Tent Camping Essentials To Get Started
Have you ever wanted to go tent camping or car camping but thought it would cost too much money? My husband and I love tent/car camping! Once you get the tent camping essentials, it isn’t as expensive as you would think. If you’ve ever wanted to tent or car camp, this list is a great place to start!
We Love Tent Camping!
My husband and I both grew up camping with our families. I absolutely LOVE being outdoors and in nature! When we first got married, we knew we wanted to cultivate our love for camping and go outdoors together! However, we both grew up camping in trailers, RVs or cabins. We never really had the tools or knowledge to go tent/car camping. This didn’t stop us, though, because we wanted that quality time outdoors together. So, we decided to slowly build our tent camping essentials so we could camp on our own.
WARNING: This is not a comprehensive packing list for tent/car camping. I’m making a check-off list and will post it soon. This is just a basic tent camping essentials list to get you started in enjoying the outdoors. And to show you, camping does not have to be extremely expensive!
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Tent Camping Essentials
The most obvious thing you need to tent or car camp is a tent. B and I knew we wanted a “car camping” tent and not a very expensive “backpacking” tent. There is a difference. Mainly the weight of the tents are very different. Backpacking is all about lightweight stuff. Car camping stuff just has to fit in your car no matter what it weighs. For the two of us, we decided on a Coleman 4 person tent. It is not too small, or too big for us. It sets up in literally 5 minutes! We can comfortably fit a queen size air mattress, our sleeping pads, and all our clothes and bags inside the tent with room to stand up and change clothes. Everyone wants something different in choosing a tent. However, this was a great option for us!
Ours has a built-in rain fly and roll down windows. The bottom of the tent is waterproof so you do not really need a tarp underneath. (We still use one as you can tell.) It does not get too hot in the summer, which I love. The only disappointing part is not being able to see the stars from top due to the rain fly. But it works for us. I’m serious when I say it only takes 5 minutes to set up! It is super easy!
Cost: $53-$100 depending on size
We love Coleman camping products. They are sometimes sold at Costco for great prices, and they are very reliable. The prices are reasonable and the products have been tested and tried over many, many years. That is why we love these Coleman sleeping bags. The 20-40 degree sleeping bags keep us warm on cold nights, and they are very easy to roll out and roll back up!
Cost: $30 average
Sleeping Pad or Air Mattress
When we first went camping, we used these Lightspeed self-inflating sleeping pads. I personally love them because of how comfortable and easy to set up they are. B, however, likes the Lightspeed air mattress better. Since both of them are cheap and quick to set up, we use the pads on top of the air mattress for extra comfort.
Cost: Pads – $53 Air Mattress – $75
We still use a cheap tarp under our tent just in case. In case of rain, we wanted an extra layer of protection against the bottom of the tent. We also got one a little bigger than the tent so we could use it as a type of mat to take off our shoes before going into the tent. Our tarp is way too big so we fold it in half. Depending on the size of your tent, get a tarp a little bigger so you can have a sort of welcome mat to prevent dirt and mud getting into the tent.
In order to make this list complete, I have to include a camera! I love taking pictures when we go camping. So, I never go camping without my GoPro Hero5 Black. I literally take it with me every time we travel or camp. It’s so tiny, how can I not take it with me?! The best part about it is how it links up with my phone and I can use it to take pictures without even pressing the button. I used this feature for almost every picture B and I took in Sequoia! Those trees are so enormous I couldn’t fit the whole thing in any picture unless I got an awful angle. Since my GoPro can take pictures with a wide lens, I got the whole tree in pretty much every picture. It was awesome!
I also use my GoPro to take videos of us while we hike. It’s hilarious to go back and make the videos into a movie and see how goofy we are when we hike. Plus, with the wide lens, I can fit everything into the video and I don’t have to focus on someone’s backside in front of me! Haha! So if you love taking pictures while you’re exploring the great outdoors, check out the GoPro. It is the BEST camera I have ever owned.
For bringing clothes, or for hiking. I absolutely love our backpacks. These backpacks work well for everything! We have gone through a couple of different backpacks in the 4 years that we have been married. I’ll explain why I love each one!
The picture below is blurry. SORRY! However, this is the first hiking backpack I got as a Christmas present from B. It is awesome! It is a Camelbak with hydration pack included. There is a newer version with different colors HERE. This pack might be too small to fit 3 days worth of camp clothes in it, however, it is perfect for day hikes! It holds 3L of water and all the snacks you need. I don’t use this backpack just for camping either. It is my go-to backpack for traveling and of course, Disney days! This pack has been used for camping in Joshua Tree National Park, Yosemite National Park, Portland, Oregon, and many other places. It’s perfect for walking around a city or hiking in the woods.
Since this backpack is a little smaller, I recently switched to a bigger one. The Osprey Tempest 20! If you can’t tell, aqua is my favorite color! Look at the picture below for my favorite pack to use for clothes, hiking and travel!
I used this pack to travel around Seattle one week and go camping in Big Bear the next. It is bigger, so it can fit all my camping clothes for a short weekend trip. It is also big enough to fit my Canon camera, GoPro (which I don’t travel without!) and snacks for wandering around Seattle!
Osprey Pack Cost: $110
My husband has a bigger backpack that he likes to bring camping. The Tactical 5:11 Ignitor Backpack. It will fit all of his clothes, his books, and camping gear (knives, flashlights, etc.) He wanted a good, brand name backpack that will last him forever. He will use this when he goes hunting or hiking as well as traveling. It is a fantastic all-around backpack that will last a long time!
