Camping Basics - 5 Pieces of Camping Gear You Need to Get Started

If you are new to camping, you are probably shopping for camping gear to get started.  You may think that there is a laundry list of things to purchase to get outdoors, but a few basics along with what you have at home can go a long way.  My husband and I have camped on and off separately before we married, and we each have different ideas about what camping entails.  There are some items that both of us can agree on, and that is basic gear.  For us the basics are eating, sleeping and safety.

Start with your camping quarters.  An RV is not required to start camping.  You can begin your adventures in a tent that you buy or borrow.  Some campers even start out by camping in the back of a van with the seats removed.  If the camping bug has bitten you, just pick a method and start planning.  Now, let's get down to the basics.


If you are going to start out as a tent or van camper, get a good air mattress.  Elevated mattresses that have an electric pump are so easy and comfy.  We have a couple of Intex mattresses that are 22 inches tall.  These higher air mattresses sleep well, and you can get up and down without struggling.  We have both a queen and twin mattress that we have used.   Intex Raised Downy Airbed with Built-in Electric Pump, Queen, Bed Height 22"  These even come in a carrying bag for packing away.  This gear even doubles as a second bed for out of town guests if you need it.  Even with our current pop up camper, we can still get use out of these mattresses.

The Intex mattresses that we have blow up quickly and sleep well!

Our son uses a twin size mattress.

In our pop up camper, we replaced the existing mattresses with sofa replacement mattresses from Classic Brands.  Classic Brands Memory Foam Replacement Sofa Bed 4.5-Inch Mattress, QueenThese thick memory foam mattresses give us plenty of cushion when we lay down at night.  You can read my full review of this mattress in my Replacing a Pop Up Camper Mattress on a Budget post.  There are a variety of sizes in this line  And, they even have a cooling gel memory foam sofa replacement mattress.

Coffee Pot

Our little stainless steel percolator is one of my favorite pieces of camping gear.  My husband and I both are avid coffee drinkers.  There is just something about a percolated cup of coffee around a morning campfire.  It is pure bliss.  We picked up our coffee pot at Walmart for about $12.  It has served us well.  You can also grab this coffee pot from Amazon.  Simple will still provide an excellent cup of joe. 
Ozark Trail Stainless Steel 8-Cup Coffee Pot

We love our percolator.  This simple stove also works well.

Propane Burner or Camping Stove

Our camper came with a 2 burner stove.  If you are tent or van camping though, you will need a little camping stove of some sort.  I keep our little one burner stove that I first brought us in our camper as a backup.  While most campsites have grills that you can use, a stove is handy to have for cooking.

While we purchased a 1 burner stove with a carrying case, I would recommend getting a two burner propane stove.  It is more practical.  You can prepare your coffee while making eggs or other breakfast items.  And it gives you more flexibility during others meals as well.  You can heat up a can of soup or make a grilled cheese.  Get a basic stove.  You may think this is an added expense, but I can tell you that it is a camping basic that you really do need.
Coleman Classic Propane Stove

Camp Lights

Now I'm not talking about the little fancy string lights that you see at everyone's campsites.  I'm talking about those basic lantern type lights that you might need to take with you to the bathhouse or just have at your campsite if you are not in a camper.  We have two of these LED lanterns that pull up to turn on.  When you push them back down they turn off.  These things are super bright!  I love them.  Since they are compact, they are ideal for any type of camper.  Portable Camping Lanterns

We also have a set of little hanging tent lights.  These aren't just for tents.  They work well in our pop up too.  You can hang them where you want a little more light.  They give off just the right amount of soft light without being too harsh.  Portable Tent Lights

First Aid Kit

No matter what, you need a first aid kit with you when you camp.  You may never need it.  I hope you don't.  But, every camper needs to be prepared.  We have a first aid kit from Surviveware that is full of things for all kinds of emergencies.  Everything is well labeled.  And it is small enough to take on day hikes, in a glove box or even a camper drawer.  Sure, you could put together a first aid kit from things you have at home or build your own.  But, this does the work for you.  It is worth it to purchase one that is already made up and ready to go!  Read my review of this first aid kit in my Safety First post from March.  Surviveware First Aid Kit

Surviveware first aid kit.
These are literally the first pieces of camping gear that we purchased to get us started.  And, these are also the same things that we continue to use and rely on.   Once you have the basics, you can pull in things you need from around your house to fill in the gaps for those first few trips.  

Use the linens you have at home for sleeping.  Grab a skillet you have to cook in on your stove.  Use paper plates and plastic utensils for eating.  And most everyone has lawn chairs that can be used for sitting around a fire.  For more ideas on gear that we love at our campsite, visit my Camping Gadgets and Gear Page.

I do love the pretty side of camping - glamping really.  But, if you want to just get out there and camp.  Anyone can make that happen with a few pieces of gear to get started.  You can also scope out Facebook groups to buy used gear like tents and air mattresses and more.  What is important is that you just get out there and enjoy some time at the campground.  What are you waiting for?


  1. The Camping Companion “bring way too much stuff” on typical trips. For a four to five day trip, one change of clothes will suffice. You also need a better-quality tent because “if it breaks, you can’t crawl into your car.” He recommends tents between 5 to 8 pounds versus the unwieldy 25-pound tents some people break out for car camping.


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