Summer is here and it’s the perfect time to start tent camping. There are a lot of people I know that want to try camping, or their kids want to try camping and the number one reason they don’t is “we don’t have the gear”. The reality is, you really don’t need a ton of stuff to try out tent camping, in fact there is a good chance you already have quite a few of the necessities laying around your house.
So if this is you, you have come to the right place. I have put together a list of the 10 things you need to start tent camping tomorrow. These are the basics, till you decide if it’s right for you.
First Aid Kit
You never really want to go into the woods without a first aid kit. This doesn’t have to be a fancy one, but you want something that has the stuff to clean, treat and cover a wound, along with some pain killers and tweezers. I make my own first aid kits depending on where we are going or how long we will be gone, but there are plenty of good premade ones out there.
We usually designate one bag in the car to contain all of the “cleaning” supplies so everyone knows where they are. This bag (bin or box) should contain baby wipes, paper towels, trash bags, a towel of some sort, and toilet paper. I am sure you can guess the uses of these items, just don’t forget the trash bags. This is a pet peeve of mine. There is nothing worse than pulling into a free campsite and seeing cigarette buds, bottles and trash thrown about. Help keep the places clean by packing out ALL of your non burnable trash.
This doesn’t have to be fancy, a flashlight will do, but have some sort of a light. There are fancy head lanterns, or camping lanterns, but honestly as long as you have some sort of light and it has batteries, you are good. Just remember, you will probably be where there aren’t any lights, and it’s summertime so starting a fire is not always practical in the 90 degree heat, so have something that will offer you enough light that you can see the ground and not trip over fallen branches.
This is probably something you don’t already have, but don’t worry. You can buy small tents or even a 4 person tent for under $80. Make sure it’s one you feel comfortable setting up.
Something to Sleep on
Now you have the tent, let’s be honest. You don’t really want to sleep on the hard ground do you? There are numerous options here, from air mattresses to a self inflating sleeping pad, or even just a plain old foam camping pad. Anyway you choose, just remember you want to be comfortable. Getting a horrible night’s sleep is not a good way to really try out tent camping. Give it a fair shot. Get something to sleep on.
I added the “ish” to the end, because this is not really necessary especially in the summer. We use an air mattress, and we never take a sleeping bag in the summer, only sheets. Remember to check the weather and pack at least a lightweight blanket and/or sheets but if you have a sleeping bag that will work too. The opposite of this is making sure in the winter time you have the appropriate sleeping bag. Don’t get one rated for 50 degrees and then expect it to keep you warm when it’s freezing outside.
Something to eat with
Cooking utensils will not be included in this “get you camping tomorrow guide” because let’s be honest, you don’t need to cook. Breakfast can easily be a granola bar and banana, lunch a tuna or chicken sandwich and dinner tortilla chips with a jar of queso and can of chili combined. Is this the healthiest? No, but it’s still food you don’t have to cook. Having said that, after you open the can of tuna or chicken how do you get it out of the can? This is where those utensils come in. There are so many types of utensils you can use, but for our first trip out, I just grabbed spoons out of our utensil draw and used them.
This doesn’t have to be a fancy knife. A simple pocket knife will do for the first time. Once you decide you love camping, investing in a camping knife is a great idea but till then, something to open packets of food and slice slivers off a huge log so you can start a fire easier is all you really need.
On the off chance you want a fire, (seriously who doesn’t want to cook smores for their first time out tent camping?) firestarters are a necessity. Please don’t go buy a $4 fire starter, that’s crazy. Nacho cheese Doritos work just fine. We always buy a bag of the single serving chip variety packs before we go and save the Doritos for the firestarters and let the kids eat the rest for a snack. This bag is the same price as the firestarter logs and provides snacks and fire… a much better deal in my opinion.
“Why does this even need to be mentioned?” you ask. Well because you really need to think about it before you pack clothes. Are you heading towards the forest? Pack pants. Yes even in the summertime because there is poison ivy and I am sure you will want to walk through the woods without rubbing against that. Are you heading into the mountains? Pack a lightweight jacket. Yes even in the summertime. Night time in the mountains can get down in the 60’s and if you are not doing a fire you might get cold. Just remember to really think about your location. You can always take off layers, but you can’t add the layers you don’t pack.
That’s it! Now go enjoy those beautiful summer nights under the stars, and let me know when you decide if tent camping is right for you.