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A successful camping trip starts with packing the right gear to help you brave the elements. But if your equipment list is spartan and you’re only focused on what will help you make it through the weekend, you’re doing it wrong. A few creature comforts will make your time outdoors that much more enjoyable, and many are available at a reasonable price.
Related: The Ultimate Backpacking Checklist
As you pack your bags, don’t forget to factor in safety measures that can help protect you and others from spreading or contracting COVID-19. Maintain 6 feet of distance from others when possible, wear a face mask, and wash your hands regularly. Keep in mind that restrooms at developed campgrounds might not be cleaned as frequently as you would like, though you can always bring your disinfectant to wipe down surfaces.
Be sure to check local regulations at your destination before your trip. Campgrounds at national and state parks and forests, as well as those managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, are starting to reopen. In many cases, reservations are required or other restrictions are in place. While you’re there, consider saving trips to popular trails or other attractions for future visits to avoid crowds.
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Coleman 6-Person Skydome
Coleman’s new Skydome series improves upon its classic dome tent by adding steeper walls to raise the headroom to six feet. In our testing, the Skydome was the easiest to pitch because of the attached main support poles. All we had to do was connect the segments, slide the disconnected ends into their opposite corners, and secure the tent body to the poles with snap-on clips. The fly and tarp-style floor protected us during an overnight spring shower, and large mesh paneling on the walls prevented the tent from feeling stuffy.
Kelty Tuck 40
If we hadn’t known the price before we tested the redesigned 2020 model this spring, we might have assumed the Tuck cost twice as much as it does. The spacious shape allowed us to sleep in a variety of positions and still stay warm. The hood and draft tube felt like luxurious touches on a sub-$100 bag. Plus, the new zipper placement, which runs across the width of the bag at the shins, lets you create a foot vent for dumping heat. For kids, we recommend the REI Co-op Kindercone 25.
Two-Person Sleeping Bag
Big Agnes Dream Island 15
More frontcountry bed than two-person sleeping bag, the synthetically insulated Dream Island 15 is purpose-built for couples. Big Agnes ditches the standard nylon liner fabric for a less-technical cotton blend that’s much more like your sheets back home. Both sides of the bag have a close-to-full length zipper, so you can use it like a blanket if you don’t feel like sealing the whole thing. The built-in pad sleeve fits one 78- by 50-inch mat or two 78- by 25-inch models.
Sea to Summit Comfort Plus Self-Inflating Sleeping Mat
Bedding down at a campsite with rocky terrain? You’ll hardly notice with Sea to Summit’s Comfort Plus Self-Inflating sleeping pad, which impressed us enough to earn an Editors’ Choice award. The 3.1-inch thick polyurethane foam mat has triangle-shaped chambers within to reduce bulk and weight while still providing ample cushioning. A nonslip grip pattern on the bottom means you won’t slide around your tent all night.
Klymit Drift Camp Pillow
The new Drift camping pillow has the chops to rival the comfort of the pillow you use at home. Shredded memory foam creates a 5.5-inch-thick platform to rest your head on that we found to be plush yet supportive. The ripstop polyester side of the reversible case repels water and dirt. Flip it, and jersey cotton offers next-to-skin softness.
Equipped with a compatible footprint and full-coverage fly, the Aurora tent has what you need for a comfortable outing with a partner or even by yourself at a reasonable price. We had plenty of room to sprawl during the night and easily sit up inside come morning, despite the walls of the entry-level tent not seeming quite vertical. The light-diffusing pocket on the ceiling was a welcome addition to the internal gear storage space.
BioLite PowerLight Bundle
Illuminate your campsite with this lantern and string light set from BioLite. The 200-lumen PowerLight lantern is rechargeable and versatile. In Torch mode, it becomes a 250-lumen flashlight, or use it as a battery to power up to four 150-lumen SiteLights as well as your phone. The two dimmable string lights in this kit lock together with magnets for transport and storage.
The 15-inch curved hickory shaft on the Tarnaby offers leverage for light duty campground tasks, like making kindling and driving tent stakes into the ground. The 1.25-pound Swedish steel head is designed to maintain its sharp edge and, when not in use, is protected by an included leather sheath.
