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Outdoor Camping Gear

Wondering what kind of outdoor camping gear you’ll need for your first camping trip? The good news is that you don’t need a lot!

tent in campsite

Before you start spending money, it’s a good idea to try a few trips to make sure that you enjoy camping.

Maybe you can borrow a tent from a camping friend. If not, check into renting an RV or staying in a camping cabin or yurt.

Once you know that you want to become a camping family, you can start collecting you own basic gear.

You can spend unlimited amounts on camping gadgets - but you don’t have to. Once you realize how much you love camping, you’ll probably start accumulating more outdoor camping gear, but most of it is optional.

Read on to discover what you need to get started.

Outdoor Camping Gear: The Basics

Of course, you’ll need somewhere to sleep, and the ability to be warm and comfortable while you sleep.

You’ll need to prepare and eat food.

You’ll probably want to sit down and relax.

And of course you’ll need to find your way to the bathroom in the dark!

That's about it!


Somewhere to sleep

We love sleeping in a tent!

two tents in wooded campsite

No matter your family size or your preferred type of camping, there is a tent for you. Read about tents for camping here.

If tenting is not your cup of tea, you might want to sleep in a trailer or fifth wheel. Click here to learn about the different types of RVs.

Something to sleep on

Now that you know where you’ll be sleeping, it’s time to make your bed!

What you sleep on is just as important as what you sleep in. Your sleeping surface will be one of your most important pieces of outdoor camping gear. Do you need a camping cot, or will a foam pad be enough?

Learn about sleeping pads - from cots to Thermarests to foam pads and more - here.

Something to keep you warm

Your sleeping pad will do a lot to keep you warm, but of course you’ll need bedding too.

You can bring sheets and blankets from home, but most campers find that using a sleeping bag is more convenient. Here is everything you need to know about camping sleeping bags.

Cooking and eating

Over the campfire

Some camping purists prefer to do all of their cooking over a campfire. I like to do some of my cooking that way.

Dutch oven in campfire ring

Cooking can be as easy as holding food on a stick over the fire. You might also want a campfire grill or a Dutch oven. Here’s a guide to campfire cooking.

On a camp stove

I also like to know that I have a stove when I need one!

campsite with Coleman stove

Propane stoves are very easy to use: just push a button, and the burner lights. Stoves that use liquid fuel are reliable, but not as easy to light.


If you are cooking over a campfire, you won’t want to use your pots from home. They’ll get completely blackened and will never be the same, no matter how you scrub them. Buy an old pot from the thrift store and use that.

If you are cooking over a camp stove, you can use your regular pots. Many campers prefer to have a set of camping pots. I like pots with removable handles for easy packing.

Plates, dishes and utensils

Of course, you can just bring your everyday dishes from home, but most campers like to have a set of camping dishes. Scrounge a set from the thrift store, or buy a set of camping dishes.

Cooler or fridge

Unless you are eating nothing but canned food, you’ll need a way to keep your perishables cold. Most campers begin by using a cooler and filling it with ice.

If you get tired of dealing with melted ice, you may want to invest in a camping refrigerator. We did, and it was one of the best camping purchases we have ever made! Read about camping refrigerators here.


A good camping knife is important. You’ll use it not only for preparing food, but for sharpening marshmallow roasting sticks, making repairs to your gear, and much more. You'll find more information about camping knives here.


There are almost as many styles of camping chairs as there are campers!

Choosing a good camping chair is a personal decision. Some people prefer lounge chairs. Others like a chair with good support.

Read about the best folding camping chairs here.

It's a good idea to try out a chair before buying it. This isn't something you should buy online.

One more word of advice: avoid cheap folding camping chairs. I can't count how many of them I have seen in campground garbage dumpsters!

broken camping chair beside dumpster

Invest in a solid chair that will serve you well for many years.


Unless you are planning to go to bed when the sun goes down, you’ll need some type of lighting. 

two candle lanterns on picnic table

The options are endless: from propane lanterns to candle lanterns to electric lights to battery powered headlamps and more.  Read about camping lights here.

The Bathroom

If you are a first time camper, you may be wondering (or worrying) about this important topic!

Most established campgrounds will have modern comfort stations with all the comforts of home. At more rustic locations, you might have to use an outhouse.

wooden outhouse

If neither of those choices appeals to you, consider investing in a portable camping toilet. There are lots of styles, from a glorified bucket to a real flush toilet! Read all about camping toilets here.

Once you realize how much you love camping, you'll probably want to buy lots more outdoor camping gear - but remember: you don't have to! As long as you have the basics, you can camp in comfort for years to come.

Now that you have learned about basic outdoor camping gear, visit The Camping Family home page for tips on every aspect of a successful camping trip.

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