If you’re planning your first camping trip, a pre-made checklist will only help you with things that you’ve already purchased in the past, such as sunscreen, pillows, or toilet paper. For items you’ve never purchased before, such as a tent or first-aid kit, it’s important to know what to look for. This beginner’s guide will help you pick out some of the essentials for your trip.
On a hike, possibly the most important thing to remember is to hydrate yourself constantly. Unfortunately, multiple water bottles will add weight in your bag, and natural bodies of water often carry protozoa and bacteria. The best solution is to carry a mini water filtration device instead, which saves both weight and space in your backpack.
The Sawyer Mini Water Filter allows you to take in water directly from the source and filters out 99.9% of salmonella, cholera, E.coli, and other unsafe parasites and bacterias. It only weighs about 2 ounces, but it filters up to 100,000 gallons of water!
You should still keep store-bought water bottles at your campsite in case of an emergency, but there’s no reason to carry them around unless you’re going to be far away from a water source during most of your activities.
There are some tents you can find at very low prices, but don’t settle for anything that looks “too good to be true.” Even if the weather’s great, you’ll find that cheap, poorly-made tents will cave in and you won’t even be able to stand up in them! At that point, you might as well just hang a sheet over your head.
You don’t have to spend a fortune, but plan on spending at least $100. At the same time, don’t just buy a tent because of its price–know what to look for:
- The dimensions: The tent pictured above is 6 feet tall at its highest point and fits 4 people comfortably (about 2 queen-sized airbeds). If you’re thinking about squeezing more people inside, keep in mind that you’re bringing in gear too, so there won’t be much additional space.
- The materials: This shelter includes both mesh and polyester. The mesh is good for ventilation, while the polyester helps keep out rain and sunlight.
- A rainfly: The rainfly is the tarp that hangs on the “roof” as an additional layer of waterproof protection. On this tent, the rainfly also hangs over the door and window as an added bonus.
- An easy setup process: These days, tents are generally freestanding, so you won’t need any stakes, but you will most likely need some poles. This tent comes with fiberglass poles (a durable material), along with color-codes to make the setup process as simple as possible. Instructions are sewn right into the storage bag, and the setup will only take about 15 minutes.
This tent is one of many sold at Sears. They have everything from solo tents to ones that fit up to 10 people! Just make sure to look at the specs for each one before making your final decision.
A campfire might work for roasting marshmallows, but that’s about it. Since you can’t have s’mores for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you’re going to need something that’s more practical for cooking real meals. Rather than lugging a full-sized grill, a portable one is much more convenient for outings such as a camping trip. Here are some of the perks that this particular grill has:
- The size: This grill may be portable, but it has a decently-sized surface area. You won’t have to worry about grilling two burgers at a time. Also, the shields on the side are there to protect the grill from the wind, but on calm days, you can use it as extra prep space.
- The heating power: Some people just look for grills with the highest BTUs (British Thermal Units) they could find, but that’s not the only factor necessary for producing heat. Believe it or not, smaller grills often heat up faster! This one in particular has been known to heat up very quickly, so you might want to start on the lowest heat and test it out first.
- Easy cleanup: Once you’re done cooking, you won’t have to dread the cleanup. The grill grate is porcelain-coated and non-stick, and there’s a removable dishwasher-safe tray that you can bring home for a more thorough cleaning after your trip.
Don’t forget: you’ll also need a place to store your meat, buns, napkins, extra propane gas, and cleaning supplies! You can find this grill, along with all of the necessary accommodating items at Kmart.
After a long day with constant activity in the sun, you may think you’re ready to “sleep like a rock.” However, when you find yourself literally lying down on a pile of rocks, it’s difficult to sleep through the night. If you don’t find the right bed to sleep on, it could lead to a backache that hinders your morning hike.
For your first camping trip, you’ll want something as comfortable as possible, so an air mattress is the best choice. The mattress pictured above comes in various sizes, but unless you plan on sharing the mattress, you should only purchase the twin size bed. Your tent won’t have a lot of room, so it’s important to be conscious of your space. This bed is built with strong materials, inflates from a battery charger, and can easily be rolled back into a bag once you’re done with it, so it’s the perfect camping bed for beginners.
Rocky surfaces, endless bugs, and unpredictable weather can sometimes take a toll on you. A small scape, burn, or bite could turn into a serious infection if it’s exposed or not treated right away. A first-aid kit is a must-have for any camping trip. This one contains medical supplies for up to 6 people on a 1 to 7 day trip. Inside, you’ll find a comprehensive guide along with an assortment of medications, bandages, ointments, and more. The bag comes in a bright color with a reflective trim, so it can even be found in low-light conditions. Contents are organized by injury type, which could help save time in an emergency situation.
Of course, there will be many other items that you need to bring along on your trip, but these five items above are usually the most difficult to shop for and need the most explanation. For everything else, check out REI’s comprehensive camping checklist.
Jessica Dolnick sets up many of the merchants that you see on We-Care.com, and through extensive research and personal experiences, writes about them in the We-Care blog. Jessica has always been passionate about the nonprofit sector–before working at We-Care.com, she organized benefit concerts, volunteered at her local hospital, and raised over $50,000 for her alma mater. Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts with a double major in psychology and communication and a minor in education from the University at Albany.