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Camping in a tent is a load of fun, especially when you bring the proper gear. There are a few key items that you should have on your checklist to get the best tenting experience possible.
What should you pack for tent camping? Here are the must have items, we’ll cover them in more detail in the article below
- Ground sheet
- Sleeping bag
- Portable charger
- Stove, fuel and fire starter
- Pest repellent
- First Aid kit
- Wind and rain gear
- Layers of clothing
There’s more to tent camping then just cramming some gear into a bag. Below we cover all the essentials needed for camping in a tent including shelter, bedding, cooking and safety gear. You’ll also find a printable checklist at the end!
Table of Contents
If you haven’t already selected your tent there are a few tips to consider when choosing one. Tents are generally small shelters rated by the amount of people they can sleep. This rating rarely considers gear or other items you’d like to keep dry or on hand while sleeping.
- Easy Setup: Instant pop-up tent with pre-assembled poles sets up in seconds. Please see our video for detailed instructions on how to set up...
- 2-layer Tent Reduces Condensation: Stay Dry! This camping tent 6 person is specially designed with 2 layers. There is a gap between the...
- Spacious Interior & Vestibule: This pop-up camping tent with vestibule offers a roomy interior, measuring 12.5 x 8.5 ft, which comfortably...
Pop up tents like the Ayamaya 4-6 person set up in seconds and provide extra space in the vestibule for gear and pets. It also has large windows and vents for extra airflow on warm summer nights.
Many tents require pegs at each corner and poles to keep them upright. These items pack inside the tent bag so be sure to check they are all accounted for before you leave the house.
Unless you’re backpack camping where every ounce counts, choose a tent model slightly bigger than you need. This will ensure you have enough room to keep your gear close or hang out with friends in the rain.
Having a rain fly that offers some covered vestibule space in front of the door is helpful for keeping your outdoor gear and folded chairs out of the rain and morning dew. It’s also a great spot for smelly shoes that you don’t want to smell or have tracking dirt into the tent.
A Ground Sheet is like a tarp and it goes under your tent to add an extra layer of protection from moisture, cold and sharp objects from coming through your floor. Your ground sheet should match the footprint of your tent’s floor. If it sticks out from below it can draw water underneath your floor and make you wet inside. If it’s too small it won’t provide an adequate barrier from the elements.
This article covers camping not Glamping but feel free to pimp out your tent in a way that makes you happy. Here are the basics for any tenter.
Air mattresses come in every size from micro to king size. For an individual, a single self inflating air mattress works well for tenting. It packs up small and doesn’t require a pump. The are also lightweight if you need to get to a more remote location and don’t require a pump.
Self inflating mattresses like the WILLAX Ultra Thick Flex Foam are a bit larger than simple inflatable camping mattresses and that’s because they are filled with foam. When the valve is opened the foam is able to draw in air and expand.
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The foam provides an insulation barrier that air alone does not. A little extra insulation can be a life saver on a cold night.
Just open the valve and roll out the excess air to pack the mattress down to a size convenient for transporting.
For Two Or More
Couples can choose to double up with single mattresses or opt for a double or queen inflatable. Most people have an inflatable mattress or know someone who does. If you’re camping close to your vehicle then transporting one of them isn’t a problem, it can be inflated with a 12V air pump from your car’s auxiliary power as well.
If a lighter weight option for you and your mate is preferred, the Hikenture Double Camping Pad is a lightweight inflatable option built for the stresses of camping. The storage bag doubles as a pumpsack so there’s no power necessary to inflate it.
Sleeping bags and sleep sacks hold body heat better than standard top blankets do. They also insulate from below as well as the back of the neck, an area sensitive to cold.
Zippered bags can be joined together to make space for two people to share their warmth, The two zippers create an entry and exit on both sides as well.
The MalloMe sleeping bag is lightweight, breathable and waterproof. The included compression sack allows it to pack down small and the exterior straps double as a handle for carrying or to help secure it to the outside of your pack for hiking.
- ✅ BEST YEAR ROUND SLEEPING BAG - Perfect for spring, summer, fall, and cool weather, with a rated temperature from 40°F to 77°F (optimal...
