Not at all camping is created equal. There’s car camping and tent camping; camping with friends and camping with kids; backpacking and rv’ing. You could land in a rustic site or an all-amenities campground; start your morning with a hot shower or a polar plunge.
Despite it all, there is one thing that stays the same—the need for some all-time camping essentials. Whatever under-the-stars situation we find ourselves in, you can bet this list of must-have camping gear & gadgets is coming with us.
Solar-powered gear and camping make a magical duo. You’re outdoors all day, you’re usually outlet-free and yet, you still have modern needs for ya know, lights and stuff.
These Luci Solar Lights are not only powered entirely by the sun, but they’re bright enough to light the path to the pit-toilet or keep the evening Go Fish game alive. The inflatable design means they’re incredibly compact, lightweight and easy to bring along on an evening hike or backpacking trip. You can charge them up with just a few hours of direct sunlight, then sip that solar-light for hours and hours on end.
While we’re still thinking about solar-powered things, let’s jump over to the ultimate modern-day camping essential: a hyper-portable, foldable solar charger. This solar charger has so much going for it—it’s compact, lightweight and super effective in keeping small devices like your cell phone fully charged.
There’s a lot to love about this solar charger. There’s two USB ports for double the charging power. The foldable design makes it easy to bring on daytime adventures. It’s speedy and reliably gives a full charge or two on sunny days.
Of course, if your camping trip is all rain and clouds, you’ll struggle with this guy. Mother Nature can be fickle. But that’s the charm of camping, right?
I know that it seems bananas to spend nearly $150 on a headlamp. And you’re not wrong. In all honesty, I got my unreasonably expensive, rechargeable headlamp from a gear promotion with a previous job. But, if it ever broke (which it hasn’t in 8 years of ownership), I would gladly pay the money to repurchase this bad boy.
Why? Because it is extremely bright, the charge lasts forever, and it easily recharges anytime there’s a USB port handy. (Hint: the foldable solar charger we talked about makes a great partner to this headlamp.)
I’ve had the twenty dollar headlamps and it’s true, they hold the power of illumination. But when compared to this headlamp? It’s like putting the flame from a lighter against a police spotlight.
It’s intense. Maybe overkill. But it’s one of my most treasured pieces of camping gear, and an absolute must-have.
Speaking of must-haves, you can go ahead and add this ultra-light cooking stove to your cart now. I know it seems like a hardcore backcountry tool (which it can be) but honestly, this thing is just as great for a mid-hike cup of coffee or lazy, half-in-the-tent soup reheat.
While car camping, this little powerhouse makes a great backup if anything in your formal camping kitchen goes down. If you’re in a tent or doing some backcountry exploration, you might find that he’s your go-to burner. In any case, this small but mighty stove is quick to set up, simply to clean and incredibly compact.
Just make sure you pack a lighter and fuel canister alongside it!
5. Fire Starter
If you’re planning to spend some time around the campfire this trip, then you’ll be happy you packed some fire starters. I know, I know. We all want to believe that we’ve mastered the fundamental skill of fire building.
But the truth is, most people are awful at building fires, even if they do embrace the ‘small-to-big’ design. (You know, starting with small pieces of kindling then adding progressively larger pieces as the burn stabilizes. You do know this part, right?!) Whether you do or don’t feel confident in your fire building skills, you’ll be happy to have a head start.
Fun covid-friendly tip: In a pinch, hand sanitizer makes a great fire accelerant.
We’ll stick with the primal theme and move from fire to water. Almost all campgrounds come with a potable water supply for drinking, brushing your teeth and boiling water for the ever important Kraft mac n’ cheese.
But when you leave the campsite to hike around the mountains, things get tricky. We love the security of having this water filtering pump stashed in our backpack on outdoor excursions.
Especially around Lake Tahoe where the alpine lakes are so clean and fresh, this thing is great to have around. If you’re backpacking, it’s actually a bit of a necessity. If you’re doing day excursions, it’s simply nice to have.
This particular design is nice because you’re able to pump water into any container or even your parched mouth. It takes seconds to get setup and filters water quickly, filling up your Nalgene in minutes.
Fire, water, food, shelter, battery operated string lights? We’re pretty sure that all of those are survival necessities. Or at least they should be. Because no matter who you are, what kind of camping you’re doing or where you’re doing it—these lights are so fun to have.
We can pretend that these lights have nothing to do with getting the perfect Instagram shot, but let’s be honest; the mood these things set has the potential to generate your most liked photo of all time. But there’s other things to like too. Namely that they’re battery operated, so they can light up any tent, picnic table or awning with ease, and that they actually give off pretty good light.
Last but not least, the MVP of my “van down by the river” days—the female urination device. A clever creation that makes it easy for women to pee in any situation they find themselves in, this handheld funnel is more of a life essential than a simple camping essential.
Ladies, you know the feeling. Your male friends pee with grace on a roadside or off the hiking trail, and you squat in misery or hold it until a better option appears. This little guy allows you relief whenever the feeling strikes. You can stand and pee now! It’s discreet and easy-to-use, even if it does feel bizarre the first few times.
Just, uh, maybe practice in the shower a few times first. It’s not hard to use, but then again, no one wants pee on their shoes.
Once the sleeping bag and tent are packed, this list promises to make any camping trip even better. They’re the items you didn’t know you needed; but now can’t camp without. Need ideas on where to take ‘em? We know of a few good campgrounds!