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Outdoor Gear Reviews, Tips & Adventure Stories to Inspire an Outdoor Life
April 11, 2023

10 Must-Have Camping Gear Essentials for Your First Trip

Written by Zack Newsome
Updated on April 14, 2023
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camping gear beginners
Having the right gear can make all the difference for beginning campers.

Are you a beginner looking to embark on your first camping trip? Awesome! Camping is an amazing way to connect with nature, de-stress, and explore some new adventures. Whether you’re planning to explore the great outdoors solo or with friends and family, having the right camping gear is crucial for a successful and enjoyable experience.

In this blog post, we’ll discuss 10 must-have camping gear essentials for your first trip. From shelter and cooking gear to lighting, clothing, and safety equipment, we’ll cover everything you need to know to prepare for your adventure.

As camping gear beginners, investing in the right gear can make all the difference. With these essential items, you’ll be well-equipped to handle whatever nature throws your way.

So, let’s dive in and get prepped for that first trip sleeping under the stars! And once you’ve got all of your camping gear sorted, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Camping for tips on how to make your first trip a success.

Essential Gear #1: Tent

A tent is the most common form of shelter for campers. When choosing a tent, there are a few factors to consider, including size, weight, and ease of setup. If you’re camping with a partner or a group, make sure to select a tent that has enough space for everyone to sleep comfortably. Also, keep in mind that larger tents can be heavier and more challenging to set up than smaller ones.

Pro Tip: As a camping beginner, start with a simple simple and inexpensive tent. Prioritize size, weight, and ease of setup.  Stay away from complicated tents that will leave you frustrated in your first moments at the campground.

Our Recommended Tent for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #2: Sleeping bag

A sleeping bag is essential for keeping you warm and comfortable at night. When choosing a sleeping bag, consider the temperature rating, which indicates the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep you warm. You should also choose a sleeping bag made of appropriate material for the climate you’ll be camping in. Synthetic materials are typically less expensive and more durable, while down materials provide superior insulation but are more expensive and require more care.

By investing in a high-quality tent and sleeping bag, you’ll be able to rest comfortably and stay protected from the elements during your camping trip. Don’t forget to practice setting up your tent at home before your trip to ensure a stress-free setup experience at your campsite.

Pro Tip: Start with a sleeping bag that is inexpensive.  As camping gear beginners, you probably don’t need a bag rated to 20 degrees or that’s ultra-lightweight. You can always upgrade to a higher-end sleeping bag down the road as you determine how and where you like to camp.

Our Recommended Speeling Bag for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #3: Camp Stove

Cooking at camp is a highlight of any trip. As romantic as it sounds, you probably won’t be cooking over a campfire on your first trip. You’ll want a camp stove for cooking while camping. There are several types of camp stoves, including propane, butane, and liquid fuel stoves. When choosing a camp stove, consider the type of fuel available and the size of your camping group. It’s also important to practice safe stove use and never leave a stove unattended.

Pro Tip: Double burner stoves that use the small 1-gallon propane tanks are the way to go. Two burners will give you the cooking space to prepare a meal of any size. If you’re planning on keeping your meals simple, a single propane stove may be all you need.

Our Recommended Camp Stoves for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #4: Cookware

A few essential pieces of cookware can make meal preparation a breeze. A durable pot and frying pan with lids are great for cooking meals such as pasta, soup, and eggs. A good set of utensils, including a spatula, tongs, and a spoon, will also come in handy. When selecting cookware, choose materials that are durable, easy to clean, and suited to your cooking needs.

Pro Tip: Sporks are great for backpackers, mountaineers, and other specialized outdoorsmen, but bringing a set of silverware from home works just as well.  Avoid the spork if you have the space to bring your own silverware. Camping cook sets that are easily storable are really helpful when packing.  Look for a set that has the convenience of packing up into a small space.

Our Recommended Cookware Set for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #5: Cooler

A cooler is one of the few items you won’t do right on your first trip. You can start with inexpensive tents and sleeping bags, but a good cooler with prevent your ice from melting prematurely and will keep your food cold for the duration of your trip.  Look for a cooler with enough space for your food and beverages, and consider the size and weight of the cooler when making your selection. It’s also important to keep your cooler in the shade and replenish the ice regularly to ensure the contents stay cold.

Pro Tip: You don’t need to splurge on a Yeti, but make sure to get a cooler that is well-insulated.  Look for coolers that promise to keep your ice for 5 days in high heat.  You don’t want to be searching for more ice far away from the city. Oh… and wheels on a cooler are a special type of heaven.