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- ✅ ULTRALIGHT FOR BACKPACKING - A must have for hiking, backpacking, and camping, the perfect balance of performance and lightweight...
3 Season Bags
Most sleeping bags are advertised as three season use, that includes spring through fall. During warm nights the zipper can be opened part way to vent or the bag can be opened fully and used as a blanket.
Sleeping bags come in different temperature ratings so pick the one that suits your requirements. A bag with a winter rating will be too big and hot for camping in the summer months.
Winter Sleeping Bags
For the winter months mummy bags are popular and can insulate to temperatures below freezing. Mummy bags have a rounded head area and are tapered to provide a tighter fit than a standard square bag. This holds the heat closer to your body making it more efficient.
Camping pillows can be made from a sack of your softest clothing, a jacket or sweater, or can be purchased from camping stores or online retailers.
One common option offered by retailers is an inflatable pillows which is lightweight and packs down really small. The other option is the foam filled style which tends to be softer and more comfortable but takes up more space in your pack.
I like to carry the Rugged Camp inflatable pillow and use a shirt or sweater between it and my head to add a little bit more cushion and comfort. The small size doesn’t take up much space in my pack and it inflates easily to a convenient size.
- INFLATES INSTANTLY WITH 3-5 BREATHS - Our unique two-way air value lets you blow up this pillow fast without any air escaping by opening...
- GET A GREAT NIGHT‘S SLEEP ANYWHERE - The travel pillow’s enhanced comfort design is ideal for camping, backpacking, travel, and any...
- ENHANCED ERGONOMIC DESIGN - Compact, lightweight, and convenient; the compressible pillow only weighs 2.75 ounces and inflates to a...
Having a good quality light around camp is a necessity for everybody, and there are a few features to consider when choosing the right light for you. Campsites get very dark at night whether you are in a large campground or off in the wilderness. This makes for great star gazing and a higher risk of injury.
Headlamps are one of the best lighting options for camping because they allow you to keep your hands free for working while focusing the light on your task. Headlamps also offer a red light option which preserves your natural night vision and prevents you from blinding all your friends during conversation.
The Everbeam H6 Pro is rechargeable via USB. It’s also motion activated making it essentially hands free. Using it in red light mode will be less stressful on the eyes and to any nearby pets or wildlife. Being waterproof and projecting out to 400ft is a bonus.
- ⚡ SUPER BRIGHT & 5 LIGHT MODES – 650 lumen LED light source that reaches a tested 126 m / 413 ft distance. Two brightness levels and an...
- 👋🏻 MOTION SENSOR, THE WAVE SWITCH - Simply wave your hand in front of the headlamp to turn the light on or off when it's on Sensor...
- 🕙 LONG RUNTIME, BUILT IN 1200 MAH RECHARGEABLE BATTERY - Up to 10 hours runtime in white light, and 2.5 hours on high brightness. Red...
Headlamps are easy to hang from the top of your tent at night giving ambient lighting inside to read, search for gear, play cards or just for socializing. Be sure to pack spare batteries or a usb power pack for your light, especially if you plan to camp longer than a day or two.
Lanterns are a good way to light a larger area like a gazebo or picnic table for games and late night snacking. They come in different sizes and operate on batteries or propane.
Small battery operated lanterns can convert to a flash light for projecting a beam of light making them dual purpose. Other styles have built in solar cells for charging during the day, this is a great feature if power is not available around your site.
You’re sure to be snapping photos and recording video on your phone or action camera while enjoying your camping experience. Having a battery pack on hand will make it easier to charge your electronic devices without needing to find an outlet. High quality ruggedized waterproof portable chargers can top up the batteries in any USB device.
The Novoo 10000mAh Portable Charger can fast charge your cell phone, top up your headlamp and keep the beats flowing on your portable speaker or headphones. the built in flashlight will help you locate your cables in the dark and it offers both standard USB and USB-C connections.
- Waterproof &Dustproof &Shockproof: Novoo Explorer 10,000 mAh Power Bank with an IP67 Waterproof rating, you keep it in pack for hiking and...
