Camping list for 1st time campers
Essential camping gear
You’ve been invited to go camping, (your first camping trip), and now you need to know what camping gear, (and other stuff) to bring.
The BIG question – “What do I need to go camping?”
What kind of clothes? How many changes? Hiking boots or sneakers? Sleeping bags, backpacks, flashlights and knives? What about camp food, and stoves, and pots and pans? And on and on, it seems the list is endless.
Relax, take a breath … The basic list for a weekend camping trip is easy, and you just add to it as the specifics of your trip require.
The weekend camping trip …
The most common first-time camping invitation is for a weekend camping trip – Friday afternoon to Sunday afternoon, and the person doing the inviting usually has most of the necessary tents, campsite gear, and camping equipment for cooking. And they usually have the food figured out too, (although you may be expected to chip in on the expense), so you just need camping gear for yourself.
Your camping gear list:
|(the bare-bones essentials)|
*Note – the least expensive options are discussed. If you are sure you will continue camping, it would be better to look more closely at better-rated equipment and gear. Also, the shopping links are my own Amazon affiliate links – which I only use to recommend good-quality camping gear – Gus
Camping list details:
- Backpack/Duffel bag
You need something to carry your gear in. If you are RV or car camping, (you drive-up to the campsite), you can use a large duffel bag, but if it’s a hiking camping trip you need a backpack.
Unless there are specific requirements, like; hiking up a mountain; almost any of the typical inexpensive large backpacks will work for a first-timer. You won’t necessarily need all the bells & whistles; waist cinches, mesh outer pockets. But, if you want them – let your wallet be your guide.
- Sleeping bag
Unless you are camping in winter temperatures, a standard rectangular bag, (usually with a temperature rating of 30°), is all you need. If you have to buy one, a “starter” sleeping bag is usually in the $20 – $50 price range.
Sleeping pad (mat):
If you are tent camping, a sleeping pad is a must. It provides a cushion between you and the hard ground. And rocks, and sticks, and other pokey stuff. It also provides an insulation layer for cold weather camping.
For backpacking, (and for the cheapest option), the most common choice is a closed-cell sleeping pad. They are about 3/4″ thick and light-weight. Their price range is usually $9 – $15.
*If carry-weight isn’t a problem, and you expect to go camping again, and, your budget can handle an extra $20, you should definitely consider a self-inflating sleeping pad. You will quickly appreciate the softer two and a half inch cushion between you and the ground.
*See All about self-inflating sleeping pads.
- Pillow – a personal choice. Can you sleep well without one? Do you want to carry the extra bulk? (a rolled-up clothing bundle works well for a pillow)
- Flashlight – You will need your own flashlight. Most campers prefer the 2AA mini-mag flashlights,(with a belt sheath), but any type of personal-size flashlight will work. Just make sure it has new batteries.
- Water bottle – You will need your own water bottle. Especially if you will be hiking. You can just pick-up a bottle of water from the convenience store, and keep refilling it, but a better choice for camping and hiking use would be any metal or BPS-free bottles that have a ring on the cap or neck of the bottle. This allows you to use a carabiner clip to hang or hook it on your backpack or belt.
- Clothes – this is much more subjective, your choice depends on a lot of variables: what kind of weather will you be in, what activities are planned, (hiking, swimming, boating, etc.), and of course your personal preferences. Some folks must have clean clothes everyday, but a more typical camping scenario is the same clothes the first two days, and then fresh clothes on departure day.
But with your own adjustments, here are the basic clothing needs:
- 3 sets of clean under-garments – one to change into each night before bed, and one extra, just in case…
- 2 pairs of socks for each full camping day. (that would be 3 “packed” pairs for your weekend trip). *unless you know you will be in a wet environment or crossing streams and stuff – then bring extras.
- 3 shirts/tops – including the one you’re wearing on arrival. That means 2 packed shirts, one to wear on departure day, and one just in case.
- 3 pants/shorts/bottoms – including what you’re wearing on arrival. That means 2 packed pairs, one to wear on departure day, and one just in case. But, it is very important that at least one pair of bottoms be long pants.
- Outer garments – Of course your choice of; parkas, coats, jackets, and sweaters or sweatshirts are dependent on the temperatures you will be camping in, but even in warmer weather you should always take at least one sweater/sweatshirt, or light jacket. You would be surprised at how cool a camping evening can be, even after a hot day.
- Hats – a hat is a must-have when camping, even in warm temperatures. Cold weather means ear muffs, knit toboggans or fur caps.
- Hiking Boots/Shoes/Sneakers – Unless you know you will be in rough terrain, or doing a lot of hiking, a good pair of sneakers, (tennis shoes), will be fine. But if you know you will need hiking boots/shoes, it’s important to break them in before you go hiking in them! Long hikes in new boots will bring on more misery than you think.
If you do need hiking boots/shoes, consider just that – do you need boots or shoes? Hiking boots are generally a little heavier, and have a higher top, which gives better ankle support for hiking in uneven and rough conditions. If you don’t need that, then hiking shoes are a more comfortable choice. The prices vary a lot. You could spend as little as $35 for a good pair of hiking shoes – or as much as $250. Same for the boots. A fair rule of thumb id to expect to spend around $100.
- Camping toiletries – just the basics – you know what you need. The important part is to have them in a toilet kit, bag, or small stuff-sack.
- Towel(s) – Since most weekend campers don’t shower, they just take a hand towel. Make a decision, will you need a bath towel too?
- You can pack less if you forget the just in case items, or are comfortable wearing the same outer clothes all three days, (many weekend campers do), it’s up to you. Just make sure you have a clean set of under-garments to put on each night for sleeping.
- Even if you will be camping in hot, shorts and t-shirt weather, always bring a light jacket or sweater, and have at least one long sleeve shirt/top, and one pair of long pants/bottoms.
- If you will be camping in cold weather, this guide could be helpful: How to dress for winter camping.
Almost essential camping gear list:
|Nice-to have items|
A Camping Gear Wishlist
Here is a wish list selection of camping gear for new campers. Just pick the items you need, in the price range you want, and get the complete package with just a few clicks.
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Camping equipment for new campers
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