Tent Camping Essentials
Every successful outdoor adventure begins with the right camping essentials. Having the proper gear and supplies with you can make all the difference. That’s why the very best trips begin right here—with a comprehensive guide to everything you need to make your camping vacation truly great. In this article, we’ll review every must-have item in detail, talk about why they are so important, and even make some smart recommendations for options. Are you ready to begin? Let’s embark!

Shelter & Sleeping Bags

Your first consideration is having some kind of shelter from the elements. If you don’t have an RV, this might be a tent, a hammock, or simply an outdoor sleeping bag, depending on the kind of experience you are planning. Are you a minimalist looking for wild camping essentials who wants to keep it light and simple, or a full-fledged glamper who enjoys having all the creature comforts of home along with that fresh air? Or, perhaps you are both, and that’s okay, too! Camping essentials can be a lot of different things for different people. The important thing is to choose the right equipment that best suits your plans for the impending trip.

Tents

A tent is an all-around camping essential that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit every need. No matter which tent you ultimately decide upon, there are some critical features you should always look for:

  • Ease of set up, waterproofing (such as an attachable or built-in rain fly that covers the tent well),
  • Wind resistance
  • Ventilation (with screened areas you can open or zip closed),
  • Solid craftsmanship (such as reinforced zippers and seams).

If you are hiking to a location on foot, you’ll want to choose one that you can easily carry without weighing you down or taking up too much space. The Night Cat Backpacking Tent is an exceptional choice for 1 or 2 persons, and a nice starter tent camping essential for beginners.  Here’s another great one to consider from a manufacturer with a great reputation for quality: the Gonex Camping Tent. This tent is perfect for hikers or very small groups up to 4 people, weighs less than 5 pounds, and sets up in less than 5 minutes.

If truck camping is your thing, you cannot go wrong with this truck tent from Napier. This tops our list of truck camping essentials with the perfect option to keep your truck bed clean and dry.

For larger outings or when carrying a heftier tent is not an issue, this Ayamaya 6-Person Pop Up Tent is a terrific choice. With preassembled poles, set up on this one is a breeze. It includes a convenient power cord access point—a true tent essential when you intend to use power— and has a double-layer, anti-condensation design that makes it an excellent option even in colder weather.

For big family camping, you simply cannot go wrong with this amazing 12 Person Extra Large Straight Wall Cabin Tent. This spacious tent from industry leader CORE has it all, including enough bells and whistles to satisfy even the fussiest glamper, but our favorite feature on this one is actually its see-through mesh roof. Pop off the rain fly on this tent on a clear summer night and you’ll have a brilliant view of the night sky. (Calling all stargazers—this one’s for you!)

Hammocks

A hammock can be a fantastic alternative to a tent for an individual camper or a couple, and an absolutely perfect wild camping essential. Hammocks are lightweight and incredibly comfortable to sleep in. However, there are some key differences between the type of hammock meant for lounging in your backyard and those that are suitable for shelter when camping. Here are some critical features to look for when choosing a hammock for shelter: It should be at least 2 feet longer than your own height, and its width should be 4-5 feet for a single person, or 5-6 feet for two people. It will need a rain tarp to keep you dry, and a bug net to keep you pest-free (a no-see-um grade mesh is best). For warmth, look for one that has an underquilting layer. You’ll also want one with a suspension system, which typically includes carabiners and tree straps. Make sure you select one with straps that are at least ¾” wide so that it will not cause tree bark damage.

Check out this top-rated, one-person choice from REI, the Kammok Mantis Recycled All-in-One Hammock Tent. We love its eco-friendly, recycled footprint as well as its thoughtful design. Another excellent option that will easily accommodate two persons is this sleek, economical offering by Easthills, the Outdoors Jungle Explorer. Lastly, here’s an option that works even when you might not have trees available for hanging, a hybrid hammock that can also be set up as a tent!

Outdoor Sleeping Bags

Sleeping under the stars with nothing but your sleeping bag is a special experience that everyone should try at least once. For many, it is simply the best way to camp! But no ordinary sleeping bag will do when you don’t also plan on using a tent. You will need one with some special features that will also provide you with added protection against the elements. First of all, choose one designed to perform well in the temperature range that you expect to encounter. Next, you are going to want a weather-resistant exterior. A bivy bag cover (a definite wild camping essential) that can be completely zipped up is also a big plus to help you stay warm, dry, and free of bugs or other warmth-seeking wildlife. This bag from OmniCore Designs, the Multi Down Hooded Rectangular Sleeping Bag is a versatile choice that comes in a variety of colors as well as different sizes. We also love this fully-waterproof bivy bag by Sierra Designs. Check out our deep dive on the Best Sleeping Bags for Camping

Sleeping Bags for Tents or RVs

When camping in a tent or RV, you’ll want a sleeping bag that is suited to the temperatures you expect to be in, but the primary consideration should be your overall comfort and taste. You’ll find a huge range of size, shape, and material options to choose from at REI. For some in-depth help in making this choice, you might also want to check out our detailed sleeping bag guide here.

