Camping Gear

A complete camping gear buying guide

While up in the wilderness,

you’ll have to face different weather conditions when camping throughout the day and night.

In this article, I’ll walk you through step by step,

Selecting camping gear that suits you best while keeping your backpack weight to a minimum.

What camping gear you should pack? (your essential list)

Exclusive Bonus: Download the complete camping gear checklist ( including hiking gear ). Printer-friendly version (PDF)

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Camping Tents

camping tents

When you are choosing the best camping tent, there are a few things you must take in consideration.

The tent you choose needs to be:

  • Roomy
  • Easy to erect and take down
  • Have a robust and stable construction that can withstand stormy windy weather
  • Have the flexibility to provide an airy, well-ventilated accommodation during warm weather or a dry and comfortable shelter when the weather turns nasty.

Price remains a major consideration that should be balanced with other cool features such as;

waterproofing, cold-resistant and weatherproofing, spaciousness, and strong poles that ensure tent stability.

I digged deeply on the current market to recommend you the best tent that you can buy for an average price.

Budget Tents

I went through-out hundreds of products and feedbacks given by customers for varoius brands.

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To be honest, there are some issues that you have to deal with when buying budget tents.

During heavy raining there is a chance that water might get leaked inside which will totally ruin your sleep and soak your gear. As a remedy for this situation,

…Budget tents will not hold for heavy winds. Coleman tents are good for average wind speed terrians.

Make sure to check the terrian weather condition before camping. And this tent will not be roomy as you expected. So check before buying.

The issues I have mentioned above are common to cheap tents…

…But trust me, coleman tents are the best among all of cheap tents on the market. With more than 900 positive reviews ( which means nearly 900 people didn’t face any of the issues mentioned above ), Coleman tents are durable and recommended for summer camping.

Sundome 2 Person Tent

Coleman 6-Person Instant Tent
Recommended if you’re hiking with a group.
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Sundome 4 Person Tent by Coleman
Recommended for 3 to 4 people, maximum.
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Sundome 2 Person Tent by Coleman
Recommended if you’re hiking with a partner.
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Coleman Instant Tent Rainfly Accessory
Recommended to buy along with any coleman tent you buy.
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Best Tents Out-there

If you’re going to invest in buying a best tent, here are some things to look for:

  • Aluminum poles

The fewer the better.

Some tents have one pole. Some have four and five poles for two people.

In my point of view, tent with Fiberglass poles should be skipped when you’re choosing a tent to buy. The reason is, they’re downright dangerous if compromised. So don’t buy a tent with fiberglass poles.

  • Below five pounds

Yah that will be great and will ease your hike!

For a two person tent, below five pounds packed weight. For a solo tent, three and a half pounds.

  • Coated nylon rain fly and floor
  • Side entrances

Sometimes when you’re camping with your partner, there is a chance that you might find it difficult to do your works inside the tent like getting boots off of your feet.

If your’re tent isn’t roomy as you expected, side entrances will save you.

Side entries allow you to face away from your partner, and better utilize vestibule space.

  • Vestibule space

Well established camping stores either have models set up for customers, or will allow you to set one up and test.

Take your full backpack to one such establishment. Put your pack under the vestibule, sit in the tent and then take your boots off. Make sure everything fit without touching the fly. This will also compromise the waterproofness of the tent.

If you’re buying online, make sure to check the structure carefully.

  • Color

This depends on one’s beliefs…

…Some are going for colors like army green and think of it’s as a safety step to hide from incoming danger. Some are like to choose a more neutral color to better blend in color with the environment.

“If I’m off to see a man about a horse at three in the morning and get a little disoriented, I want to see my tent as a gleaming beacon on the hill. Or, if I’m injured and can’t move, I want SAR to be able to see me from the ground and air. My tent is orange, thank you.” Says Adam Turner.

  • Guy points

Guy points will be useful for you in windy weather. Choose a tent with little loops at strategic points around the fly to add lines for a more secure pitch.

  • Guy lines
  • Ventilation

A tent with good ventilation is favorable for a environment with humid. If it’s need to be sealed in certain weather conditions make sure that the ventilation can be sealed.

  • Stakes

If you’re going to buy a well-made tent, mostly it’ll come with aluminum, alloy, or titanium stakes. Most experienced backpackers replace the stock stakes with those that are purpose-built for their needs.

Different stakes will work for different conditions. Some might work in grounds with harder soil, while the same stake will not do well in snow.

  • Footprint

A tent footprint or ground cover simply helps protect the floor of the tent from abrasion. Dirt and friction are the enemy of your tent’s floor.

