Camping is an exciting activity that can be enjoyed by all the family. However, it might surprise new campers how much equipment you need. The last thing you want is to get to the campsite only to find that you don’t have an important item so proper planning is key.
If you’ve been thinking about buying camping equipment and getting a full on camping setup then this guide is for you! We’ve put together details on everything you’ll need and why it’s so important. Consider this your ultimate camping setup checklist.
Finding The Right Tent
You can’t go camping without a tent. So, this will be one of the first things you need to get your hands on. Now, buying a tent can come with quite a steep price tag, especially if you’re buying something for the whole family. But it’s much better to buy a high quality tent that’s going to keep you dry and comfortable than it is to buy something cheap that won’t serve as anything more than a piece of cloth over your head when you’re camping.
A touring option is a great choice but there are so many different styles so it’s worth thinking about how you’ll use the tent. There are some that are designed for all seasons, if you’re planning on wild adventures, whereas others are ideal for summer holidays with the family.
One of the most important things to think about when buying a tent is the size. If you’re heading out with your partner and three kids then you aren’t all going to want to be cramped into a tight space. There are some wonderful, large family tents out there with separate bedrooms, living spaces and lots of room to move around.
You might also wish to find a tent that has some sort of storage for all your gear so that you don’t have to leave it in the living quarters.
As well as your tent, you should also consider some sort of outdoor shelter. This could come in many forms. Some people choose a simple camping tarp whereas others might attach an awning to the tent for a covered outdoor space. This is imperative if you plan to leave equipment such as a gas stove outdoors overnight as it will prevent the equipment from sustaining moisture damage.
You’ll also benefit from some sort of outdoor shelter when you want to spend time outdoors but don’t want to be exposed to the elements. These shelters will keep you dry when it rains and can provide some much needed shade on a hot summer’s day.
You can read our article on the best quick pitch tents here.
Furniture For Your Tent
It’s no good just throwing up a tent and leaving it at that; you’ll need to furnish it. What you take will largely depend on what you plan to do and how long you’ll be staying for. For example, if you want to cook outside the tent for every meal, a good quality table and chairs is a must. However, if you’re going for a two night camping trip and will eat out for every meal, then you probably won’t benefit from this.
However, some seating will be appreciated, even if it’s just a couple of reclining loungers out the front of the tent. There are lots of options when it comes to camping chairs. Some are small and fold down to a very compact size if you’re pushed for space while others can be quite large and luxurious. Again, it depends on the length of your stay and how much time you intend on spending in the tent compared to going off and exploring.
If you are going to do a lot of cooking, you’ll also want to think about things like a stand for your cooker and tables for prepping food. If you’re going to be storing food items, having some sort of shelving or waterproof storage is a must.
Now onto your bedding. Just because you’re sleeping in a tent, it doesn’t mean that you need to be uncomfortable. Quite the opposite; some of the modern camping gear for bedtime is extremely comfortable. This is super important since you’ll be exerting a lot of energy during the day so getting a good night’s sleep is essential.
One thing you should keep in mind is that your sleeping gear will be some of the bulkiest so it’ll take up a lot of your precious transporting space. This could mean having to sacrifice other equipment but you’ll have to work out what suits you.
Things you will need to purchase including sleeping mats, sleeping bags, blankets and perhaps camping beds or blow up mattresses if you’re staying for more than a night or two.
Do You Want Power?
A lot of people want to go camping to get back in touch with nature, and that’s great. But tell me that you’ll be able to survive without checking Facebook for a week or quickly boiling the kettle for your morning coffee. I doubt that most of us would be able to truly manage this so you’ll need to consider whether you want your tent to be powered.
We have a detailed guide on electric hook ups that will tell you everything you need to know. But in short, an EHU will allow you to run low power appliances such as kettles, phone chargers, hairdryers, heaters and other things.
However, you might want something much simpler, in which case you could settle for a very simple setup using battery powered equipment and really taking it back to basics. You can buy portable battery chargers so you can power your devices but rely on your campfire for things like heat and somewhere to cook.
It might even be possible to use portable solar panels for a simpler solution to your power needs. Although, even portable panels can be bulky and you’re not always guaranteed to get as much power as you might need. While the panels will work in overcast weather, they generally perform better in an open south facing direction with a lot of direct sunlight.
What About Lighting?
You won’t need to light your campsite up as though it’s Blackpool Illuminations but you are going to want some light to see what you’re doing in the evenings. If you’re cooking, you’ll need to be able to see what’s going on and even when you’re relaxing doing something like reading a book, illumination is a must.
Moreover, you’ll want something to light up walkways in the dark so that the risk of tripping is reduced.
