It’s about that time of year again in my house, to dust off the camping gear. The camping season officially opens Memorial Day weekend, so I like to pull out the gear, make sure everything is in good shape, and take inventory of what I need to restock. A friend of mine asked “what do I need for camping? do I really need all that stuff?” In regards to my sporting goods store sized supply of gear. So, I thought it might be good to share with you, what you need and don’t need if you are new to this whole great outdoors thing! Even if you have gone camping before, things change a lot when you have kids. You suddenly have a whole new person (or people) to consider bringing supplies for. It can start to seem overwhelming when you think about all the things a little one needs. I will help you sort that out though. I’ll also include a list of my absolute favorite gear to make your trip to the wild more enjoyable. If you are an experienced camper, don’t worry. I’ll have a post for you later on too. Lets start with the beginner basics though!
You obviously need a tent! This might be the hardest purchase you will make when it comes to buying camping supplies. No two tents are created equal. If you have never been camping before, you might not know where to begin! Tents are an investment, and should be picked carefully. A good tent will last you for many years to come. My advice is, first, think about how often you will be camping. If you LOVE the outdoors and think you will go every weekend or at least twice a month, get yourself a good quality tent. If you aren’t sure how much you will love it, then buy a really cheap tent to test the waters. Upgrade later if you love it. Next, think about the weather you will be camping in. In some areas, it rains all year, or is colder at night. In other areas, it’s really hot all day and all night. In some places it’s just plain windy-this is especially true if you are going to do some beach camping. Lastly, think about how many people you are going to have in the tent laying down sleeping. If there’s six of you, a four man tent won’t do. When they say four man…..they mean four men packed like sardines shoulder-to-shoulder in that baby. If you want more space, go up a size or two. Also consider the height. If you don’t want to be rolling around on the ground trying to get dressed because you can’t stand up in your tent, then look for one that is at least 5.5′ in the middle.
Good: Ozark Trail
Better: Coleman or Eureka
• Sleeping Bags
One bag for everyone. Sleeping bags can also get expensive. But you don’t need to spend a lot to get the best bag for you. Be wary of high price tags. Much like tents, you need to consider the weather of where you will be camping. If you don’t intend on snow camping (I’ll cover that another time too), then you don’t need a bag that’s rated for freezing temperatures. Take a look around your local sporting good supply store. The bags are all rated based on the climate they are meant for. If a bag says it’s rated for cold weather below zero degrees, not only is going to be expensive, you are going to be miserable camping in the summer in it! They mean what they say on those bags! Look for a bag that’s suited to night time temperatures wherever you plan on going. For baby, you will need a sleep sack. A sleeping bag might be too big, and fluffy. It’s best to dress them warmly, and use a sleep sack.
Good: Ozark Trail
All the fun and activity of camping works up a truck driver sized appetite. You gotta feed the natives before there’s mutiny in the campsite and they all turn on you! So you better have a good stove. Don’t spend a lot of money on stoves. There’s a lot of gimmicky stoves out there that aren’t all they are cracked up to be. You don’t need stands and gadgets and all the bells and whistles. It doesn’t make out door cooking any easier, because guess what? It’s not hard to begin with! I’ll be sharing some camp recipes with you later. Just find yourself a stove that takes propane, and has two burners. If it comes with a carry case, that’s cool too! But no need to spend a lot extra for that. If you have more than 4 people in your camp, I suggest you get two stoves. The burners are kind of small so you won’t be able to fit really large pans on the stove top. Two stoves comes in handy for feeding a large camp.
Good: Ozark Trail
Better AND Best: Coleman
Another area that can rip you off if you aren’t careful. If you don’t already have folding chairs at home, get a few cheapies. Remember, these are going to get filthy dirty. You don’t need anything fancy here! Something that can be hosed off when you get home is great. And don’t forget one for baby! Evenflo actually makes a highchair that would make a great camp high chair! It’s made of the same material as those folding chairs, which means you can hose it off. And it folds up just like those chairs too! Perfect for camping with the littles.
It’s a given that it’s going to get dark, and you need lighting. The camp fire will light a small area, buy you are still going to need a lantern to get things done around the site before bed. I prefer propane lanterns over battery lanterns. Propane is just hotter and brighter than battery lamps with tiny light bulbs. You think you now what dark means until you hit the woods! If you have never used a propane lantern before, and are afraid of the directions, bring some extra flashlights just in case. Propane lanterns use mantles, so make sure you pick up extras. They last a while, but are fragile. Better to have extras than to run out.
Best: I stick with Coleman
So that’s the basics, I believe. A tent, sleeping bags, a stove, some place to rest your rump and lighting. After that, it’s all luxury and preference. If you get overwhelmed at the store, just look for Coleman. Coleman is a trusted name in the camping game. They have been around for ages and they make a quality product. You can’t go wrong buying their equipment! See you next time. I’ll be talking about supplies and how to get organized.