What Do I Need to go Camping?
Camping is one of the most rewarding and special experiences you’ll ever have – providing you bring all of the right equipment! There’s nothing more exciting than feeling ‘at one’ with nature, setting up camp away from civilization and enjoying the peace and quiet that Mother Nature offers. Whether you’re camping with family members, friends or a significant other, camping is a fantastic way to spend quality time together and strip away all of the stresses and strains of modern life.
In this, the Ultimate Camping Guide, you’ll find camping tips and information about everything you could possibly need to make a success of your camping trip. From the simple essentials, such as your tent and sleeping bag, to the added extras that will make your trip comfortable, like gadgets and toiletries, this guide contains a comprehensive list of all the camping gear you could ever need. Are you ready to go back to basics and enjoy an unforgettable camping trip with your loved ones?
Sleeping and Shelter
You’ll never experience a fun, enjoyable camping trip if your shelter is inadequate and your sleep is uncomfortable. That’s why it’s so important to have the right equipment for your trip. In this section, you’all find information on choosing a tent, selecting a sleeping bag, and remembering to pack all the added extras that will make your camp comfortable for all.
1· The tent
Camping is all about the tent, and there are many things you should consider before you invest in one. How many people does your tent need to accommodate? This will dictate how large the tent needs to be – or how many separate tents you need to buy. Will you be driving or cycling to the campsite? This will dictate how heavy and bulky the tent can be when it’s all packed up. Do you have plenty of time to pitch the tent, or are you looking for a simpler option, which pops up on demand? This will help narrow down your options further. Once you’ve answered these questions, you should be in a better position to choose the right tent for your needs. There are so many options on the market nowadays, from basic one-man ridge tents to ‘pod’ tents which can be connected with others to create a small camping village of sorts – you’ll certainly have plenty to choose from, with options for every budget range. Read our tent buying guide for help on choosing the right option for your trip.
2· Groundsheet or Tarp
Laying a groundsheet before you pitch your tent will give you another layer of protection between yourself and the floor – ideal if you’re pitching somewhere that could be waterlogged or damp.
3· Spare tent pegs and a mallet
Having a few extra tent pegs will give you added peace of mind while pitching and putting the tent away. A mallet speeds up the pitching process.
4· Camp Bed, Air Mattress or Sleeping Mat
You’ll need to bring something to sleep on which will fit inside your tent. An air mattress is a good option for those who have plenty of room in their car or caravan, while camp beds are also comfortable and help keep campers elevated off the floor. Sleeping mats can be rolled up and are perfect for backpackers or cyclists. It’s worth spending a little more on your camping mattress – you’ll be thankful for the added comfort after a long day out in the countryside!
5· Sleeping bag
As well as your mattress, you’ll need a sleeping bag to keep you warm during the nights, when it can get quite cold.
Some sleeping bags come with a pillow included, but if yours doesn’t, you should invest in a comfortable pillow for your trip. If you need to save space and can’t really carry a pillow, you can stuff some of your clothing into an empty pillowcase to create one of your own.
When camping, you can’t always guarantee that you’ll return to your tent with clean shoes. Bring a mat where you can leave your footwear, so that you don’t trek mud throughout your sleeping space.
8· Camping chairs / table
Bringing a camping chair is a great idea, as it allows you to sit outside of your tent and make the most of the Great Outdoors. A table will also help you when preparing and eating meals.
9· Equipment for repairs
Cooking While Camping
There’s nothing quite like sitting around a campfire with your loved ones, toasting marshmallows, cooking a fry-up or throwing together a delicious meal made from ingredients that you found growing wild near the campsite. But if you’re going to be cooking while camping, you need to make sure you have all the right equipment, from the pots and pans to the washing-up liquid. Here’s our comprehensive list…
Complete with fuel supply. You won’t be cooking every meal over a campfire – you’ll certainly need a camping stove and a propane canister to ensure you have access to hot meals.
You can buy portable, disposable barbecues which are ideal if you’re only camping for one evening and want to pack light.
12. Pots and pans
Try to ensure these have lids, or you’ll end up with aphids and flies in your stew!
13. Charcoal and Firelighters
·Having charcoal and firelighters if you’re planning to cook over a campfire with you will make life easier when starting a fire, especially if it is wet.
You can use disposable plastic utensils to save time on the washing up.
13. A kettle
If you like a cup of tea or coffee in the morning, a portable camping kettle is a must for some home comforts.
14. A Can Opener
If you’re camping for a long period, most of the food you’ll be eating will come from cans and tins – so you’ll need a quality opener to ensure you can get into them!
15. Bottle Opener
If you want to enjoy a bottle of wine or a beer around the fire, you’ll need a bottle opener, complete with corkscrew.
