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Best Camping Gear Essentials for Your Summer Adventures

Guest Contributor June 28, 2021
Family having lunch at picnic table at campsite.

Having all the right gear makes such a difference, especially if it’s your first time camping. 

Camping must-haves.

Your list of car camping equipment can be as short or as long as you like, but there are a few items that are essential. First up is a good quality tent with a rain fly—a waterproof tarp that goes over the tent—and a ground sheet to act as a barrier between your tent and the ground. Sleeping bags, pillows and a sleeping pad or air mattress are also necessities. If you’re tempted to forgo the air mattress or pad, don’t. It’s worth making room for it in the car.

Your home away from home. 

Picture the gear you’ll need at the campground at different times of the day. For instance, during setup you might need a hammer for tent pegs or possibly a Swiss Army knife. Think carefully about what you’ll need to cook, and how much room you have in your cooler. It’s always best to prep as much of your food at home as possible, but you’ll still need dishes, cutlery, cups and/or mugs, tinfoil, a cutting board, a pot or two and a portable cookstove with fuel (or a fire grate, if you’re more adventurous). With dirty dishes comes cleanup, so bring a plastic dishpan, some biodegradable dish soap, a dishcloth and a tea towel. A plastic, flannel-backed tablecloth and clips to hold it in place are highly recommended for your campsite’s picnic table. It provides a clean surface for eating as well as for washing dishes.

When night falls.

At dusk, you’ll want to keep the bug spray handy and change into clothing that will protect you from mosquitoes. Keep a couple of packets of Ben’s 30 Tick & Insect Repellent wipes, available at the CAA Store. Likewise, this is a good time to don socks and closed-toe shoes. Put your cooler, all food items and toiletries into your car before dark. Even better, make use of food lockers if they’re available onsite. If bears are in the area, you’ll need to be even more cautious.

Around the campfire.

Bring flashlights or battery-operated lamps (with extra batteries), as well as newspaper and a barbecue lighter to start your fire. Available at the CAA Store, the innovative Nite Ize Rechargeable Radiant Shineline is a 10-foot-long portable LED light source that can be hung or spread out. Folding lawn chairs come in handy around the firepit, but a picnic table bench will do in a pinch. As for firewood, most parks sell it at the gate, and you can buy it during check-in. (Never bring firewood from home—you may be unintentionally introducing invasive insects to your park.)

Mornings should always start with coffee.

Make sure to bring everything you need to make your favourite cup of joe. Energy bars are convenient, as are pre-washed fruit, veggie sticks and hard-boiled eggs from home. Plan your menu carefully and prepare as much as you can before you leave (such as a batch of chili or curry). Bring a large water jug to limit your trips to the community faucet. If you’re planning to hike, remember refillable water bottles (the Austin collapsible water bottle makes for easy packing), hats, sunscreen and comfortable shoes. Dress for the weather and toss a first-aid kit into your pack. Don’t forget your cellphone (and charger), snacks, hand sanitizer, park map and compass.

Need some new camping gear?

CAA Members can earn up to 10%* in CAA Dollars® on outdoor essentials from Decathlon, SAIL, Altitude Sports and more. Check out caasco.com/summeradventures for some inspirations.