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When I first dove into camping as an adult, I was shocked at how much money I was told I would need to invest in camping gear: tent ($250), sleeping bag ($150), sleeping pad ($120), etc, etc…
This just did not make any sense to me. How could sleeping in the outdoors cost more than staying in a 5 star hotel? How did all of these hippy camping types afford it? I knew there had to be a more affordable way. What I discovered was that when you ask incredibly experienced upper middle class campers what you need to camp, the answer tends to be much different than if you ask a 19 year old college student what you need to camp.
I’m going to approach this from the 19 year old point of view. These items are also assuming you are car camping and not backpacking. This means you can easily access gear from your car and do not need to concern yourself with getting the lowest weight gear. As our article “Rule #1 to Enjoying the Outdoors” promised, I’m going to get you out in the wilderness and camping for under $150. Are you excited? Let’s go!
Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on warm weather camping. You obviously will need some more intense gear if you are striking out on the trail in the Rockies during November. The specific examples of gear I refer to in this article can all be purchased at Academy Sports and Outdoors. You can purchase these items in store or online at www.Academy.com. You can find similar items at Amazon.com or at other low cost outdoor supply stores. Each item name is linked to a webpage with full specs and pricing shown. You can also find all of these items on our Pinterest Board: Start Camping for Under $150.
We will be starting out with the essentials mentioned in our article, “Top 5 “Must Have” Items for your Camping Trip.”
- Shelter: Academy Compass 3 Dome Tent ($26.99): This tent can hold 2 adults and up to a queen size airbed very comfortable. It comes with a rainfly, but you will need to purchase a tarp or footprint to lay under the tent.
- Footprint: Academy 8′ x 10′ Polyethylene Tarp ($6.99): This will help to protect the bottom of your tent from being damaged by rocks, twigs, or other debris that may be under your tent You will want to fold the edges of the tarp under to fit just within the perimeter of the tent. This will keep water from collecting on the tarp and pooling under your tent.
- Sleeping pad/airbed: Intex Classic Downy Twin-Size Mattress ($8.99): This is a great mattress for a single camper that will have access to an electrical or manual air pump. It can be pumped up quickly using an inexpensive electrical pump. A queen size airbed can be purchased for just $15.99.
- Air Pump: Intex Quick-Fill Battery Air Pump ($9.99): While this pump uses C-cell batteries, there are other options that plug into your vehicle or a wall outlet. These pumps come with multiple nozzle sizes and can be used to pump air in as well as take air back out of your mattress, making setup and packup of your mattress very simple.
- Sleeping bag: Timber Creek 3 lb. Sleeping Bag ($9.99): This is a very basic warm weather sleeping bag to get your started camping. Eventually, you will want to upgrade.
- Camp stove: Magellan Outdoors Single Burner Stove ($19.99): This simple stove system comes with a basic fuel canister. While this is not the fastest model out there, it will get you going with a simple warm meal and some morning coffee or evening tea.
- Cooking utensils: Texsport 24 oz. Enamelware Cup ($1.99) and Grip-on Tools 3-in-1 Camping Spork ($1.49): Enamelware can withstand high temperatures and can be used directly in a campfire or on a stove. The entire cup will become very hot, so be sure to protect your hands when removing the cup from the flame and to let the cup cool enough so that you don’t burn your lips. The 3-in-1 spork is extremely versatile and inexpensive enough that you don’t miss it too much if you lose or break it.
- Daypack/Hydration Pack: BCG 100 oz. Hydration Pack ($39.99): This is a great pack for just about any dayhike you can plan. It comes with plenty of room for snacks, first aid items, and sundries. It also comes with a 100 oz. water reservoir that holds 3/4 of a gallon or 3 liters of water.
- Headlamp: Cyclops Ranger XP Quad Mode (126 lumens) LED Headlamp ($16.99): A great headlamp is a must. Headlamps are preferred because you can use them hands free when necessary. When shopping for a headlamp, don’t cheap out. Yes, you will find various options for as little as $5, but you get what you pay for. You want something with at least 90 lumens so you can see more than 2 feet in front of you in the dark. Also, choose a model that has red or green light modes to protect the eyes of those you share camp with.
- Camp Chair: Academy Logo Armchair ($5.99): Sitting around a campfire is a lot more enjoyable when you’re in a comfy camp chair complete with cup holder. You may want to upgrade eventually, but this simple seating solution will get you started.
Get these items in your outdoor arsenal, and you will be all set to start camping. You’ll also be well on your way to becoming an outdoor superstar! Take it step by step, learn as you go, and make sure you concentrate on having fun…not keeping up with the people who always have to use the latest and greatest equipment.
You can always update your outdoor gear piece by piece as you get a few extra dollars to spend. However, I can honestly tell you that these items are still exactly what I use when car camping. Don’t break the bank. Just get outside and enjoy some quality time with nature. Now, come out and play!
When you are heading out on a camping trip, you will likely spend more time on determining what to take with you than you will on researching your perfect destination. There are thousands of products advertised for people heading out for a few nights of sleeping under the stars, but what do you really need? To help you get your packing list together, here are the top 5 must have camping gear items for your first camping trip.
1. Tent or Other Shelter
Shelter is number one for any camping trip. Whether it is a tent or a permanent shelter that is available on your campsite or hiking trail, you need to be sure you have a way to get out of the elements and get a good night’s rest. If you are going the tent route, there are so many options that you can easily get overwhelmed. There are standard pop-up tents, hammock tents, tents tailored specifically for backpackers. If you are new to camping, consider the following as you determine what tent is best for you:
- How long will you be carrying the tent? If you are camping out as part of a bigger hiking trip, you will likely spend a good amount of time carrying your shelter. In this case, weight should be a consideration for you. Even a few pounds can make a huge difference in your ability to complete a long hike.
