I’ve been an avid camping enthusiast for 10+ years and have gone on a 100+ camping trips, some of which were over 8 nights.
I’ve done it all: glamping, car camping, moto-camping, backpacking, lazy weekend trips, week-long self-survival trips out of a saddlebag, kayak camping, hammock camping, winter camping – you name it.
My personal Instagram feed is essentially 80% camping photos. I say this not only to flex, but to give you an idea that I’ve been around the block more than a few times, and that I talk from experience.
So when I say that something is worth it, you better believe that.
With this out of the way, here are the items that I can absolutely recommend for a stress-free camping trip, however short or long it is.
NATUREHIKE CLOUD-UP 2 TENT
Tents are a subject that requires a separate post, but for the majority of cases, Naturehike Cloud-Up 2 is a FANTASTIC option.
I’ve been using the Cloud-Up 1 for 8+ years, and it’s been nothing but perfect. It’s fully waterproof (it has held great under very strong wind and rain storms), and I’ve used it for winter camping too. The only downside for the version 1 is that it’s not completely free-standing (i.e. it has to be pegged down to use it). The problem with that is if you are camping somewhere with harder soil, or if the ground has rocks in it, the pegs take a significant amount of effort to go into the ground, and setting up a tent becomes a lot more challenging.
Thankfully, the Cloud-Up 2 (essentially, a copy of the MSR’s $600 Hubba Hubba tent) has an additional pole, and it can be used on any terrain.
It’s reasonably light and extremely durable – it has been around the whole province and was a trusted comrade on every single trip that I took. The aluminum poles are so much better than fiberglass, and I haven’t had any of them break and leave me stranded.
If there is any remote possibility of getting caught in a rain, trust me: paying an extra $30 for a silicone-seamed tent is SO WORTH IT to stay dry.
Price difference between 1-2 person and 2-3 person is $20, and I would recommend to go for a 2-3 person even if you camp alone, because you will always have extra gear with you that will need protection from the elements too.
There are a few different tents in this listing, so look for these 2 important features:
- Double poles on both sides (the free-standing version)
- 4000 Waterproof rating (the one that has silicone seams)
However, if you only go camping once or twice per season, don’t worry about a tent too much – any cheap $30 tent from a department store will work fine.
A good sleeping bad shouldn’t set you back more than $50. Often times, you can find a used one for about $20-30, but I’d rather buy a new one because some humans are disgusting.
Having said that, I can’t remember the last time I washed mine – the only anti-microbial treatment my bag gets is being unzipped in the sun.
Anyway, the temperature rating is the most important part here: look at the “comfort” rating. For summer, anything that is rated for 15°C and below is good.
Don’t think that “I can just put more clothes on for the night”, if it’s 5°C outside and you have a 10°C comfort-rated bag you’re going to struggle for 10 hours to survive the night.
It’s not a secret that nights are colder than days, so if it’s rated above that – you’re risking being cold at night and sick the next morning. I have 2 sleeping bags, one for summer, and one for everything else, and I often just bring my winter mummy bag because we often gain a lot of elevation when we go on multi-day trips.
For a regular “weekend warrior” – a simple bag like this is a great option.
This exact bag has been thoroughly tested by a friend who is into bicycle camping. The compression sack makes it a lot more portable.
WINTER SLEEPING BAG
If you plan on going camping in the colder months (with temperatures just above freezing at night), be prepared to have to spend ~$200-300 on a good sleeping bag.
A true “winter” bag is likely going to be a goose down bag, or a synthetic equivalent of it. Personally, I’d go with goose down, but it’s important to know a few things about them:
- Goose down becomes useless when it’s wet
- Goose down requires to be completely 100% dry after washing, otherwise it’s going to rot
- If you sweat during the sleep, you have to dry the bag completely before putting it away
A “waterproof” cover is only waterproof to a certain point. I’ve gotten my sleeping bag wet by accident during the first night of a 2-night January trip, and it was the worst weekend I’ve ever spent in the nature.
Mummy vs. conventional shape is a highly-debated topic, but ultimately, it comes to a personal preference. My girlfriend and I prefer mummy bags because we like the feeling of being “hugged” by a bag when we sleep, but most I know people prefer the boxy sleeping bag designs.
In either case, this winter sleeping bag from Naturehike is a decent option, if you’re not willing to spend $200+ on a “branded” one.
The only temperature rating we are looking at here is also “comfort”, anything below – you’re just setting yourself for a very miserable night.
An inflatable sleeping pad is a must in my opinion. You can get away with a foam pad, but it’s far from being comfortable, and if you’re sleeping on a rocky surface, the rocks will keep poking you all night.
With a thinner inflatable pad like this, not only you’re elevating yourself up from the ground (which is cold and sometimes wet), you also are setting yourself up for a relaxing night of sleep and a fully-functioning day the next morning.
You might be inclined to use a inflatable hide-a-bed, but it’s as bad option in my opinion – they take a LONG time to inflate, it’s borderline impossible to blow it up with your lungs alone; and they sit very tall, so they will take a lot of space in the tent.
