Camping Gear for Beginners (Buying Guide)
Converting people to the joys of camping in the great outdoors is one of our favorite pastimes. With this guide to camping gear for beginners, we’ve made it easy! Read on to find out what you need to prepare for your introduction to camping.
If you’re new to camping, and you’re considering what camping gear you’ll need to take on your trip, the first thing you need to figure out is what kind of camping trip you’re going on. This determines the type of kit, and how many kits you take with you. There are many different types of camping, such as festival camping, glamping, and primitive camping.
Primitive camping, or wilderness camping, requires more experience, and we would recommend going camping a few times in a campsite before you try it, to figure out what you need, and practice some of the processes of camping to perfect them, such as setting up your tent. Once you’ve got accustomed to campsite camping, have a look at our guide for primitive camping here. Now, let’s dive into a little information about campsite camping!
Camping in a campsite
Camping at a campsite is the most popular way to go camping. Often you can be in remote, beautiful locations, but still, get all of the amenities you need. These often include showers, but sometimes they do not.
There are some other ways to keep clean while you’re camping, like cleaning in a river or waterfall, or perhaps just using wet wipes if you’re going for a shorter camping trip. If you need an elevated shower, to really feel clean while camping, take a look at our top recommendations for camping showers.
Campsites can also often provide you with electric hook up. This can be really useful for more experienced campers, who know which kit to bring with them to hook up. But there are some electrical appliances you could consider bringing with you to a campsite, even if you’re a beginner. The first, if you’re camping in really hot weather, is a portable air conditioner. These can easily be powered in most campsites and could be your saving grace on a hot camping trip.
Campsite camping includes any camper that has paid for a pitch on a campsite for a period of time, ranging from groups of friends, to couples, through to large families. A dedicated pitch means that you will have your own space and be surrounded by other holidaymakers, and you’re usually able to park up next to your tent.
There are also some campsites which offer you a little more privacy. You often can get a bit more privacy, and create nicer shelters and spaces for yourself, in a campsite located in a wood. We would recommend this as a great place to begin your camping excursions.
Make sure you check the rules of your chosen campsite before your trip as some sites might have some restrictions on the size of the tent you can bring. If you’re camping at a campsite, you can often put up your tent near your car. Because of this, you won’t have to be as strict on yourself as you’re packing to go to a campsite.
Remember to take lots of extra snacks and extra supplies, things like jumpers or blankets if you’re going camping in the cold, just in case you need it!
Before you go away on your first camping trip, there are a few things you need to remember:
1. Remember to check your gear: although most outdoors kit is designed and manufactured to withstand multiple weather conditions, and make years of use, sometimes things go wrong. Make sure you’ve erected your tent in your garden and checked you have all the pieces of kit mentioned in the instructions. This is also a great opportunity to practice putting up your tent and to get used to the way it’s constructed. Also practice blowing up your sleeping mat or pad, and make sure that there’s no place where the air could leak out.
2. Remember to make a list: it’s super easy to forget items camping, there are so many little bits of kit to remember, whether it be tent poles or something as simple as a tin opener. Making a list of all the gear you plan to take gives you something to check off as you pack your bag or car. Take a look at our ultimate camping checklist, and adapt it to suit your needs, to make sure you have everything you could possibly need, and you’re prepared for any eventuality. The first few times you go camping, you can be a bit more simplified. The kit we have reviewed here are the bare essentials. But as you go camping more often, you might want to borrow more kit from our complete camping checklist, and add things that you and your group enjoy, to personalize your camping experience.
3. Remember to check the rules: whether you’re going to a campsite, a festival or primitive camping, do make sure you check any relevant rules (of the festival site, campsite, or national park, for example) to your stay to make sure all your kit is compliant. This will also help you know if you can take your dog with you, or if the place you’re planning on camping is suitable for family groups.
The most important thing to take camping is obviously the humble tent. There are many different options available on the market now, even hammock tents! Let’s have a look at what you need to consider when finding the right tent for you and your camping needs:
Tent berths (6 man tent, 4 person tent, 2 berth tent, etc) are based around how many people the tent bedroom can sleep. Remember that this does not take into account any backpacks, luggage, heaters or other belongings. When choosing your tent, ask yourself the following questions:
- How many people are going to be sleeping in my tent? Opt for a larger tent than the number of campers, for more comfort.
- How many kits will I be taking?
- How much privacy do I need? Do I want extra bedrooms?
- Does my campsite have any size limitations? (some sites may charge for two pitches for the largest tents)
Camping Gear for Beginners – Overview
1. Coleman Sundome Tent
- Dome tent with spacious interior allows you to move comfortably
If you’re looking for the right first tent to invest in, as a beginner to camping, then we would suggest a model similar to this one by Coleman. Firstly’ it’s good to go with a brand like Coleman, that has a lot of brand recognition and trust: they have been manufacturing and designing quality, durable outdoors kit for years.