When you get-in with your bodyweight tossing and turning during the night, grinding the fabric in the ground, wearing off the waterproof coating and even damaging the fabric.

Make sure the footprint is cut little smaller than the tent floor. Or else the rain water will be trapped in-between.

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Now:

I’ll recommend you the best tents you can buy from the market. 🙂

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Recommendation

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Person Tent

MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2

This basically ticks all of the requirements a tent should have. It is extremely light and easy to carry.

This tent is made of really high quality materials, which can be seen everywhere from the sil-nylon that it uses for the body/fly down to the all metal tabs on the tent body/fly that the poles lock into.

The tent is also perfectly symmetrical, which makes for easy setup. Hubba hubba provides 2 large StayDry doors along with 2 vestibules, built in rain gutters along the zippers to keep water out, and kickstand vents on the rain fly for even more improved ventilation.

This tent never disappointed me. It stands in windy weather and perfect for heavy raining, not even a single leak I’ve discovered so far. Price may seems like expensive but it’ll be a lifetime investment.

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Snugpak 92894 The Cave 4 Person Tent

Snugpak 92894 The Cave 4 Person Tent

In my experience it doesn’t really get any better than this. It was really easy to set up. Both in cold weather and warmth, this was perfect.

One night rained heavily on the summit but never found any leaks. This is a Top Quality 4 season, 4 person tent on the market.

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Remember:

Avoid a used tent. It’s risky and damaging rate is much higher. No use of cursing the guy while laying in cold; save your money while you can!

 

Sleeping Bags

sleeping bags

Let me enlighten you first with history. 😉

Before sleeping bags became common, there were some traditional solutions.

Cavalry and cowboys had a “bedroll” that went behind their saddle. It was a woolen blanket inside a canvas outer shell.

And there was always animal hides, the natives used them long before modern blankets and fabrics.

People would simply put multiple feather mats and blankets on the tent floor or on cots. The disadvantage was that the blankets wouldn’t enfold you as well; letting out precious body heat.

Custom made wool blankets & sheets sets worked great on cooler nights. This still works as an alternative for sleeping bags.

Key factors to consider before buying:

  • Temperature rating

Choose a bag rated for the coldest temperature you expect to encounter.

What level of a cold temperature you expect to encounter? go with a temperature rating lower than the lowest temperature you expect.

This will be wise for sure 🙂

Bag Type Temperature Rating (°F)
Summer Season +35° and higher
3-Season +10° to +35°
Winter +10° and lower
  • Type of insulation

Sleeping bags work primarily by retaining and recirculating your body heat and secondarily, by intercepting cold air from entering.

Two basic insulation types are commonly used “Down” and “Synthetic”.

Quality bags are either synthetic or down.

Down:

Down is an excellent option which is more expensive but last longer and warmer.

Higher the Fill power, the better the bag become.

Synthetic:

These are usually a type of polyester. Less expensive than down and dries considerably faster which is a fact to be consider when buying.

Even when wet, synthetic bags have the ability to retain much of their warmth.

  • Size of the bag

Mummy-shaped bags are the best out-there. However, one can find it difficult to get comfortable in these more restrictive bags. So they choose semirectangular bags.

If you need more comfort, go for mummy bags with wide shoulder/hip. Especially if you have a broad structure, go for semirectangular bags to find ‘more’ comfort you’re looking for.

If you need thermal efficiency, choose a mummy bag with narrow shoulder/hip. And these bags weight less when comparing with the ‘more’ comfort ones’.

If you’re a women, you’ve the best and specially engineered bags for you. When compared to men’s bags, they’re narrower at the shoulders and wider at the hips. And also shorter!

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Now:

I’ll recommend you the best sleeping bags you can get that highlight the above key factors.

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For Men:

Western Mountaineering Versalite Mummy Sleeping Bag

Western Mountaineering Versalite Mummy Sleeping Bag

This bag is certainly a versalite. Will keep you warmer…may be too warm for a season like summer but does a great job in fall/spring and even in winter with a liner.

For the price, this bag surely tick all of of the key facts I mentioned above.

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Kelty Sleeping Bag SB 20 Deg 800 Dridown

Kelty Sleeping Bag SB 20

Also this fits great for your pocket too…You can’t get another 800 fill power bag for anything near this price.

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The North Face Cat’s Meow BX Left Hand Sleeping Bag

The North Face Cat's Meow BX

Size is also perfect. The hood leaves plently of room for restless sleepers and bag seems to warm up almost instantly.

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For women:

The North Face Women’s Cat’s Meow

Specially engineered for women’s body shape. The material is very soft and so comfortable.

