Camping Gear: Splurge vs. Save

Whether you’re a seasoned outdoor enthusiast or someone who’s just discovered the allure of camping, there’s something undeniably captivating about sleeping under the stars, surrounded by the beauty of the natural world. But to truly relish these moments and ensure a comfortable, safe, and enjoyable camping experience, you need the right camping gear.

Campsite with a tent looking over a lake

Planning a memorable camping trip that’s safe, comfortable, and well-prepared requires careful consideration of your camping gear. In this comprehensive guide, I’ve curated a camping gear list that covers everything you need to make your outdoor adventure a success. This checklist will ensure that every essential item finds its way into your camping arsenal.

From budget-friendly options to top-of-the-line gear, I’ve got you covered with alternative choices to suit your preferences. So, let’s dive into the world of camping essentials and gear up for an unforgettable experience in the great outdoors!

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Essential Camping Gear List with Budget Friendly Options

Here is everything you need for your next camping trip! If you want the complete list, the camping gear list is posted at the end.

Why should you camp?

Camping isn’t just a recreational activity; it’s a transformative experience that offers a myriad of reasons to pack your bags and head into the wilderness. Here are a few compelling reasons why camping should be on your list of must-try adventures:

Connecting with Nature: In our fast-paced, digitally connected world, it’s easy to lose touch with the natural world around us. Camping provides a rare opportunity to unplug, disconnect from screens, and immerse yourself in the beauty of the great outdoors. Whether you’re gazing at the stars, listening to the rustling leaves in the forest, or waking up to the melodious songs of birds, camping lets you reconnect with the sights and sounds that often go unnoticed in our daily lives.

Camping Chairs with a cooler and a fire

Inexpensive Adventure: When compared to other vacation options, camping is a budget-friendly choice. With a well-planned camping trip, you can enjoy a memorable getaway without breaking the bank. Camping gear can be as affordable or as luxurious as you desire, and many camping sites offer cost-effective accommodations. Whether you’re a college student on a tight budget or a family looking to save on vacation expenses, camping offers an accessible escape into nature’s beauty.

Ultimate Relaxation: The serene setting of a campsite, away from the noise and stress of urban life, provides the perfect backdrop for relaxation. Campfires, gentle hikes, and the absence of daily responsibilities create an environment where you can truly unwind. The simplicity of camping forces you to slow down, savor the moment, and appreciate the present, making it an ideal escape for those seeking peace and tranquility.

A dog camping with uno cards and a camping chair

Camping is more than just a recreational activity; it’s a lifestyle that encourages you to embrace the beauty of the natural world, all while being cost-effective and incredibly relaxing. Now that we’ve explored the “why” let’s move on to the essential camping gear you’ll need to make your adventure a success.

Sleeping Quarters

When it comes to camping, your sleeping quarters can make or break your outdoor adventure. A comfortable and secure night’s sleep is paramount to ensure you’re well-rested for the day ahead. In this section, we’ll explore the key elements of your camping sleep setup, guiding you on the essentials you’ll need to guarantee a cozy night under the stars.


Your tent is arguably the most crucial piece of camping gear, providing shelter, protection, and a sense of security. Whether you’re a seasoned camper or new to the scene, choosing the right tent is paramount. While there are options to purchase refurbished or used tents, if you’re new to camping, we recommend investing in a new one. Here, we present both a splurge and save option to cater to different preferences and budgets:

The Big Agnes Spicer Peak 4 is a premium choice that offers quick setup and versatility. Its large aluminum poles make it a durable option, ideal for various weather conditions. What sets it apart is the generous headroom, allowing easy movement inside the tent. It also features two vestibules at each end for added storage and convenience.

For budget-conscious campers, the Coleman Skydome 4 is an excellent choice. While slightly smaller than the Big Agnes, it still offers ample space. The rainfly has a built in vestibule that offers shelter from rain which isn’t always a feature offered in cheaper tents. This is a phenomenal option.

Remember, if you’re planning to combine camping with backpacking, consider a backpacking tent for greater versatility. Backpacking tents are suitable for standard camping as well, offering flexibility for different outdoor adventures.

Sleeping Bag

Investing in a quality sleeping bag is a wise choice, as it can serve you well in various camping conditions. 

For example, the Bishop Pass Sleeping Bag by Mountain Hardwear, while initially purchased as a backpacking splurge, has proven its worth for camping year-round due to its temperature rating. Its packability and lightweight design make it a versatile option, and it can even be used as a blanket when unzipped.

There are countless sleeping bag options available, including down backpacking bags, flannel-lined classics, and double sleeping bags for sharing with a partner. The key is to choose one that suits your needs.


The Rumple Original Puffy is a favorite camping blanket for its warmth and unique design. It not only keeps you cozy during chilly evenings but also offers the convenience of clasping it in the front to create a hands-free cape—a real asset around the campfire and on brisk mornings.


