Even though it’s still raining and cold here in Portland, Oregon, the camping season is getting started in warmer areas of the country so it’s about that time to make sure you’ve got all the essentials in your garage for a great camping trip. While camping with the bare minimum is certainly an option, we’re here to give you the inside scoop on what kind of gear will make your trip more comfortable. It seems appropriate to use the classic Boy Scout motto of “always be prepared” when packing up your gear, whether you are hiking to your destination or just driving to a convenient camp site. Pack all the right tools and you can have a relaxing weekend away from civilization. Just don’t forget to turn off your smartphone.
Clockwise from top left.
An obvious essential, make sure you have a tent that is made for the elements you will be camping in. If you pack a hot-weather tent for the rainy season, you might regret it. If you plan on staying up late into the night playing card games with friends, consider a high-tech option like the Eureka Solar Intent Tent ($240) includes a solar-powered LED light inside that charges up during the day to provide up to 8 hours of light in the tent.
While we advocate turning off your electronics during your trip to maximize relaxation, it’s always good to be able to connect to technology if necessary. There are many options for non-outlet charging, including this Brunton Explorer Foldable Solar Panel ($79), which harvests the sun’s energy to provide power for small electronics via USB.
Even if you don’t live in a rainy climate or the weather forecast is all clear for the weekend, there’s always a chance of unexpected showers to ruin your day. Getting wet and cold because you don’t have appropriate rain gear is the worst, especially when you are nowhere near a hot shower or indoor heat. Rain jackets are lightweight, so make sure to throw one in your bag no matter what. We like this Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket ($69+), which offers superb rain protection, breathability, and small packing size.
Even though you might not expect to need it, a knife is hands-down one of the best tools to pack in your bag. Whether it’s cooking up dinner or cutting ropes to help hang wet clothes, it will always come in handy for something. This Benchmade REI 585 Mini Barrage Knife ($160) has a great, all-purpose 2.9-inch blade with an ambidextrous, folding design.
This won’t be a necessity if you are driving to a large, easy-to-find camp site, but if you are taking a long hike to get to camp or plan to take off on adventures while at your site, having a GPS along with you is never a bad idea. The Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx GPS ($220) is a handheld device that will ensure that you don’t get lost, or can at least find your way back if you do. Mark up to 50 routes with this GPS to have exact directions wherever you go.
Unless you are going with the bare-minimum approach, you are going to want some hot food at the end of your day in the wilderness. While you can always cook basic hot dogs over the fire, a stove gives you more options for a full, delicious meal. Try a quick-start version for convenience, like the Century Matchless Ultra 2-Burner Stove ($99), which ignites both burners with the touch of a button. You can even cook two different things on the burners at different temperatures.