There are few things better in life than long summer nights spent by the fire when camping. Whether you’ve been camping for years or setting out for your first foray this summer, you want to have your gear dialed in. While you don’t need to go broke buying gear for your summer camping adventures, you want to ensure you have all the basics covered.
Most likely this is a tent, but it could also be a bivy or even just the back of your car. However you go about it, make sure it’s something with enough room that won’t leak water should you run into some summer rains. For tents, a good rule of thumb is if you want the size to be one more than the people actually sleeping in it — e.g., two people should use a three-person tent.
Just because the days are long doesn’t mean the light is endless (unless you’re in Alaska). You don’t need a lot, but you want to ensure you have a good headlamp and/or a compact LED flashlight. If you’re going for a headlamp, look for something with multiple stages of light and a red light option.
This consists of a sleeping bag and a sleeping pad. It may be difficult to choose with plenty of options on the market. A good rule of thumb is to assume that whatever the sleeping bag is rated is 10 degrees or so below its true comfort rating. So, if you’re heading somewhere with an overnight low of 50 degrees, you want a 40-degree bag. While this depends on your gender and whether you tend to sleep warm or cold, it’s a decent rule of thumb.
The best sleeping bag in the world won’t live up to its rating without a good sleeping pad. Whether you want to go with a closed-cell foam or inflatable pad (or both) is up to you. Just make sure it’s appropriately rated. Look for a three-season sleeping pad and check the R-value against the temperatures you expect to be in.
Yes, you want to be off the grid and in nature. However, you still want to ensure someone has a charged phone in an emergency. While you could hop in your car and wait until your car charger brings your phone back to life, there are simpler options. A portable power bank is your best option. Keep it with you in your sleeping bag if overnight temperatures get cold to preserve its battery life.
You don’t need a full outfit from REI, especially in the summer. You’re fine if you have athletic, breathable clothes and good hiking boots or shoes. You’ll likely want to pack layers, especially if camping at higher altitudes — but as long as you avoid cotton in favor of technical fibers, you’re fine. Bring some extra socks in case they get wet, and you’ll be good to go! A hat is never a bad choice either.
A Good Backpack
Whether you need something large for multiple nights in the backcountry or just a simple daypack, you want something you can count on. You can get away with an old backpack in the short term, but if you plan on camping for years, it’s likely worth investing in a high-quality bag.
Emergency Car Gear
Camping can often bring you to remote places, so you’ll need to be a bit self-sufficient. Make sure you have the gear necessary to change a tire as well as a fully-charged battery jumper. If you’re camping in popular national parks or national forests, you’ll likely have plenty of people pass by to help. However, if you like to disperse camp or go off the beaten path, you may not have that luxury.
Basic First Aid
If you’re camping in the front country and just going for day hikes, this may not be as much of a concern. In those cases, a simple first aid kit that can treat cuts and scrapes is probably all you need. However, if you like to backpack for multiple days at a time, you want something a bit more substantial. While you’ll likely never sustain a serious injury backpacking, you never want to be caught unprepared.
A Sense of Adventure
Heading out into nature for warm summer nights is a relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Seeing camping gear checklists can make it seem like an insurmountable task, but that simply isn’t true. Plenty of these pieces of gear are one-time purchases. You’ll have a great time if you’re knowledgeable and don’t take unnecessary risks. When in doubt, go camping with friends who can help you. Camping together is always more fun anyway!