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Getting away from the hustle and bustle and spending time in nature is the cure (at least temporarily) for many of life’s everyday woes—at least we think so. Falling asleep to the sound of crickets and waking to the sound of birds unsullied by traffic or other city noises, is a phenomenal way to end and begin your day.
One of the great things about camping is that you can tailor the experience to your own comfort level. Luckily, there is a plethora of gear options available for whatever kind of camping you intend to do. If you’ve caught the outdoors bug and are looking for the best in gear options, including the best camping chairs, best camping mattresses, best tents, and more, but aren’t quite sure where to start (we do live in a world of seemingly endless options, after all) we’ve got you covered, both literally and figuratively.
Things to consider before buying camping gear
What is your personal cost-to-benefit ratio for camping gear?
As with most things in life, budget is an important factor. There are gear options to meet most any budget, though some items on the lower monetary end will not last as long as their more expensive counterparts. While this is not a hard and fast rule, we do think that much of the time, you get what you pay for.
How much space do you have to transport your gear?
Whether you’re using a car to get to your campsite, or just your own two feet and backpack, will greatly influence what kind of gear (and how much of it) you ‘need.’ If you’re hiking or bike-packing, every ounce counts and you’ll likely want to choose lightweight gear that packs down small. Just make sure to balance weight against durability: Many lightweight gear options are surprisingly strong and robust but sometimes, a couple extra ounces are worth it if it means you won’t accidentally rip a hole in your tent wall.
How long do you expect your gear to last?
Durability is another aspect to take into consideration. If you plan to make camping a permanent part of your life, purchasing gear that is well made and durable will (hopefully) mean that you only have to buy it once. (I’m a big proponent of gear that is meant to last and companies that offer free repairs and lifetime guarantees.)
Our top camping gear picks
Best camping tent: NorthFace Wawona 6
The best tent for you depends a lot on what kind of camping you intend to do, and how many people you plan to house in a single pitched enclosure. The NorthFace Wawona 6 is an excellent choice for a large percentage of campers, especially those who have lots of gear and perhaps a child or two in tow. With 85 square feet and a height of six feet, four inches, this tent is huge, with ample room to stand up inside (unless you’re a family of giants).
The vestibule provides tons of space to store all your hiking, swimming, and playing gear: It’s almost like having a garage with you while in the great outdoors. The first time you pitch this tent, it may take a while to figure out the system (especially the detached fly), but I’ve definitely experienced more difficult ones. Once up, it’s sturdy and weather resistant. And, it’s very reasonably priced.
- Huge vestibule
- Lots of interior space
- Room to stand up
- Excellent value for money
- Only one door
Best camping hammock: Eagles Nest Outfitters Double Nest
Relaxing in a hammock slung between two trees, far away from civilization, is one of the best kinds of relaxing there is. The ENO Double Nest has enough room for you and your favorite other being (human or canine) and provides a secure, cocoon-like rest or sleep spot.
It includes carabiners and detailed, yet concise instructions for optimal angle of the suspension system in a convenient stuff sack.
- Easy setup
- Kind of a low weight limit for a two-person hammock
Best camping mattress: Therm-a-rest MondoKing 3D
I own several Therm-a-rest mattresses, and the MondoKing 3D is the one I take on a camping trip where I’m not worried about weight and space (meaning not backpacking). This is a self-inflating mattress with a soft foam core, with 4.25 inches of loft. If you’re someone who moves around a lot while sleeping, this camp mattress is for you—it’s just as comfortable as sleeping on the couch in your living room (some may say even more comfortable).
Plus, its high R-value (how well your mattress resists heat loss) traps your body heat, keeping you warm through cold nights.
- Dual valves for quick inflation
- Large sleeping area
- Large packed size
Best camping sleeping bag: Rab Neutrino 200
Mummy sleeping bags are shaped like a person: Wider at the top to accommodate shoulders and narrow below the hips for a closer fit around your lower legs and feet. Perfect for summer or spring camping adventures, the Rab Neutrino 200 is available with a zipper on the left or right side. There’s a drawcord for cinching the hood around your face and a storage pocket for your phone.
- Small packed size
- Some people may not like the close fit of a mummy bag
Best camping cooking gear: GSI Pinnacle Camper
The Pinnacle Camper set includes 2- and 3-liter pots with strainer lids, a 9-inch fry pan, four 14 ounce mugs with insulated sleeves, four 14 ounce bowls, four 7.5-inch plates, four sip it tops, a folding gripper/handle, and a storage bag that doubles as a sink. Basically, everything you need to serve up a delicious meal for up to four people. The Teflon coating also makes for easy clean up afterwards.
- Pot handle gets hot if left on for too long
Best camp stove: Biolite CampStove 2 Complete Kit
The Biolite Camp Stove is one of our most favorite pieces of camping gear, as it’s not only a stove, but it also charges your devices. The onboard 3,200 mAh battery stores power as it burns for charging on demand via the USB out port.