You can buy a variety of different lights for camping including flashlights, string lights, battery powered LEDs and many more. Some of the bright battery powered camping lanterns give off a bright glow that can be adjusted depending on what you’re doing. If you’re simply looking to create a welcoming atmosphere around the campsite then a string light setup is ideal.
When you’re cooking or doing other tasks around the campsite, a headlamp is invaluable. These are also great for use in an emergency situation as you’ll have your hands free which isn’t the case when using a flashlight.
Cleanliness And Hygiene
When you are camping, you may have access to a shower block or other facilities so this will impact what you need to take. Moreover, you’ll want to consider the length of your stay. For example, if you’re only going for one or two nights, is there really much point in adding a portable shower to your already large kit?
Where there are shower and toilet facilities, you won’t need to take much more than your regular toiletries and a few laundry supplies. However, if you don’t have access to these types of facilities and are staying for a longer period of time, you should consider a portable shower and toilet.
But on top of these things, you’re going to need an additional shelter; often referred to as a privacy tent.
Time For Food
When you’re spending time away from home, making a meal isn’t as simple as heading to your fully stocked kitchen. When it comes to camping, you’ll need to think carefully about what you're going to take. It’s important to take everything you’re going to need but don’t go over the top as this will take up precious space in the car when travelling.
There is the option to eat out so you won’t have to worry about cooking. The main problem with this is that it can get very expensive, especially if you’re travelling as a family. Moreover, you miss out on the joy of outdoor cooking which is part of what makes camping so enjoyable.
The great thing about cooking while camping is that you don’t have to go all Gordon Ramsay. You can keep things simple and still end up with a really tasty meal.
You are going to need a camping stove; something with two burners is going to be efficient and yet compact enough for travel. On top of this, your camping kitchen setup will need various utensils; which you take will largely depend on what you want to cook but things like spoons, a spatula, tongs and other things will come in handy.
It’s also possible to buy camping cookware which is often stackable so this will take up less space. Again, how much you take will depend on how many of you are going on the trip.
Of course, you can’t cook a meal without ingredients. It’s important to plan your meals carefully before you leave so you can take exactly what you need.
What About Keeping Your Food Fresh?
Some food won’t stay fresh for long. The more longlife items you can take the better and taking foods that don’t require refrigeration will help. But it’s impossible not to take anything that needs to be chilled so your setup will need to include a way of doing this.
One of the simplest options is a coolbox. These come in a range of sizes and are great for short trips. What’s more, they’re very lightweight and easy to use. However, if you need something more advanced than you can buy a camping fridge.
That said, these appliances are usually pretty heavy and aren’t typically used in a tent; they’re more suited to caravans and motorhomes.
Keeping Everyone Entertained
Nobody wants to be sitting around the campsite twiddling their thumbs and wondering what to do. While there will likely be a lot of local activities, walks and things to do, you’re going to spend a significant amount of time at your camp so you’ll need to make sure you’re entertained. This is especially important if you’re travelling with kids because we know how quickly they can get bored.
You will need to consider how much packing space you have and work out what things you can take. Outdoor sports equipment like tennis rackets and cricket sets are ideal and if you’ve got a roof rack, you might even throw on a kayak so you can spend time on the water. For evenings and rainy days, things like a pack of cards and travel board games will release the boredom.
What Will You Wear?
Camping can be a mixed bag when it comes to the weather. In the UK, even summertime can see a cool day with lots of showers so it’s important to be prepared. What’s more, your clothing will be determined by what activities you intend to do. For example, if you’re going to do a lot of hiking, you’ll need a good pair of hiking boots.
Try to pack a single bag for each person that contains clothing and have a good variety. Wearing layers can help you to better regulate temperature and remember that, at night, things can get quite chilly.
Choosing The Right Vehicle
Once you have purchased your entire camping set up then you’re going to need a reliable way of getting it from A to B. This is why it’s really important to choose a car that’s going to be big enough to contain all of your gear as well as something comfortable, especially if you’re travelling a long way to the campsite.
You could buy a trailer but this is going to limit how easily you can travel so it’s something to be avoided where possible.
Of course, while you will need a vehicle that’s going to have enough room for you, your family and your camping set up, you don’t want something so big that you end up overspending. A midsize car will normally be just right for a camping family. But if you don’t want to invest in a new vehicle, you can always rent one.
Having the right equipment when you go camping is a must. There’s a lot to consider beyond your tent if you want a comfortable and functional camping set up. Everything from cooking equipment to light and bedding to clothing, you’ll need to think carefully about the gear you buy to ensure the best camping trip possible.