If you’ve never been camping before the thought of working out what you may need can be a little daunting! With so much camping equipment available knowing what is important and suited to the type of camping you are doing can be confusing. This guide is aimed at helping you make informed decisions when choosing your camping gear.
First things first, the three main groups of things you will need are:
Tents are usually described by the number of people that will fit in it. However it is worth remembering this is the number of people BEFORE you include all your gear. For example for 2 people camping at a festival, you may want to go for a 3 person tent instead of a 2 person to allow for all your stuff. If you are travelling by car, you may find this is not an issue as you can store extra belongings in the car.
Some of the different styles of tents you can buy include; pop up, backpacker, family, weekender and festival. These tents are available in various shapes all suited for different purposes.
Pop up tents tend to be smaller, with a maximum of 2-3 people able to fit inside. They are very easy to put up without having to mess around with the poles making them popular festival tents. As there is a single sleeping area they are ideal for couples taking a weekend camping trip who don’t require masses of room.
Backpacker/Mountain style tents are largely only suitable for 1-2 people. They will often use aluminium poles to help reduce the weight of the tent. As they are so compact, they can be carried easily but the interior can be rather snug. You wouldn’t be able to fit a lot of gear into one of these tents.
Family tents usually hold from 4 people upwards. They are available in a variety of different styles. They may have a single sleeping area with a big porch or a communal space in the centre with separate sleeping areas branching off. The style you choose for this is personal preference.
Families with younger kids may opt for a larger tent with a single sleeping area so everyone sleeps together. Other families, especially those with older kids, may wish to have some privacy away from their children and go for a tent with an extra sleeping area or two. Remember, the larger the tent, the harder it will be to put up!
See our tent buying guide for more information.
A sleeping bag is an essential piece of kit for your camping trip. There are two styles to choose from- mummy and rectangular. Mummy sleeping bags have a hood and taper at the bottom. They tend to provide a bit more warmth than rectangular bags as they follow your body shape to retain heat more effectively.
Most sleeping bags will be labelled with an L or R which does not mean large or regular to most people’s surprise! It actually means whether the sleeping bag has a zip on the left or right hand side. Typically, if you are left handed you would want to purchase a sleeping bag with a zip on the right hand side as it would be much easier for you to zip up and down. This also means that if you were to get a left and a right zipped sleeping bag, you could join them together to make a double sleeping bag!
Rectangular sleeping bags are popular amongst people who don’t like to feel constricted when they sleep and are much easier to zip together too. They are most popularly used for couples camping away or even if your children want to share and keep warm due to the shared body heat.
Sleeping bags are also available with different temperature ratings to ensure you choose the correct one for the season, conditions and your personal requirements. See our sleeping bag guide for more information on choosing sleeping bags.
Sleeping Mats/ Airbeds
A sleeping bag on its own is not sufficient to keep you warm when camping. To insulate you from the cold ground you will need a roll mat, self-inflating mat or an air bed. Roll mats are ideal for those travelling and camping as they roll up small and are lightweight.
If you are camping with the family and weight and space is not an issue, you might prefer an air bed. You can buy foot pumps or electric pumps to make putting up your air bed when at the campsite as simple as possible.
Al fresco cooking is one of the most enjoyable activities you can do when camping and if you have a family it is far more cost effective than eating out. To cook outdoors you will require a camping stove.
There are several types of different stoves than can be used when camping, these include solid fuel stoves, non-pressurized liquid stoves, pressurized stoves and gas stoves.
Solid Fuel Stoves use hex blocks. They are small, cheap and easy to use. They take up very little space which makes them ideal for travelling as the fuel cannot leak. They are quite hard to light and better for emergencies than a long weekend of cooking.
Non pressurized Liquid Stoves also known as Trangias need methanol to use. Although bulkier than a solid fuel stove they do come in a handy set with a frying pan lid and a couple of pans with folding handle. These are most popular with youth groups such as scouts and cadets as well as for D of E expeditions. You do need to be careful when using methanol, as when you’re on the move they can leak.
Pressurized Liquid Stoves take up little room and are great for people going on longer expeditions. They are fast, efficient and relatively cheap. In windy conditions it can be difficult for the cooker to stay alight so you need to be careful when using these. These stoves are easier to use for small groups of one or two people. It would take a while to cook for your whole family on one of these!
Gas Cookers are the most popular type of stove for families going camping. They are very easy to use and with the push button ignition and the ability to adjust the flame, it makes it so much easier to cook meals on than any of the other cookers. They are very easy to clean and gas is widely available. You can get many different accessories that will fit onto one of these cookers such as pots, pans and grill plates which make cooking whilst camping almost as easy as cooking at home. In fact, these stoves are great to keep in your home in case of a power cut or an oven breakdown!
Lighting is very important when camping, especially if you’re not camping at a designated camp site so there won’t be lighting from elsewhere.
Torches, headtorches and lanterns are perfect for camping and are widely available. Torches with LEDs are a smart choice as they are bright and energy efficient.It is up to you whether you want to go for wind up torches or battery powered – but remember if you choose to go with a battery powered torch to bring spares just in case!
Head torches are ideal if you happen to be cooking when it is getting dark and for night-time toilet trips!
Above are the basics you will need for your camping trip, but there are many more items you can buy to make your home away from home a little bit more comfortable, including camping chairs, cupboards and tables. Camping chairs are especially useful should you take a trip to the beach.
Cupboards are ideal for keeping things organised if you are camping with the whole family for an extended period. Tables are available in a variety of sizes and heights if you are making your own campsite and want to have somewhere to sit and eat with all the family.
Why not print out our handy camping checklist so you can make sure you don’t forget anything?