Now, you don’t need a brand name, expensive backpack to go camping. If you want something to throw all your clothes in, the cheapest way to go is to get a duffel bag. It will fit in your car and tent, and will hold everything you need! I like this sized duffel bag to go camping.
Because we are not usually sitting around the campsite, we bought super cheap Wal-Mart camp chairs! There are expensive ones that lean back and are very comfortable. (Our parents have those!) However, since we were trying to save money and buy small things that will fit in our tiny car, we went with simple fold up camp chairs like this. But honestly, ours aren’t even that nice! Go to Wal-Mart and buy the $5 chairs if you want to really save money. Once we have more money, I would like to buy chairs like my brother-in-law. These are so comfy and small! I tried his, and it was amazing! But chairs is not one thing we spent a ton of money on.
Hammock! (The most important thing. Duh!)
I seriously LOVE my chillax double hammock! I bring it on every single camping trip. It is so nice to just sit in and relax. B and I have taken multiple naps in this double hammock. We love to relax and read in a comfortable position. Plus, green is a really nice color in the woods. Have you noticed a theme between our tent and hammock? A hammock is one of my “tent camping essentials.” However, for many people, a hammock is not an essential. Haha!
As you can tell, it fits both of us. The weight limit is close to 400 pounds. So if you want two people sitting and reading, it’s totally doable! There are tons of cool hammocks out there though. Click here to explore them!
Cost for big items: $300-$400
All the stuff listed here is what we use when we go camping and I love all of them! I store the tent camping essentials in a clear storage box like this, and the camping kitchen essentials in a different box. It works so well in order to keep everything together and pack it in the car quickly and easily.
My favorite camping blanket ever! Cost: $20
Lighters: To light your camp stove, camp fire and everything else!
Carabiners: To keep your tent closed at night from the inside! And many other uses!
Cost for small items: $50
You could spend more or less depending on what you deem necessary.
Camp Kitchen Essentials
While tent camping, you do not always have access to restaurants or fast food. Most of the time, we are out in the middle of nowhere with only the food we bring. Because of this, we bring our own camp kitchen. A camp kitchen is included in tent camping essentials because most of the time, you can’t go without it! So here is what we bring in our camp kitchen!
We love this Coleman 2 burner stove that we take camping. When researching and choosing a camp stove, I really wanted a butane stove that was small. However, the price of butane vs propane was higher and more difficult to find. So we went with this stove with propane bottles. It is perfect to use for two people no matter what we are cooking. It fits our pots and pans well and has wind block panels that help keep the flame working. The burners actually get very hot and cook food quickly. This stove is one that we absolutely love! Look at this picture below of B cooking breakfast when we went camping in Death Valley!
Pots and Pans
I love this little cook set we got at the beginning. It is technically for backpacking, but it is great for boiling water and cooking beans super quick! Bowls, cups and little sporks are included inside the pot. The outside cover acts as a washing bowl as well. Besides this little pot, we bring a Lodge cast iron skillet and a big pot from home. That is usually enough to cover breakfast, lunch and dinner meals. You can see the clear bucket we store all of our kitchen stuff in the picture below.
Cost: $50 for pot, $15 Cast iron skillet
Utensils and Dinnerware
Finding good utensils, plates and cups was a little difficult. However, Coleman was there to save the day again! Seriously, I love Coleman products. (And no they don’t pay me to say that! Haha!) This whole enamel dinnerware kitchen set we got from Amazon is absolutely fantastic! Four plates, bowls and cups and four sets of utensils are included. Now, we do not use these to eat every meal. I don’t like doing the dishes for breakfast, lunch and dinner! However, when we are cooking steaks or eating spaghetti, I like to have sturdy plates and bowls to eat from. Because our kitchen is packed away in storage right now, we also got a camp kitchen utensil set for cooking. It is a little cheap and eventually we will get a much better one. But for now, it works like a charm!
Cost: $35 dinnerware; $25 cooking utensil set
Of course when you are camping, you need a place to store your food! A cooler is part of your tent camping essentials! Right now we have this stand up cooler that fits in a bear locker. What I really want is a Yeti cooler! They are awesome! But, $300 for a cooler just isn’t going to happen right now. (Or maybe ever!) So for now, we will stick with our 50 gallon cooler.
Total cost of Camp Kitchen: $230
Many small things we include are a wash basin for dishes, dish washing soap, wash cloths and a sponge, tablecloth, can opener, ziplock baggies, trash bags, ice packs, paper plates and napkins, salt, pepper, seasonings, and extra batteries.
Total start-up cost for tent camping essentials = $500 – $650!
Keep in mind, we built up our tent camping essentials over time. A lot of these things were gifts to each other for Christmas or birthdays. The first thing we bought was our tent and sleeping bags. Our first camping outing was with my in-laws and their trailer so we could get used to camping in a tent while still using all of their amenities from the trailer! They loved helping us and we loved camping with them. It was a win-win situation.
So if you are ready to start tent/car camping, I hope this list helps you find what is best for you! We certainly did a lot of research before buying our camp equipment. And we picked what was best for us! You don’t need the most expensive stuff to enjoy the outdoors. Just get out there and experience how beautiful nature can be! If you have any ideas of tent camping essentials that I missed or that you include in your camp boxes, comment below and let me know!