And lastly, who says roughing it has to be rough at all? Add to your sleeping comfort with this super-portable, lightweight Inflatable Pad with Pillow and Built-In Pump from Meetpeak. It’s the ideal tent camping essential that helps give you the gift of a good night’s sleep. 

Camping Cookware & Storage

Another important camping essential is cookware and related accessories. If you’re not eating, you’re not camping! Keeping your food needs simple, easy, and compact is always a smart way to go, but we also know that some of us truly live to cook in the great outdoors. Whether or not you decide to go big or small, you’ll want some utensils, pans, plates, storage, a cooler, something for water and beverages such as coffee, and perhaps even a stove option for when campfire cookery isn’t an option. Following are some of our favorite picks to consider: 

Camping Essentials

Mess Kits & Utensil Sets

29pcs Camping Cookware Mess Kit by Odoland. This is a nice, basic set with non-stick pans, plates, silverware, and even a collapsible liquid container. Another terrific mess kit to check out is this Sportneer Camping Cooking Set, which even includes a folding stove. Meanwhile, this Haplululy Camping Kitchen Utensils Set has all the gadgetry you’ll need to prepare an impressive meal, even a cutting board! (It would make a terrific campervan essential too.) It’s also a good idea to have a few food-grade storage containers on hand. Ziplock bags are always great camper kitchen essentials, but a more durable, reusable option is this excellent set of collapsible storage containers from Guyuyii

Stove & Grill Options

If you don’t want to settle for a small folding stove like you might find in a mess kit, check out these other fantastic, five-star options: Camp Kitchen to Go 5 Piece Bundle, Portable Compact Multi-Fuel Burning Camping Stove, MARTIN 2 Burner Propane Stove, Gas ONE GS-1000 7,650 BTU Portable Butane Gas Stove Automatic Ignition with Carrying Case, Odoland Folding Campfire Grill. Lastly, a fantastic choice to feed a larger group is our top pick of these grill options, the Blackstone 1971 Heavy Duty Flat Top Grill Station. A good-sized grill, be it propane or charcoal, is a family camping essential you simply cannot do without. 

Beverage Needs

For beverages, it’s always nice to have something insolated and with a lid that will keep your drink hot or cold for an extended length of time. This lightweight, spill-proof offering, the GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker Mug, is a fantastic choice designed especially for campers.

Most people wouldn’t dream of camping without coffee. Of all the camp kitchen essentials, this one is likely the most universal. We’ll always love the wonderfully rich, delicious brew from a classic campfire percolator like this one by Coleman. Coleman also makes a great, portable drip coffeemaker for propane. This versatile, All-in-One French Press by Stanley is great for making tea or soup, too. And this AeroPress Go Portable Travel Coffee Press is perfect for one person or a couple.

Lastly, don’t forget your water needs. If you’re lugging it in, consider a nice, sturdy one with a spigot like these from Redcamp. (A real must-have campervan essential also.) And if you cannot bring it with you, protect your health by using a straw filter like these top-rated ones from Wellfast

Cooler Options

For camping trips where you have an option to bring a cooler, Coleman’s Rolling Cooler 50 Quart Xtreme is a great choice. We especially like this one as it has wheels and will keep things cold for up to 5 days. Yeti coolers are also a trusted camp kitchen essential with a wide range of choices for any size adventure. Or if you want something that can provide even longer-range cooling, consider a solar or adapter-powered cooler like an Acopower. It’s also nice to have a lightweight, insolated tote for short excursions like this highly-rated Yuzerfortalbe Cooler Bag

Portable Furniture & Lighting

Some other important camping essentials include portable furniture and lighting. Even if you are a minimalist or a hiker at heart, you’ll at least want a chair and a reliable flashlight, which are camping essentials for beginners and experienced campers alike. Also, a well-lit campsite is always safer and more secure. A portable table is also a very useful aid that can make a number of camping activities easier, including meal prep, dining, cleaning a fish, and more. Here are some exceptional pieces to consider: 

Chairs

The Cliq Camping Chair has fast become one of the most popular camping accessories there is today, and for good reason. It’s the perfect option when you want something small and easy to carry. It’s lightweight, compacts down to the size of a bottle, sets up in a matter of seconds, and its patented tip-proof design is both sturdy and comfortable. If a more recognizable design like the Coastrail Outdoor Padded Camping Chair is more your style, this is an exceptional one that even has lumbar back support. And for all you glampers out there, you might just want an anti-gravity chair. Those fold up and are considered portable too, even though they may be a bit heavier than other choices. (If camping means lounging to you, this is probably the most comfortable choice you’ll find!) Here’s a great one from Pacific Pass that’s a bit lighter than most and has a built-in headrest. 

