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Do you feel it? It’s in the air. That time of year. Days of hiking, biking trails, swimming in a lake. Also bug bites, ticks, sunburns and sleepless nights in a strange environment. I love it and crave it every year. IT’S CAMPING TIME!!!
I’ve been camping every year since my early twenties and it’s one of my favorite things ever. There’s seriously nothing more relaxing. Last year on our camping trip we got to witness hundreds of lightning bugs doing their thing while we just sat mesmerized at all the lights twinkling around us. It. Was. Awesome!
If you’ve never been camping and aren’t sure if it’s something you want to do, I wrote a post detailing what I think are some great benefits of camping. It is the best frugal vacation!
We normally go camping towards the end of summer or beginning of fall. It’s less crowded, there are less bugs, and it’s a lot cooler while we’re out hiking. However, I’ve been camping during the middle of the summer and it’s just as fun!
Mr. Frugal Turtle was a Boy Scout when he was younger. His ideal camping trip is to head out with extremely limited camping gear and “rough it.” Me, not so much. I prefer having showers and toilets nearby.
I’ve compiled a list of all the camping gear we take with us on camping trips.
We’ve had this tent for several years now and it works great! It’s a four person tent, but it’s perfect for two people. Plus, it’s reasonably priced! Camping gear can be expensive!
I have this warm mummy sleeping bag. It keeps me warm and it rolls up super tiny, so it doesn’t take up much space. Plus it’s really light, so a wimp like me can easily carry it around! Mr. Frugal Turtle has a sleeping bag that he got when he was in the military. It has removable layers and is crazy nice.
It’s pretty much essential that you need something underneath your sleeping bag when you sleep. Otherwise you’re pretty much sleeping on the ground. That would not be comfortable! After I had back surgery I splurged on an air mattress to make sleeping in a tent a little bit more comfortable. I found this air mattress and I’ve been using it for years.
Mr. Frugal Turtle uses a sleeping pad that he’s had forever. I can’t find the exact one he has, but it’s similar to this one.
Just make you sure you have something to put under your sleeping bag to protect you from the hard ground!
Another must have for camping is a lantern or flashlight. Whether you wake up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom or you’re taking a hike at night, you need some light!
We had a gift card to Gander Mountain, so we bought a really nice flashlight with a lot of lumens. It’s really nice to have when you’re walking dark trails in the middle of the night. It’s so bright that it lights up the trail and part of the woods that are on each side of you. I highly suggest spending money on a nice flashlight like the one below.
One year Mr. Frugal Turtle and I wanted to camp at one of those “rustic camping sites” where you have to hike a mile or two to reach the site and you’re completely isolated. It was awesome, but I hadn’t really mastered the art of “light camping” yet. We had to make a trip back to the car to gather the rest of our camping equipment and luckily we had a cooler with wheels like this one that we could drag along behind us.
It held up pretty well on the hike to and from the camping site! There were a couple hilly, rocky areas and the cooler handled it like a pro!
One of the things we love to do when it’s raining or we’re just relaxing around the campsite is to play games. Yahtzee is our favorite.
We also always try to remember a couple of decks of playing cards to play Kings Corner or other card games.
It always seems to rain when I’m camping. Not the whole time, but at least one day each camping trip I have to deal with rain. I used to buy $2-3 ponchos that you find at Wal-Mart, but about five years ago I bought a nice Rainjacket made by Coleman. I can’t find the exact one I have, but it’s similar to this one.
Good hiking shoes are a must for camping, especially if you plan on hiking! On one epic hiking day with my sister many years ago, we hiking around 23 miles. In one day! Needless to say, I slept pretty well that night. My hiking shoes are older than they should be, and I’ve been thinking about getting new ones. I can’t find the ones I have on Amazon, but when I have to get new ones I’ll probably get a pair of Keens.
I have a pair of Keens for work shoes, and I’m really happy with them. They keep my feet happy, and I’m on my feet all day, so that says a lot!
My camping chair is about 15 years old and I don’t remember where I bought it or how much I paid for it. This one looks very similar to mine.