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For fat guys:

Big Agnes Buffalo Park 40 Degree Sleeping Bag

This sleeping bag is huge. If you’re a big guy and you need room to move comfortably, this bag is for you.

It compresses well and weight only 3.3 pounds.

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Cooking & Equipments

camping equipments

Cooking Methods & Systems

Over the few decades, campers have come up with a number of ways to cook their meals.

I’ll cover some simple and most effective cooking techniques to use in your next backpacking trip.

For cooking you need direct heat. To get direct heat, you can either wrap your food individually in aluminum foil and place them in hot coal or you can simply place your food over a grate and place them in an open fire.

First method is called Foil cooking. You can apply the first method to foods that require high heat. The heat from the second method is less direct and will take longer to cook.

Here are some other methods:

Charcoal

Provides a consistent heat distribution ( one piece of charcoal is nearly 40 degrees of temperature ).
Most commonly used in BBQ grill or fire ring.

Wood Fires

My favourite cooking method is wood firing. Because it reflects the true camping atmosphere as we can gather around and have warmth chit-chat. 🙂

Remember:

To cook food successfully, you have to generate the right kind of fire for the type of cooking you have planned.

For a example: You need to generate a quick flame for boiling, for stewing make the flame lower, and for frying heated red coals would do the job.

Dutch oven

If you prefer to cook like you would do in home, the duch oven is your go-to method.

You need to place more charcoal on the lid as under the oven. And always the lid must be on.

There are so many dutch recipes out there and so many different things you can make using a dutch oven.

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Lodge Camp Dutch Oven

Lodge Camp Dutch Oven

Dutch ovens have a long history and date back three centuries to the Netherlands.

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Camping Stoves

With a camping stove you can have full heat control to cook more complex backcountry meals.

Canister stoves

Basically there are 3 facts that affect the performance of a canister.
Design/structure, heat transfer & heat loss.

Significant differences in stove structure affect their performance; so your first step should be choosing a top rated stove.

However, the differences among structures are considerably smaller, when compared to the performance differences resulting from how the stove is used.

Keep in mind to adjust the stove to minimize flame spillage around the pot.

Letting the steam flow away is a heat loss, so use a lid when using the stove.

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Jetboil MiniMo stove/pot combo

Jetboil MiniMo

It is extremely light weight, durable, and has a great fuel use to performance ratio.

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Camping food storage

camping food storages

Especially when it comes to storing your food, you’ve to follow the general rule; keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold.

Improper food storage can spoil your foods and even attract animals like bears. I’ll walk you through some steps you can take when storing food.

  • Research

Research about the food regulations, research about the requirements where you’ve planned to camp.

For a example, there are some grounds you’ll need a bear-proof container…

…while others need a separate locker apart from your tent. And there are grounds, you don’t actually need a food container.

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Backpackers Cache Bear Resistant Container

Backpackers Cache Bear Resistant Container

In some camp-grounds, you’ll get tired of hanging your food out of the reach of animals, so get yourself a good storage.

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  • Refrigerate

To keep cool foods refrigerated throughout your backpacking trip, get a cooler and ice packs.

Remember:

For long trips with a lot of food, keep beverages in one cooler and food in another.

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Recommendation

Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler

Coleman 9-Can Soft Cooler

You’ll be amazed how much this baby can hold. Shoulder strap are present for carrying comfort.

Trust me, these are perfect for carrying food and beverages.

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Along with this you have to carry ice, Fit & Fresh ice packs will fit great for your Coleman cooler.

If you’re going to camp-ground by a car ( withought hiking ) you can carry much weight and much food! Here are some recommendations for you guys!

ProGear Elite Cooler

ProGear Elite Cooler

This is a beast!

With up to 10 days ice retention, this will work perfectly for your needs.

Check it out on amazon, 5 star customer feedbacks speaks for its quality 🙂

VIEW ON AMAZON Along with this you have to carry ice, here is an alternative that will work better than ice!

Cooler Shock

Cooler Shock

Produce same energy as freezer. These packs are originally designed to keep blood shipment cold, so this will definitely work better than any other.

And Cooler Shock packs are reusable.

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  • Freeze

Before you go, the food that supposed to keep cold, freeze them all.

Keep all vegetables and fruits refrigerated before putting into cooler. Freeze all kind of meats you’re going to cook, so you can use them throughout your multi day hike warming up slowly on your cooler.

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Camping Cookware

camping cookware

There are so many different options available at the market when it comes to selecting the perfect cookware that suits your backpack.

To filter your options, i’ll suggest you some key facts to consider before buying a new set for your next trip.

  • Types

For Car Campers:

You don’t need to consider about the weight of the set or whether the set is less packable size.