- Fast Charge at PD 18W Speed: USB-C Power Delivery port gives all USB-C devices a blazing-fast power boost (up to 18W), juices up your iPhone...
- Built-in Flashlight: portable power bank comes with emergency LED flashlight that offers up to 45 hours of use, which is good for outdoor...
Stove, Fuel and Firestarter
If you’re tent camping you’ll want to have a camp stove on hand for cooking meals and boiling water for tea and coffee. For a more in depth look at camp stoves check out our Best Camping Stoves of 2020 article.
Small canister camp stoves are small and easy to use for individuals and small groups, especially when wilderness camping. The fuel canister and burner come apart making them a compact and lightweight option.
Larger stoves like a Coleman camp stove are really popular for drive up campsites. They come in single and dual burner designs and offer enough cooking space to feed a larger group.
The fuel comes in either a small propane bottle or an aerosol style butane can, both of which are easy to connect and replace. These stoves can be set up in minutes and have adjustable heat settings.
- Instastart ignition for matchless lighting; 7,650 total BTUs of cooking power
- Fits up to a 10-inch pan
- Lasts up to 1.25 hours on high on one 8.8 oz. butane gas cylinder (sold separately)
For whichever style of camp stove you choose you’ll need a way to light it. Some stoves have a pushbutton starter but having a backup method in your pocket is a smart move.
Long stem lighters, often referred to as bbq lighters, are a simple way to light stoves and campfires while keeping your hands away from danger. Stormproof matches are able to ignite and remain lit in wind and rain making them another great option for starting your stove.
Camping cookware has to fit your stove size and your food portions, It will also depend on your camping style. Typically a pot and frying pan will cover the bases for any food you plan to cook while camping.
If your plan is to tent camp in the wilderness and need to pack your gear down a trail, you’ll probably want to chose a titanium backpacking cookware set. For a more detailed list checkout our guide to the Essential Backpacking Cooking Gear.
If your camp site is near your car and you’re cooking on a camp stove, you should be fine with a traditional kitchen set or cast iron pot and pan. Just be aware that the stove may leave a little bit of soot on the bottom of your cookware.
Open Fire Cookware
For those who like to rough it and cook on an open fire, cast iron is the best way to go. The pans are heavy duty and provide a nice even heat for your food. You’ll want to choose utensils with long handles and have some gloves on hand to protect your hands from the heat. For more on this topic see Best Camping Cookware For Open Fire Cooking.
A good quality mulit-tool will make you the most popular camper on the site. With a knife for carving cooking sticks, scissors for opening packages, a can opener, pliers and a whole lot more, you’ll be prepared for every scenario.
High end multi-tools can be expensive but you don’t need to shell out a fortune to get a good quality tool. The Gerber Suspension Multi-Plier is very well priced for it’s quality.
The stainless steel and aluminum construction make this 12 tool combo both lightweight and durable. And Gerber stands behind it’s tools with a lifetime warranty, these things are built to be used. The multi-plier also comes with a carrying sheath which can be connected to your belt or backpack.
- 12-IN-1 MULTI-TOOL: Features spring-loaded needle nose pliers, wire cutters, serrated and plain edge blades knife set, cross driver and flat...
- SURVIVAL GEAR AND EQUIPMENT: Made from stainless steel with an aluminum handle that will stand the test of time and conveniently travel with...
- SLIM DESIGN: Easily accessible and fits compactly in a pocket or attached with the included lanyard hole; Butterfly opening and locking...
Whether you plan to spend your days trail hiking, beach bathing or nature watching there’s going to come a time where you’ll want to take a load off and collapse in a seat. A hard wooden stump or old weathered picnic table just are’t going to cut it.
Camping chairs come in all different sizes and many have built in pockets, head rests, coolers and shade umbrellas. Choose a chair that fits your camping style.
keep it simple and lightweight if it needs to be carried any distance over a few hundred feet. For backpacking I carry a 3 leg stool, it straps to the outside of my bag and is very lightweight.
