 people are camping, a 4-person tent will provide ample elbow room. For a family of four, you’ll want at least a 6-person tent for adequate storage space.
Sub-Zero Sleeping Bag
If you plan to stretch your camping season by getting out in the early spring or late fall, a cold-weather sleeping bag is a must-have. This Teton Sports Celsius XXL Sleeping Bag is rated to -25 degrees, perfect for 3-season camping. There are pricier sub-zero sleeping bags out there, so with almost four thousand 5-star ratings on Amazon, the Teton bag is a great value.
The LifeStraw is perfect for wilderness camping or hiking and makes a great emergency preparedness tool. It filters contaminated water without batteries or moving parts, removing 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria and parasites.
12v Camping Fan
This 12v camping fan will get the air flowing in your tent or travel trailer on hot summer nights. Powered by a 12v battery, the flexible blades are safe to use and easy to set up and dismantle.
A durable LED flashlight should be at the top of every camping essentials list. It’s so important, in fact, that you should always pack a second one as a backup. Also, make sure you bring extra batteries to avoid being left out in the dark.
For hands-free illumination at the campground or out on a hike, consider picking up an LED-headlamp. It’s definitely one of my favourite camping gadgets. This LE brand headlamp comes in a 2-pack and can illuminate up to 500 feet, is rechargeable, and waterproof. It has 6 different light modes, with white and red light settings.
Don’t forget to bring extra batteries for your flashlight. The last thing you want is to get stranded in the dark as you make your way to the washroom during the night.
If you plan on getting out for a hike when camping, I recommend that you bring along a backpack that’s up for the challenge. This Teton Sports Scout pack has several features that will enhance your hiking and camping experience. The thick shoulder straps and padded waist belt allow you to travel long distances with a heavier load. It can accommodate a hydration bladder up to a 3L volume. And the multi-position torso adjustment means that the pack can fit a wide range of body sizes.
Trekking poles are a must-have camping item if you plan on doing some hiking, especially if you’re in an area with elevation. A quality set of trekking poles, like this pair from TheFitLife, are lightweight, collapse for easy storage, and have large soft foam handles with straps. The durable aluminum poles have a shock-absorbing quality, making your walk, trek, or climb that much more enjoyable.
It’s always a good idea to bring a few garbage bags when camping. Properly disposing of your food waste will not only keep your campsite clean, but it will also help prevent any unwanted visitors.
Stainless Steel Camping Bowl
Stainless steel dishes, like these camping bowls, are perfect for the campground. They’re durable, easy to wash, and more cost-effective than buying single-use paper or styrofoam dishes. You can also use this set of 6 camping bowls in your kitchen at home.
A comfortable fold-up chair is a camping necessity. You don’t have to spend a lot of money, but make sure it’s heavy-duty enough to last and that it’s got at least a couple of can holders.
Medical First-Aid Kit
Because most campgrounds are located away from hospitals or any type of emergency medical services, never leave home without a first-aid kit.
It seems like a no-brainer, but what camping essentials list would be complete without matches or a lighter. After all, it’s not camping without a campfire. When it comes to matches, always pack more than you think you’ll need.
Don’t leave home without a good quality multi-tool. While some multi-tools have up to 18 or 20 tools-in-one, make sure they can handle the basics with ease. This includes a pocket knife, pliers, a bottle opener, a screwdriver, and a file or saw.
A small to medium-sized camping hatchet is perfect for splitting kindling and small to medium logs. I own a Fiskars X7 hatchet, but any quality axe between 15″-18″ will suffice. Make sure it has a protective cover and that it’s kept well out of reach from small children.
Firewood is a definite camping essential. But the mistake many people make is paying too much for firewood. If you’re buying it by the bundle at your local gas station or the campground office, you’re getting ripped off. If you plan to camp regularly, look for a firewood supplier in your area, and purchase enough for the entire season. You can thank me later. 😉
AeroPress Coffee and Espresso Maker
There is nothing like the flavor of coffee made with a French Press. But most French presses are made of glass, which isn’t ideal for taking to the campsite. They can also be hard to clean. An AeroPress coffee maker delivers the same great flavor as a traditional french press, is incredibly easy to clean, and comes with a handy zipper pouch for easy storage. If you love coffee, don’t go camping without it!
Did you know? You can turn a hammock into a tent with a hammock tarp. It’s a great way to sleep off of the ground while still getting a tent’s rain protection. This HIKANT Camping Hammock comes as a set and includes a double hammock, mosquito net, and a rainfly hammock tarp tent.
Outdoor Wine Glasses
These take-anywhere wine glasses are perfect for an evening by the campfire. They’re impact and shatter-resistant, and you won’t believe they aren’t real glass.
Open Fire Popcorn Popper
One of the best things about camping is the food, including the snacks. How about popcorn over the fire? This Coleman popcorn popper is easy to use. All you need to do is open the lid, throw some kernels in, and you’re ready to go. The wood handle stays cool to the touch. Just don’t get too close.
Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
Don’t forget to bring a set of extendable marshmallow roasting sticks. If you do, your kids may never forgive you. 🙂
Portable Camping Dog Bowl
If you’re planning to bring your four-legged friend camping with you, these collapsible dog bowls make for a cool camping gadget. When they’re not in use, the bowls break down and can be clipped to your luggage for easy storage. The silicone material makes them easy to clean.