First Aid Kit
Adventure Medical Kits Sportsman 200
Don’t get caught in the field without a first aid kit. The Sportsman has enough bandages, moleskin, and medication for a four-day excursion, and labeled, injury-specific pockets make finding the tools and supplies you need a cinch. For a portable one-person day kit, we’ve been using VSSL’s new First Aid Mini. All the usual supplies, plus two single-use thermometers and a sewing kit, pack into a cylinder aluminum container about the size and weight of a medium flashlight.
We’ll admit we were first drawn to the Beckridge for the sleek brushed metal exterior. But it’s more than a pretty bottle. It ranked among the top performers in our thermos testing and features an innovative easy-to-drink-from spout, which has a straw and a regular brim for big gulps or fitting ice cubes. Stash it in your pack or carry it with the retractable stainless steel carry loop, which surprisingly didn’t dig in when we used it. And because most campsites don’t have spigots in close proximity, don’t forget to pack a reservoir to keep with you.
MSR MiniWorks EX
With a flow rate of one liter per minute, the MSR MiniWorks EX Water Filter delivers clean water quickly. The ceramic and carbon element can remove 99.9 percent of bacteria and protozoa, and an indicator tells you when it’s time to replace the cartridge (after about 2,000 liters). As a backup or even if you aren’t heading into the backcountry, it’s always a good idea to keep some purification tablets on hand for emergencies.
This simple yet effective camp stove comes at a great price. The 21.9-by-13.7-inch cooking surface fits a 12- and 10-inch pan at the same time. The stove boils water at a respectable speed (5 minutes and 15 seconds, in our testing), and the wind screens prevent the flames from blowing out. At lower temperatures, we noticed the flame can sputter, so keep an eye on it to ensure dinner is still cooking.
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper
This nesting set from GSI Outdoors includes everything you need to cook a great meal at your campsite—even the kitchen sink. It has plates, bowls, and insulated mugs with lids for four people, as well as two- and three-liter pots and nine-inch frying pan with a detachable handle. All the cookware has a nonstick Teflon coating, and the welded stuff sack can be used as a wash basin.
Ditch your spork and dig into your meal with the Gerber ComplEAT. The nesting tool includes a fork, spoon, spatula, and small multitool for opening bottles and cans, even peeling produce. Plus, pair the spatula with the spoon or fork to create a set of tongs.
GSI Outdoors Infinity Backpacker
Even if you aren’t hauling your camp kitchen supplies farther than 20 feet, you’ll appreciate the Infinity. It’s a lightweight, low-cost polypropylene mug that can keep 17 ounces of coffee or cocoa warm all morning long. Helping seal in the heat is a neoprene insulation sleeve and the flip-top lid.
Aeropress Go Travel
Get your caffeine fix with this travel-size coffee maker, a total immersion system that works similar to a french press but with water at lower temperatures and requiring shorter steeping times. In less than a minute, you can brew eight ounces of joe or three shots of espresso. Plus, the brewing chamber and other supplies fit neatly inside the accompanying 15-ounce mug and lid set.
Today’s thick-walled hard-sided coolers let you buy ice Friday and still bring some home with you on Sunday. The new Roadie 24 is a perfect size for weekend trips. Its tall height gives you the option of packing a growler or two-liter soda bottle, and the flexible handle is comfortable to carry. If you need more space, the RTIC 45 delivers premium performance at a more reasonable price than other competitors.
Don’t be the person who leaves their campsite trashed. Best case scenario, you’ll be pissing off the campground staff or the next group of visitors. Worst case, your scraps pose a threat to wildlife. Avail yourself of this pop-up trash can that folds flat for transport and storage and extends into a 30-gallon bin with handles and a zip top.
This lightweight flameless lighter, powered by a rechargeable lithium ion battery, uses an arcing electrical current to light things on fire. The rubberized exterior is easy to grip, and an LED light on the bottom makes for a useful flashlight in a pinch. The wrist lanyard combines three feet of paracord with an equally long tinder thread. Of course, it can’t hurt to have a few waterproof matches stashed away just in case.
InstaFire Popular Mechanics Packets
Sure, it’s cool to ignite your fire with a ferro rod. But we’re not judging if you reach for a quick-starting flammable fire starter instead—because that’s usually our move. This package comes with 22 lightweight packs of the wood, mineral, and paraffin material. Just pop one in your fire pit, light a match, and your fire will get going in a matter of seconds.