Tables

If you want a small folding table that is light and easy to carry, this 16”, 2 lb. VILLEY Portable Camping Side Table is just right. The Grovind Portable Camping Table is another terrific choice that is slightly bigger, has two tiers, and built-in cup holders. It also folds down into its own carrying bag and weighs only 5 lbs. Lastly, one of our favorites is this sturdy, 4 ft. Camp Field Camping Table with Adjustable Legs, which features an attached fold-out storage organizer and can be adjusted to multiple heights. 

Miscellaneous Furniture

Okay, so maybe some of these items listed here might not be essential must-haves, but they’ve definitely made it onto our most-wanted list. You might even call them glamping essentials! We couldn’t resist giving them an honorable mention for all you campers out there that love a tricked-out, luxury experience when camping like we do!

Why simply opt for a sleeping bag when you can stretch out on an air mattress? The Intex Dura-Beam Series Pillow Rest is a great one from a trusted brand. It may seem like an indulgence, but as far as tent camping essentials go, it should definitely be on the list as far as we’re concerned.

Inflatable sofa, anyone? Yes, please! And this Wekapo Inflatable Lounger looks super comfy as well.

This double chair from Safstar has a built-in shade canopy and cooler and comes complete with a handy carrying bag. This might be a great item for any camping trip, but it is especially awesome as a beach camping essential and perfectly suited for setting up in the sand.

A pop-up canopy, especially one with a screen like this Coleman Instant Screenhouse, can also be very useful as it provides a place to get away from bugs other than your tent, and offers added protection for things you don’t want to get wet. 

Lighting

No matter what kind of outdoor adventure you’re on, you need a good flashlight. We especially love these Evelots Hand Crank Flashlights for their bright LED lights and ingenuity—no battery is ever needed, just a few cranks with your hand powers it up. For a tent light, we love this battery-operated combination light/ceiling fan by Odoland. There are also lots of excellent camping lanterns out there to choose from, but this USB-rechargeable lantern by LE is among our favorites. It’s waterproof, has 4 different lighting modes, and can even be hung upside down to better illuminate big areas. Lastly, we love these waterproof, solar-powered pathway lanterns with clips that let you hang them practically anywhere. 

Toiletries & Personal Items

Some camping necessities like toiletries and your own personal must-haves might seem pretty obvious, but it can be fairly easy to overlook a critical item, especially female camping essentials. Here’s our basic list: 

Toiletries

SoapShampoo
Hand SanitizerWet Wipes
Brush / CombRazor
DeodorantToothbrush & Toothpaste

Q-Tips

Feminine Hygiene Products (please don’t forget this female camping essential!)

Sunblock (an important festival camping essential too, when you might be in the sun all day)

Insect Repellant / Bug Spray (We really love the Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller too! It’s odor-free and replaces the need for putting messy or harsh chemicals on your skin.)

Another great option for your camping toiletries is an assembled kit, which will already contain many travel-sized versions of the items listed above. You can even find some specifically made just for men and women. (It’s important to remember that female camping essentials may differ from those needed by men.) 

Personal Items

Medications (prescriptions as well as over-the-counter items like a pain reliever and antacid)

Medical Devices (CPAP, etc.)

 

Glasses / Sunglasses (a beach camping essential, to be sure!)

Hat (for sun or warmth, depending on your trip plans)

Clothing (It’s good to pack light, but always be prepared for unexpected weather.)

Aqua Shoes (We love these for camping! Perfect for lakes, shorelines, and wet or muddy areas!)

 

Book / Journal (Not a must, but a journal is a great way to pass time or document your trip.)

 

 

Emergency Items & Miscellaneous Supplies

Failing to prepare for unforeseen emergencies can be a matter of life and death, especially in an isolated location like a campsite. Here’s our list of emergency, must-have camping essentials as well as some miscellaneous supplies you should never go camping without. We’ve included links to some of our favorite recommendations. 

Emergency Items

First Aid Kit

Flares (These could potentially save your life if you get lost.)