- How many people will share the tent? Is it just for you? You and a friend? You and your entire family? Pick a size that will be comfortable for the number that will be using the shelter. Note that tent sizing is a little strange in that a two person tent really only comfortably sleeps one, a three person tent comfortably sleeps two, etc. A good rule of thumb is to select a tent designed for one or two people more than you will actually have sleeping in the space to ensure everyone has enough room to be comfortable.
- What conditions will you be dealing with at your campsite? Any tent you select should have some type of waterproofing at the base, but if you are in a damp climate, ensure your tent also includes a rainfly to protect the roof and other openings as well. Are you camping in a warm climate? Make sure there are plenty of mesh windows to allow airflow and keep you from sweating through the night. If you are camping in the winter or in a place with high winds, a dome tent will likely be the best option to shield you from those conditions. Know the environment and make sure your tent will have you protected!
If you are sleeping in a ground tent, a footprint is key for protecting your tent from tears and, therefore, potential water or other outside intruders that you don’t want to wake up to in the middle of the night! A footprint doesn’t need to be expensive. You can use anything from a cheap plastic tarp to an old tablecloth you have lying around the house. Its main purpose is to protect your tent from wear and tear while it is on the ground so get creative and don’t spend a lot of money. The footprint, whatever the material type, should be just smaller than the actual tent base. If it is larger, water can pool under the tent making for a long and cold night.
3. Sleep System
Whether it is a sleeping bag or a pillow, blanket and a cushy yoga mat, you will want to be sure you have somewhere comfortable to lay your head at the end of a long day enjoying the outdoors. Get creative if you need to save money, but again, be sure you are prepared for the elements. Remember, many warm climates can still get chilly at night and you want to be well rested so you can enjoy the remainder of your trip. A mummy sleeping bag can be great for extremely cold campsites, while you may want something less insulated in a warm climate. Plan accordingly!
4. A Warm Meal
One of the keys to wilderness survival is a positive mental attitude. While most camping trips aren’t about life or death, the positive mental attitude can most definitely make or break the trip. There is nothing that that can instill this attitude better than a warm meal or a hot cup of coffee or tea. There are many options when thinking about how to warm up your food and beverages, from a beat up coffee pot on the coals of the fire to a multi-fuel system that can boil your water in near record time. Be sure that your cooking / serving items reflect the type of trip you intend to have. And don’t forget your wilderness oven mitts!
5. Bathroom Essentials
Yes, Mother Nature calls even when you are out enjoying nature. This fact is a hang up for many that want to go camping, but if you want to get out there, you’re going to have to go to the bathroom at some point during the trip. Going to the bathroom in the woods is a right of passage so it’s time to get on board! Many campsites have bathroom facilities. Check into what your campsite offers before your trip so you know what you are working with. If your site does offer a bathroom, still know that some facilities are better than others. Packing your own toilet paper and / or wet wipes is encouraged (as is hand sanitizer). If you are wilderness camping, you may be left to your own devices. Be sure that you research waste disposal guidelines for your campsite and bring bags to carry out waste such as used toilet paper and wet wipes. Dog waste bags are great for this. If you are not quite ready to dig a hole, you can bring a portable toilet as well. Just remember, if you are hiking a long way you might want to lose this extra weight and work those quads instead.
Remember that with each trip, you will learn more about what gear is the most important to you and what you like and don’t like about each item. Research, experiment and don’t be afraid to make changes to your packing list each time you go camping. Tell us what gear you wouldn’t be caught in the woods without in the comments below!
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One of the first camping trips I took as an adult involved an overnight stay on the beach with my husband. The idea seemed great at the time: being alone, playing ball with the dogs, getting tans and falling into a glorious slumber surrounded by soft waves cascading in the near distance. I couldn’t believe we hadn’t thought of doing this before…until it came time to pack.
Where to begin packing for a camping trip? What to pack? What to leave behind? What if I make the wrong choice and am stranded in the middle of nowhere without that fourth kind of sunblock or with that magazine I chose over that book I should be reading? Should we bring more food lest we risk utter starvation?
I decided to play it safe and pack for any kind of foreseeable situation: various swimsuits, clothes, reading materials, several types of beverages, enough toiletries to make it through the Sahara for a month… the list goes on. Just pack it all, I thought. Just leave whatever you won’t need in the truck.
Off to the beach we went! And how well we did unloading and setting up the large tent, followed by the gazebo tent – both requiring intense assembling; then the barbeque pit, the large cooler, chairs, table, and so forth…and then, we went about our business.
It didn’t occur to me until the next day, as we grumbled our way through stuffing tent poles into a too-tiny bag under the unrelenting blare of the sun, how incredibly burdensome all this stuff became. Packing the still-folded tanks and shorts, followed by the hoisting of the cooler back into the cab with all those drinks swimming around in their little ice pool, made me wonder about my relationship with these objects.
Didn’t the point of getting away entail unshackling one’s self from the cumbersome, ho-humness of the everyday ordinary? If that was the case, why did I decide to bring it all with us on our mini-getaway? Did we really need seven types of flashlights in varying sizes and colors? I think not!
That whole exercise taught me a very important lesson:
Going away means letting go.
It’s about leaving your comfort zone and gaining confidence in yourself and what you’re doing, rather than focusing unnecessary thought and energy on those items which simply weigh a person down.
Everybody else will tell you to pack light and then describe how to stuff everything you’ll need into an overnight bag the size of your cell phone — with food included. Not me.
I implore you to take it all so you can gain an understanding on why you probably needed to get away in the first place. So pack those bags. Pack them to the gills. That way, you’ll know exactly what you should be leaving behind.
– Judith Lyle