Let’s be honest; we’ve all reached a campsite and thought to ourselves, “I forgot to bring…” we then spend too much time digging through bags, trunks, and cases looking for something to replace that necessary item. The trip that was once a daydream coming to fruition then becomes a nightmare of epic proportions as we devolve from creatures of comfort into cranky campers.
OK, maybe it’s not that bad, but we all wish we had brought extra batteries for the flashlight, a blowup mattress, a cooler, or a better sleeping bag.
Having firsthand been on the receiving end of an epic “kerfuffle” such as forgetting my tent, we’ve created a list of the top six pieces of camping gear you don’t want to forget.
Let’s be honest, is it really even camping without a tent? Hammocks are nice, but there’s something to be said for the satisfaction of pitching your tent, staking it down, and spending a night in it under the stars.
Tents are not only the base layer of camping; they also provide shelter, respite, and a staging area around which most camp activities center. Tents are essential because not only can they shield you from the elements, but they also keep out bugs and provide a sense of privacy in the woods that can be found nowhere else.
When choosing a tent, it’s essential to consider several factors.
- Environment: Where will you be camping? What do the temperature and the terrain look like?
- Weather: if you’re in an area that is often frequent by high-intensity storms or torrential downpours, a solid rain fly is an essential component. If the weather is predicting a cold front, a tent with high insulation levels is recommended, versus a Midsummer camping trip in the south calls for a well-ventilated tent.
- Persons & Gear: How many people are coming with you, and do you plan to stow it in the tent?
- Packing: If all your gear is being brought in by a truck, then size and weight are a nonissue. However, for backpackers and hikers, ounces equal pounds. In this case, the best choice is often times choosing a tent with the lightest weight without sacrificing all the other factors.
It’s hard to find a better all-around tent than This three-person classic, which allows campers to take in their surroundings from the shelter of their abode. Well ventilated, its easy-to-pitch design features two doors with multiple vestibules and plenty of headroom. Its taped seams and floor means that leaks will not be a problem, and the rain fly can handle mild to moderate weather.
A significant portion of the 24-hour cycle is spent in darkness. Depending on the time of year, sometimes as much as half is spent in these low light conditions. To combat this, campers bring flashlights, headlamps, build fires or install lighting around camp.
One of the easiest ways to maintain a well-lit campsite is to install freestanding lights illuminating the surrounding area. This prevents twisted ankles, creature encounters, and getting lost on your way back to your tent. It’s also a great tool when camping with kids who tend to roam free and explore, as it serves as a lighthouse beacon.
Wall devices such as flashlights and headlamps are excellent for searching the woods; freestanding lights provide a broad swath of illumination even after the fire is gone. This is an added bonus, as it simply requires the push of a button to extinguish rather than the variety of methods used to put out a fire and the added worry of coals still simmering.
This high-powered LED lantern is rechargeable and sturdy. Providing overhead lighting for various outdoor activities, it features a telescopic pole, reliable tripod, and ground stakes. With a brightness of 1200 lumens, the height of this light ranges from 39 inches to 104 inches.
Additional features include USB outlets for charging, a 43-inch carry bag, a four-hour run time at its brightest, and a guarantee to lighten up your night.
Whether it’s keeping your beer cold or breakfast ready, it’s hard to have a complete camping trip without a cooler. Used to secure food overnight, keep ice in an otherwise remote location, or drinks fresh, coolers are an essential part of any good outdoor experience. Forgetting a cooler can mean losing easily spoiled food or allowing animals to access your supply.
There are four main factors to look at when selecting a cooler for your camping trip.
- Size: can’t hold everything you need to and then some? Can it hold ice, cold packs, and the food and drink you need together and still close properly/
- Security: as with any storage device, it’s important to have a failsafe mechanism to prevent curious creatures from delving into your stash. What kind of retention devices does the cooler come with, and what aftermarket products can you add to it?
- Mobility: is it easily transportable even when fully loaded?
- Temperature: can it retain its temperature even amidst warm fronts and sunny days?
An additional but not necessary feature to consider is a drainage port. Eventually, that ice will melt, and there will be moisture inside of it, so does the cooler have the ability to drain without being tipped upright?
With a price tag big enough to turn most budget-conscious campers away, the tundra 75 hard cooler is worth every cent. A bear-proof design that can handle even the most aggressive of animals, this cooler is ready for everything nature can throw at it and still keep your ice frozen for days. Built for land and sea, the Rotomolded lining creates a tough exterior and a cold interior.
Easily cleaned, an exciting feature about this yeti is that it can keep things warm if necessary. With a five-year warranty, this cooler weighs 34 pounds and comes with a rope handle on either side for carrying. Oh, did I mention it’s Bear Proof?