Ajmyonsp Marshmallow Roasting Sticks
It’s not a camping trip without the s’mores. This pack includes five telescoping stainless steel sticks that extend 32 inches to keep your hands safely away from an open campfire as you roast hot dogs, brats, or marshmallows.
Wild + Wolf Hip Flask & Shot Cups
Enjoy a nightcap as the campfire crackles or celebrate on the summit with this flask and shot glass set. The stainless steel vessel holds up to 8 ounces of your booze of choice, and the shot glasses nest under the snap-on faux-leather cap.
Black Diamond Icon
A headlamp provides hands-free lighting, which is helpful if you’re racing daylight to set up camp or preparing dinner as the sun sets. Running on four AAs, the Icon is heavier than most competitors. But its battery life and versatility proved indispensable. Turn the waterproof headlamp to its maximum 500-lumen output and easily cycle through the white, red, blue, and green colors. If flashlights are more your speed, try the Coleman Battery Guard 250M Flashlight.
Bengku Outdoor 550-Pound
Paracord’s versatility makes it a worthwhile addition to your equipment list. Use it to create guy lines for your tent fly, as a clothesline, or even as a shoestring if your laces wear out. Just as with duct tape, you might not know exactly what you’ll need it for, but when the time comes, you’ll be happy you have it.
Coppertone Pure & Simple Lotion SPF 50
When you’re playing outside all day, it’s that much more important to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays. Most zinc oxide sunscreens are costly and take some elbow grease to rub in, but this formula goes on easy and doesn’t feel greasy, oily, or tacky on your skin. Plus, the mineral formula is safer for you and the environment than traditional chemical sunscreens.
Thermacell Patio Shield Mosquito Repeller
Mosquitos can ruin a camping trip, so pack a Thermacell Patio Shield, which creates a 15-foot protection zone around you. There is no open flame or fragrant citronella candles to deal with. Simply insert the repellent, load the butane, and turn it on. Keep the bugs away on day hikes and other excursions with Cutter Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent.
Campsuds in Nalgene Bottle
Unlike average dish soap, Campsuds concentrated formula is biodegradable and safer for the environment. And you can use it to clean your cookware, clothing, or yourself. For quick hand washing, use Dr. Bronner’s Lavender Hand Sanitizer.
Coghlan’s Toilet Tissue
Some campground bathrooms are better maintained than others. Stay on the safe side by packing some extra TP. This pack comes with two 150-sheet rolls that are small enough to fit in your pocket or pack.
Towel off after a dip in a mountain lake or a shower back at the campground with PackTowl’s Personal Towel. Available in four sizes, it’s made of lightweight microfiber that absorbs up to four times its weight and dries quickly. A Polygiene treatment keeps the funk at bay.
Benchmade 551 Griptilian
Our favorite tactical pocket knife, the Griptilian has a standout textured nylon handle that inspires confidence even if your hand is wet or sweaty. Although the blade measures 3.5 inches, the knife clocks in under 4 ounces, thanks to the plastic construction. The rest of the ambidextrous knife has a simple, effective design, with an easy-to-use locking mechanism and a sharp high-carbon stainless steel blade. Multitool fans, choose the Leatherman Signal, which has a firestarter, whistle, and saw among its 19 tools.
Plano Sportsman’s Trunk
This 108-quart rugged storage bin can hold all of your camping gear and tools, with plenty of room to spare. It has wheels on one end to help haul it over longer distances, and the molded grooves make it stackable if you need more than one.
Deuter Speed Lite 24L
What we prize most in a day pack is comfort. Deuter delivered that by injecting plenty of support and cushion into the 1-poun, 11-ounce Speed Lite. The padded hipbelt and U-shaped frame within the back panel kept most of the weight off our shoulders and on our hips to let our legs do the heavy lifting. Cushioning on the shoulder straps and a ventilated foam back panel kept the fully loaded pack from digging in.
Ruffwear Approach Dog Backpack
Available in multiple sizes, the Approach is a next-level pooch harness. It adjusts in five spots for a secure fit, and saddlebags can hold a collapsible water dish, waste bags, and more. Plus, the reflective trim and light loop help you spot Spot well after dark.
This entry-level DSLR won’t break the bank but is guaranteed to take your photo game to the next level. The larger sensor produces high-quality images, and the broad ISO sensitivity range lets you shoot in low light. Point and shoot in Auto mode, improve your skills with Guide mode, or choose one of the more specialized shooting options. Plus, sharing pics to your phone is simple with Nikon’s app.
