It pays to be prepared. And when heading off for a camping trip, that means packing the right things. Here’s our list of camping essentials.
A tent belongs first on any list of essential camping equipment. Sleeping under the stars is an option, but 99% of the time you’ll want shelter. When buying one, you should consider the following: size (get one ‘person’ size bigger than you’ll think you’ll need), the quality of the waterproofing, which can be identified by the HH number, build quality, and the number of compartments. You can find out everything you need to know about buying a tent in our article, Best Value Family Tents for 2020.
Another absolute essential. A nice thick sleeping bag will keep you warm when nights get chilly and can always be unzipped when they don’t.
Camping mat or airbed
When camping, an extra layer of comfort makes all the difference. You’ll likely get a better night’s sleep on an airbed, but they require a pump to inflate and are not puncture-proof. Camping mats are comfier than they look and there’s nothing to go wrong.
If you want, you can get a flashy inflatable camping pillow. But an old traditional one from home or even just an old pillowcase stuffed with clothes will work just as well if not better.
Tent guide ropes can make night trips to the loo treacherous affairs – unless you have something to light your way that is. Lanterns are more versatile than torches, and the clever gadgets that can function as lanterns or torches are better still.
For Eating and Drinking
You can boil, stew, or fry anything in a decent-sized pot. An inexpensive one is all you need.
Made from metal or reusable plastic. If you value your nice silverware, leave it at home.
Again, choose one that’s made of metal or reusable plastic. A bowl can do everything a plate can, but the same isn’t true vice versa.
A tin mug
Or a plastic one.
You can cook on open fires and some campsites allow deposable barbeques. But cooking with a portable gas camping stove will often be your easiest option. Make sure you bring at least one spare gas canister.
A water carrier or a big bottle
This will save you running back and forth from the nearest campsite tap.
A cool bag or an icebox
This one is optional. They’re a good idea if you intend to take a supply of perishables or want to keep your beer and wine cool.
Layers that can be easily carried, put on and taken off are the key to maintaining a comfortable body temperature both at camp and while off on an excursion. Fleeces fit the bill perfectly. Wear old clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty or a little roughed up.
Rain can be the scourge of a camping trip, but only for those who come unprepared for it. A decent waterproof (and if you’re buying one, double-check it really is waterproof) is the easiest way to prevent unforeseen weather from dampening your trip. If the sky looks a temperamental shade of grey, make sure you remember to carry it with you when you head off for the day. Always keep a spare change of dry clothes at camp as a ‘just in case.’
Not trainers, boots. Especially if you’re planning lots of hiking. Proper walking boots offer long-range comfort, support, and protection that you simply don’t get from trainers.
Spare socks and underwear
This goes without saying. But the last thing you want is to arrive at your campsite and think ‘oops! I know what I forgot…’ Pack more than you think you’ll need.
Comfy trousers or shorts
If you are going to be doing a lot of walking, the comfort of your legs should be a priority.
Health & Hygiene
First aid kit
Accidents can happen, and you’ll want a supply of antiseptic cream and plasters just in case one does.
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Easily forgotten, and you won’t want to be without them. Pack any deodorant and face creams you may need too.
Your campsite will almost certainly provide loo roll but It’s always a good idea to have your own backup supply.
Again, it’s always a good idea to bring your own supply.
Sunglasses and sunscreen
Brilliant golden bright sunshine does grace the UK, and, despite what the naysayers would have you believe, not all that infrequently. You might even find yourself out in it all day. If you’re taking babies or young children also think about bringing sun block and sun hats.
Multi-tool or Swiss army knife
Why bring a knife, a can opener, scissors, and a bottle opener when you can bring all these things in one handy tool?
A mallet makes securing tent guide rope pegs much easier, especially if the ground is a bit tough.
Lighter or matches
An essential if you’re planning to light a fire.
Many campsites – smaller ones in particular – prefer cash payment. Cash machines can be few and far between in remote camping areas.
The most comfortable way to carry food, water, and whatever else you need for your day’s excursion from camp is a backpack.
Best brought only as a safety precaution in the unlikely event of an emergency. Bring an external battery and a charger too.
Foldaway camping chairs are easy to pack and very comfortable on sit on.
That’s the essentials. Make sure you’ve got them ticked off and you’ll be well on your way to ensuring comfort and peace of mind wherever your next camping trip takes you. If you want to push the boat out and impress your camping buddies, you’ll find hi-tech extras in our article, Five of the Best Essential Camping Gadgets.
Here’s a parting tip: army surplus stores are fantastic places to find robust and great-value versions of many items mentioned in this article.