The kit comes with a grill grate with the capacity for four burgers, a KettlePot, and Coffee Press accessories, as well as a flex light so you can see what you’re cooking. The Camp Stove burns wood scraps and sticks, grass, and pellets. Leave the camp fuel at home and generate electricity through fire.
- Turns fire into electricity
- Very portable
- Some may think it’s expensive
Best camping table: Lifetime Adjustable Height Folding Table
A good folding table is an extremely useful bit of camping gear if you're parked in one spot for a few days, since it makes food preparation and serving much easier, and eliminates the need to stake out a picnic table (or use half of said picnic table for cooking).
This folding table from Lifetime is easy to set up, though adjusting the height is much more efficient (and will elicit much less swearing) with two people.
- Adjustable height
- On the heavy side
Best camping chair: ALPS Mountaineering King Kong
No more perching on a log or balancing your plate on your lap while sitting on one of those backless camp stools! The King Kong camp chair from ALPS Mountaineering offers spacious comfort (with armrests), a cup/bottle holder, and side storage pockets. Once you sink into one, you won’t want to get back up again.
- Comes in a variety of colors
- Backpack strap carry bag
- Padded seat
Best camping cooler: Yeti Tundra 65
Yeti is well known among folks who camp as makers of the best camping coolers out there. They’re extremely durable (even after tumbling down the side of a mountain or serving as a step stool or pedestal) and offer excellent insulation, keeping your drinks cold and your food fresh for up to a week before having to replenish the ice.
Yes, it’s expensive, but you’ll never need to buy another cooler. And, it's currently available in a limited edition rescue red color so you can spot it—and your campsite—from a mile away.
- Excellent insulation
- No plug tether
Best camping lighting: Petzl Actik Core Headlamp
There really isn’t anything we don’t like about the Petzl Actik headlamp, but if we have to say something, it’s that it's compact enough that it can be difficult to locate in the dark, or if it's swimming around loose in your pack.
It has two power sources, the rechargeable battery and 2 AAA batteries, to power the variety of light modes, including white max, standard, eco, red near, and strobe. We recommend the red for nighttime trips to the bathroom so as to not disturb your sleeping companions, or the wildlife lurking in the bushes.
- Adjustable beam width
- Can be easy to misplace in the dark
Best camping accessories:
The size of a delicious ice cream sandwich, these little recharging solar lights from Biolite have an integrated solar panel that keeps them illuminating your nighttime campsite (a full charge gives you 50 hours of runtime). Equipped with a kickstand and a clip, you can either hang them or set them on a flat-ish surface.
They also have three different colored modes that can be set to flash for a ‘party mode’, allowing you to up your outdoor dance game.
- Small, packable size
- Different colored light modes
- Often not in stock
This is another piece of outdoor gear where it’s tough to say anything bad about. Leatherman multi tools have been around for a long time, so they know what they’re doing when they make these. This model has been upgraded with replaceable wire and hard-wire cutters and includes needle pliers, regular pliers, an electrical crimper, a wire stripper, a knife, a serrated knife, a saw, spring-action scissors, a ruler, can and bottle openers, and two files (for wood and metal).
We recommend etching your name on yours so you can prove ownership when someone else tries to claim it as their own.
- High quality
- Has a tendency to “walk away”
How we selected the best camping gear
We selected the best camping gear based on decades of personal experience camping in all kinds of places (The Pamir Mountains, State Parks in the U.S., river banks, Joshua Tree, the Mongolia Steppe) and the recommendations and knowledge of the adventure and outdoor community, available in online forums and around campfires across the world.
Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
What is the most essential camping gear?
The most essential camping gear depends on how you define camping (are we talking pitching a huge multi-person tent, parking an RV, or simply hunkering down in a foxhole?) At the very least, camping in most forms requires some way to keep warm at night (sleeping bag), the ability to make fire, and something to cook in.
How can I find quality camping gear on a budget?
You can find quality camping gear on a budget at gear swaps, or online at places like Gear Trade and Gear X. Both of these sites offer a large inventory of quality used gear for a fraction of what you would pay for it new. You can also sell your own used gear if you’re ready to upgrade or move on.
What is the most popular way to camp?
The most popular way to camp is as varied as the people who like to spend time outdoors. Camping is one of those things where there really isn’t a right or wrong way to do it (as long as you practice ‘leave no trace’). Camp however you want: In a tent, on the top of your vehicle, with lots of gadgets, with nothing but a tarp. That’s the great thing about the outdoors, it doesn’t judge you or expect anything from you. It’s just happy you’re spending time with it.
What is the most comfortable thing to sleep on in a tent?
The most comfortable thing to sleep on in a tent is a surface free of roots, branches, and rocks, and as flat as you can find. After that, some people like an inflatable mattress for added cushion while others are fine with a pad and sleeping bag. There are also camp cots if you have the room to transport one: The Therm-a-rest Ultralight Cot is one of our favorites.
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