You’ve heard a lot of talk about camping and you’ve finally decided to give it a shot. Great! But you don’t want to spend a ton of money on gear right off the bat. I completely get it. This guide will help you get started with the absolute minimum amount of gear for car camping. I say car camping, because I’m going to focus on the sort of camping where you can drive right up to the campsite. Once you’re used to this type of camping you can move onto backpacking, which will require more specialized items.
I’ve already written a Beginners guide to day hiking and Camping with an non-outdoorsy person. Both of those articles are great companion pieces for this post and will share some common themes. Make sure you check those posts out once you get the basics down. Now lets get started!
What you’ll need
With the exception of cold weather clothing, most of the gear you’ll need for camping will remain the same regardless of the park or location you visit. Below is a list of the bare necessities you’ll need to get started. Keep in mind that if you’re car camping at an established park there will be bathrooms and water available to you. That makes things much easier and cuts down on the gear you’ll need. Also, make sure you try out your new gear at home first. You don't want to be figuring out how to set up your new tent at the campsite as the sun is going down.
- Tent- The size of the tent will depend on how many people you have camping. If you’re camping with two adults I recommend going with a 4 person tent. Since we’re talking about car camping you don’t have to worry about weight. Also, having the extra room is nice, especially for beginners.
- Sleeping bagsand pillows
- Camp Stove/grill - If you already have a small grill (like a Weber) you may be able to just bring that along and be set. If not, you can pick up a collapsible camping stove fairly cheap
- Cooking utensils, pots, and pans - You’ll need to have some basic cooking items to use with that stove you brought. If you don’t already have an old set around the house, a great option is to stop by Goodwill. You can normally find some inexpensive pots and pans that you won’t worry about damaging.
- Plates, trash bags, napkins, silverware - It's up to you if you want to bring disposable plates and silverware. If you decide to bring reusable items you have a couple of options for washing them. Many parks have sinks outside the bathrooms for cleaning or you can bring a plastic tub to use. Just don't forget a sponge and dish soap.
- Cooler - With your food and drinks for the trip
- Other gear:
- Entertainment - This will depend on what you like to do. Some ideas are:
- Reading material
- Fishing gear
- Bathing suits for swimming or to wear while canoeing or kayaking
- Bocce Set
Where to go
Now that you have your starter gear ready to go, you’ll need to pick a place to try it out. As you’ve probably noticed from my previous posts, I’m a big fan of Florida state parks. I would recommend you start off at one of them. Make sure that park you select features “full facility” camping. This will mean that the campsites will be close to bathrooms and have electricity at each site. They’ll also have a variety of activities that will keep you amused during your trip. Boredom can kill a camping trip, so make sure you pick a location you’re excited about. Also, be sure to make a reservation ahead of time. Parks fill up quickly, especially during months of nice weather. To find some parks near you, check out my Adventure map.
Stop thinking about it and get out there!
You have your gear, the reservation is made, all that’s left is to head out. Remember this is just a starting point. If while you’re getting ready you think of something that would be fun to do or would make your trip more comfortable bring it along. At this stage of the game you should be focusing on what’s going to give you the best time. If you like it (which I know you will) you can fine tune your gear later.
Hope this guide gives you the motivation to get started. Are you just starting off with camping? Share your stories in the comments below. Also, don’t forget to subscribe so you don't miss out on any updates.
Thanks for reading and have fun out there!