Plan

Even More Must-Have Gear for New Campers

When embarking on a camping trip, the planning process can be an intimidating one, especially for newbies. But with a list of basic essentials, it’s surprisingly easy to have a successful and seamless trip that won’t break the bank or overload your car — or backpack. Here are some must-have gear for new campers.

1. Tent Stakes

Most campers, whether you’re a novice or a seasoned pro, know that tents are requisite, but don’t forget the tent accessories! One of the foremost tent essentials, and something that could easily get overlooked, is tent stakes. The last thing you want is an unstable tent prone to flapping in the wind — or getting blown away entirely. After you’ve decided on a tent, make sure and round it out with however many tent stakes will be required. They’re lightweight and easy to use, especially when you bring along a hammer…

2. Hammer

Once you’ve got those aforementioned stakes in tow, you’d be wise to bring along a hammer or a mallet of some sort. The earth is almost always tougher than you might think, and it can be downright impossible to shove stakes into the ground deep enough and firm enough to properly secure your tent. This is where a hammer or a mallet will come in mighty handy and make a world of difference. Your best bet is a portable aluminum hammer that’s particularly designed for camping, as it’s much lighter than your standard hammer.

Headlamps are great for camping

4. Headlamp

In general, a good rule of thumb for new campers is to keep things as lightweight and easy-to-carry as possible. This is true for lighting equipment, too. Don’t bring along heavy-duty flashlights; instead, stick with headlamps. They’re easy to pack and easy to carry around with you at all times, since they can be stored in backpacks or large pockets. After the campfire has dwindled, they’ll make it easy to comfortably navigate your campsite and get settled in your tent. And they’re especially nifty if you need a bathroom break in the middle of the night.

Bluetooth Lantern - BioLite

5. Lantern

Similarly, small and lightweight camp lamps and lanterns will be a huge boon for your campsite. Since campfires only provide a certain amount of glow, lanterns that can be situated on picnic tables will make it much easier to eat or snack after sunset, or to stay up late playing cards. Of course, whichever lantern you spring for, be sure and purchase any necessary batteries to accompany it.

6. Camp Chairs

Speaking of picnic tables, those things aren’t always the most comfortable, nor are they a guarantee in every site. For those reasons, you might want to bring along a couple foldable camp chairs. Whether you’re sitting around during the day, or roasting s’mores at night, folding chairs come in all shapes and sizes, and go a long way in terms of simple luxury. If you’re going camping someplace where you can easily drive directly to your campsite, it’ll be especially easy to bring along some camp chairs without having to lug them in a heavy backpack.

7. Portable Stove

One of the most fun aspects of camping is cooking around the fire, and since you likely won’t want to prepare all your meals via s’mores sticks, a portable stove will make it much easier to prepare a wider assortment of items. Stick with an easy single-burner camp stove to make things as handy as possible, and enable you to cook quintessential fireside meals like beans, rice, and soup, not to mention the all-important pot of coffee. Depending on which type of stove you opt for, be sure and stock up on the right fuel as well, be it gas or propane.

8. Pots and Pans

Now that you’ve got the stove ready to go, add some basic kitchen wares like frying pans and boiling pots. You likely won’t need anything too bulky or heavy, so stick with small-sized items, that way they’ll not only alleviate the extra weight, but you’ll still be able to throw together dinner with relative ease.

9. Utensils & Plateware

With the stove and pans accounted for, the final piece of the kitchen puzzle is the utensils and plates. This is all pretty straightforward, but you’d be remiss not to come supplied with reusable forks, knives, spoons, bowls, cups, and plates, which will have you covered for pretty much anything. For knives, it helps to have some options, like a butter knife and sharper knives, the latter of which are particularly useful for meal prep.

10. Water Bottles

These are smart go-to items to have on hand for any outdoor activity really, but water bottles will certainly be requisite gadgets for any camping trip. No matter if you’re planning on doing a lot of hikes during the day or not, having refillable water bottles make it easy for campers to stay hydrated and organized at the same time. Pro tip: refill your water bottle before heading into the tent for the night. There’s nothing more uncomfortable than waking up parched in the middle of the night and having to scramble around the campsite.

11. Trash Bags

When out on a camping trip, it’s vital to leave things better than you found them. This means leaving your campsite as clean — or cleaner — as it was when you arrived. And for this, that means coming with a supply of trash bags. Whether the campground has dumpsters you can throw your trash in or not, you’ll want to ensure that you’re properly disposing of any trash you accumulate, even if it means carrying it out with you when you leave. It also helps to separate your trash bags from your recycling bags, so make sure that you clearly delineate.

12. Toiletry Kits

While some campgrounds come fully loaded with convenient bathroom and shower facilities, one thing you’ll need to bring yourself is a toiletry kit, along with bathroom basics like towels, toothpaste, and a toothbrush. Other amenities like a hairbrush, shampoo, and soap won’t be as pivotal, but if you a sizable enough toiletry kit, by all means add it to the supply.

13. Sunscreen & Bug Spray

When it comes to simple comforts, sunscreen and bug spray go a long way. If you’re camping in a warm and/or humid climate, these will be especially pertinent, but really no matter what the forecast looks like, you’re better safe than sorry. There’s nothing worse than swatting away mosquitos while attempting to enjoy yourself by the fire, or nursing a nasty sunburn while you’re trying to settle in for the night.

14. First-aid Kit

Another crucial tool to bring along is a first-aid kit, because again, you’re better safe than sorry. These come in all shapes and sizes, but a small kit with a few basics (like band-aids, aloe, bandages, balm, etc.) should do the trick for most first-time campers embarking on a weekend trip. Of course, if you’re hoofing it into the remote backcountry for an extended voyage, you may want to invest in something a little more intensive, but as long as you have a basic first-aid supply, you should be covered.


Born and raised in New Hampshire, Matt Kirouac grew up with a love for camping and the outdoors. Though he’s lived in Chicago since 2006, he’s always on the lookout for new adventures. He writes about travel and food for outlets like TripExpert, Money Inc, Upventur, DiningOut, Food Fanatics magazine, Plate Magazine and Zagat, and he currently serves as Chicago editor for What Should We Do?! He’s the author of The Hunt Guides: Chicago (2016) and Unique Eats & Eateries of Chicago (2017).


Thinking about trying camping for the first time? Here are some essential gear items you might want to consider purchasing before you head out for you first camping trip.

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