It's difficult to know what you'll need when you first start camping. You must also decide which items to purchase and which to rent or borrow from your own household supplies. To get you started, we've compiled a list of essential camping gear for any trip, whether car camping or backpacking.
Even if you prefer sleeping under the stars, you should always have a tent or other form of emergency shelter on hand in case of an emergency. Otherwise, a midnight deluge, freak snowstorm, or heavy dew will leave you soaked, miserable, and vulnerable to hypothermia. A tent can also protect you and your belongings from strong winds.
A sleeping bag is another essential item. Again, the type and size of sleeping bag you'll need will vary greatly depending on where you're camping and the weather forecast. You should think about the time of year you're camping and the temperature, especially at night.
Without a comfortable sleeping pad, you'll feel like you're sleeping directly on hard earth, no matter how pillowy and soft your sleeping bag is. And, really, getting enough sleep is critical for an enjoyable first-time camping trip.
Pillows are another essential for a comfortable sleeping environment. This is the most easily overlooked amenity, resulting in the use of bunched-up clothes as makeshift pillows. Pillows are more of a necessity, especially for first-time campers, and as long as you're not long-distance backpacking, they're fairly easy to transport in the car. You obviously have a plethora of pillow options to choose from, and because they're relatively small and compact, feel free to bring along a couple options, or simply test them out at home.
Simple foldable chairs are essential for lounging around the fire or at the campsite in general. Sure, you can lie on the ground or hang a hammock, but chairs are far more practical, and they make a significant difference in terms of comfort during the day when it's time to read, eat, or simply relax. Depending on how fancy you want to get, you can invest in chairs that stretch out with leg rests or have cup holders. Again, the size of the chairs to accompany them will be determined by how much walking or hiking you intend to do before setting up camp.
After the sun goes down, you can't rely on the campfire for lighting. If you need to leave the tent to use the restroom after the fire has been extinguished and you've gone to bed, you don't want to be fumbling around in the dark. Headlamps are not only lightweight and easy to pack, but they also make navigating the campsite after dark or simply reading in the tent much easier.
The final thing to consider is clothing, which will be determined by the location of your camping trip, the weather, and the environment. Look for long thermal pants and shirts that are lightweight while still providing layers of warming insulation. Bring a couple sets and keep one set aside for sleeping. Thick socks, a puffy jacket, and gloves are also required. Hats and scarves are optional, but it wouldn't hurt to have some in the car just in case. Pack your clothes with the idea of convenience and layering in mind.
Canister stoves are ideal for cooking in moderate temperatures because they are lightweight, simple to use, and allow you to fine-tune the flame and simmer.
Utensils should not be overlooked.
New campers can save money by bringing their own kitchen supplies like plastic cutlery, bowls, and cups. Invest in lightweight pots designed for outdoor use when backpacking. Because kitchen items get scuffed while camping, you'll want to replace them with more durable items that you only use outside.