Bare minimum gear for camping: what you really need

In the same vein as our protip on What gear do you really need for skiing or snowboarding, this protip for beginners focuses on what you really need, and what stuff you already have that you can use.

What you definitely need

Gear

Basic gear for camping

Literally just 3 items form the basics! We carry a variety of these 3 core camping items.

  • Tent. Important shelter from annoying insects, curious critters, and bad weather. Most modern tents have full mesh uppers so you can still see the stars at night!
  • Sleeping bag. A good mummy-style sleeping bag cocoons around you to trap body heat. Many people underestimate how cold it can get outdoors, when there are no walls between you and the environment. A blanket really isn't great for anything other than backyards or cabins
  • Sleeping pad. Yes this is an essential! Sleeping on the bare ground is extremely uncomfortable, and moreover, having a pad prevents heat loss through the ground (which a sleeping bag does not!)

Clothing

For many car camping trips, what you have in your closet will largely be fine. Here are some tips:

  • Think about your activities for clothing & shoes
    • Clothing: generally you'll want durable, breathable clothing. Other specifications may also be important, e.g., wind/water-resistance, coloration (for camouflaging or sun protection), length (like long sleeves & pants for bug resistance), features (like zip-off pants or pit zips in jackets)
    • Shoes: generally you want something designed for exercise with solid treads and support. For well-maintained & flat trails, even regular gym shoes can be fine. Hiking shoes generally have more treading for slip protection, a high shaft to resist rolling or spraining your ankle, and greater durability. Other specifications include insulation for warmth, water-resistance or even hybrid land/water shoes!
  • Bring a change of clothes for camp: after a long day it's nice to change into something not sweaty. This includes sandals, which will help air out your feet and minimize blisters
  • Bring warm layers: nights & mornings are chilly! Think about packing a fleece, sweater, or thick hoodie

What you may want

Gear

Think of these as nice-to-haves, depending on your trip, but not essential. Last Minute Gear carries all the below except pillows & trekking poles

  • Portable chairs or table. Most popular car-camping sites have picnic style tables and benches for you. Some even have fire pits or rings and grills
  • Bear canister. Most popular car-camping sites in bear territory have bear lockers for use. Always check in advance, because in bear territory, designated lockers or cans are the only way of keeping bears out & to protect your property from being damaged! Read more in our protip on bear safety at the campsite
  • Headlamp. Having your hands free is incredibly convenient if you need to pitch a tent or really do anything at night. That said, you could get away with using flashlights or smartphone flashlights (if you have battery life to spare)
  • Cookware (stoves, coolers, etc.). Totally depends on you: some prefer a cookout, others prefer simple meals (e.g., peanut butter sandwiches)
  • Inflatable pillow. Minimalists just stuff extra clothing inside their sleeping bag stuff sack!
  • Trekking poles. Most people don’t need these anyway unless they’re going on a very rigorous hike. Sometimes even then, a large, sturdy branch will make do

For backpackers

Backpacking gear

Backpacking is less of a "beginner" activity; generally, there will be activity-specific gear or clothing items you'll want to bring (because if you have to carry everything on your back, it should be specific to your trip and your needs!). Across the board, minimizing weight is important, and gear companies cater to this offering things classified as "light", "super-light", or "ultra-light". At Last Minute Gear, we carry a spectrum of ultra-light items! In addition to the 3 basic gear items above (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad), you'll need:

  • A backpacking backpack. Unlike regular backpacks (for work, school, etc), backpacking-specific backpacks are designed to carry a lot of weight witih a frame system that helps distribute it to the right points on your body to optimize carrying
  • Gear for food & water prep. Depending on your trip, you may need backpacking-sized pocket stoves to prepare food or boil water. And depending on your trail, you may need a combination of water bags or water filters to ensure you have a good supply

Other items on the nice-to-have list may also become required, since now you have to take all the amenities of a campsite with you. For example, once you leave a campsite with its bear lockers, you may have to have a bear canister; and a headlamp becomes a lot more important from a safety perspective.

For women

Camping, backpacking, and hiking are great ways for everyone to enjoy the outdoors! However, longer trips may entail unique planning needs for women. We want women to know that with a few simple steps, you can plan any kind of outdoor adventure, any time, any where! For women-specific topics like peeing tips, underwear choices or information on how to manage menstruation in the backcountry check out our pro-tip The Ultimate Guide to Women's Health in the Outdoors


Ultimately, bring what you will need to be comfortable in the great outdoors. That way, you'll be fully focused on the amazing views ahead!

Happy trails!

Thoughts, ideas, questions? Let us know in the comments below! We're Last Minute Gear, and we'll do our best to get you ouside!


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