16. A selection of Mixing Bowls
Some camping recipes only call for one pan – but for others, you’ll need to mix ingredients separately. A selection of different-sized mixing bowls should suffice.
17. Some Form of Cooking Oil
Olive oil, sunflower oil, rapeseed oil – it’s all a matter of taste. Just make sure you pack one, or you will risk burning your meal to the bottom of your pan.
18. A Thermos.
· You can warm up some soup and keep it with you all day, or enjoy a hot cup of tea on-the-go with a quality flask.
19. Tea towels or an oven glove
You’ll need something to help you handle the hot pots and pans – we recommend a tea towel or an oven glove.
If you have leftovers, you can pack them into Tupperware and take them with you for nourishing sustenance throughout the day. You can also use the Tupperware as a substitute for plates or bowls.
21. Washing-up Liquid and Supplies
Try to ensure this is eco-friendly. You should also bring a scourer or something to scrub your pots and pans with.
22. Bin Bags
Bring plenty of bags to dispose of your food waste and unrecyclable rubbish.
23. Food and Drinks!
Obviously, these are vital. Canned foods are great for camping, and you can also pick up specialist camping foods from outdoor shops. These include dehydrated meals, energy gels and cereal bars. If you’re lucky enough to be camping near a shop, you might not need to bring so much food with you initially.
24. Condiments and herbs
The sachets of ketchup and mayonnaise you find in cafes or fast food restaurants are especially great for camping trips. You should also bring some salt, pepper, garlic granules and other herbs in small containers to add flavour to your meals.
25. A Cutting Board and a Sharp Knife
If you’re preparing meat or other fresh food on your camping tip, you’ll need a surface on which you can safely chop them, and a knife sharp enough to get the job done. It’s best to bring a separate knife for food preparation – you could use your multi-tool or Swiss army knife, but you risk contaminating the food with any bacteria that may have come into contact with the blade as you’ve used it. Read our UK knife law guide.
Without the right clothes on a camping trip, you could end up seriously cold, or unbearably hot. Camping is unpredictable, so it’s always best to bring an assortment of different types of clothing, so you can layer up or change as necessary. Here are just a few of the things you should be bringing with you…
12. Pots and pans
26. Walking Boots
If you’re going to be clomping around muddy fields or exploring the natural environment, you’ll need a good pair of sturdy, waterproof boots which will protect your feet throughout.
27. Waterproof Clothing For Camping
If you’re camping in the UK, you’ll certainly need to bring waterproof layers with you, even if you’re camping in the middle of summer. You never know when a downpour could occur, and you don’t want to be caught without rain protection.
28. Warm Socks
Several pairs. Thick socks are ideal to wear under walking boots, which are quite heavy and can rub around the ankles. They’re also perfect for wearing at night when the temperatures dip.
29. Warm Fleece or Jumper
Perfect for chilly evenings and mornings preparing breakfast, a warm and cosy fleece or jumper is a must on any camping trip.
30. Two Pairs of Trousers
If one pair gets muddy or wet, you can always swap to another pair of waterproof trousers. These should be comfortable and able to keep you warm without needing to wear leggings or long johns underneath
31. Spare Underwear
Take as many pairs of underwear as there are days in your trip – then add a few more pairs, just in case. You can never have too much underwear with you on a camping trip, and it’s not heavy or bulky enough to take up room in your backpack.
32. Flip Flops
If you’re camping at a site which has showers, you’ll probably want to take some flip-flops with you. The floors of communal showers don’t tend to be the most hygienic places, and you could be putting yourself at risk of getting a verruca if you go without footwear.
If you’re going somewhere particularly wet and muddy, a pair of comfortable wellies will be the perfect complement to your walking boots, ensuring your feet are always protected from mud and rain.
Always bring a hat with you, whether you’re camping in summer or winter. In summer, a baseball cap can help keep the sun out of your eyes and your hair off your face, while a bobble hat or a trapper hat will keep your ears warm in winter.
35. Scarves & Gloves, if Necessary
If you’re camping in winter, come prepared with scarves and gloves to keep warm while you’re outside the tent.
36. Something to Sleep in
This will depend entirely on the weather, and your own personal preference. Onesies are a great investment for those who go camping during the colder months, but light cotton shorts and a t-shirt may be a better option for summer campers.
37. Assorted T-shirts, Vests and Other Layers
If you bring three or four different tops with you, you can layer them up depending on the temperature. Try to stick with natural fibres, or moisture-wicking materials which won’t smell if you wear them for too long!
38. Swimming Gear
If your campsite has access to a pool, or even if there’s the potential for wild swimming in a local lake, you’ll need a swimming costume or trunks.
