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9 Essential Items for Camping

Tonya Prater, Owner

Disclaimer: This post does contain some affiliate links.

9 essential items for camping- what you should pack and why.

My list of essential items for camping has changed over the years. When my husband and I started camping, as a young family, our needs were vastly different than they are now as empty nesters. While there were many camping supplies I would love to have acquired, there simply wasn’t room in the budget for luxuries. Even then, we made sure we had money for an air mattress. No way was I sleeping on the ground, in a tent, then or now. And with young children, one of the best purchases I ever made was to buy a pair or water shoes for each member of the family. Considered one of my number one necessities when camping, the water shoes allowed my kids to play in the sand, in the creek, and even in the mud with no worries. Plus, they could double as shower shoes which made this germaphobe mama ecstatic when it came time to use the public showers at the campground.

With camping season already on my mind, I thought it would be fun to share my current list of “must-haves” when camping.

9 Essential items for Camping 

coleman pop up tent

  1. A tent.

Okay, this may be a no brainer, but not all tents are created equal. I admit, one reason my husband and I gave up camping when the kids were younger was that the tent was such a pain in the rear to set up and tear down.

After some research, my husband and I chose the 4- person Coleman Pop-up Tent which we adore. This tent literally sets up in less than 10 seconds and unlike other tents, it does fit back inside the bag it came out of when it’s packed up. I only have one complaint about this tent. It’s not very tall so you won’t be able to stand inside the tent. I admit, rolling out of the tent in the morning can be a slight struggle for this stiff, forty-something-year-old body, but I don’t detest it so much that I’m inclined to look elsewhere. This tent has made camping fun again. Amazing.

31 tote
     2. Thirty-One Gifts Large and Deluxe Utility Bags.

I made the mistake of hashtagging one of my photos on Instagram with #31bags and someone mistakenly thought I had packed 31 bags for a getaway. Nope, I’m not talking about quantity, I’m talking about quality as in Thirty-One Gifts, the company.

I use the Large Utility Tote with the Top-A-Tote lid to store my camp kitchen gear. It’s the perfect size to hold a wash pan, dishcloths, a drying mat, dishwashing liquid, my pots and pans, camping dishes and silverware.

I use the Deluxe Utility Tote to store nearly everything else we need for camping- blankets, towels, a deck of cards, camp lanterns, bug spray, etc. You name it, it’s probably in my bag. To keep everything secure and in place, I use the Deluxe Cinch Top Lid. One day I’ll offer an entire review on these products, for now, let me say that I really don’t know what I’d do without my color-coordinated bags. (The color-coordinated aspect just makes me happy).    


     3. A Solar Charger for Electronics

This is not an item that I own or have used, but I’m hoping to add it to my camping shopping list for the camping season. I know some people camp to unplug- and that’s great, but when my husband and I are traveling without the kids, we still like to be accessible to them if at all possible. Also, even though we’re traveling, it doesn’t mean that I’m not working. Hello? Travel blogger, here. I pretty much work some of the time, every time we travel. I need to be connected or at the very least make sure my smartphone is charged so I can take hundreds of photos.

If you have one of these devices or one similar, I’d love to hear your experience.

To turn on the goTenna, simply pull the end out and the light will turn on.

    4. goTenna. 

goTenna allows you to stay connected when cell phones fail by using your smartphone as a communication device even when you have no service from your internet provider.  Last year, my husband and I stayed at several campgrounds where we were unable to use our phones due to lack of service. Now as an adult, it’s not that big of a deal if I’m unable to reach him every five minutes, but when I found myself working on a project in the clubhouse and unable to let him know that I’d be working for an hour longer than I expected, I had no choice but to stop what I was doing, pack up my gear and walk 15 minutes back to the campsite to let him know I’d be an hour later so he wouldn’t worry. I really needed goTenna then (and when my children were younger), which is one of the reasons I’m so excited to camp with the devices this year!

    5. Headlamps. 

A couple of years ago, we invested in headlamps for the entire family. They’ve been a huge asset several times. My boys’ have used them when working on their vehicles, we’ve used them when climbing through caves, and we’ve used them when setting up camp in the dark. If you’re interested in adding a headlamp to your tent camping list that you purchase one that allows you to adjust the brightness of the light.

    6. Tea Tree Oil.

You may hear a lot about essential oils these days, and while I do use them in varying degrees, there is one that I find especially helpful when camping. I keep Tea Tree Oil spray in my first aid kit to help ease the pain and aggravation of itchy bug bites.

pie iron

    7. A Waffle Pie Iron with Storage Case.

My favorite camp food is made using a pie iron. When I found the waffle pie irons, I knew I had to have one. The canvas storage case just makes sense. The heavy-duty canvas allows your pie irons to breathe while keeping them, and everything else in your camping supply pile clean.

8. Firestarters. 

I’m not sure if it’s my Girl Scout skills kicking in or the fact that my parents’ heat their home with a wood-fired stove, but I can start an amazing campfire.  My husband, on the other hand, must not have paid attention in Boy Scouts because his skills are seriously lacking. In the event that he needs to start a fire, either store-bought or homemade firestarters, are a good staple to have on hand.

coleman camp stove

    9. A Camp Stove.

As I mentioned, when I’m camping, I love to munch on something cooked in a pie iron, but that’s hard to do if there is an open fire ban in effect. Thankfully, we had purchased a Coleman Butane Instastart Stove prior to our camping trip to Oregon last year, otherwise, it would have been fast food every day. I’ve had other camp stoves, but so far, this is my favorite. This stove is simple to set up. Simply snap the Butane bottle in place and turn it on. It really is that simple. The can of Butane lasts for quite a while. We didn’t even use two cans on our 9-day trip last year. The stove also comes with a handy carrying case that slips right inside my Deluxe Utility Tote from Thirty-One Gifts.

This is not an exhaustive tent camping list of necessities by any means, but it is my list of favorites. What items would you include in your camp list?

Alexandria Martinez

Tuesday 5th of December 2017

I am going camping for the first time in years and need some tips on what I should bring with me. Bringing a fire starter is probably a wonderful idea since we will need it to cook our food. This way, we can also keep warm once it gets colder at night.


Friday 2nd of June 2017

Cast iron Dutch Oven! It literally changed my camping life!

Some of my faves to make while camping: one pot Thanksgiving Dinner, with Gravy! Peach cobbler, freshly baked bread and birthday cake. Because you need cake while camping. Protection Status
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