Camping

The Very Best Camping Gear, According to Soooo Many Reviews

22 essentials to rest easy in the great outdoors.

April 28, 2021

In our oh-so busy digital world, I’ve found that one of the most relaxing things you can do on vacation is truly disconnect. And what better way to get off the grid than heading out into the woods for a summer camping excursion?

If you’ve always wanted to try camping, why not plan your first trip this year? Full-on vacations might not be on your horizon, but safely camping outside is definitely something we can look forward to. You can start out small, spending a weekend at a local campground (many of which offer electricity, bathrooms, and even showers!), and once you feel comfortable roughing it, you can venture out to more secluded spots in the wilderness to really get away from it all.

No matter whether you’re staying at a well-maintained campground or out in the middle of nowhere, you’re going to need the right gear to keep yourself safe and comfortable throughout your trip. A few must-have camping items include a tent, sleeping bag, cooking supplies, bug spray, and a comfy chair for relaxing. Luckily, the avid campers of the world are more than happy to share their thoughts on today’s most popular equipment, leaving thousands of reviews to help you find the right gear. Here’s what they recommend.


When It’s Time to Snooze

1. Coleman Sundome Tent

Reviews: 29,300+
Rating: 4.7 stars

It’s easy to see why this Coleman tent is so popular. It comes in a variety of sizes, sleeping anywhere from two to six people, and even the larger sizes are still incredibly affordable at under $100. It takes just a few minutes to set up, and its rainfly and welded floors will keep you dry, even if the weather outside is soggy.

Photo by Amazon

2. CORE 9 Person Instant Cabin Tent

Reviews: 3,400+
Rating: 4.7 stars

If you need a more spacious sleeping space, this tent from CORE can accommodate up to nine people or two queen-size inflatable mattresses. It includes a room divider, as well as in-wall storage pockets, and the pre-assembled frame makes it incredibly fast and easy to construct. It’s the perfect option if you’re camping with the whole family!

Photo by Amazon

3. Coleman Camping Cot

Reviews: 10,000+
Rating: 4.4 stars

Not keen about sleeping on the ground? With the Coleman Camping Cot, you can elevate yourself away from the rocks and bugs to make your camping experience a little more enjoyable. The raised cot comes in both twin and queen sizes, depending on if you’re snoozing solo or with a partner, and it even includes a compatible air mattress and battery-operated pump that can be operated anywhere.

Photo by Amazon

4. Coleman Palmetto Cool Weather Adult Sleeping Bag

Reviews: 4,700+
Rating: 4.7 stars

Coleman is one of the go-to camping brands for frequent adventurers, so it should come as no surprise that they’ve pretty much perfected the sleeping bag. This affordable single-person sleeping bag is ideal for snoozing in 40- to 60-degree conditions, as the plush interior will keep you cozy all night long.

Photo by Coleman

5. Sleepingo Double Sleeping Bag

Reviews: 12,600+
Rating: 4.8 stars

Want to cuddle up with your loved ones under the stars? This queen-size sleeping bag has more than enough room for two people, and it comes with two travel pillows, too. Reviewers say it's lightweight, cozy, and water-resistant, calling it a must-have for camping couples.

Photo by Amazon

6. Therm-a-Rest Compressible Travel Pillow

Reviews: 7,000+
Rating: 4.4 stars

Regular pillows are fairly bulky, and they’ll take up quite a bit of space in your car as you pack to go camping. Instead, get a couple of these compressible travel pillows, which roll up into a compact form, allowing you to save space in your bag. They come in a variety of sizes, as well as several adorable patterns.

Photo by Amazon

When You're Trying to Thrive in the Wilderness

Don’t just get by on your camping trip—live your best life! You’ll need these essential tools to avoid bug bites, roast lots of marshmallows, and stay comfy in the woods.