If your plan is to camp along side your car then by all means get a chair with all the gadgets built in. A carrying case will make it easy to carry and also protect it from the elements over night and wear and tear while in storage.
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Mosquitos, fleas, ticks and other biting pests can turn an otherwise picturesque evening outdoors into an itchy nightmare, that’s why repellent is a necessity.
There are many different brands that offer sprays, lotions, wipes and wearables to keep the biters at a distance. They are all made with different ingredients but usually include DEET or Picaridin as the repelling agent. Natural products lean more toward lemon eucalyptus or other lemon extracts.
There are also different perimeter options like citronella candles, incense, and others that don’t get applied directly to the body but rather form an invisible barrier around them.
I carry a small 4oz bottle of Sawyer picaridin insect repellent with me at all times when camping or hiking. Drive up camp sites are better for doubling up with a candle or citronella torches, they also provide some nice ambiance around the campsite.
- Safe for use on the whole family, long-lasting insect and tick repellent spray deters a wide variety of pests — up to 12 hours against...
- Fragrance-free topical insect repellent with 20% Picaridin — more effective at repelling biting flies than DEET; repels disease-spreading...
- Very comfortable to wear on your skin, it's ideal for all your outdoor adventures, from camping, backpacking, hunting, and fishing to...
First Aid Kit
Most camping injuries happen in remote locations or at night rather than when you’re packing up the car. Having a first aid kit on hand and knowing how to use it is very important. A mixture of alcohol wipes, bandages, scissors, tweezers, gauze pads, tape, Neosporin and After-Bite should be included in your kit.
Most Small First Aid Kits have what the majority of situations will require and are compact enough to be easily clipped to a clothesline, backpack or tree branch for easy and fast access.
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Wind And Rain Gear
Protection from the wind and rain is essential when tent camping, for you and your gear. Nothing puts a damper on a camping trip like being cold and wet. Carry a lightweight waterproof shell that will provide a barrier from the elements.
A rainfly for your backpack is the best way to keep your gear dry while hiking to and from your site. And if weight isn’t an issue bring an extra tarp along with 100′ of rope to crate some covered seating to protect from the sun and rain.
Layering with clothing will give you the best options when it comes to choosing your camping clothes. Being able to add or remove a layer or two throughout the day will keep you most comfortable at noon and around the fire at night.
Wear clothes that are comfortable and if possible convertible like zip-off pants that can convert to shorts and long sleeve T’s that are hooded.
Have a hat, scarf or beanie to keep your head warm at night and the sun off of it during the day. A lightweight bandana can be dampened with water to keep the back of your neck cool on a hot afternoon.
Some mechanic or gardening gloves for handling the dirty work around camp are good to have available. They will also double to warm your hands in cooler temperatures and protect from the heat while cooking or maintaining a fire.
Gloves that provide good dexterity for you fingers are much more practical than mittens around a campsite if you plan to do more than sip hot chocolate.
Gloves like the CLC Custom Leathercraft flex grips have a reinforced palm and fingertips to provide the best combination of protection and durability. They also have a thin layer of insulation to keep your hands nice and toasty but still have a touch sensitive fingers to work with your cell phones and tablets.
- SHRINK RESISTANT: These work gloves are made with synthetic leather, providing toughness, and helps to resist shrinking/hardening. Excellent...
- SNAG PROOF: Concealed inner stitching prevents these heavy duty work gloves from snagging on wood or metal.
- STAYS ON: Wing closing strap prevents work gloves from slipping off when they become wet from weather or sweat.
Have good pair of boots that will keep your feet dry and happy along with a pair of flip flops or water shoes to let you enjoy the puddles without worry. The sandals are perfect for use in public bathrooms and showers too.
Camping is about having fun outdoors and being prepared for all different weather conditions and terrains.
With the gear we’ve covered above you’ll be prepared for any tent camping adventure. Of course there’s always a barrage of items that you’ll want to bring that aren’t mandatory but can improve your experience further.
For that reason we’ve created a printable list of gear, games, and accessories (Google Sheets) that you may want to add to your list. Prepare to have fun!