If you have a chance, go for a well-known brand like Therm-A-Rest (they’re $100+), if not – a simple inflatable pad like this one from Naturehike is an excellent second option. A secret for the best sleep – keep them inflated to about 85-90%, this way they’re way comfier and less bouncy.
If you’re in the US/Canada, you can get a decent mattress from Amazon for a similar price.
ULTIMATE AIR PUMP + LIGHT
Price: $23.09 + shipping
This is my ultimate camping gadget. I absolutely hate blowing up my mattress using my mouth – it takes too long and leaves me light-headed.
I’ve been using this small air pump since they came out on Kickstarter in 2017, and it’s still working great. I’ve taken it on overnight weekend trips, multi-day trips (8+ nights), and it has never failed me.
- Small, portable and powerful enough to inflate my sleeping pad throughout multi-night trips
- USB-C charging for a quick power replenishment – takes less than 30 minutes to fully charge
- 6 PSI maximum – not strong enough for bicycle tires, but good enough for balls, mattresses and floaties
- White part on the bottom is a super strong LED light with 3 light intensity settings
- A string on the top turns it into a tent lantern
The battery capacity is 1,300 mAh – which is more than enough to inflate my sleeping pad, pillow for 2 nights and have enough juice in it to help start a fire. It’s very useful for starting campfires. I point it at the ambers, and the fresh log catches fire within just about 30 seconds.
And when it’s time to go to sleep, I use the string to hang it on top of my tent, which is a lot brighter than using my headlamp (or god forbid, if you’re relying on your phone’s flashlight).
PORTABLE POWER SUPPLY
Price: $115.18 + shipping
This power supply is more of a luxury, but a lot of people like “glamping” and I acknowledge that.
Glamping allows you to experience camping in a less rugged conditions, and if you’re not backpacking, you can allow yourself to pack more items than you will necessarily need for bare-bones survival: it’s all about keeping the “comfort” items.
And when you can drive straight to your campsite, you can ensure that your gadgets are charged up for the duration of the trip. Not only does it pack a 90,000 mAh punch, it also is quick-charge compatible, and can charge multiple devices at the same time.
But that’s not all:
It’s going to work not just with small electronics – 300W power is enough to power up your laptop, digital camera, drone, car fridge and an outdoor projector. And when it comes to replenishing its own battery, it can be done in as low as 1.5 hours with a wall plug.
What’s not to like?
A solar panel is another must-have addition to my camping arsenal – there is nothing better than minimizing the amount of power banks that I have to carry around.
Sun is free, so if you’re staying in the same area for the whole day, keep it in the open sun, and adjust the positioning as the Earth is moving around the sun for the optimal angle.
From my experience, it takes about 6 hours to charge my phone (Samsung Galaxy S20) from 10% to 80%.
It can also charge power banks, air pumps and anything else that requires a USB cable.
Price: $1.64 + shipping
I’ve tried a few different options, and my favourite by far is the 3-in-1 knife, spoon and fork combo. There are 2 possible designs: foldable and non-foldable.
This comes to a personal preference. I prefer foldable, because it fits inside my mug, and I’m all about packing efficiency. The beauty of this 3-in-1, besides the portability, is the fact that you can separate the knife from each other, and eat your steak in peace.
This 3-in-1 also has a small ring, which will allow you to attach it to a carabiner and hang it onto a backpack (inside, if possible – to keep them clean and to reduce the possibility of losing it).
However, if your setup allows it, you can go with the non-folding 3-in-1 piece.
Price: $4.93 + shipping
This carabiner knife is a newer version of what I have. If you really want to save a dollar or 2, you can go for the old version, but I highly recommend going for the newer one instead.
The newer one has a flint (emergency fire starter), which isn’t the nest but it’s much better than not having it for the “last resort” events, and it has a pointy end on the bottom, which can be used to break car windows in case of emergencies. The screwdrivers that it has can also be used in various useful applications.
Carabiner piece makes it handy to put on a belt loop and carry around in case a rope needs to be cut or a stick needs to be sharpened.
Having a headlamp is extremely important for overnight trips.
There is a ton of options, but I’ll outline the most important features you should be looking for:
- Red and white light (red for “around the fire” to avoid blinding your peers, white for all other reasons)
- Normal charging port (USB-C preferably for faster charging, or Micro-USB; all other proprietary cables will make it extremely annoying if you lose or forget the original charging cable)
- Reasonable degree of waterproofness (i.e. charging ports that have rubber plugs so that you can close them after the use)
As far as power capacity, they’re all about the same. Throughout my life, I’ve used about 5 different headlights, and none of them had more than 2 nights worth of use, so if you go on a longer trip than that, you will need to have a plan for charging them (or carry backup ones).
There isn’t much difference between a $10 and a $30 headlamp, so unless you’re looking to spend $100+ on a “Cadillac”, you can definitely get something decent within a $10 AliExpress range.