Go with a set that have additional features and something worth the money.

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MSR Quick 2 Pot Set

MSR Quick 2 Pot Set

Built to handle or prepare any backcountry meal. You can use this from boil-only to nonstick cooking.

This set has 7 pieces all together with a removable handle; you have one handle that you can use for both pots.

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GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cookset

GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cookset

Perfect for car camping!

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Optimus Terra HE Cookset

Optimus Terra HE Cookset

3 piece cooking set with heat exchanging ability for more efficient cooking.

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For Backpackers:

You’ve to focus on the weight, and the set must barely feel on your backpack.

There are specially designed cookware for backpackers. Cooking while hiking is typically focused on preparing simple meals.

Therefore, these types of cooksets probably aren’t the best if you’re preparing complicated meals.

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G4Free Outdoor Camping Set

G4Free Outdoor Camping Set

Lightweight and even it contains room to carry your stove and butane.

Non-Stick coating works great!

Beware! rubber on the handles seems to melt off almost immediately. Besides that, this is a good cookset for the price.

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Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset

Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset

This cookset is extremely ultralight and easy to clean.

Cooking set includes a large and small pot with lids and lids that can be used as sauce pans.

Handles can get hot when cooking on stove. So you’ll have to use gloves. And need to be careful with the lids; grip them tightly or the contents will spill.

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  • Performance

When you’re buying a cooking set you’ve to have a understanding about how good it’ll perform.

You need a set that boils water efficiently and a set that minimize the heat loss.

For your convenience;

Material Weight (pounds) Avg Boil Time(mins) Temp Loss after 10min
GSI Outdoors Bugaboo Camper Cookset Aluminum w/Non-Stick Coating 3.7 4:10 -70 F
MSR Quick 2 Pot Set Hard-Anodized Aluminum 1.7 4:22 -70 F
Optimus Terra HE Cookset Aluminum w/Non-Stick Coating 1.7 2:12 -75 F
G4Free Outdoor Camping Set Aluminum 1.2 4:55 -60 F
Snow Peak Titanium Cookset Titanium 0.7 4:35 -50 F

As you can see the lowest performers were the two backpacking specific models. But there is no wonder as these sets are made for boiling water, preparing eggs and dehydrated foods.

In other words, they are made to prepare simple meals. With a minimum heat loss and weight, they performed well.

  • Weight

Another key fact you need to consider when buying a cooking set.

Backpackers must specially consider about the weight of the model they purchase.

G4Free Outdoor Camping Set and Snow Peak Titanium Cookset works great for backpackers. But if you’re not concerning 1 pound increasement, you can go for MSR Quick 2 Pot Set and Optimus Terra HE Cookset.

  • Durability

Durability is another key fact we need to consider when purchasing camping cookware.

Stainless steel sets are the most durable and scratch resistant material available but they will not performe well when preparing meals.

The choice is yours! 🙂

Remember:

Wrong scrubbing brush can ruin your cooking set and affect durability, so be careful with how you scrub your pans.

For stainless steel sets, steel wool pads would be okay, but for other sets, you should be more cautious. For aluminum and titanium cooking sets you can use green scrubbing pads.

When it comes to non-stick coating you’ll have to treat more cautiously. A soft dishcloth would be your best option in this case.

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Beyond Essentials

Sleeping Pads

sleeping pads
If you need comfort on a rocky terrain or on cold weather your go-to option is sleeping pads.

Sleeping pads are now more comfortable than your bed at home and the comfort comes in a package smaller than your bottle of water.

Three basic types of pads you can find on current market; closed-cell foam, self-inflating foam & air designs and inflatable pads.

  • Closed-cell foam

These are the cheapest and simplest pads on the market. You can find them at your local store for under 20$.

Closed-cell foams can be light, but they don’t pack small, it’ll take some space in your backpack.

  • Self-inflating pads

Made from filling up porous foam inside a nylon pocket. You unroll them and open a valve; this allows the foam to absorb air and inflate.

Mostly these pads fits your budget providing a good insulation and superior comfort to closed-cell foam pads.

  • Inflatable Pads

If you needs more sleeping comfort, then these are the pads you need to buy.

You have to blow Inflatable Pads with your mouth, creating a thick and comfortable cushion for the best possible sleep.

Now:

I’ll let you know the key fators you need to focus on when buying a sleeping pad.

  • Insulation type

Foam: Can be effective, but heavier when comparing with other types.

Baffles: Available in inflatable pads. Control air flow inside keeping cold air near the cold ground and warm air near your body. With your movements you move the air around inside.

Heat Reflective Materials: Reflect heat back at your body. Effective and light. But the thing is, with the movement of your body, they crinkle.