It’s a really good idea to buy a backpack that has a “bladder” in it to hold some water while hiking. This way, you don’t need to fill your hiking backpack with bulky bottles of water. There’s room for granola bars and trail mix, and whatever else you want to snack on during your day of hiking.
We always have a weather radio with us when we go camping. Like I said above, every time I go camping, it rains. It’s nice to have a weather radio because if you wake up in the tent and it’s storming outside you can use the weather radio to find out how bad the storm is. Plus, if you go camping in a really isolated location, your cell phone is useless.
It’s a really good idea to protect your tent as much as possible. Mr. Frugal Turtle and I always put a tarp down on the ground and place our tent on the tarp instead of the ground. The tarp adds a little bit of extra padding from the hard ground and it helps protect the tent from getting holes from sharp pebbles.
There’s one large camping item that we don’t currently have that I would love to use on our camping trips. A screen house/shelter!
I went on a camping trip with some friends many years ago and they had one. It was awesome! It was raining all day one of the days, so we spent that day sitting around the picnic table that was sheltered in the screen house, drinking and playing games.
Cooking is so much easier when you have a nice camping stove. When you’re in a hurry and don’t have time to make a fire to cook food, this Coleman Stove is a lifesaver! I don’t miss the camping trips where we depended solely on a campfire to cook food!
One item that I love and am happy I have is an egg container that’s sturdy and won’t let your eggs get cracked.
Other cooking supplies that you’ll need:
First things first, clean your hands when you handle food!
We use ours mainly for hot dogs and veggie dogs (for me).
Pots and pans.
Bring your old, scratched up pots and pans that you never use anymore if you have any. That way you can use them if you cook over a fire, and you won’t care how they look afterwards.
I recently came into possession of my first cast iron skillet and I’m excited to take it camping with us this fall. I’ve heard the food cooked in them turns out great!
I hate using plastic plates and silverware, so I avoid it at all costs. We use these plates made out of melamine material and at the end of the camping trip, they just get packed away with the rest of the camping gear until the next trip.
I can’t live without coffee, especially during a camping trip when the mornings are crisp and fresh. It’s a great way to start the day! I use instant coffee while camping and make it in something similar to this.
Assorted utensils and can opener
We think about the meals we plan on making and go through the whole meal-making process in our heads when deciding what we need to bring to make said meal. Does it require a paring knife or spatula? What about the vegetable peeler and tin foil? Inevitable we forget something that would be really useful during the meal preparation, but we make do.
These are something I would love to get away from using, but they’re so useful. Especially during camping!
Bucket, Wash Cloth, and Dish Soap
When you’re camping, you don’t always have access to warm water and a sink, so we solve this by bringing an old plastic gallon size ice cream pail and gallon of water with us. After a meal we just pour some water in the bucket and wash dishes that way. When we run out of water we either refill it in the nearest bathroom or those standing faucets/drinking fountains that campgrounds sometimes have. Don’t forget to throw an old dish towel in your supplies to dry the dishes!
Other camping gear
First Aid Kit
We always have a box of Band-Aids, antibiotic ointment, Tylenol, different sized wraps and gauze pads, and anti-itch cream for bug bites.
Last year, after our camping trip, I actually went in to get a bite looked at because I thought it might have been a deer tick. Luckily, it wasn’t. But it was still a little scary!
I always throw a roll of toilet paper in the backpack when we’re getting ready to go hiking. You never know when or where you’ll need to go.
Gotta keep those mosquitoes away! Mosquitoes in Minnesota can get pretty vicious, so it’s really important to be prepared here!
We always bring a handful with us. They’re really useful to keep your dirty, smelly clothes away from your clean clothes. We also have one for recyclables and one for regular garbage. Most campgrounds have a recycle bin around, so why not recycle?
Broom and Dust Pan
As hard as you try, it’s pretty much impossible to not get dirt in your tent. A little broom and dust pan are pretty useful to sweep up after you’re packed up all your stuff when the trip is over.
What are some essential camping gear items that you must have on your camping trips? What did I forget?