Klittle1983

New Member
Camping is like staying in a primitive cabin, minus the cabin itself. So, in addition to your tent, pack as though you’re going to stay someplace where there’s little or no furniture, no electricity, no stove or refrigerator, and the cupboards are bare. In a developed campground you will have running water and a community bathroom a few hundred yards away. A typical campsite has a table (if not, you’ll want to bring one), a place to park a car and a place to pitch a tent.

You can keep your initial investment low if you borrow or rent the priciest items—the tent and your sleeping bags and pads. That’s a better strategy than paying bottom dollar for something that might not even last for a single camping trip. That said, if you are ready to invest in your very own camping gear, here are a few tips to help you decide exactly what to buy.

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The tent
: If your budget can go a little bigger, then go bigger with your tent: A 3-person tent gives a cozy couple a little extra breathing room, and a family of four can more easily achieve harmony in a 6-person tent. You can also check the tent’s peak height if you want a tent that you can stand up in (that can make getting dressed and moving around easier to do). Vestibules outside the doors are nice for stowing muddy shoes and having two doors can help you avoid climbing over sleeping tentmates for late-night bathroom breaks. For a deeper dive into tent factors, read How to Choose a Camping Tent.
Tip: Practice setting up your tent at home first. And don’t forget a properly sized footprint—if you have a ground sheet that's too small, it won't fully protect your tent floor, and if you have one that's too big, it can catch rainwater and pool it underneath your tent.


The sleeping bag
: When selecting your bag, temperature rating is a good place to start. If you’re planning on only going fair-weather camping, a summer bag is probably all you’ll need, but a 3-season bag will give you more leeway for unpredictable shoulder-season weather. If you’re always cold (or always hot), adjust accordingly. And no need to go with a super-snug mummy bag like backpackers use, when a rectangular camping bag will give your body more room to roam. To learn more, read How to Choose a Camping Bag.

The sleeping pad
: A good sleeping pad is like the mattress on a bed, but it also has high-tech insulation to prevent you from losing body heat on the cold ground. Big air mattresses, like what your guests sleep on at home, might look temptingly plush, but their lack of insulation will likely leave you feeling cold. Take a look at specs when comparing sleeping pads—if one is thicker, longer or wider and has a higher insulation value (known as the R-value) — it will be more comfortable and warmer. For more details, read How to Choose a Sleeping Pad. Prefer to be off the ground? Bring a cot as well.
Tip: Set your tent, bag and pad up early, so you don’t have to do it in the dark.

Lighting: Campsites don’t have illumination, so you have to bring your own. A flashlight is OK, but a headlamp frees up your hands for camp tasks. A lantern is nice for ambient light. (You can also build a campfire, but watch for fire restrictions.) Our articles How to Choose a Headlamp and How to Choose a Lantern will give you a few shopping tips.
Stove: A classic two-burner propane camp stove should do the trick. You won’t spend a fortune and you can cook breakfast and prepare your morning brew at the same time. Bring at least a couple of fuel canisters and a lighter, and fire it up once at home to be sure you know how it works.
Cooler: You might already have one and it will probably work just fine. Just be sure you have enough capacity for your perishable food and a few cold ones, along with enough ice to keep ‘em that way. Some newer coolers with extra thick insulation (like these from YETI) make ice last quite a bit longer, though you’ll pay more for them.
Pots, plates, cups and sporks: You gotta bring everything necessary for food prep and consumption. You can raid your home kitchen, just don’t bring the fine china. And, unless you plan to take dirty dishes home, you’ll need a scrubber, biodegradable soap, a towel and a small washtub or two (one for dirty, one for clean).
Tip: Pack all your kitchen gear in a large clear plastic bin with a lid. It’s easy to store away at home and everything will be ready next time you want to camp.


Camp Chairs
: These are optional if you can sit at the camp picnic table, but downtime will be a little more enjoyable when you have a comfy place to perch. (And a hammock is even better, especially for afternoon naps.)
Tip: Mesh camp chairs let water drain easily and they dry quickly if left out in the rain or morning dew.

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