When the weather warms and nighttime comes late, camping calls. Camping trips can provide a much-needed change of pace and change of scenery for families always wired in or on the go. But if you’re what you might call “indoorsy,” the thought of packing up food, clothing, warmth, and shelter so you can leave your home—with its ready access to food, clothing, warmth, and shelter—might sound daunting, no matter how idyllic it might sound to sleep under the Milky Way.
Do not be daunted. With a few pieces of the right equipment, camping under the stars can be easy to arrange. And you and your family can be one step closer to living a life of comfort outside your comfort zone. Here are ten camping essentials that will help you finally make friends with the great outdoors.
1. Water. Any outdoor experience will require you to be well hydrated, so easy access to water is key. Most maintained campgrounds provide clean water access for campers, but you’ll need containers to trek the water from wherever it is to where it needs to be. Water carriers vary from handheld water bottles (Emergency Essentials 32-oz yellow water bottle), to backpack containers (Blue Camelback Cloud Walker 70-oz Hydration Pack), to multi-gallon containers that can serve your whole family (Reliance 5-gallon Collapsible Fold-A-Carrier).
2. Food. Camping families are hungry families, so high-quality, tasty food should be your priority. But outdoor living begs for simplicity. Look to easily prepared foods like the Emergency Essentials MREs and Mountain House meals for delicious breakfasts, lunches, dinners, and desserts.
Here are some ideas:
• Breakfast: Serve up Mountain House Scrambled Eggs with Ham, Red, and Green Peppers with a side of Mountain House Granola with Blueberries and Milk for a warm, filling start to the day.
• Lunch: After a morning of walking, hiking, or fishing, your crew will be ready for a satisfying lunch. Try Mountain House Chicken Salad Wrap Filling with Multigrain Snack Bread for a hearty sandwich. Serve something like an Oatmeal Cookie for a post-lunch snack or dessert.
• Dinner: When camping, the evening meal is a time for friends and families to share the highlights of their days’ explorations, while settling them in for a night outdoors. Meals like Mountain House Beef Stroganoff with Noodles, MRE Italian Bread Sticks, and Mountain House Garden Green Peas will open mouths for food and conversation.
• Dessert: End the day with a sweet treat like Mountain House Raspberry Crumble or a MRE Fudge Brownie with Chocolate Chips, and you may find yourself dreaming of happy things, no matter what the temperature is outside.
3. Stove. Cooking over a campfire can be exciting and tasty, but bringing a portable stove, like the Stansport Propane Stove, will allow you to prepare a wider variety of foods with more predictability and less work (win, win, win), giving you more time to explore and enjoy (win, win!). (Quintuple win!)
4. Utensils. So easy to forget, but so helpful to have. A three-in-one set of sturdy utensils, like the Basic Chow Set, can be useful for prepping food, cooking food, and eating food. Take it from the sadly expert: sticks are not nearly as effective.
5. Light and fire. A little light at night can transform a campsite from spooky to cozy. You can choose from a variety of portable light options, including personal gear like the Princeton Tec Quad 4 LED Headlamp (great for night reading in your tent or finding your toothpaste) or the High Uinta Gear Pathfinder 9 LED Flashlight, or community lights, like the Goal Zero Lighthouse 250 Lumen Rechargeable Lantern. If you’re going to light a fire, to roast marshmallows or to warm you up on a chilly night, then bring Fire Lighters, which are reliable, easy to light, and require little or no kindling.
6. Sleeping bag. Perhaps the most critical piece of equipment for a restful overnight excursion is a comfortable and warm sleeping bag. Bags like the Slumberjack Latitude Mummy Bags (available in regular, long, and for 0-degree Fahrenheit and 20-degree Fahrenheit weather) are designed for reliable coziness.
7. Tarp. According to expert campers, a tarp is many times useful due to its versatility and water resistance. You can use it under your tent as ground cover. (Tip: A tarp used for this purpose should be a few inches shorter than the width and breadth of your tent, so any water dripping off your tent will absorb into the ground and not drop onto your tarp and slide toward your tent.) You can position it above your cooking, eating, or lounging area, to keep off rain or to limit sun exposure. And, if you’re really adventurous, you can erect it over your sleeping bag and gear and camp without a tent at all!
8. Tent. If you’re inclined toward a more comfortable arrangement, a quality tent can provide you with protection from the elements (and mosquitoes!) and much-needed privacy. Mid-size tents, such as the Slumberjack Trail Tent 3, provide ample space for the gear and sleeping bags of three adults, while not being hard to erect or heavy to carry.
9. Toilet paper. When in need, campers can use certain leaves, pieces of clothing, or rocks (sandstone is not recommended), but you may find your bathroom experiences to be much less memorable if you remember to pack some good old-fashioned toilet paper. One roll can do wonders.
10. Assorted plastic bags. Making friends with the outdoors means leaving it better than you found it, so remember to bring a few garbage bags, kitchen trash bags, and gallon-size zip-top bags, to store your empty cans, discarded wrappers, leftover food, and wet clothing. The right-sized plastic bag can help prevent a soggy, smelly end to an otherwise successful camping adventure.
With these ten must-have items, your camping trip can be easy to arrange, happy to experience, and satisfying to remember. Go camping! The beautiful world is waiting.
What else do you consider a must-have item for camping?