While you can bring your own pillow from home(SAVE OPTION!), if you prefer a camping-specific pillow, consider the Foam Core Pillow by Sea to Summit.

It’s available in regular and deluxe sizes, making it suitable for both backpacking and car camping. This pillow is compact when rolled up but expands into a large, dense cushion, ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep without the crinkly sounds of inflatable options.

Sleeping Pad/Air Mattress

Choose between a sleeping pad or an air mattress based on your camping needs. Sleeping pads are typically for individual use, while air mattresses are larger and can be shared:



The EXPED 5R is a top choice for its comfort and versatility across three seasons. When combined with the Z Lite pad, it becomes an all-season option. Its lightweight and packable design, along with durable materials, make it an excellent investment for campers who value quality gear. This is also what I use for backpacking and LOVE it!

A popular and budget-friendly option, the Z Lite Sleeping Pad is favored by ultralight backpackers for its weight and versatility. It can be used individually or as an additional layer under your main sleeping pad, providing extra insulation during extremely cold nights.

Air Mattress

EXPED MegaMat Duo 10

If you’re looking for a spacious sleeping solution for two people or simply want extra comfort, the Exped MegaMat Duo 10 Sleeping Pad is a great choice. It offers ample cushioning for a comfortable night’s sleep and is perfect for tent camping or those new to car camping.

With the right tent and bedding essentials, you’re well on your way to creating a cozy haven in the wilderness. In the next section, we’ll explore your living quarters, including camp furniture and relaxation options.

Living Quarters

Your outdoor living quarters are more than just a place to rest; they’re the heart of your campsite, where you’ll create lasting memories and connect with nature. In this section, we’ll explore the essentials for setting up a comfortable and functional outdoor living space that enhances your camping experience.


Having a sturdy camp table is the cornerstone of a well-organized campsite. It provides additional space for a variety of activities, from meal preparation to playing games and storing essential gear. 

I have been using the REI Co-op Camp Roll Table for four years now and it has been the best addition to my camp set up.


When it comes to camp chairs, comfort is paramount. I’ve handpicked a selection of camp chairs that cater to different preferences and usage scenarios:

NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair: For ultimate relaxation, the NEMO Stargaze Reclining Camp Chair is your new best friend. This suspended camp chair is everything you’ve ever wanted after a long day of camping. This rocking camp chair will lull you into that prime relaxation state.

REI Co-op Flexlite Camp Boss Chair: This chair has quickly become my favorite camp chair that I own. With its compact design I keep it in my car year-round for last minute plans. It’s too big to bring backpacking, but it is perfect around the fire. Check it out, I bought mine in the pumpkin color. 

REI Co-op Skyward Chair: Your traditional camp chair meets ultimate functionality. WIth more pockets and airflow, this chair will have you sitting back and enjoying the campfire.


Adding a hammock to your campsite elevates your outdoor experience to new heights of relaxation. It’s not a necessity, but it’s certainly a luxury that can enhance your camping trip.


Add some light to your camp with the BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern. With a variety of different color and luminosity settings you can set the camp mood however you’d like. Any lantern will do, but I just like all of the different settings on this one!

With these living quarters essentials, you’ll create a cozy and inviting space that beckons you to kick back, unwind, and embrace the serenity of the great outdoors. In the next section, we’ll explore the heart of any camping adventure—the camp kitchen, where delicious meals are prepared and shared.

Camp Kitchen

Camping Set Up with Tent Fire

Your camp kitchen gear will evolve over time as you discover what works best for your outdoor cooking style. Embracing kitchen gear can be a joy, especially if you’re passionate about cooking like me. Let’s dive into the camping gear essentials that will ensure your camp meals are not only delicious but also a memorable part of your camping experience.

Kitchen Stove

If you plan on enjoying hot meals at camp, a reliable stove is essential. We’ll explore two options—one for splurging and one for saving:

This grill not only performs flawlessly but is also a visual delight, making your camping photos and videos stand out. With even heating and quick ignition, the Eureka! Ignite Stove is a high-performance option. While its longevity is yet to be tested, it has consistently met expectations, making it a valuable investment for your camp kitchen.

The Coleman Grill holds a special place in the hearts of many campers, evoking memories of family camping trips. It offers similar specifications to the Eureka! Stove without the shiny aesthetics. Sometimes, the classics are classics for a reason, and this dependable grill embodies that sentiment.

Pots and Pans

Cooking at camp doesn’t have to mean sacrificing variety. Proper gear allows you to cook like you’re at home. Here are two options—one for splurging and one for saving:

This compact and complete set comes with everything you need to start cooking at camp! Which honestly might make it a save option…but anyways! This is great because it comes with pots, pans, plates, bowls, cooking utensils and eating utensils! Let the camping, tailgating, and BBQing begin!



