Camping Gear for the Clueless

Many Americans are turning to the outdoors for travel this year, and because of that I have gotten some desperate messages from my non-outdoorsy friends asking the question, “how do I do the camping?”

Camping doesn’t have to be complicated, or expensive. There is a common joke that pokes fun at the people who spend more money living outside than they do living inside…. And it’s true that some outdoorsy equipment is way too expensive. But thats just the fancy shit. You don’t have to be fancy (unless you wanna be).

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Our non-fancy set up right outside of Badlands National Park. All you need is a little tent, some hammocks and beer.

So, without further blabbing (don’t most people just skip this beginning part of a blog anyway and get to the part that tells you how to be awesome?) lets talk about the most basic gear that you’ll need.

Tent

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There she is at the same camp site that the crew from Lord of the Rings used outside of Queenstown, NZ

I know this is surprising, but you’re gonna need a tent. Here is a link to my tent. This little beauty I bought off the sales rack at Cabela’s. This tent has survived gull poop in Iceland, sandflies in New Zealand, and a huge prairie storm in South Dakota. It’s small and compact so it’s easy to travel with, it’s easy to assemble with one person (although quicker if you have a friend give you a hand), and it withstands all weathers you’ll be encountering. Those are really the main things you should look for in a tent. This is a trail tent, or backpacking tent. When your tent label says those words it means your tent will be small, compact and won’t weigh much. That was really important to me when I was looking for a tent since I planned to pack this baby up and fly all over the world with it.

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There she is overlooking the bay outside of Husavik, Iceland. The colorful tent to her left drowned so don’t get that tent.

If you’re camping by yourself, with your dogs, or with one other person, my little tent will be more than efficient and won’t break the bank. Could it have cuter colors? Yes. Could it have a second door so the inside person doesn’t have to straddle the door person to escape the tent? Yes. Are those things important? To me, no. But if they are important to you, then find a tent that fits what you need.

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Look how perfect she is over there to the right (not pictured: 12,000 sandflies on every human body). Outside of Milford Sound in NZ

Obviously if you require a larger tent (if you have more than two people or if you’re one of those maniacs that packs an entire inflatable mattress to shove inside your tent), then find a larger tent. Just make sure its easy to assemble and is rain proof.

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Maybe the creepiest photo that I’ve taken of her. This is near Waitomo, NZ.

Sleeping Gear

Bags

Sleeping bags should tell you right on the label what temperature they are good to. I have a Marmot mummy sleeping bag that is good in 45 degree weather, and then I have a fleece bag liner that adds up to 12 degrees protection. Let me just say that YES I know my fleece bag is rectangle and YES I know my mummy sleeping bag isn’t rectangle, I make it work! Get off my ass about it. My mummy bag was on sale, so thats how we became lifelong lovers.

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Make sure to take romantic photos out of your tent flap while wrapped like a caterpillar in your sleeping bag while your boyfriend cleans all of your garbage out of the car because you’re a slob.

So when you’re shopping for a sleeping bag first keep in mind where you think you’ll be camping and what temperatures you’re planning on being in. Then make sure your sleeping bag is good in those temperatures. 

Pillows

There are some good camping pillows out there. When I am flying and I can’t bring a massive pillow I’ll attach this pillow on the outside of my backpack and it works well. At home, for road trips, I legit take the pillow off my bed and bring it with me. So if you don’t own a camping pillow and you’re only planning on doing a road trip or local camping trip, don’t waste money on a camp pillow. 

Mattress

Okay some of you crazy people are gonna shove a king size blow up mattress into your tent. I can’t stop you from doing that. I can make fun of you for it, but I can’t stop you.

If you want the actual camping alternative, however, you’ll need either a blow up camping pad, or just a regular camping mat. I left my blow up camping pad somewhere in New Zealand at a farmstead in the North Island near Tongariro in a donations pile. It was too awkward and I didn’t like having to blow it up all the time because I’m lazy. I slept on the ground like a dog for a couple nights until I bought a sleeping pad at a hardwood store. The sleeping pads are easier, so thats what I’ll recommend.

And that should be everything you need to sleep as comfortable as possible outside in the beautiful nature.

Lets talk about some items you may want to have to make your outdoor life even more comfortable.

Hammock

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This is what happiness looks like (sleepy happiness, but still happiness)

This may be the most important of all the items. If you know anything about me, you’ll know that my life is made complete by hammocks and that I could legit just live in a hammock and be totally fine with it. I have three hammocks in my backyard. I love hammocks. And now I have this traveling hammock right here, and the game has changed. I will be hammocking everywhere. And you can too.

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He’s cuter when I put alcohol into him.

Chairs

I just pack up one of my stained folding chairs from my garage and toss it in the car, but if you want to be fancy you can get one like this.

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Look at that chair, being a chair. (also excuse my flappy rain cover… this was as we were tearing down the tent and I was squealing about how pretty the morning was…)

Solar Charger

If you’re reading this, I assume its because you have no idea how to camp, and therefore you won’t be doing any heavy duty backcountry camping just yet. So basically, you’ll have a campsite set up near your car, and if you need to charge anything you can just plug it into your car. If you want to be fancy, though, get a solar battery pack. Sometimes these work best by fully charging them inside your house before you leave on the trip and then sitting them out in the sun while you’re outside to help them maintain their charge. I usually just attach them to the outside of my hiking bag with a carabiner, and let it soak in the sun while I’m hiking.

Lantern

I have this multi-purpose lighty thingy. Its great. I hang it from the top of my tent when I’m in there, and I take it as a flashlight when I need to make a pee. It’s not a necessity, but it’ll ad some convenience to your trip.

How do I eat…?

I am a very basic eater. Give me a loaf of bread and some jam and I’m happy for about 4 days. When I camp, I travel with very basic camping food. Some of it is really good and some of it I eat just so I’m not hungry anymore. Obviously you’re an adult, pack whatever food and snacks you want to pack. To help you on the food journey, get this camp burner. Its small, easy to travel with, and all you have to do is screw it on to the top of a small butane/isobutane canister (you can buy these canisters at most gas stations), turn on the gas with the little dial, and light it with a lighter. Then get either this solo kit that’ll cook for just you, or this double kit that’ll cook for you and a stranger (or lover). And then you’re ready to boil some water or heat up some pre made lentils (that link will take you to the random lentils that my dad sent an entire box of to my house and they are ahhh-mahhh-zing). Freeze dried camp food can legit be delicious… however it can run on the expensive side (that link takes you to a big bucket of assorted meals, you can buy them individually too). Any kind of food that can be cooked with just hot water (think Ramen, instant mashed potatoes…etc) is great to take camping.

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It’ll look like this once you put all your friends together.

So there you have it. Gather all of those things, put the app The Dyrt on your phone immediately (or just use google). Find a camping spot RIGHT NOW. And just give it a try this weekend. Nap in the woods. Drink beer in your hammock. Eat your ramen. Enjoy the outside.

Make sure to check out my welcome post to the series Tents, Trails and Taps to learn some tips to plan your own camping road trip!

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