At under $60, this is also a cheap option for your first tent, meaning it doesn’t matter if you realize you want to go camping slightly less than you expected, or perhaps you’ll just be hauling out of storage a couple of times a year to go to a festival.
We’ve recommended this as a great tent for beginners, not just because of it being made from sturdy and durable materials, but also because this tent is very simple and easy to set up. It’s a simple, square, domed design. This tent is super easy to put up, because there are only two tent poles, with snag-free, continuous pole sleeves.
You won’t have to worry about the complicated process of balancing multiple poles, trying to erect a multi-roomed tent. You can set it up in under 10 minutes, thanks to the Insta-Clip suspension that lets you secure your tent to your poles in a snap. This is a great tent to learn the basics of erecting a tent on. It’s basically fool-proof!
Despite this tent being dinky, and easy to carry, it can sleep up to 6 people! Inside, there’s enough room to sleep on two queen-sized airbeds, and there are even storage pockets that help to keep small or personal items organized.
If you’re a beginner to camping, this can really come in useful, as organizing your tent and campsite can be a skill that it takes a while to learn. Another benefit of this tent is that it keeps you cool in summer: a ground vent and two windows increase air circulation to help you stay cool and comfortable.
- Easy to erect
- Sleeps up to 6
- Keeps you cool in summer
- Waterproof, but not hardy enough for the middle of winter
- Only comfortably sleeps 4
2. TETON Sports Tracker Ultralight Mummy Sleeping Bag
- LIGHTWEIGHT AND WARM: Tired of your feet getting cold? This is the sleeping bag for you; Designed with added insulation in the footbox; Exceptionally warm and lightweight for backpacking
This sleeping bag from Teton is our top pick for camping newbies. We know that if you’re only just diving into the wonders of the great outdoors, you don’t want to spend too much on your kit, just in case this isn’t a hobby that keeps you coming back every weekend.
But the good thing about a great sleeping bag is that you can use it on multiple occasions. There’s not much point in buying a cheap sleeping bag. They can leave you feeling really hot in summer, and shivering in the winter. If you just spend a little extra, you could use your sleeping bag for guests, to keep in your car in case you get chilly, or as a back up if you’re visiting a friend’s place.
With that said, this sleeping bag from Teton could be the perfect option for you. This cocoon-shaped sleeping bag is only $75, far less than some of the more upmarket sleeping bags out there, but it will protect you against the elements enough for your needs. It will even keep you warm in really cold conditions, with its “mummy bag” hood, designed specifically to eliminate the gaps to keep the warmth in around your head and face.
The thing that makes this sleeping bag perfectly suited for beginners, except for the reasonable price point, is its compressibility. This means that not only is it super lightweight, and easy to carry when you’re hiking, it’s also really easy to pack away again after you’ve used it.
Some sleeping bags you need to fold up, and you can see beginners struggling at campsites all over the country, trying to get them back in their bag again. But with Teton’s innovative microfiber insulation, you get first-rate compressibility without sacrificing quality or comfort. It’s super easy to stuff it back in the compression sack: just start at the bottom and stuff the bag in, then tighten the heavy-duty straps. Easy!
- Easy to get back into the compression bag
- Lightweight but heavy-duty
- Not that attractive, but there are multiple color options
- It needs 2 drawstrings around the face/hood opening instead of one: uneven closure around your head on cold nights.
3. Foxelli Sleeping Pad – Comfortable & Compact Self Inflating Sleeping Mat with Pillow
- SLEEP PEACEFULLY, ANYWHERE – No more waking up tired, grumpy, or with a sore back while staying as a house guest, camping or sleeping under the stars with your kids in the backyard. No matter where...
This sleeping mat by Foxelli is a great option for camping beginners. Like the other products, we have chosen a camping mat that’s at a lower price point. But there are some other features that make this mat perfect for beginners.
Firstly, it has a built-in, raised pillow, meaning you won’t have to lug around another pillow with you. This is great if you’re hiking for long distances, or your campsite is far from your car.
There are three types of sleeping mats for camping: foam mat, self-inflatable mat, and inflatable air mat. Inflatable mats we wouldn’t recommend for beginners, as sometimes the valves are slightly faulty, and difficult to operate, and you might find yourself sunk into the middle of your inflatable camping mat when you wake up in the morning: not ideal.
This model by Foxelli is auto inflating: no pump or equipment is needed to set up your pad. Simply twist the valve open, unroll the pad and it will inflate all by itself. You can add an extra couple of puffs into the valve if you want even firmer support.