Camp cooking really puts some wear and tear on pots and pans. The ebay way to save is to thrift some old pots and pans, even an old cast iron. Down the road by yourself some camp pots and pans, but it is not necessarily something you need to buy right away. 

Otherwise here is a 10in cast iron that should be able to cook everything you need!


Preserving your food and keeping your beverages cool are fundamental to an enjoyable camping trip. We’ll explore two cooler options—one for splurging and one for saving:

For those longer camping trips away from general stores and gas stations, you need a cooler that will not need an ice refresh. The YETI is just the cooler you need. Having the ability to keep your ice intact for long adventures, you wont need to worry about your food spoiling.

This ultra-light cooler has garnered rave reviews for being on par with, if not better than, its higher-priced counterparts. Its design, featuring a removable ice pack divider and basket, simplifies organization. With exceptional insulation, it keeps your provisions cold for extended periods, allowing you to extend your backcountry adventures.

The RTIC Cool was on my top camping gear list for 2023. Check out the list here!

Water Jug

Access to clean water is essential, whether for cooking or quenching your thirst. We’ll explore three options for water jugs:

This top rated 5 gal water container has a slim design which makes it easier to pack around. The spout it comes with makes it easy to fill water bottles too!

Favorite Option

Reliance Aqua-Tainer

I keep the Reliance Aqua-Tainer in my car all summer long so I can stay hydrated while I am out and about on summer adventures. The high volume, solid walled container has served me well for the three years that I’ve owned it and for only $20, I think it is the perfect option.

The collapsible GSI Folding Water Cube has the same 5 gal capacity, but has the perk of being collapsible for storage. It only costs $12 so you can save some money, but because it is a little flimsy it does not have as long of a lifespan as a hard sided water container.

Coffee Options

If you’re anything like me, you cannot function without a cup of coffee in the morning. Frankly, it doesn’t even have to be good coffee.

Traditional Camp Coffee

GSI Percolator 

If you have a camp full of coffee drinkers consider packing something that can make coffee for the whole camp! The percolator can do just that.


Alpine Start

Alpine Start is my favorite coffee for adventure in the front and backcountry.

Additional Camp Kitchen Gear:

In addition to the essentials, your camp kitchen should include:

  • Lighter
  • Cutlery & Utensils
  • Plates, Bowls, Mugs (Consider classic camping enamel sets)
  • Cutting Board & Knives
  • Dish Towels & Paper Towels
  • Trash Bags & Recyclable Bags (Consider compostable bags for eco-conscious camping)
  • Dish Soap and a Method for Washing (Consider biodegradable soap for eco-friendly camping)
  • Standard Spices and Oil

With a well-equipped camp kitchen, you’ll be ready to whip up delicious meals, share stories around the campfire, and savor every moment of your camping adventure. Now, let’s move on to some personal items that will enhance your camping experience even further.

Personal Items

Man camping with a campfire and extra chair

When it comes to personal items for your camping adventure, it’s important to remember that your choices should be as unique as you are. The items you pack will depend on the specific camping conditions you’ll encounter, the season you’re camping in, and the location you’ve chosen. Let’s delve into these essentials with a closer look at your clothing and toiletries.


Upper Body:

  1. T-Shirts: Lightweight and breathable for daytime activities.
  2. Long-Sleeve Shirt: For sun protection or cooler evenings.
  3. Fleece or Lightweight Sweater: To layer for warmth.
  4. Windbreaker or Light Jacket: Protects against chilly breezes.
  5. Rain Jacket: In case of unexpected showers.
  6. Tank Tops (for hot weather): Stay cool in the sun.

Lower Body:

  1. Shorts: Comfortable for hiking and warm days.
  2. Lightweight Pants or Convertible Pants: For sun protection and cooler evenings.
  3. Underwear: Moisture-wicking and breathable.
  4. Socks: Moisture-wicking and comfortable for hiking.
  5. Swimsuit: For swimming or water activities.


  1. Hiking Boots or Trail Shoes: Comfortable for walking and hiking.
  2. Sandals or Camp Shoes: For relaxing at camp.
  3. Extra Socks: Always have dry socks on hand.


  1. Hat or Cap: Provides shade and sun protection.
  2. Bandana or Buff: Versatile for various uses.


  1. Sunglasses: Protect your eyes from the sun.
  2. Belt: Keeps pants secure during outdoor activities.
  3. Watch: Handy for keeping track of time.
  4. Gloves (if needed): For cooler evenings or early mornings.


  1. Pajamas or Sleepwear: Comfortable for sleeping.


  1. Extra Swimsuit: Handy if one is wet or in need of washing.


  1. Spare Clothes: An extra set of clothing in case of unexpected weather changes.
  2. Laundry Bag: Keeps dirty clothes separate from clean ones.
  3. Rain Cover or Poncho: Additional protection for rainy days.
  4. Flip-Flops (for camp showers): Convenient for campground amenities.