7. Repel Insect Repellent, Sportsmen Max Formula

Reviews: 5,600+
Rating: 4.6 stars

Bug spray is an absolute must when you’re camping, as there are sure to be mosquitoes and other biting critters around. Folks swear by this particular bug spray from Repel, which contains 40 percent DEET—the highest concentration available in a spray container. It provides up to eight hours of protection against mosquitoes, ticks, gnats, biting flies, and more, and reviewers say it’s not sticky or too smelly.

Photo by Amazon

8. Sawyer Products Premium Permethrin Clothing Insect Repellent

Reviews: 12,300+
Rating: 4.6 stars

Chances are you’re not wearing bug spray to bed, so unless you want to wake up covered in itchy bug bites, be sure to pack some permethrin spray for your gear. When applied to fabrics (such as your clothing, tent, and sleeping bag), this chemical will keep bugs like ticks and mosquitos away. The best part? It lasts for up to six washes or 40 days, so you won’t have to reapply constantly.

Photo by Amazon

9. Streamlight Compact, Cordless Hand Lantern

Reviews: 3,700+
Rating: 4.8 stars

Once the sun sets on your camp, you’ll need a few lanterns to illuminate your surroundings, and there’s no better option than this one from Streamlight. These lanterns come in a variety of strengths, ranging from 200 to 1,100 lumens, and they have rings on both the top and bottom for hanging them up. Plus, if you want to light up a larger area, just pop off the top of the lantern and let it shine.

Photo by Amazon

10. All-Weather Magnesium Firestarter Kit

Reviews: 6,400+
Rating: 4.4 stars

Is your pack feeling a little heavy already? Don’t worry—this handy fire starter won’t weigh you down. The pocket-sized magnesium fuel bar comes with a striker, as well as a compass, all of which you can store on the convenient ball chain. Plus, it will work in wet conditions, ensuring you’re never left out in the cold.

Photo by Amazon

11. LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

Reviews: 65,000+
Rating: 4.8 stars

If you ever run out of water while out on a hike, you’ll be glad you have the LifeStraw in your pack. This handy gadget has a microfiltration membrane that removes 99.99% of waterborne bacteria and parasites, allowing you to safely sip on water from the bubbling brook you walked by. Plus, it can be used on up to 1,000 gallons of water before you need to replace it.

Photo by Amazon

12. Equate All-Purpose First Aid Kit

Reviews: 900+
Rating: 4.7 stars

You never know what’s going to happen when you’re out camping, so it’s always a good idea to have a first aid kit handy, just in case. This all-purpose kit includes 140 pieces and everything you need to treat minor injuries, such as antibacterial bandages, medicines and topicals, tools and wound dressings.

Photo by Walmart

13. Thermacell Portable Mosquito Repeller

Reviews: 1,000+
Rating: 4.7 stars

Pesky mosquitoes can quickly put a damper on your camping trip, and in addition to traditional bug spray, you may also want to pack this portable mosquito repeller. The handheld unit releases an odorless bug repellent to create a 15-foot protection zone—ideal for shielding your tent or campfire at night.

Photo by Dick's Sporting Goods

When You're Whipping Up a Woodsy Meal

Just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you can’t cook delicious meals. With a stove, some cookware, and a can-do attitude, you’ll be able to eat like royalty.

14. Coleman Portable Propane Gas Camp Stove

Reviews: 15,000+
Rating: 4.8 stars

All you need to cook your favorite dishes is this two-burner propane stove, which folds up into a super-convenient form for transport. It has pressure-control technology to help provide consistent heat, and it even has wind-blocking side panels so your flame doesn’t go out. It’s basically a gas stovetop to use in the great outdoors!

Photo by Amazon

15. MalloMe Camping Cookware Mess Kit

Reviews: 5,800+
Rating: 4.5 stars

You probably don’t want to bring your nice pots and pans out into the woods, so invest in this affordable camping mess kit, which includes an anodized aluminum pot, pan, and lid, as well as a number of cooking utensils. The cookware is lightweight and packs up into an easy-to-store bag, allowing you to cook deluxe dinners just about anywhere.

