At the moment, I’m more of a car camper so I only worry about certain items being compact and lightweight. This post is camping specific gear, but check out my travel gear page for clothing and other things also useful for camping.
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Tip. If you have an REI near you, they are my preferred store for camping gear and travel gear. If you sign up for a membership, you get money back at the beginning of every year to use towards future purchases as well as special member coupons and deals through the year. Great company. Otherwise, you can find tons on Amazon.
Purchased on Kickstarter, now available for pre-order, this is my favorite belt ever! It fits great and despite all the stuff you can fit inside like money or tools, it's still pretty slim lined. The buckle is awesome quality and looks great for casual or even business attire. Also easy to customize the fit once you get it. Made of nylon type material, it's strong and alternative to leather. I just bought the belt by itself, but as you can see, additional tools/supplies can be purchased separately to put into the belt. Perfect for everyday, travel (hide money, docs, keys), camping, or the wilderness.
I've long fantasized about getting a Leatherman and actually having a use for it. The Signal provides some additional travel/camping/outdoors tools I wanted that the more popular Wave offers. I've used other multi-tools before, but the quality of a Leatherman is unparalleled. Love the serrated knife which I use almost everyday, along with the screwdriver, and the tools plus add-ons are fantastic. There are black, silver, and coyote color options.
My go to for camping/hiking if I want to bring a salad, sandwich, or something with liquid. Seals tight, no leaks. Compressible, taking up little space in your pack, two-in-one containers. Various sizes. Tip: Don't over tighten!
Compressible and comfortable. Uses tiny inflatable tubes versus air. I bought a Medium which is close to a twin size pillow and does the job for me. Fits inside my mummy sleeping bag and is big enough that when I roll over my head doesn't fall off. Soft materials, one side for comfort, other for cooling. Note: Takes at least 20 mins if not couple hours for this thing to fully inflate so don't be disappointed when you first uncompress. Washing takes forever to dry, but running through the dryer will increase its volume. Replaced my smaller Exped Air.
Perfect for camping to see at night and have your hands free. Useful in caves and even packing early/late in a shared room. Low and high brightness settings using bright white light.
Upgraded from my Etekcity $10 similar stove and this one is more stable and better quality. Also includes 3 wind guards for the burner to prevent flame from going on with wind. Tip: Get the piezo lighter so you don't have to worry about matches.
A 2-burner propane stove perfect for car camping. Folds up slim and easily attaches to fuel canister. Biolite has more offerings, but way more expensive. I bought this to try out and see if I would even cook with this over a pocket stove. Can always sell and upgrade.
Finally bit the bullet when I saw this on sale to use instead of a tarp. Biggest advantage is in rainy/windy conditions you can set down the footprint, attach the rainfly, and stake into the ground. Then set up the tent under the rainfly and stay dry. Tarp still works great, is cheaper, and depending on size, I liked that there was extra material extending to put shoes, socks, pack on it instead of on the ground.
The best inexpensive tent I found. Comes in regular and plus sizes. I recommend the plus size because you get extra length for taller people or space at your feet to put your gear if you don't want to leave it outside. Inside is mesh so it's very breathable and the outer rain fly provides excellent protection in heavy rain (I've experienced first hand). Since it extends, you can also put your gear outside but underneath the rain fly if you have dirty/wet things you want to keep outside your tent. Pockets inside for phone, keys, wallet, etc. Really easy to set up. All around magnificent tent I've been using for about 3 years now. Tip: Get on sale to save 20-30%.
Sleeping bags are entirely dependent on the individual. Consider the climate you'll be camping, whether you sleep warm or cold, and the style. For me, I hate cold and generally don't camp anywhere below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The temperature rating indicates how cold the sleeping bag will keep you warm (this one is rated 35 deg), which differs for men and women (or more generally your size), as some sleep warmer (need less insulation). Also consider rectangle or mummy shape. Mummy bags keep your warmer since there is less room for cold air to get in, but it's not good if you move around in your sleep. Note: This model is no longer made, so the link is to the Marmot Tresles 30 which is similar.
If you want to improve sleep while camping, get a sleeping pad. There are tons of options from foam to air. I used to have a very thin Thermarest which packed up smaller, but I always rolled off it at night and it wasn't very thick. The REI camp bed is awesome. It's wider and thicker making it much more comfortable and the auto inflation is fantastic. Only requires a little self inflation if you want more thickness. Also comes in 3.5 which is even thicker, but 2.5 should do for most people. Not great to take hiking, but if you want to feel rested, you need to sleep comfortably Tip: Wait for a sale.
Exceptional quality, well designed, extremely comfortable, light even when loaded with hip belt, adjustable for perfect fit, and expandable to fit an extra 10L. Anything over 60L is overkill. Top head pocket with outside and inside pockets, main mid compartment that holds hydration bladder or laptop. Bottom compartment for shoes, sleeping bag, dirty laundry, etc. that can be opened to lengthen main compartment. I used to prefer a small backpack with carry on rolled suitcase, but this is my new preference as it's lighter, more organized, and easier to carry around on non-paved roads. Load this with packing cubes for better organization and easier access.