Remember to check the specific weather forecast for your camping destination and adjust your clothing choices accordingly. Layering is key, as it allows you to adapt to changing temperatures throughout the day and night. Don’t forget to pack clothing suitable for both outdoor activities and relaxation at the campsite.


In your toiletries kit, you’ll find essential items tailored to your camping style, especially if you’re heading into the backcountry without access to facilities.

Here’s a list of essential toiletries to consider bringing on your camping trip:

  1. Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Keep your teeth clean and fresh.
  2. Soap or Body Wash: Biodegradable options are eco-friendly.
  3. Shampoo and Conditioner: Travel-sized or refillable containers work well.
  4. Hairbrush or Comb: Keep your hair manageable.
  5. Deodorant: Stay fresh during outdoor activities.
  6. Razor and Shaving Cream: If needed.
  7. Towel: Microfiber towels are lightweight and quick-drying.
  8. Hand Sanitizer: Especially useful when water is scarce.
  9. Feminine Hygiene Products: Tampons, pads, or menstrual cups.
  10. Sunscreen: Protect your skin from UV rays.
  11. Lip Balm with SPF: Prevent chapped lips.
  12. Insect Repellent: Keep bugs at bay.
  13. Prescription Medications: If you require them.
  14. First Aid Kit: Basic supplies for minor injuries.
  15. Trowel: For digging catholes if there are no restroom facilities.
  16. Wilderness Wipes: Biodegradable wipes for personal hygiene.
  17. Nail Clippers and Tweezers: Handy for minor grooming and removing splinters.
  18. Baby Wipes: Useful for quick cleanups.
  19. Tissues or Toilet Paper: Ensure it’s biodegradable and pack it out when necessary.
  20. Contact Lens Supplies: If you wear contacts, bring extra supplies.
  21. Mirror: Compact mirror for personal grooming.
  22. Hand Towel: A small towel for drying your hands.

Remember to pack these toiletries in small, travel-sized containers to save space and reduce weight. Additionally, prioritize eco-friendly and biodegradable options to minimize your environmental impact while camping.

Your personal items and toiletries should align with your camping aspirations, the weather conditions you anticipate, and the locations you explore. With this personalized approach, you’ll be well-prepared for any camping adventure that comes your way.

Storage Solutions

Organizing your camping gear can be a rewarding task once you find a system that works for you. Efficient organization ensures that you spend less time searching for items and more time enjoying the outdoors. Let’s explore some storage solutions and essential items to keep your camping experience hassle-free.

White Subaru with a Cargo Storage Container on the top

One effective storage solution is using plastic tubs and crates to keep your gear neat and easily accessible. Here are a couple of ideas:

Kitchen Gear Tub: Invest in a plastic tub that serves a dual purpose, acting as your camp kitchen sink when needed. This multifunctional approach maximizes the utility of your gear.

Organizational Crates: At home, use labeled crates or bins to keep your gear neatly organized. Having designated containers for different types of gear makes packing for trips a breeze. Simply grab the crates you need, and you’re ready to go.

The Pack-Away Bin is my favorite way to pack gear for adventures. Since the bin is collapsible it fits into storage well too!

Other Must-Have Items

In addition to your camping essentials, there are a few more items that should find their way into your gear list:

  1. Axe & Shovel: Useful for firewood preparation and digging fire pits or catholes when necessary.
  2. Headlamp: Illuminate your campsite for nighttime activities and navigation.
  3. Bear Canister (if required): In bear country, these containers keep your food safe and protect wildlife.
  4. Utility Knife & Multi-Tool: Handy for various tasks, from cutting rope to opening packages.
  5. Camping Permits: Ensure you have all the necessary permits and paperwork for your camping destination. This includes camping reservations and park passes.
Complete Camping Gear Checklist

Pack It Up!

As you embark on your camping journey, remember that the key to a successful and enjoyable experience lies in finding the gear that works best for you.

This comprehensive camping gear checklist serves as your compass, guiding you through the essentials and additional items that can enhance your outdoor experience. From choosing the right tent to selecting cozy bedding and essential kitchen gear, each piece of equipment plays a role in ensuring your comfort and convenience.

 Whether you’re in pursuit of adventure or seeking serenity, camping has something for everyone.

Pack your gear, head into the wilderness, and let the beauty of nature captivate your senses. Campfires, starry nights, and the serenity of the outdoors await. Embrace the call of the wild and create memories that will last a lifetime.

Happy camping!

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1 thought on “Camping Gear: Splurge vs. Save”

  1. wahab7653coward

    Hi my name is Wahab, Iam a camper and blogger for quite a long time your article on camping gear is so useful for campers and beginners you selected item are also useful Aswell. Thank you
    kindly visit:

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