Microfiber towels are the best bet on this front – they’re much thinner and smaller than regular bathroom towels, and they soak up moisture much faster. A real camping essential.
Toiletries and First Aid
You might enjoy the feeling of being ‘at one’ with nature, but you still need to maintain good standards of personal hygiene! Toiletries are an essential part of your camping kit – and you’ll need a fully-stocked First Aid kit too, in case of an accident or injury. The last thing you need is to be disturbing other campers for a plaster or some antiseptic if you hurt yourself! Here’s what you should be packing…
40. Plenty of Toilet Roll
When nature calls, you need to be prepared! Most campsites have their own toilet blocks, but if you’re wild camping, you might need to find somewhere discreet to hang your toilet paper!
41. Wet Wipes
These will help with a multitude of things, from freshening up in the morning to removing light dirt and mud from your boots or tent.
42. Hand Sanitiser.
You’re going to be getting down and dirty while camping, so it’s important to have a hand sanitiser on standby, to remove the germs and bacteria from your hands before you cook or eat.
43. Toothpaste and Toothbrush
Just because you’re out in the wilderness, doesn’t mean you can neglect your dental hygiene! Folding toothbrushes are a good idea if you’re trying to save space – and you should try to ensure the toothbrush has a cap or a cover.
44. Shower Gel or Soap
The type of shower gel or soap you can bring will depend on where your shower is. If the campsite has a working indoor shower block, your regular shower gel from home should be fine. If the showers are more of an outdoor setup, you might need to consider bringing an eco-friendly soap that won’t harm the environment.
45. Comb or Hair Brush
If your hair is long enough to run your hands through, a hair brush will prevent it from becoming matted and tangled while you’re camping. For ladies, a selection of hair slides and ties will also be useful.
An all-purpose moisturiser is recommended to keep your kit minimal. Choose one which can be used to moisturise dry areas, as well as your face and hands if necessary. If left unchecked, dry skin can become cracked and painful, and this can really ruin a camping trip.
47. Sun Protection
A lotion with an appropriate SPF for the location you’re visiting is a must – even if you don’t think it’ll be that sunny. Remember that you’ll be outdoors most of the time, and that can take its toll on your skin. Applying a water resistant sunscreen is highly recommended.
You don’t want your tent to smell after you’ve slept in it!
· Make sure you get the waterproof options – they’re usually more hardwearing and durable than the regular kind.
Basic paracetamol and ibuprofen should do the trick.
51. Bandages and surgical tape
Larger wounds or sprains can be bandaged up and protected.
52. Insect Repellant
This is especially useful if you’re camping abroad – you don’t want swarms of mosquitoes in your tent every night!
53. Antihistamine Tablets
If your insect repellent fails and someone in your party gets bitten, an antihistamine tablet can help treat them if they have a bad reaction to it.
54. Muscle Rub or Deep Heat
If you’re a very active person and plan to spend your camping trip hiking, cycling, abseiling, rowing or any other demanding kind of exercise, bring plenty of deep heat or muscle rub to aid your recovery.
55. Antiseptic Cream
A must for cleaning cuts and wounds.
56. Personal Medications
If you’re currently on some medication, don’t forget to take it with you!
56. Hayfever Tablets or Decongestants
Some people can struggle when they’re outdoors in hayfever season – if you’re one of them, make sure you’ve got the medications that will help you breathe more easily.
57. Cotton Swabs and Balls
Vital for any First Aid kit, these will help as you’re cleaning up cuts and wounds.
Sunburn can really impact someone’s enjoyment of a trip – make sure you have enough aftersun on hand to help them if their sun lotion fails.
With any camping trip, there are lots of ‘odds and ends’ that are important to have in your pack. From torches and spare water bottles to string and a sewing kit, here are some of the most important ‘bits and bobs’ you should be packing.
12. Pots and pans
59. Torches and lights
A good idea is to bring some solar-powered lights to illuminate your small campsite. Leave them outdoors during the day, and they’ll provide a little light for you if you need to go to the toilet during the darker hours. You should also bring a selection of torches with different power sources, including battery-powered, solar-powered and wind-up. That way you’ll always have access to light, even if your juice is low. Head lamps are also a good idea, and a great way to reassure kids if you’re camping with them.
60. Multi-tool or Swiss army knife
A multi-tool is an important item to have with you when camping. They can help with everything from chopping food to undoing knots or opening bottles.
61. Lighter, Matches or Firelighters
If you’re cooking over an open fire, you need something to get the fire going! Store these carefully, especially the matches – if they get wet, they’ll be useless.
You never know when you might need to secure something with a piece of string – and it’s not like it’ll take up much room in your pack!