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to rough it. Oftentimes, campers will bring along blowup mattresses to provide the most comfortable of sleeping conditions in the outdoors. Even with a tarp laid out beneath the tent, acorns, rocks, and roots can’t find their way into the small of an unsuspecting camper’s back. The result is a poor night’s sleep and a cranky camper.
To prevent your camping trip from being one of insomnia, blowup mattresses are easily transportable, compact mattresses that inflate in a variety of ways. While some blow up from air compressors or mouths, there are a few that are self-inflating via a valve that regulates airflow.
When purchasing a blowup mattress, there are a few things to consider. How much does it weigh, what are the dimensions, and most importantly, how durable is it? Often, blowup mattresses not designed for the outdoors will be punctured on many of the rougher surfaces that present themselves in the outdoors. Personally, I’ve seen a jagged rock punch through a base pad and tent bottom to put a small hole in my blowup mattress.
Additionally, if three people are sharing a tent, but the mattress only accommodates two, the lone occupant of the ground may be the one to punch a hole in that mattress so all may partake in their misery. In other words, ensure it fits with the tent and can accommodate its occupants.
This lightweight, durable sleeping pad has everything you need for two people to get a good night’s sleep on rough ground. With body mapping technology that provides comfort and supports no matter the sleeping position, Klymit’s double Vie has an antimicrobial laminated exterior that prevents everything from bacterial growth to fungus from taking hold.
With side rails integrated into its design, the double V is easily transportable and storable. Klymit includes a patch for emergency repairs and inflates its pad to retain heat and provide optimal thermal performance.
Even the best blowup mattresses will do no good without a proper sleeping bag. From sleepovers as kids to backcountry hikes, sleeping bags are the final place of solace before drifting into dreams. As such, they should be as comfortable and temperate as possible to accommodate both the user and the environment.
Depending on where you are camping, the criteria that need to be met by the sleeping bag vary. There are, however, several constants, and they are as follows.
- Comfort: Ask yourself the real question, can you see yourself sleeping in this several nights in a row?
- Warmth: Whether it’s the middle of summer or the dead of winter, at some point, we all crave a warm cozy bed to crawl into. Does this sleeping bag do it for you and your tent mate?
- Transportation: Whether you’re stowing it inside or on top of your rucksack or packing it into the back of your truck, sleeping bags take up space and weight. Does this bag make up for the space it takes up in the other two areas?
Finding a sleeping bag that meets all of these criteria is a rarity. There are bags specifically designed for adverse conditions, including some of the harshest colds known to man. Understanding your environment and the weather system that’s currently playing out there can help you decide on which bag to bring on your trip.
Spacious enough for two and plenty enough for one, the Kelty true comfort Doublewide is one of the easiest ways to bring the sleep habits of your home with you. Rather than carrying two sleeping bags and attempting to splice them with your partner, this lightweight and compact alternative can put you both inside the same bag.
With built-in blankets, foot vents, and a top that zips off, this bag is designed to accentuate your sleeping habits without impeding on the other’s rest. With fitted hoods to keep the pillows in place, you won’t lose them off your blowup mattress. This sleeping bag does an excellent job of retaining heat and is by far and away one of the softest and most comfortable sleeping bags I’ve ever spent the night in.
If you forget your chair at home and sit on the ground, you’re gambling with what crawls into your boot or up your pants leg. You can rough it and sit on stumps, logs or rocks. However, with lightweight folding chairs readily available, it’s never been easier to bring a comfortable sitting apparatus to the fire or the dinner table.
Folding chairs have become a staple in camping over the past several decades. Whether placed outside the tent to enjoy the views or roasting marshmallows around the fire, folding chairs make it easy to slow down and smell the roses without having to search for a place in nature without bugs, reptiles, or other pests.
As aforementioned, camping doesn’t always have to be roughing it, and bringing a comfortable chair sure makes time around the campfire more enjoyable. Our criteria for a good camp chair find its sweet spot at the intersection of comfort and transportability.
You’d be hard-pressed to find a chair that is more comfortable or sturdy than the one made by CLIQ. Portable and rapidly assembled or broken down, this chair weighs no more than 3.65lbs yet can hold upwards of 300lbs. When disassembled, it is roughly the size of a water bottle and, when extended, sits 10 inches from the ground.
Waterproof and lightweight, it’s the perfect camp chair for anyone hiking in the backcountry or sitting around a backyard bonfire.
Finally, the most important thing to bring on any camping trip is a sense of adventure. If you forget everything else at home, bring that.