CAMPING (TRAVEL) MUG
In my opinion, camping mugs are a scam. In most cases, you can get away with using a regular travel mug, as long as it has these important features:
- Double walls for insulation (keeps cold drinks cold, and hot drinks hot for much longer; doesn’t get hot on the outside so doesn’t require a handle)
- A lid (things get knocked around the campsite)
- Width that fits the standard car cup holder (I love making a cup of coffee for the ride)
Other than that, all other features are useless. I would prefer having a metallic one over plastic or ceramic for durability reasons. Most cups that I have seen don’t have lids, and it becomes a big problem when it inevitably gets dropped or tipped over.
This camping mug is a perfect option because it has all 3 features, and it comes at a reasonable price.
Price: $22.50 + shipping
This is an optional device for those, who don’t drink coffee, but for me it is an absolute necessity. The first thing I do when I wake up on a campsite (without exaggeration) is boil water and make coffee.
There is a few different products out there, but in my opinion, simplicity beats everything. To be completely transparent, I use an Aeropress, which is what this device is copying (quite accurately, I must add), so if you have a chance to get a real Aeropress – do that (they’re not all that expensive), but for everyone else – this is a very decent option that works in an identical principle.
Note: you will need to grab some paper coffee filters. There are metallic mesh ones that claim to be “reusable”, but in my experience they can’t filter the fine particles nearly as good as paper. Besides, the paper ones cost $5 for a 350-piece stack, and I’m still going through my first box. If you’re running low, paper ones can be reused at a slight sacrifice in taste.
Aeropress filters are found in every coffee shop around me, if you’re less lucky – here is a listing on AliExpress.
Price: $59 – 77
There is nothing wrong with using a $10 folding chair from a department store.
Heck, I’ve gone as long as 3 years on a single $10 chair purchase. The downside though is that they are not very backpack-friendly, and the plastic joints are too easy to break. Not a giant problem on a weekend trip, but anything longer than that – you’re going to be sitting on the cold ground.
I’ve owned a few chairs, including a $180 ALite aluminum chair (which broke after the 3rd year), and I have a close friend who has been using the $40 copy of that chair – and honestly, the original is only slightly better than the copy. It sags less, but I wouldn’t say that it’s 4.5x better (considering the price difference of the two).
If the space-efficiency is a concern, one of these chairs is a fantastic option. They’re a pretty good copy of the Helinox chairs ($150+). I’d go for a longer one that has neck support, but a shorter one is a good option too if you want to save a little bit of money.
CAMPING STOVE BURNER
There are so many options for camping burners, but these simple ones are excellent.
They will work with any standard butane (not propane) canister. The only downside, is that the flint on it is not the best, and it will likely go out after the first year, so be prepared to use it with a conventional lighter – in either case, some redundancy in “away-from-home” situations is a good thing, so I always like having a second lighter as a backup.
This burner solution is a great option because of the size and portability, and it’s very simple to use.
I’ve been using this thing for 5+ years and only recently upgraded to an MSR Whisperlite because I found a great deal on a used one, and because I can use it with regular petrol gas in case of emergencies. For the majority of “weekend warriors”, the $13 burner is a solid option.
This is the most common cookware set. I’ve been using mine for as long as I’ve been camping (until I got the Whisperlite stove, which came with its own set). Here is the review of the original one (same material, different shape).
I have 4 friends who all use this set, and it’s been great so far. It’s lightweight, easy to pack – I like how everything folds and fits into the bigger pieces, and it can be used for both cooking and eating, thus saving you the amount of stuff that needs to be carried.
The cutlery set is not the best in terms of portability in my opinion, but it’s a good backup – think of it as a “free bonus”, which, considering the price of the set, is a fair way to look at it.
This is the only water filter design that is worth it IMO.
Life Straws are not practical, and iodine purification tablets make the water taste funny (not in a good way).
It can be used as a gravity filter (if you attach it in line with the water bag), and also for “real-time” drinking. It comes with a 0.5L water bag, and you can screw it on that bag to either filter water into a separate container, or to drink directly from it.
I use a Sawyer filter (can be bought on Amazon for a similar price), but for those outside of the US/Canada, this filter is a good option. They’re are a pretty simple design, so I don’t see a problem in trusting the one from AliExpress.
A butane burner (like the one a little above) is a good option for a beginner enthusiast or a backpacker.
When I go “car camping” (i.e. I can afford to pack a few extra items vs. a motorcycle trip), I always pack a bigger stove – it’s more comfortable and stable to use because it has an actual stovetop burner, and because it sits more safely on any surface.
If you have an option to buy a used Coleman / Outbound brand stove, go for that; for anyone else – this foldable stove is a great second option. The fact that you can fold it in half will save you a good deal of space.
A good backpack will keep your clothes dry and organized.
Personally, I prefer using a bag vs. a backpack because a horizontally placed and fully open bag is easier to go through than a backpack, where you have to take the top items out (or do a lot of shuffling) to get to the bottom items.
But for backpacking purposes, a 2-strapper is better than one strap.
This backpack is great for 2 reasons:
- Waterproofness (it’s very disappointing when your clothing gets wet)
- Adjustability – the capacity can be adjusted according to your needs