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As longtime MM readers may remember, I’ve now (somewhat shockingly) got multiple successful camping trips under my belt! I’m frequently asked how the hubby convinced me to “like” camping. To me, the key to this success owes a lot to the gear we bring with us for each trip, so here are my recommendations for the best camping gear for beginner campers.
Ha, you thought my first thing was going to be a tent or something, didn’t you?! But no. The most important element to make camping fun your first time out? A little of the sauce. You’re going to be working hard putting up your tent, hiking, fishing, cooking over a temperamental campfire. Trust me, you’re gonna want a few cold ones at the end of a nice long day in the great outdoors. A few brewskis in and everyone’s campfire stories start to get a little funnier as well. Take plenty of beer.
- A bigger tent than you “technically” need.
Ok, ok, now I’ll get to the tent. The first thing you need to know about camping tents is they’re woefully mislabeled. A tent marked for 1 person? It’s possibly for a child. One marked for two people? Also still for a child. If it’s marked for 3 people, you can probably fit one person comfortably. If you’re trying to fit you and your significant other in there, make sure you choose one marked for 4 people or more, and if you’re bringing the family, just go ahead and get the biggest tent you can find.
We use a Coleman 8-Person Red Canyon Tent, that we ordered off Amazon. Some nice features of our tent is that the poles are color-coded, making set-up really quick. It also comes with a rainfly, which is handy when a surprise shower pops up (we’ve actually been through a hail storm in ours). And, at its tallest point, I can stand up straight in the tent instead of having to constantly be bent over while trying to get dressed or do chores. It’s a winner!
- Tailgating Chairs (with a cupholder)
A lot of campsites will provide you with a picnic table, but there’s often not a great place to sit around your campfire ring after you’re done with your meal. And given that you probably aren’t going to feel like going to bed as soon as the sun goes down, that means you’ll need some extra chairs if you’re going to be comfortable. (And don’t forget the built-in cupholder for all those beverages you’re bringing in step one.)
We have a pair of tailgating chairs with our favorite team on them, that fold down into a small carrying cases. It’s also nice to have our “team” prominently displayed on our chairs, as it’s a nice campground icebreaker, and we’ve often enjoyed meeting other campers who’ve commented on our chairs.
- Mystic Fire
Alright, this one is just stupid fun. They’re little packets that you throw in your campfire to turn your fire various colors – green, blue, pink, purple, red, etc. Each packet lasts about 30-40 minutes, and provide a lot of fun for kids or adults. It gives you something fun to enjoy after dark other than just gorging yourself on s’mores (no judgement!)
- A Well-Seasoned Cast Iron Skillet
It seems the gear beginner campers are probably most concerned about are cooking-related items. They think they’re going to need all kinds of camp stoves, water filters, collapsible utensils, etc. And all those things can be nice and useful, if you’re going off-trail backpack camping. But if you’re just a beginner car camper, you’ll cover 90% of your camp cooking needs with one single item: a cast iron skillet.
With a good, well seasoned skillet, you can make pizza, stir-fry, pancakes, pasta, eggs…basically anything you like. The key, though, is knowing how to work with cast-iron. Here’s a great video from Tasty on how to clean & season cast iron:
- A battery-powered radio
But, wait, you say! Aren’t I supposed to be soaking up the sounds of nature? Well, yeah. You should. But if you’re headed to a state or national park? You’re probably not going to be even close to alone. Which means that you’re going to be hearing a lot of your neighbors.
If you don’t want to be subject to their taste in music, or the delightful sounds of Boy Scouts shrieking while on their first snipe hunt, or perhaps your frisky neighbors’ lovemaking, then a radio can come in pretty handy. Even better, get a combo AM/FM/Weather radio, and you’ll be well-prepared in case some bad weather heads your way, too.
- Fishing Gear
I never thought I would say this but fishing is…fun? Yeah. It is. It’s kind of like gambling. How long are you going to have to wait until you hook the big one? And the really nice part about fishing gear is you can actually get started for cheap. We got the cheapest rods & tackle box we could find on Amazon…paired with a $5 bucket of worms from any bait shop, and the result is almost always at least a few fish!
Even better, at least in Texas, fishing from the shore of any Texas State Park is FREE – you don’t need a fishing license to catch there. So it’s a great place for beginners to learn.
- Some friends
Along with alcohol, you want to know another sure-fire way to make your camping experience more fun? Bring some friends. You can set up races to see who can set their tent up the fastest, take turns making meals, and share stories around the campfire after the sun sets. Plus, the more friends you take, the more folks you can convert to the camping lifestyle.
And that’s it. Really, you don’t need a lot of “stuff” to get started having fun camping. Just take an open mind, the right camping gear for beginner campers listed above (and perhaps a little bug spray!) and you might just find you’re a natural-born camper after all. Or…at least enough of a camper to happily accompany your husband on camping trips a few times a year, like me.
Are you going camping this summer? Share where you’re headed in the comments!