Photo by Amazon

16. Arctic Zone Titan Deep Freeze Zipperless Hardbody Cooler

Reviews: 22,400+
Rating: 4.6 stars

There are no fridges in the woods, so you’ll need to bring along a cooler to keep your drinks and food fresh—as well as a lot of ice! This zipperless hardbody cooler comes in several sizes, so you can choose the one that fits your needs, and it even includes a removable shelf to help you keep your grub organized.

Photo by Amazon

17. Ozark Trail Stainless Steel Tumbler

Reviews: 3,600+
Rating: 4.7 stars

This stainless steel tumbler can be used with both hot and cold beverages, allowing you to keep your coffee warm in the morning and then your ice water cold all day. It holds up to 30 ounces of your favorite drink, and it features a convenient skid-proof bottom and leak-free lid.

Photo by Walmart

When You're Kicking Back and Relaxing

With the sleeping, eating, and bug spraying on lock, don’t forget to pack a few accessories to help you relax and unwind during your trip. It's the best part of the camping experience!

18. Wise Owl Outfitters Camping Hammock

Reviews: 27,800+
Rating: 4.8 stars

What’s more serene than hanging out in a hammock and reading a good book? You can make this a reality, no matter where you’re camping, thanks to this portable hammock. It’s made from heavy-duty parachute-grade nylon, and you can set it up anywhere with the included tree straps and carabiners. Reviewers call this product fantastic, especially for such an affordable price.

Photo by Amazon

19. Coleman Portable Camping Quad Chair with 4-Can Cooler

Reviews: 30,700+
Rating: 4.7 stars

Keep your relaxation essentials close by with this camping chair, which has a built-in cooler pocket on one side and a mesh storage compartment on the other. The chair also has a fully cushioned seat and supportive back, making it the perfect tool to hang out and take in the scenery.

Photo by Amazon

20. Wekapo Inflatable Lounge

Reviews: 8,000+
Rating: 4.4 stars

Want to relax on top of a mountain? On the shore of a lake? No matter where you are, this inflatable lounger makes it quick and easy to get your nap on. All you have to do is inflate the tube by filling it with air—a process that entails swinging it around like a bubble wand—and once sealed, it becomes the perfect spot for one or two people to lounge. There’s even a built-in head pillow for those times you want a perfect view of the sunset.

Photo by Amazon

21. Ozark Trail Instant Canopy

Reviews: 1,100+
Rating: 4.1 stars

You can make your campsite a little cozier with the help of this pop-up canopy. It’s 10 x 10 feet and has a durable polyester roof that provides shade (and UV protection) from the sun, and it has telescoping legs that let you set it to three different heights. It’s the perfect spot to eat lunch in the summer or just hang out with your camping companions.

Photo by Walmart

22. YETI Camino Carryall 35 Tote Bag

Reviews: 1,900+
Rating: 4.9 stars

Sure, it’s a splurge, but this tote bag from YETI is sure to come in handy when you’re out in the wilderness. It has a rugged waterproof design that’s ideal for taking to the lake or on a boat, as well as a wide opening that’s easy to pack and a structured base that allows the bag to stand up on its own. In fact, it’s so handy that we’re betting you’ll start using it in your daily life while commuting, taking weekend trips, and more.

Photo by Dick's Sporting Goods

What's your favorite camping gear out there? Let us know in the comments!

This post contains products independently chosen (and loved) by our editors and writers. As an Amazon Associate and Skimlinks affiliate, Food52 earns a commission on qualifying purchases of the products we link to.

This article was updated in April 2021 to add the very best items for your summer camping trips.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • sandra
    sandra
  • IWearTheHat
    IWearTheHat
  • Ruth
    Ruth
  • Maggie Kerr
    Maggie Kerr
  • Bill Rider
    Bill Rider
Freelance writer, product tester & baking enthusiast.

9 Comments

sandra May 11, 2021
I've been looking into Sawyer Permethrin Insect Repellent for Clothing and found you may want to keep in mind that permethrin is quite toxic for aquatic life. If you wear treated clothes please do not wash/rinse them in the waterways. It also is identified as highly toxic for honeybees.