Oversized Beach Towels
If you’re camping trip includes a day at the beach, don’t forget to bring enough beach towels for everyone. My wife and I have a set of oversized beach towels that we use exclusively for camping or day trips to the beach. This way, we can leave our good bath towels in the closet at home.
When our family goes camping, I always bring a length of nylon rope for hanging wet clothes and towels. It’s one of those often overlooked yet handy camping essentials.
Change for Showers
The shower facilities at most modern campgrounds are coin-operated. Don’t forget to bring along lots of quarters, or if you’re in Canada, Toonies and Loonies. : )
During the summer months, always pack sunblock. Even if you’re puttering around the campsite, the constant exposure to the sun can be dangerous.
If you live in an area prone to mosquitos, be prepared with enough mosquito repellant for the entire family. Mosquitos are more active at night. The last thing you want is to be eaten alive as you try to enjoy a nice bonfire.
Slide on Sandals
At the campsite, you’ll constantly be stepping in and out of your tent or RV. If you don’t have a pair of flip-flops or slide sandals, it’ll be a major inconvenience. Slides are affordable, and they come in tons of styles.
Scott Shop Towels
While you may also want to bring along some regular paper towels, I always take a couple of rolls of Scott shop towels when our family goes camping. I like them because they’re much more durable than your standard paper towel and can be used to clean up messes around the campsite.
If you’re planning to indulge in a few cold beverages, don’t forget your bottle opener. However, if you do, you can always use the bottle opener on your multi-tool pliers. 😉
Filtered Water Bottle
When you’re camping, you can’t always get clean water on demand. For this reason, a filtered water bottle is a camping necessity. Like its sister product, the LifeStraw Go water bottle filters over 99% of waterborne bacteria and parasites without using a chemical filter by using a hollow fiber membrane. Pull water from any lake or stream, and the filter works as you drink through the mouthpiece.
I’ll admit that I don’t bring a portable BBQ camping with me. I prefer to cook over the open fire, and I have a griddle that I use to cook bacon and eggs or pancakes in the morning. However, If you enjoy cooking at a BBQ, then you probably consider it a camping gear essential. My brother-in-law has a portable Coleman BBQ like shown below, and he swears by it.
My electric griddle is my favorite piece of camping gear. I begin every morning by starting a fire, coffee in hand, and then I cook bacon and eggs on the griddle, which I set on top of the picnic table beside the tent trailer. There’s no better way to start the day.
Portable Power Charger
If you’re planning on bringing your devices camping with you, you may want to consider taking along a portable charger to keep your phone, laptop, or tablet fully charged. The Jackery Portable Power Station 240 is equipped with a 240 watt-hour lithium-ion battery pack. It’s designed specifically to charge items that you’ll find at most modern campsites.
Large Water Carrier
If your campground offers a clean water hook-up at your campsite, you may not need to bring your own water supply. If not, a large water jug will come in handy. Set it outside your tent or camper on the picnic table, allowing for easy access. Our pop-up camper has a built-in water tank, but we find it easier to store water in our 5-gallon container.
A waterproof table cloth is a camping must-have. Most campgrounds have a picnic table at each site, but chances are you’re not going to want to set anything directly on the table. The table cloth will make for a cleaner, more comfortable camping experience.
A sleeping pad is a definite tent camping necessity. You’ll feel much more comfortable sleeping on the floor with padding underneath. This model from ECOTEK Outdoors can be inflated in less than 10 breaths and even has a sub-zero temperature rating for those cold nights. An air mattress is another option, but they are bulkier and require a lot more air to inflate.
I highly recommend packing a doormat that you can roll out at the entrance to your tent or RV. It’s a perfect spot to leave your sandals or shoes, and it prevents mud and dirt from getting inside.
High on the list of fun things to bring camping is a set of outdoor lights. You can hang them from your camper or the trees at your site. They create a wonderful ambiance and add to the fun.
A few years ago, I went on a fishing trip with a couple of friends. As soon as we arrived by boat at our campsite, it started to downpour. It was one of the longest and most intense thunderstorms I’ve ever experienced. Thankfully, we brought a large tarp to cover our tent, or we would have been floating by the time we woke up in the morning. If you’re tent camping, bring along a good tent tarp to make sure you and your belongings stay dry.
Relax in the shade of an enclosed screenhouse. This Coleman model can be set up within a couple of minutes, protecting you from the sun’s rays, not to mention the wind and bugs.
- Portable shelter offers protection from sun, wind, and bugs
- Sets up easily in around 60 seconds. 41.6 sq. ft. of shade
- Made of durable Polyguard 2X double-thick fabric with UVGuard 50+ UPF sun protection
- 2 large T-doors for easy access in the front and at the back
- Comes with carry bag for easy storage and transportation
Considering all the time you’ll be spending outside, sunglasses are a camping must-have. But don’t bring your fancy, expensive sunglasses as they could get damaged. I leave my Ray Bans at home and take a cheap pair instead.
It’s important to be prepared for any weather when you go camping. A raincoat or even a decent rain poncho is a camping accessory you’ll be glad you remembered to bring with you.
No matter what the weather is like, card games, or board games, are at the top of the list of fun things to bring camping. Don’t forget to bring a couple of your favorites!
What Should I Include on My Camping Essentials List?
If you’re wondering what items to include on your camping list, consider the type of camping you’ll be doing and then start with the basics – sleeping arrangements, food (and food storage), and safety gear. Keep in mind, if you’re camping in a tent, your list will look different than if you’re in an RV. Of course, make sure you plan for some fun activities also. After all, that’s what camping is all about.