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14 Camping Essentials to Bring on Your Next Outdoor Trip

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A successful camping trip depends on what you pack. And what you need to pack depends on a lot: the weather, how long your trip is, who you’re traveling with, etc.

In this post, I’ll share camping essentials to bring on your next camping trip, as well as a few fun items.

Coleman Montana Camping Tent, 6/8 Person Tent

Coleman Montana Camping Tent, 6/8 Person Tent

  • Fits 2 Queen air mattresses
  • Includes rainfly
  • Sets up in approximately 15 minutes

If you're not glamping in a rustic cabin, be sure to pack a good tent. A tent that is waterproof, not water-resistant, and includes a rain fly are the basic requirements you should aim for.

Growing up, we had a massive Coleman tent that fit all of my family, but most campers just need something above the size of Coleman's Montana tent. 

My sister has had this exact tent for years and we've not had any problems camping with it - even during a week where it rained more than half the time!

It's also very easy to set up. Space-wise, it's super comfortable for groups of 4, but if you stick to sleeping pads and don't keep your clothing and other gear inside, you can fit up to 8.

We usually do 2 Queen air mattresses or 1 Queen and 2 Twins and have plenty of space for 4 suitcases or duffles, plus 4 daypacks or purses - and still have plenty of space to maneuver around. 

Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp

Amazon Basics Waterproof Camping Tarp

  • Waterproof, rip-stop material
  • Rust-resistant grommets

Protect your tent - and yourself - in the event of rain by placing a waterproof tarp beneath your tent, as well as one above your tent. 

Even if your tent comes with a rain fly, I recommend adding a tarp above it. Rain flys tend to be water-resistant, not waterproof, so tarps provide better protection. 

Set the tarp up above your tent by tying each corner to a tree or another sturdy object. Angle it down on one side, away from the tent, to allow rain and moisture to drain.

Trust me on this tip! The ONE time my family and I forgot to use tarps, we woke up to about half an inch of water in our tent even though the forecast hadn't called for rain!

Wearable sleeping bag

Wearable sleeping bag

  • Machine washable
  • Temperature rated for 20℉ to 50℉

Sleep well with a warm sleeping bag. Before you buy, make sure you are purchasing a sleeping bag built to withstand the nighttime temperatures of the location you'll be camping in.

The temperature information should be available in the production description if you are shopping online.

If you're shopping in store, look for the temperature information on the packaging or tag.

In addition to a sleeping bag, you might also want to consider a sleeping pad or air mattress if you're not used to sleeping outdoors.

Coleman Camp Chair with 4-Can Cooler

Coleman Camp Chair with 4-Can Cooler

  • Built-in cooler for 4 cans
  • Side pockets and mesh cup holder
  • Adjustable arm heights
  • Supports up to 325 pounds
  • Carry bag included

A lot of campgrounds will include a picnic table with their campsites, but if you’re camping with a group, you’ll want more flexibility to sit around the campfire at night.

A portable, collapsible chair is just what you need.

I love this chair from Coleman that includes a cup holder and pockets for a book, camera, phone, flashlight, etc.

Coleman Portable Rolling Cooler | 50 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Cooler with Wheels | Wheeled Hard Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days

Coleman Portable Rolling Cooler | 50 Quart Xtreme 5 Day Cooler with Wheels | Wheeled Hard Cooler Keeps Ice Up to 5 Days

  • 50 qt. capacity
  • Holds up to 84 12 oz. cans
  • Can keep ice frozen up to 5 days in temps up to 90℉

Keep food from spoiling and your drinks cool with a packable cooler.

A soft-sided cooler is great for day trips, but if you plan to just store food at the campsite, I recommend a hard-sided cooler instead.

Camelbak eddy+ 32 oz. filtered water bottle

Camelbak eddy+ 32 oz. filtered water bottle

  • Filtered straw can remove 99.9% of bacteria, protozoa, and microplastics
  • Leak proof when closed
  • Spill proof when open

Don't forget to stay hydrated! A filtered water bottle will help save you money, as you won't need to purchase tons of bottled water. Plus it's more environmentally friendly.

I carry the Camelbak filtered water bottle with me even when I'm not traveling!

MalloMe Extendable S'mores Sticks

MalloMe Extendable S'mores Sticks

  • Includes 5 sticks that extend up to 32 inches
  • Color coded for easy identification and reuse
  • Can also use with hot dogs, veggies and other foods

You can’t go camping without making s’mores!