Our Recommended Cooler for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #6: Headlamp or Flashlight

When camping, it can get dark at night.  After all, seeing the stars is one of the key reasons you decided to try camping, right? A headlamp or flashlight is a must-have for moving around your campsite in the dark. A headlamp is a hands-free option that allows you to keep your hands free while you navigate your campsite. A flashlight is also a great option and can be used for lighting up specific areas. When choosing a headlamp or flashlight, look for a model that is durable, waterproof, and has a long battery life.

Pro Tip: Go the headlamp route. Sure, you’ll look like a dork, but having your hands free while being able to see what’s out there is worth it.  And with a headlamp is a no-brainer for cooking meals at night. With a headlamp, people will think you are serious about your camping gear and not just camping gear beginners.

Our Recommended Headlamp for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #7: Lantern

A lantern is a great way to light up your entire campsite. There are several types of lanterns, including electric, battery-powered, and propane lanterns. Electric lanterns are convenient and easy to use, but they require a power source. Battery-powered lanterns are portable and can be recharged with solar panels or batteries. Propane lanterns are fuel-powered and provide bright, long-lasting light. When choosing a lantern, consider the size, weight, and brightness of the lantern, as well as its power source.

Pro Tip: Get a rechargeable LED lantern.  Some even have USB ports that you can use to charge your phone. Unless you’re dreaming of the nostalgic hiss of a propane lantern, avoid the hassle and go with an LED lantern.

Our Recommended Lantern for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #8: Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress

Camping is about keeping it simple and “roughing it” is a part of the romance of the experience, but don’t sacrifice good sleep if you don’t have to.  A sleeping pad or air mattress can go a long way in making your camping trip a successful and enjoyable experience.  Sleeping pads are typically made of foam or are self-inflating.  Air mattresses pack small when deflated, but are big in the comfort department when it’s time for bed.

Pro Tip: As a beginning camper, we recommend going with an air mattress for ease of use.  Sure there is some setup involved, but air mattresses take up very little packing room and the sleep comfort will be closer to your mattress at home than most sleeping pads. Make sure to pack a pump for easy air mattresses set up.

Bonus Tip: If romance is on your packing list for your first camping trip, consider a double or queen-sized air mattress that you and your partner can both “use”. This one tip will move you from camping gear beginners to camping gear experts in one swift move.

Our Recommended Air Mattresses for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #9: Camp Chairs

To round out your camping gear, you’ll want a place to sit and relax when camping. Whether it’s chilling by the campfire or sipping your morning coffee, camp chairs provide seating that’s lightweight and easily packable. Camp chairs can also come in handy back home from kids’ games to picnics to extra seating when having people over.

Pro Tip: Go cheap on camp chairs as camping gear beginners. Just about any camp chair will do the job and even inexpensive chairs should last a few years.  Once you decide what types of chairs you prefer (rocking, shock-supported, double, or insanely packable), you can upgrade down the line.

Our Recommended Camp Chair for Beginning Campers:


Essential Gear #10: First Aid Kit

Accidents can happen (and probably will), so it’s important to bring a first aid kit with you on your camping trip. A basic first aid kit should include items such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and pain relievers. You’ll be glad you have a first aid kit on hand to deal with anything that may come up on your camping trip.

Pro Tip: If you pick up a decently equipped first aid kit for camping, you can also use it at home as well. Look for kits that come in a carry case for easy packing and storage.

Our Recommended First Aid Kit for Beginning Campers:


The Bottom Line

By packing these essential items, you’ll be well-prepared for your first camping trip. As camping gear beginners, don’t sweat not having the latest and greatest camping gear.  Prioritizing the essentials purchased at affordable prices allows you to upgrade your camping gear as you camp more. Don’t forget to check the weather forecast, plan your meals and activities, and familiarize yourself with any safety guidelines or rules specific to your campsite.

Camping can be a fun and rewarding experience, and having the right gear can make all the difference. Whether you’re camping for one night or several days, being well-prepared can help ensure a comfortable and enjoyable trip. So, gather your gear, grab some friends or family, and hit the great outdoors!

Good luck on your first trip to the outdoors!


Now that you’ve got all of your camping gear sorted, check out our Beginner’s Guide to Camping for tips on how to make your first trip an enjoyable one for all.

About the Author

Zack Newsome

Zack is a lifelong adventurer passionate about sharing the joy of the outdoors with others. He loves camping, fly-fishing, sailing, and exploring wild spaces. He launched Outward in early 2022 to inspire others to spend more time outdoors – improving mental health and more deeply connecting with the environment.

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