But it’s also made of foam! So this model combines the best of two options: giving you the support you need on your back while you sleep, and having an auto inflate option for ease. It’s also hard for this product to leak air, with its military-grade, heavy-duty, polyester thermal fabric guarantees there is no air leakage and you get a durable, waterproof, insulated, abrasion and tear-resistant, all-season sleeping pad.
Another benefit of this air mattress for first-time campers is that it’s lightweight and compact, making it really easy to fold up small and take with you hiking or backpacking. This sleeping mat weighs only 2.42 lbs, and packs down to an incredibly small size (6” x 12.7”).
When inflated, it becomes large enough (24.61” x 72.05” x 0.98”) to fit adults comfortably, making this option the king of versatility. They even have an option of design which looks like a galaxy: a cool option to take with you to a festival, or use this as a sitting pad to hang out with your friends around the campfire.
- Lightweight and compact
- Auto inflation and foam support
- Not as light as some other options
- Not suitable for very tall adults.
4. STADELHORN Titanium Minimalist Wood Stove Ultralight 100% Pure Titanium
- 100% PURE TITANIUM — Our camping stove is made of pure Titanium which makes it stronger than stainless steel, while being half the weight. Weighs only 7.3 oz versus 14.5 oz for similar sized steel...
This camping stove by Stadelhorn is a simple, chic design, made from a cube-like shape of sheets of titanium. Its slot-in design makes it really easy to assemble, light and portable for carrying while you’re hiking, and makes the stove sturdy as you’re cooking on it. One of the benefits of this model being made from titanium is that it’s stronger than stainless steel, while being half the weight, weighing only 7.3 oz versus 14.5 oz for similar-sized steel models.
Titanium is also more durable, strong, and more shatter-resistant than steel while being able to withstand higher and lower temperature extremes. Furthermore, it’s non-corrosive, non-magnetic, and rustproof. But the most important thing is its weight, this is a great option of a stove for portability. It folds down to the size of a cell phone, so you can even carry it in your pocket!
There are three fuel types used in camping stoves: solid fuel camping stoves, liquid fuel stoves, and canister gas stoves. With canister gas stoves, you are more likely to get a strong, reliable source of heat. Solid fuel camping stoves, like this model from Stadelhorn, are often intended for very light duties such as boiling water, and are relatively simple to use, except in high winds when they become nearly useless.
Although it might be more unreliable than gas stoves, there are some benefits to using stoves like this one. Firstly, your fuel source is unlimited. Unlike many other camping stoves that use alcohol or bulky propane canisters, you can simply use kindling like wood, twigs, leaves or branches as a fuel source for this product. This allows you access to unlimited fuel while also saving valuable space in your backpack, perfect for camping beginners as it keeps your trips, and checklist, less complicated!
- 7.3 oz
- Constructed from 100% titanium
- Woodburning stove: environmentally friendly
- Fits in your pocket
- Solid fuel camping stove: less burning power
- Better for boiling water than cooking food.
- Single burner
Food and water
For your first camping trips, don’t worry about investing in a cooler if you don’t already have one. Instead, take a look here at some non-perishable foods you can take with you camping. For food, you might want to take with you some large containers, for washing your dishes and your person on camp, if there are no showers any your campsite.
Cooking dishes and eating dishes
Remember to take some cookware like pots and pans, if you’re planning to cook, and some plastic plates and bowls to eat from. You should also remember cutlery. If you’re aiming to save space in your backpack, then we would recommend taking with you a camping spork.
Some extra kit you will definitely need include a torch, headlamp, first aid kit including all your necessary medications, bug spray, sunscreen and toothbrush, and toilet paper. We would also recommend bringing some extra tarp, to create a dry shelter in your camp if it rains. To keep your clothes and belongings clean and separated in your backpack, we would also recommend bringing lots of zip-locked bags.
We’ve reviewed for you our winners for beginners, of tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and fire sources. For your first trip camping, these are the bare camping essentials you will need. These are our top recommendations for camping gear for beginners.
We hope that after your first couple of trips camping, you’re fully converted to the joys of the great outdoors! As you start to venture out into nature more regularly, you’ll start to invest in more and better camping equipment such as portable showers or heaters, or more hiking equipment like hiking boots or a paracord bracelet.
If you’re going car camping, it’s easy to take everything you could possibly need. To avoid overburdening yourself, start with our recommendations for the basics you’ll need for camping as beginners, and then just add the necessary kit you need for each new journey, to avoid overburdening yourself.
Bonus tip: For some more useful tips on camping for beginners, check out this helpful video below!