63. A Variety of Bags
A bum-bag or a cross-body satchel is a good place to store valuables (money, phone, passports, other documents), and you should also bring a smaller backpack if you’re planning to leave the site but don’t want to carry all of your belongings with you.
If you’re camping in the UK, you never know when you could be caught in the middle of a downpour!
66. Plastic Bags
You can use these to separate your dirty clothes from your clean ones, or to keep your damp towel and swimming costume away from your dry garments. Can also be used for collecting litter and ensuring you leave the campsite exactly as you found it.
67. Spare Water Bottles
You can never have enough water around a campsite! Bring enough water bottles for everyone to have a spare.
68. Sewing Kit
A basic needle, a selection of threads and a small pair of scissors can be very useful to have around. This can be used to fix zips or buttons back onto clothing, as well as fixing holes in sleeping bags or blankets.
Most smartphones have a compass function these days, but what if you’re out of battery? A compass is a handy item to have around if you’re trying to go ‘off-grid’. Additionally a handheld GPS is an excellent piece of equipment to have with you.
70. Guide Books or Maps of the Local Area
Just as important as a compass – you can use these to navigate and to find exciting things to do in the vicinity of the campsite.
With the digital world at our fingertips, there’s now an app for just about everything you can think of – even camping! Here are some of the best apps you should download to your smartphone or tablet before you set off for the campsite.
12. Pots and pans
71. Cookout Cookbook & Meal Planner
This iPhone app can help you figure out what food and utensils you need to bring with you, as well as offering plenty of inspiration when it comes to camping and cooking. You can plan your meals for the whole trip, and the app will even generate your shopping list for you!
72. Knot Behind
Whether you want to impress your friends with a complex knot, or whether you just want to know which knots will secure your tent most effectively, this app will help you learn how to tie each and every one of them, from hitches and binding knots to climbing knots and stopper knots.
This astronomy app will help you identify the stars in the night sky. Without the light pollution from nearby towns and cities, it’s likely that your campsite will have an amazing view of the stars, and this app helps you take advantage of that to help you discover which constellations are above your tent.
Geocaching is essentially a 21st century treasure hunt. Users can hide small items in the wilderness and tag their location with GPS coordinates. Using the app, you can then track down these items yourself! As mentioned, this app uses GPS, so if your phone signal is poor, you may want to wait until you reach an area with 3G or WiFi signal.
75. ASCI Europe
If you haven’t actually decided where you’re going to camp yet, this app will help. It’s basically a huge catalogue of all the campsites around Europe, with many of them having been inspected and verified by ASCI. To date, there are around 581 campsites listed in Great Britain and Ireland, and thousands more across Europe.
We’ve just about covered everything you should pack, and the apps you should download before you set off. Now for some general camping tips which should make your trip a lot easier!
- If you’re driving to your campsite, give your vehicle a good check over first. Make sure you’ve got plenty of fuel for the round trip, and ensure you have a spare tyre in case of emergencies.
- Try to arrive at your campsite with plenty of time to pitch your tent before the sun goes down. This should be easy during the summer months – you’ll have until at least 10pm before the light fades – but if you’re camping during spring or autumn, it’s worth making sure you arrive in good time. Pitching a tent in the dark is difficult, and you may wake in the morning to discover you’ve missed a peg or pitched it wrong!
- Most tents have some kind of window or vent to help with airflow – make sure you leave one slightly unzipped through the night to reduce moisture within the tent.
- Bring iodine packets with you to make sure any water you drink is safe. Most campsites have clean running water available, but if you find yourself needing to gather water yourself, you can sanitise the water with an iodine sachet and make sure you don’t pick up any illnesses.
- If you’ve purchased new hiking boots for the camping trip, keep a small bar of soap with you in your bum-bag or hiking backpack. Rub the soap on your heels and anywhere else you think your shoes might cause a blister – this will prevent your feet from getting sore.
- If you’re bringing matches to light your campfire, it’s important to prevent them from getting wet. Alternatively, you can waterproof them by dipping them in clear nail polish beforehand. They’ll still ignite just as easily (nail polish is flammable) and they’ll be protected from any moisture.
- Wrap personal items like a washcloth and your soap in tinfoil to keep other items in your kit dry.
- Camping equipment like tent heaters, a coolbox or camping fridge and a camping lantern will make the trip more comfortable.
- If you’re camping with a large party, or with children, practice a ‘fire drill’ with everyone in your camp, and ensure you have a system to prevent little ones from getting lost. Each child should have a torch or headlamp with them at all times, and should be drilled on what to do if they wander off and can’t find the rest of the group.
So there you have it – the ultimate guide to camping! If you follow this checklist and take our tips into account, you should have a successful and enjoyable camping trip, no matter where you’re heading. Happy camping!