Top 10 Absolutely Essential Camping Items You Must Have

In 2018, there was a 64% increase in the number of Americans going camping. That’s a lot of newbie campers discovering the benefits and wonders of the great outdoors.

Beginners are starting from scratch so they likely do not own any of the camping items they need. Acquiring all the gear can get overwhelming thanks to the sheer amount of choice and the upfront cost can be off-putting.

But don’t worry, if you’re a beginner, this guide details what you need camping and only the absolute essentials. That way, you can start camping with the basics ASAP and figure out what else you need when you become a camping expert.

1. Tent

It sounds romantic, but sleeping under the stars is rarely possible. And even if it is, you should always have a Plan B shelter. Tents are one of the most important items for camping and will keep you safe from wind chill, rain, and will stave off hypothermia.

There is a huge variety of tents to choose from. First, you will need to determine how many people will be using the tent. Consider a 1-2 person tent if you are hiking and camping solo or with a buddy.

If you are camping at a campground as a family, 3-4 person tents or even larger cabin-style tents might be better for you.

When buying a tent, consider the weight (if you are carrying it) and make sure the material is ideal for the climate. You don’t want to camp in Oregon without a waterproof tent!

2. Sleeping Bag

The next most essential camping items are sleeping bags. Sure, you could go without in a warm climate (a silk sleeping bag liner is ideal for those) but not in the vast majority of places. 

And significant temperature drops at night can happen even in the desert.

When buying a sleeping bag, pay attention to three things:

  • How small it packs away
  • The weight of the sleeping bag
  • The season of the sleeping bag

If you are thru-hiking, all three of these qualities will be important when choosing a sleeping bag. But if you are driving to a campground and have plenty of trunk space, the season is the most important.

They are not essential, but once you become an intermediate camper you will likely want to invest in a sleeping mat and camping pillow. Hiking after a rocky night’s sleep isn’t fun.

3. Water Bottle or Hydration Pack

Shelter and good sleep are important for survival and no one would argue that water is too. 

And if you are wondering what to bring camping, either a water bottle or a hydration pack, choose whichever works for you.

Hydration packs are great for day hikers so they can hook them up to their packs. Thru-hikers might like both, but if you are camping in a campground then water bottles work fine. Make sure you have a day’s worth of hydration either way.

If it is likely that you will be filling up your water supply from natural sources (e.g. streams), pack a water filter.

4. Flashlight

A flashlight is one of the most important survival tools for any person going camping. It allows you to locate things in your tent, check for wild animals, and answer when nature calls after dark.

You can use a flashlight, headlamp, or a lantern. Headlamps are great because they are lightweight and hands-free. But you can hang lanterns in the middle of your tent to light up the whole inside area.

Whichever works for you!

5. First Aid Kit

Though you hope to never need it, first aid kits are camping essentials. Campgrounds and hiking trails are often far away from hospitals and medical centers and it is better to be safe than sorry.

Here are all the first aid kit camping items you should carry with you:

  • Bandaids (of varying sizes)
  • Bandages 
  • Gauze pads/dressings (of varying sizes)
  • Antiseptic cream and/or wipes
  • Pain medicine
  • Anti-inflammatory medicine
  • Anti-diarrhea medicine
  • Antihistamine medicine
  • Sunblock and sunburn relief
  • Tweezers
  • Scissors
  • Safety pins
  • Hand sanitizer and/or sterile wipes

There are so many other first aid items you could include in your kit such as an emergency blanket. Pack what you feel is necessary and what makes you feel safe.

6. Food and Cooking Equipment

You cannot forget to pack food. If you do not want to bring cooking equipment, there are plenty of raw and packaged food options available that are ideal for camping.

Check out our blog post on survival foods to find out more.

If you do want to cook food, you will need a stove, a basic pot, utensils, and dishware to eat from. You can pack more, but those are the essentials.

7. Clothing (Appropriate For the Climate)

The type of clothing you need to wear will depend on the kind of climate you are camping in.

Rainy weather calls for full-body waterproofs and waterproof hiking shoes. Winter camping requires long underwear, thermals from head to toe, and ice grips for your shoes.

And don’t forget about accessories! Choose sweat-wicking hats, scarves, and gloves. Sunglasses and a sun hat are essential in sunny weather.

8. Backpack

It goes without saying that if you are packing food, water, a sleeping bag, etc., you need something to carry it all in.

The right backpack for you depends on a few factors:

  • Your height/build
  • Length of trip
  • Climate
  • Amount of supplies

You may also want hiking pole loops or a water reservoir pouch. No matter what you decide, try on lots of packs to find the one you like best.

9. Navigation Equipment

Getting lost in the wilderness is not fun. If you like hiking and camping in remote areas, do not leave home without an up-to-date map and compass.

A charged GPS is also a good idea too. Too many campers rely on their cell phones which are prone to losing their signal.

10. Communication Equipment

Speaking of cell phones, they are fantastic communication devices most of the time. But you also want other methods of communication, too.

Safety whistles are lightweight and effective in emergencies.

Do Not Leave Home Without These Camping Items!

Once you become a camping expert, you can decide which extra accessories will improve your experience. But these essential camping items are a great place to start.

The Savvy Survivalist’s store carries all the essential, high-quality camping equipment you need. So, you won’t have to search anywhere else.

Browse our camping gear to prepare for your next trip!