What is the Best Outdoor Camping Equipment?

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best camping gearGet your gear on, with the best camping gear, let’s go!
Image: Ross Harmes / CC BY


Four years ago, David hit on the idea that he needed to spend more time with his three boys. He used to love the outdoors but since settling down with a family and working a full-time day job, he hasn’t had time to go out much. With kids growing up too fast, he realized he needed to get some bonding time together soon.

His solution? Camping.

Camping below Kendrick Peak

Camping below Kendrick Peak (Photo credit: Al_HikesAZ)


He can introduce his children to something he used to love and get some quality time with them to boot. Sounded like a good plan.

Except he was really more of the hike-by-day, home-by-night kinda guy before. So actually camping out really was a whole different ballgame. But nevertheless, they’re all men! They can handle the challenge of the wild, right? Never mind that his kids were 8, 10 and 13 respectively. Wife wisely chose to stay home.

So they lugged a 10×12 second-hand tent he bought from a thrift shop and decided against cooking and brought some water and sandwiches from the house. All the way to one of the state parks to spend the night.

The park itself was pleasant, with a lake and some trees. The experience was not.

That night, winds suddenly came from the lake in force and drastically dropped the temperature. To say it was chilly was an understatement. They spent the night huddled together, his youngest too scared of the howling wind. Their ancient tent was almost ripped off the ground twice. And when they broke camp at 6am the next morning, no one can find the sandwiches. They were just gone. So tired and hungry, David and his boys went home.

Was that disaster the end of their outdoor shenanigans? Heck no. If anything, it just sparked the adventure bone in his children. Fast forward four years and they’re still at it, sometimes his wife comes along, too.
And they have significantly gotten better at the whole camping preparation, too. He now bring some of the best camping gear that makes the experience better.

Gearing Up – The Essentials – The Best Camping Gear

It’s taken David just one trip to realize that camping is more than pitching a tent and packing sandwiches.

Since then he has created a checklist of the camping gear they need for whenever they head out. First on the list? Well, that honor still belong to the tent, of course.

outdoor camping tentHome away from home
Image: Oleh Slobodeniuk / CC BY

The First Thing You Need Is A Good Tent

A tent is important because that’s what will shield you from the elements – wind, sun, rain, even snow. It also keeps outdoor pests away like flies and mosquitoes. At one point, and with weather permitting, you might want to sleep under the stars. But sooner or later, you’ll still need a camping tent.

So what do you look for in one?

1. Size

There are tents big enough to fit 2 or 6 people. But here’s a tip: always buy a tent that has a capacity rated two people higher than the number that will actually use it. So, if there’s just 2 of you, buy a 4-person tent. This way, you have a bit more elbow room to store your gear and supplies.

Be aware though that bigger also means heavier. And if you’re backpacking, that could really matter.

2. Features

Now that you’ve figured out the size you want, here’s what you want to look out for in terms of features:

  • Aluminum poles – fiberglass ones are prone to breakage
  • Adequate rainfly – for water-proofing your tent
  • Folded seams
  • Double stitching
  • One piece tub floor – no seam means no water coming in
  • Adequate guy lines – so your tent doesn’t go flapping in the wind
  • Good sized stake loops
  • Noseeum meshing – to keep the bugs out
  • Roof vent – for air circulation
  • Heavy duty zippers

Here are a few suggestions for some quality tents:

  • The North Face Docking Station – roughly the size of a small office with an option to add 2- or 4-person additions for even more space! It has the advantage of a quick set-up and is highly flexible.
  • REI Half Dome 2 – fits 2 people, it’s a 3-season tent. It only weighs 5.5 pounds. The real clincher? You can get it for less than $180.
  • MSR Carbon Reflex 2 – one of the lightest 2 person, 3 season tents around. It’s a bit expensive but if you want fast and light, it’s a definite must-have.

camping sleeping bagSleeping bag – babies optional.
Image: pixydust8605 / CC BY

Best Sleeping Bags and Pads

You don’t really want your back going uncushioned against the hard ground. So some type of padding is essential. Inflatable pads and closed-cell pads work really well. You also need to get yourself a sleeping bag.

A few things about those sleeping bags:

  • Goose down is good insulation for dry weather, but loses that ability when wet.
  • Synthetic materials (hollofil, quallofil, etc) are reliable insulators even when wet
  • 3 pounds of synthetic insulation should be good for temperatures ranging +25˚ to +35˚
  • 0˚ weather requires a cold weather sleeping bags with 4-5 lbs of insulation

Here are a few of the best sleeping bags in the market today:

cooking over a fireA whole new level to “dining out”
Image: Wisconsin DNR / CC BY-ND

Campfire Cooking Supplies

Because no one really enjoys starving.

Not much of a cook? Well, don’t worry. You can always just buy a Coleman and get by on drinks, sandwiches and snacks.

If you’re more adventurous and would actually like to try your hand at cooking at the great outdoors, you’d be happy to know that many campgrounds provide a grill and picnic table. So just a bag of charcoal and a spatula is enough to get you ready to toss a few burgers together.

Or, you can invest in your own grill. Coleman PerfectFlow Insta Start Grill Stove is easy to use and pack if you’re car camping. So is the GSI Outdoors Pinnacle Camper Outdoor Cook Set. Both would just set you back by a hundred dollars or so.

If you’re backpacking, try the Jet Boil Sol Ti Premium. It’s an all-in-one system – stove, bowl, and cooking vessel that only weighs 8.5 ounces.

Once you’ve gotten the essentials out of the way, you might want to think about your other gear.

The Other Stuff

camping is funKeep calm and camp on…
Image: Wisconsin DNR / CC BY-ND

You can’t hardly go and camp in your usual attire and carrying a gym bag, can you? Here are a few more items you have to consider getting for the ultimate camping trip.

  1. Jackets – to keep the winds off your back. North Face, First Ascent and Marmont carry some good ones.
  2. Adequate footwear – for hiking. FiveTen 5/10 Dome is a light hiker the ladies might like. While Scarpa’s Gecko Guide is light enough for trail runners without losing its stickiness.
  3. GPS – so you don’t lose your way
  4. Backpack – a good one is lightweight and allows the air to circulate in your back
  5. Survival tool kit
  6. Flashlight

There is a ton of other stuff you can get to make the trip a bit more comfortable. There’s actually a pocket shower system you can hang from a tree anywhere that would allow you a warm shower. Or a solar charger if you can’t leave your phone, and technology, behind even for a couple of days. Sea to Summit even sells a portable sink.

Camping can be fun and relaxing. It’s a great way to get in tune with nature. It’s also a good way to build some bonds with people.

But it can be a nightmare of epic proportions if you go unprepared. So, before releasing yourself into the wild, make sure you gear up properly with the best camping gear. And prepare to have the adventure of your life.