GCI Outdoor Kickback Rocker
The Kickback impressed us enough to earn top marks in our camping chair test. The seat height was comfortable for our 6-foot-2 and 5-foot-5 testers, and they both appreciated the gentle rocking motion created by the pistons on the back legs. And it’s got a cup holder and phone pocket on the armrests. For a more portable place to lounge, consider a hammock.
Set up a picnic anywhere with the Victory. Its flannel top has a waterproof backing, and in blustery conditions, you can stake down the blanket using the corner loops. Plus, the Victory comes in three sizes. For colder conditions, snuggle up with the Rumpl NanoLoft Puffy Blanket.
Polarized sunnies don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Goodr’s original model magically fits a lot of different head sizes comfortably and won’t bounce even if you’re bounding down the trail. With 12 lens and frame color combinations available, you can tailor your choice to fit your style.
Nikon Aculon A211 10×42
Our pick for beginner-level binos, the Aculon A211 is well-made and provides decent image quality with 10-times magnification for peeping birds and other wildlife from afar. Plus, these are comfortable to hold with a grippy rubber exterior.
Timex 40mm Expedition Scout
The Expedition Scout offers basic timekeeping in a dependable package that’s water-resistant down to 50 meters. The average-size 40 millimeter brass case is paired with a nylon strap. And after dark, you can still see the time thanks to the Scout’s backlighting function. For the data lovers out there, try the new Suunto 7, which elegantly integrates everyday smart features into a fitness-oriented GPS watch.
Goal Zero Yeti 200x
The new Yeti 200x is the lightest portable power system from Goal Zero. The five-pound charging machine holds 187 watt-hours of power to quickly juice up your phone, laptop, tablet, camera, and other devices. And just like all that tech, the Yeti 200x has a rechargeable battery. Power up at home in four hours or in the field with the compatible solar panel.
Timberland Mt. Maddsen Mid Waterproof
Comfortable from the first step, the Mt. Maddsen gives you day-hiking chops at a price well below what you would spend on many high-end boots. Hefty lugs and a TPU shank offered good grip and support on wet, rocky, and steep passes. We can overlook the weight (1 pound, 3.2 ounces, for our size 12 men’s test sample) given how well the EVA midsole cushioned our footfalls. Back at camp, reach for the Merrell Hut Moc recovery shoes. We’ve found they’re easy to slip on but still fit securely when we walk.
Wigwam Arbort NXT Mid-Crew
As far as wool blend hiking socks go, we haven’t found a better value than the Arbor NXT. It fit well, with an elasticized arch to keep it from sliding and a reinforced heel and toe to extend the life of the unisex sock. The built-in olefin liner wicked sweat very well and felt great on our foot.
Columbia Silver Ridge Lite Long-Sleeve
Protect yourself from the sun and untamed woods with this trail shirt. The polyester button-up boasts a UPF 40 rating and an antimicrobial treatment to thwart funk. Hidden vents in the back encourage air flow, but when the temperature spikes, you can roll the sleeves up past the elbow. For a true short sleeve shirt, choose the soft yet capable Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily.
Backcountry’s new Olympus shorts are made with 20 percent spandex, so they have plenty of stretch. The gusseted crotch offers full range of motion for scrambling or leaping across rocks, and the adjustable waistband drawcord keeps the Olympus in place. A zippered pocket for small valuables joins two standard hand pockets, too.
Helly Hansen Verglas Light
Outdoor Research Sombriolet
Stay out of the sun with the Sombriolet. The 360-degree, foam-stiffened brim keeps rays off your face and neck and retains its shape even after you’ve stuffed it in your pack for a couple of hours. Plus, the breathable fabric has UPF 50 sun protection.
Patagonia Torrentshell 3L
The Torrentshell has an updated design this year and sports a new hydrophobic membrane that’s built to last. The fully recycled nylon shell has a microfleece lining at the neck for added comfort, and a small visor graces the end of the hood for extra protection.
Eddie BauerStowaway Packable 45L Duffel
Throw your clothes in this lightweight 45-liter weekender bag. We’ve stuffed it to the gills on multiple outings, and the durable water-resistant construction hasn’t failed us yet. We like that it stores in the small front exterior pocket, but our favorite feature is the large shoe pocket on the end.
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