Classic s’mores include graham crackers, chocolate bars, and marshmallows.

Craving something different? Switch it up with flavored marshmallows, peanut butter cups or other twists on classic s’mores ingredients.

But aside from the ingredients, you need a good roasting stick. These roasting sticks extend from 10 to 32 inches, keeping users a safe distance from flames. 

The sticks are also easy to rotate for even cooking.

Stanley Perfect Brew Pour Over Set with Camp Mug

Stanley Perfect Brew Pour Over Set with Camp Mug

  • Easily brew a cup of fresh, hot coffee while camping
  • Lifetime warranty

Just like s'mores, you can't go camping without coffee!

Sure, you could get by with a campfire friendly percolator, but if you'll be camping lots, consider investing in a durable and portable pour-over coffee kit.

Billy Buckskin Co. 10 lb. Fatwood Fire Starter Sticks

Billy Buckskin Co. 10 lb. Fatwood Fire Starter Sticks

  • 10 lb. box
  • Burns even when wet
  • Only need 2-3 sticks per fire

Avoid the hassle of starting a fire, especially during rainy or damp weather. Use these all-natural fire starters, instead.

These fire starters from Billy Buckskin Co. are made from dead tree stumps, so you don't have to worry about trees being killed to make them.

Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

Murphy's Naturals Mosquito Repellent Incense Sticks

  • DEET free
  • Each stick has ~2.5 Hours of protection
  • Covers up to 12 foot area
  • Incense holder sold separately

Pretty much anywhere you go camping in the US, mosquitos will be out in full-force. Bring a portable, easy-to-use repellent to help keep you from being bit.

Place a few on your picnic table or near your seating area to provide protection for up to 2.5 hours.

These incense sticks from Murphy's Naturals are DEET free and instead use essential oils to provide protection from pesky mosquitos!

Mystical Fire Flame Colorant - 12 pack

Mystical Fire Flame Colorant - 12 pack

  • Use on campfire or in fireplace
  • Adds blue, green, and purple tones to flames
  • Do NOT use while cooking

After you’re done making s’mores, throw a few packets of Mystical Fire on your campfire and watch the flames flicker in gorgeous colors like turquoise.

My nieces and nephews always go crazy for these, but to be honest, so do the adults!!

100 Ultra Bright 8

100 Ultra Bright 8" Glow Sticks w/ connectors

  • Glows up to 6 hours
  • Includes connectors to make bracelets and necklaces
  • Non-leaking and non-toxic materials

Flash back to your childhood and bring along some glow sticks, necklaces, bracelets – whatever strikes your fancy.

Bonus: they double as a light source to help you find your way to the bathroom.

Hoyle Waterproof Playing Cards

Hoyle Waterproof Playing Cards

  • 100% waterproof
  • Flexible and easy to shuffle, even when wet
  • Durable and hand-washable

Travel-sized games are great for camping trips, especially if you’re trying to pack light.

A deck of cards or a classic game, like Yahtzee, are great for all ages. I like the waterproof card set from Hoyle because they'll hold up even in rainy or damp weather, as well as just being outdoors.

On my last camping trip, the adults couldn’t wait to sit by the campfire and play Cards Against Humanity.

This hilarious game guarantees a good time and is great for groups. It is definitely NOT for kids or the easily offended!

Check out my post on travel games for adults for more ideas on fun, travel-sized games that you can bring on your camping trip.

THE NORTH FACE Women's Borealis Backpack

THE NORTH FACE Women's Borealis Backpack

  • Volume: 27L
  • Includes a padded laptop sleeve
  • Includes 2 water bottle pockets
  • Design certified by American Chiropractic Association

A durable backpack is great for packing your camping gear or to use as a hands-free day bag.

I recommend purchasing one from a company like The North Face or Burton, both of which offer lifetime guarantees for their luggage and bags.

Myself? I use the Borealis backpack from The North Face as a daypack and a larger backpack from Burton as a weekender or when I don't want to use traditional luggage.

What other camping gear do you always pack?

Share your favorite gear in the comments below.

About the author

Photo of travel blogger Meg Frost, of Frost + Sun, in Havana, Cuba.
Photo by Meg Frost, all rights reserved.

Meg Frost is a Boston-based travel blogger that helps people embrace technology to make vacation planning and traveling wicked easy, affordable, and fun.

She holds an M.A. in Journalism from Northeastern University and B.S. in Communication & American Studies from University of Miami.

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This post was originally published September 26, 2016. It was last updated November 19, 2023.

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