Down: As I mentioned before, down is always an excellent option. Very light and effective.

Primaloft: This is synthetic and an alternative to down. An excellent option for insulation inside a sleeping pad.

  • Quality

There is a chance of lightest materials to fail! Like a leak.

This depends actually on the brand; if it’s a quality brand you’ll hold air for years.

  • Noise

This can be a disaster for sure!

You’ll find some Inflatable air mattresses incredibly noisy. This depends on the material they are made of (Foil-like material may sound noisy).

  • Type of sleep

Do you sleep on your side, back or stomach? Your answer determine what kind of a pad you’ll need.

For side sleepers, choose a thick pad with sideway baffles (running across your body, from side to side). These pads will provide you a level of cushion and support you’ll need to keep hips and shoulders off the ground. Stay away from longitudinal baffles, you will get stuck!

For back sleepers, You’re good to buy any sleeping pad.

For stomach sleepers, You’ll need a pad with set of levels. If necessary, use a pillow along with the pad, as sideway baffles will make your head uncomfortable.

  • R-Value

R-Value is a measure of thermal resistance. The higher the number, the better the pad will insulate.

But don’t put your faith too much in the numbers provided by manufacturers.

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Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Mattress

Insulation Type: Inflating
Weight: 2.6 pounds

Therm-a-Rest Trail Lite Mattress

1.5 inch thin with self-inflating air and designed of foam that most campers will be favorable with.

With an R value at 3.4 the Trail Lite is a great 3 season mattress that fits your budget.

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Nemo Astro Insulated Lite 20R

Insulation Type: Primaloft
Weight: 1.2 pounds

Nemo Astro Insulated Lite 20R

The best sleeping bag that ticks all key factors. Super light weight, packs into a very small sack, and is well insulated.

The built in pillow is a major bonus that we can have. Great for side sleepers.

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Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite

Insulation Type: Inflating
Weight: 0.7 pounds

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Xlite

This is the best ‘ultralight’ sleeping Pad. Super light weight and comfy!

Cons: Some buyers have found noisy crinkling sounds when moving around.

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Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm

Insulation Type: Heat Reflective Materials
Weight: 1.0 pounds

Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XTherm

The best Cold Weather sleeping Pad you can find on the market. Holds a R-Value of 5.7.

Note: Regular size won’t fit perfect for back sleepers.

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Exped Comfort Megamat 10 (for car campers)

Insulation Type: Inflating
Weight: 5.6 pounds

Exped Comfort Megamat 10

The best car camping sleeping Pad. Insulation is the best with an R-Value of 9.5.

Completely flat sleeping surface available but also with vertical sides. You can even sleep in sharp rocks or branches.

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Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress (Budget Bag)

Insulation Type: Heat Reflective Materials
Weight: 1.0 pounds

Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Mattress

Cost only 35$. This is an alternative for piece of foam, but it’ll provide more insulation with an R-Value of 2.6.

Far more comfortable than foam, and it’s packable.

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Camping Chair

camping chair

Get a camping chair so you can gather around the camp fire and have chit-chat with your friends.

There is no need for an expensive one with cup holders, storage pockets, sun protection and etc.

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Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous Chair

Alps Mountaineering Rendezvous Chair

This baby can hold 250 pounds and well constructed.

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Getting a camping chair is comfortable than sitting on the ground. You might think this just addup and extra weight, but it is worth bringing this with you to camp.

 

Firestarters

firestarters

I bring matches in a film canister. If you are not a fan of matches and think it’s risky, here are some alternatives.

As a backup plan that works if matches get wet, along with the matches I bring a Magnesium lighter.

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The Friendly Swede’s Firestarter

The Friendly Swede’s Firestarter

Fits well in the pocket and throws a respectable shower of sparks. Excellent price for the pair.

You can get hundreds of fires started from this small mag starter.

VIEW ON AMAZON Along with the mag, you can carry about a half dozen cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly. So your first 6 fires will be really easy to start.

Coghlans Emergency Tinder

Works very well and burns for a long time. You can use this along with your mag.

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Duck Tapes

There are many ways a piece of duck tape can be very useful during your hike or while you are camping. I see it as a good piece of insurance.

Trash Bag

Pack a heavy-duty lawn bag in your backpack for emergencies. It takes only a little space and there are lots of potential uses.


Download the proven camping gear checklist that works best for backpackers + How to pack food for long-term storage as an Infographic which I’ve prepared only for my readers 🙂 :

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If you have any suggestions that you think I should add-up to this guide, let me know in the comment section below…

…And if you have any questions, feel free to ask. 🙂