Placing a "footprint" under your tent will prevent rocks, branches, etc. from potentially piercing the bottom. You can either get one designed specifically for your tent, or you can just get a tarp for way cheaper. Definitely get something to help protect your more expensive tent purchase.
If you want something other than a bundled sweatshirt to sleep on, try this inflatable pillow. Weighs next to nothing and compresses into a pouch smaller than a soda can. One side is higher than the other and it's contoured to get a better fit around your head and neck. Surface is different material for a different feel. I actually moved away from this while camping and just bring a normal pillow because I find it difficult to sleep on inflatable pillows in general. But if you can do it and want something compact, go for this one. Tip: More air makes the pillow stiffer while less air makes it more like a normal pillow. Also useful for travel for planes, buses, etc.
One of the most important items in your pack is a lightweight, packable, quick dry, odor controlled towel. After trying several, I finalized decided to spend a bit extra to go for the Matador. It's super lightweight, doesn't feel awkward against your skin, dries fast, and packs small, even includes a case to attach to the outside of your pack when wet. Tip: as good as odor control can be, you still have to wash these regularly, but never put in a dryer.
Primary use is inside a sleeping bag to keep cleaner and to add extra warmth. Can also be used traveling as a sheet if you don’t have any or they are dirty (e.g. hostel, train). All silk is best, but silk+cotton is good and cheaper. The silk is more comfortable, durable, lighter, and takes up much less space. They also come in "Long." Tip: If you travel to Vietnam, and possibly Thailand and Cambodia, you can find all silk equivalents for around $10.
This is a must if you like to carry a water bottle. A great complement to the Grayl where once you have clean water, you can fill this water bottle up and throw it in your day pack. Collapsable, so as you drink, it gets smaller unlike a plastic water bottle. Easy to store when empty. Never seems to smell from old leftover water (amazing). Just let it air out once in awhile.
Very handy. Use at home, hiking, and traveling abroad. I looked around a lot for an all encompassing water purifying option (there are many). Works like a French press and has interchangeable filters, one for the tap (blue - removes metals), one for hiking (green - removes bacteria), one for international travel (orange - removes viruses). There is a flip top lid for drinking or an attachment with a loop to connect to a carabiner. Water when purified tastes great. It’s a bit heavy, but I think a great travel companion. Easier and cheaper to make your own water than buying, plus you can avoid plastic bottles which is better for your health and the environment. In many countries, especially Asia, bottled water is cheap and plentiful though. I always travel with this.
Perfect for boiling water or making soup, rice, beans, etc. Can be a bit tough to clean if you burn stuff at the bottom, but otherwise fantastic. Comes with two small cups perfect for making tea or oatmeal, or just dishing out whatever you make in the main cup. The 24 oz. capacity is good for 2 people. Or good to boil water for a meal plus a cup of tea.
Lightweight compact 10-piece cookware kit with the essentials to cook the basics while camping. Perfect for 1 person, although you could probably get away with making food for 2. Non stick, easy to clean.
Handy for starting fires (obviously) and the waterproofing is useful if you get caught in the rain.
Replace an LED one that stopped working. This thing is great, I use it to hang in my tent to read or whatever when dark. It's very bright with two settings (a little too bright if you're trying to fall asleep). Also collapsable so you can spread or focus the light. Practically this serves as a lantern feel (spread) or as a flashlight (focus). Recharges via solar or micro usb. Can also be used as a powerbank to charge your phone, tablet, etc. which is handy off grid.
The number refers to the number of cans it holds, implying this is mostly for keeping beer cold. I use this more than I thought I would. With an ice pack, you can keep lunch meat and other things cool for about 24 hours, or generally keep things at a cooler temperature. Useful to take for picnics or generally just to store food, utensils, etc. I always bring this with me car camping or road tripping.
This paracord keychain is great for emergencies. Many people wear bracelets, but I prefer something more inconspicuous you can put in your pocket or attach to your bag. Paracord is super strong if you need to tie up or pull something. It's also useful for "sawing" things like plastic wrist binders if you get kidnapped. This one also comes with a compass in case you get lost. Inexpensive item to carry with you in the case of an emergency. Also available in white (glows in the dark).
Useful for clipping things to your pack or hanging from your tent. Alternative to traditional carabiner. Built in bottle opener.
Also helpful to have small s biners for attaching smaller, lighter weight objects to your pack or tent. Just takes up less space. Can use with keys and such too.
Surprisingly useful not just for camping. Sometimes if I get yogurt or a salad to go it can be tough to find utensils, and even sometimes similarly in an AirBnB or hotel there is a lack of silverware. This is a fork, spoon, and serrated edge that can be used like a knife. Tip: Go for titanium, the plastic ones break easily.
Although you can buy toiletries abroad, finding all natural products is sometimes difficult. Bar soap minimizes the need for liquids for flying. Can be used on hair, body, and face. Lasts 1-2 months depending on your usage.
Pretty amazing. Self cleaning, I have never washed it. Dries in less than an hour and never smells. Use it in the shower or to clean off dirt from shoes or pack. It's not soft, it's a bit rough like a loufah. Something you probably wouldn’t think to bring, but I find it very handy.