"Permethrin is highly toxic to both freshwater and estuarine aquatic organisms. "

https://www3.epa.gov/pesticides/chem_search/reg_actions/reregistration/fs_PC-109701_1-Jun-06.pdf

I would prefer to use more natural oils and get a few mosquito bites than risk the already declining honey bees ;)
 
IWearTheHat May 1, 2021
I actually own some of the items in this list so it was pretty cool to see that. I have my own idea, but I'm curious as to what you would recommend for a small backpacking gas stove. Thanks.
 
Rachel D. May 12, 2021
you'll be hard pressed to find something more convenient than the MSR pocket rocket! that + snow peak's cooking gear is pretty much all we bring for backpacking.
 
Ruth April 29, 2021
Oh my goodness. Do you want to suggest, though, that to get started camping you don't actually need this much equipment? I'm uncomfortable with the notion that to take on the wilderness you need a galaxy of expensive products. A tent and sleeping bags obviously are key (LL Bean is a fabulous provider of relatively inexpensive equipment (as well as expensive high-end stuff, if you get the camping bug). In addition, something you don't mention is a plastic sheet to go under the tent. This is important if you get caught in the rain. Matches are key. So is a rope, and a plastic tarp to string up with the rope, again in case it rains. A cutting board and a knife. Flashlight and batteries. A roll of toilet paper, just in case. Citronella candle. A towel you don't care about for kitchen tasks. A roll of paper towels. We bring a cast-iron dutch oven and fill it with water, for use in the campsite. Cast iron cookware is great for camping; you can use it over an open fire. Tongs, to take stuff off the fire. A pocket knife, to whittle sticks for marshmallows. A small axe, to cut wood for the fire. A couple of trash bags and more miscellaneous plastic bags than you think you need, for packing up damp swimsuits and towels. A bottle/can opener. My go-to kit of food supplies for eating outdoors includes coffee, tea, salt, pepper, olive oil, zatar, marshmallows, and breakfast cereal. Also, granola bars for hikes. A fun activity with kids is to have them invent their own trail mix before you leave: just let them go nuts mixing up dry goods to take along.
 
Ruth April 29, 2021
One more thing: a paper map of the area and, if you can find it, an actual travel book with hikes and attractions. Cell phone coverage isn't always great in the wilderness, and batteries run down....
 
Maggie K. November 7, 2020
Packing pods made a huge difference for us this past summer. We were limited to the car top carrier to pack a tent/sleeping bags/cooking equipment/etc for a family of 4 for 2 weeks in Tetons & Yellowstone. The pods saved us So much space, and really forced us to only pack the essentials & build in laundry time during the trip.
I would add in a headlight to this list, & solar rechargeable lanterns. Other favourite items this yr: solar powered camper shower, an ax, a Swiss Army knife is always handy, a picnic table cover in bear country, a wash bucket in bear country, thin rain jackets, smart wool socks for chilly nights, the kids loved their marshmallow metal tongs (which can double as hot dog tongs), and collapsible dog bowls if you’re travelling with your pet.
 
Bill R. November 4, 2019
I created my own ultimate list of camping and hiking equipment. It contains over 80 items. I divided it into 10 main categories. For convenience, I designed it in the form of a checklist and it can be downloaded in PDF format.

I will be glad if this list helps you on your next trip.

https://bootsgeek.com/10-essentials-ultimate-list-of-camping-and-hiking-gear/
 
Angie July 18, 2019
I've had the intex inflatable kayak (specifically the one shown here) for three years and I love it. Just make sure to take a packable microfiber towel with you to wipe it down before packing it back up. The seats are removable so I often take out the front seat, lay a yoga mat down to protect the kayak and take my dog with me.
 
sandra May 11, 2021
Good idea about the yoga mat! We recently got some advanced elements inflatable kayaks that are great quick setup (literally 5 minutes to inflate) and very tough :)