What do we need? The real camping gear list

The Campfire team gets to test a lot of interesting camping, cooking and outdoors kit, but what do we actually take with us? A couple of the Campfire crew set out last summer for two months’ driving and tent-camping in Europe, and they’ve shared their packing list.

The best tent

Coleman Octagon tent

Coleman’s Octagon with hinged door

We loved our quick-erect Khyam Wayfarer tent, but a redesign put us off a little. So, our current favourite, is the lovely Coleman Cortes Octagon with its hinged door (no zip noises in the night!) and big windows. Not a draught-proof winter tent, but spacious enough to add a pop-up bedroom tent inside. We also love the Coleman inflatable FastPitch Valdes (hinged doors on that one too. We’ve got a quick-pitch tent feature for you to read, by the way.

And if you’d rather have a campervan? Well, we love the VW California Beach.

The best camping chair

Camping chairs Coleman and OutwellThe Coleman Deck Chair is a sturdy and comfy chair that’s also ultra light and looks pretty cool too. Not sure why Coleman keeps appearing here, but the tent and chair were just great. The black one in the picture is an Outwell version that’s very similar but doesn’t seem to be available any more.

The best camping cupboard and storage

Zempire camping cupboardWe used to use an Outwell kitchen store bag, but these are no longer available. The best option we’ve come up with so far is a folding, three-shelf cupboard. The one shown here is the Zempire, but there’s not a lot to choose between the models. The Chatsworth is a cheaper alternative. You can also see a round-up of them in our camping cupboard review.

Andes kitchen storer

A large box for car things (warning triangle, foot-pump), hook-up leads, games, first aid kit and so on; a medium one for non-perishable foods, spices etc, and a small one to use as a washing up bowl. Ours cam from Ikea, but there are lots more storage boxes to choose from if you need a specific size. The ones from the Really Useful box company are…really useful.

We also always take the Andes kitchen storer. It’s got room for crockery, pots, pans and extras and is light, neat and easy to carry.

The best camping stoves

Cadac Safari Chef

campingaz bivouac camping stove

A rather fabulous stove with lots of cooking accessories. The Cadac takes big bottles of gas, which aren’t for backpackers, of course, but the stove itself folds away nicely for cars or campervans. The Campingaz Bivouac stove is perfect and neat for a more lightweight and portable option.

The best barbecue

Lotus Grill barbecue

The best barbecue we’ve tried. The Lotus Grill doesn’t always come along because some campsites (especially in fire-risk areas) don’t like charcoal barbecues. It’s fast, smoke-free and controllable, plus you can use it on a table, which should reassure some nervous campsite owners. The Cadac Safari Chef (see above), does the job without the coals.

The best folding camping table

folding tableA great, simple Kampa folding table with a solid (not roll) aluminum top. Five years old and still brilliant. It doesn’t fold up all that small, but it’s light and sturdy. Delighted that these are still available – and in two sizes too.

The best fridge

CFX28Basically a real fridge that’s super-efficient, can freeze as well as cool (whatever the temperature outside) and will run off the car battery or hook-up on-site. Not cheap at all, but essential for a long trip in sunny places. The one shown here is the Waeco CFX28. The CFX35 is more family-sized

We’ve got a couple of helpful articles on choosing a fridge by the way – a general buyers’ guide that explains the difference between types, and helps you decide which will work best for you. And a review of the models available.

The best self-inflating camping mats

Exped Comfort 10It’s a toss-up between the Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe with its bed-like comfort and the Exped Sim 10 LW camping mats. The S-to-S probably wins for its ease of inflation and packing away. There are lots of other recommendations in our camping mat review.

Don’t forget a pillow. We’ve tested a lot, hate the blow-up ones and love the memory foam mini pillows (super comfy, packable, keep their shape and have breathable bamboo covers).

The handiest holdalls

Dakine holdalls – a big range of sizes and colours. Folds up small, stylish, sturdy and easy to get things in and out of because the top opens up fully. 23-74 litres and from around £24 to £55.

The best water carrier

A toss-up between the gorgeous La Nuova Sansone stainless steel pot (not for backpacking, clearly!), the multipurpose Platypus (great for at-camp but doesn;t seal well enough for travelling with when full) and the foldable and neat Source Liquitainer. The Source wins out for all-round practicality.

Camping essentials

  • Pegs for hard ground – invaluable on parched campsites
  • Ordinary bedding when you have room. A sleeping bag isn’t always the best choice for comfort if you can squeeze a sheet and duvet into th pack
  • Beach cushions – cheap lounger pads from Ikea do the trick (and double as a mattress softener)
  • Plus……..

A windscreen shade – for privacy as well as sun-shielding

We always take a couple of packs of these totally natural Aqua Wipes. Not dear, either.

Green Decore recycled plastic rug

A Green Decore recycled plastic rug – for inside or outside. Soft, cleanable, perfect.

A stock of good readymeals for the days when you’re too tired to cook. The best are Firepot’s freeze-dried pouches because there’s enough in them to satisfy you and the ingredients are all natural

Petzl Noctilight

Head torch and small LED lantern – Petzl always seem to be the best. Plus now the Petzl Noctilight turns your headtorch into a lantern.

Decathlon’s Tribord beach parasol with side shades and pockets for sand (to weight it down)

The Vaude Navajo sleeping bag range is very versatile because you can use the bags as blankets too. Warmest is the 900. Eco-friendly materials as well. See the feature on sleeping bags for more.

Two stainless steel water bottles

A light and well-designed hammock. Our favourite is the Ticket to the Moon range

bog in a bag camping toilet

The Bog in a Bag folding toilet – or a pocket-sized alternative from our camping toilet feature

pack-away silicone camping bucket

Packaway bucket for carrying water, washing up and more


Incognito insect repellent

All-natural Incognito mosquito repellent


A good tarp to make an awning, shade, rain shelter, kitchen area…Have a look at our tarp article for ideas and the cheap extras that make pitching easy.

A Luminoodle LED light strip with integrated magnets and loops and rechargeable powerbank. Bright enough to read by.  Different lengths to choose from. Starts at £20. Brilliant!

Fun and games

  • Catan travel gameMaps and guidebooks
  • Kubb outdoor throwing and strategy game
  • Reading books
  • iPad and keyboard – for Campfire contributions while on the road!
  • Chargers
  • Catan, chess and cards
  • Snorkels and masks
  • Inflatable Sea Eagle kayak, life vests and paddles

Got any recommendations for essential kit that’s made camping easier? Let us know below.

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