 

A Whistle

 

Pepper Spray (great for bears and human conflicts, too)

 

Miscellaneous Supplies

Multi-Tool with a can opener (such as a Swiss Army Knife)

 

Compass

 

Small Axe for firewood

 

Life Jackets for swimming/boating (inflatable ones are an excellent, non-bulky option)

Towels

 

Garbage Bags

 

Duct Tape

 

Bunge Cord / Rope

 

A Tarp

 

Matches / A Lighter

Notepad & Pen

Entertainment Items (cards, games, toys, puzzles, etc.)

Sports Gear (perhaps a frisbee?)

 

Food & Water, including a few days’ worth of nonperishables (and don’t forget camping cooking essentials like salt & pepper, sugar, and oil)

Fishing Kit (If you aren’t already bringing a pole and tackle box, this kit is a great idea!)

Another excellent option is a survival gear kit, which will already contain many of the items on this list.

Power, Connectivity Options, Electronics

Last but not least, it’s time to discuss power sources, connectivity options, and assorted electronic gadgetry. You might not think of all of these items as must-haves, however being completely out of touch with civilization can be a scary and even dangerous concept, and one that has lost its appeal in this modern age. We want our phones and electronics even when we are camping, and we want them to be functional. These devices are on their way to becoming true family camping essentials. 

Power Sources

First and foremost, make sure you remember to pack batteries for the devices you’ll have with you that need them. There’s nothing worse than running out of juice and not having a backup battery handy. Next, to keep your electronics charged and provide energy for critical devices (like a CPAP machine), a portable generator is an excellent idea, such as the Portable Power Station, FlashFish 40800mAh Solar Generator.

A solar-powered cellphone charger is also a very good option to consider, such as this Suscell Portable Solar Phone Charger, which can even power a GoPro and other USB devices. If you have an RV, you already have a power system, but you might want to think about adding an extra battery or two, and perhaps a solar panel kit like this nice portable one from Dokio, which can give you added functionality when boondocking (camping in your RV without any hookups available). Lastly, if you need to plug something in and your only potential source is your vehicle, a car power inverter like this one from Foval can be a gamechanger.

Connectivity Devices

Next, let’s talk about those phones again. Cell phone signals can be an iffy thing in some camping locations, especially in very remote places or the mountains. If you absolutely have to be connected and you know you won’t be in normal cell phone range, the only comprehensive option is a satellite phone with global coverage like the Iridium. The next best option (and very popular with RV campers) would be a mobile cell signal booster like this nice system from SuperBars

To provide you with a simpler communication option for emergency situations, a satellite communicator like the Garmin inReach Mini 2 might also be a good choice. It might not give you the full functionality of your phone, but it will at least allow for emergency global messaging. 

Other Electronics & Gadgetry

Some of these items, like a few others within this guide, may not be absolute camping essentials, but they can still be a wonderful idea and a valuable addition to your camping trip.

  • What’s a camping trip without sharing music with family and friends? Check out this great Bluetooth speaker from Kayinow that also has an AM/FM radio, flashlight, SOS messaging, charging capabilities, and hand-crank solar to boot!
  • A portable propane space heater like Mr. Heater or this nice rechargeable hand warmer from Anbooc can help keep you warm when camping in cold weather. These make great truck camping essentials as well, as you won’t have to run your vehicle’s heater when you have these. Conversely, a wearable, rechargeable neck fan is a pretty awesome way to keep cool on a hot day.
  • This GearLight LED Head Lamp makes a terrific alternative to a flashlight and keeps your hands free!
  • A great pair of binoculars like these from Gosky is a wonderful accessory for birdwatching or stargazing, and a smart wild camping essential, too. 
  • Walkie-talkies are excellent hiking and camping essentials, and a great way to stay in communication with members of your group when cell phones are not a viable option. Plus, they’re a lot of fun!
  • And speaking of fun, why not a portable movie projector for the ultimate outdoor camping entertainment experience? 

Making the Most of Your Camping Essentials

We hope you’ve found this guide to be helpful and informative. We also hope we’ve turned you on to something new and exciting things to try. Whether you are looking for camping essentials for beginners or expanding on items for seasoned, veteran campers, everyone can benefit from new products and technology. New things are being invented for camping each and every day, and if you don’t check them out, you might just be missing out!

As a final takeaway, we’d like to encourage you to make the most of the items that you’ve decided are right for you. An excellent way to do that is to make a camping checklist of those things and check them off on your list as you get ready to go, check out our ultimate camping checklist guide here.

 When you plan your trip with your camping essentials in mind, you are planning for a happy, successful trip!