All the camping gear

The real camping essentials

I recently picked up a leaflet at Go Outdoors with their 10 bits of essential camping kit. I’ve written before about our dilemma over deciding what was needed for camping and what we just want to have.

We’ve been camping for more than a year now and I’d like to propose an alternative list of camping essentials. This is the supplementary stuff we’ve learned makes things a lot easier. Not the basics (tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mat/camp bed) but the stuff you need to make your camping trip a whole heap better.

  1. A toiletry bag you can hang up. There’s nothing worse than using the sole hook in a shower for your clothes and then finding you have to put your wash bag on the floor, which is covered in about half an inch of standing water mixed with grass and muck and then bashing your bum in the cold tiles while bending down to get shampoo/shower gel/face wash. A hanging wash bag was a total revelation for me

    Husband is happy because he has fire. And wine

    Husband is happy because he has fire. And wine

  2. Something to burn, be that logs or charcoal. I don’t care if you don’t want a BBQ to eat off, there’s nothing better than having a fire to sit around as the evening draws in and the children (finally) go to sleep. We have a cheap bucket BBQ in which we burn either logs or charcoal as it keeps it off the grass (which most campsites require). If you’d rather build a proper fire, check out Yellow Fields Camping for comprehensive reviews of campsites which allow these
  3. Marshmallows. Because if you’re having a fire, it would be rude not to
  4. Crocs. In order to avoid the tent getting full of grass and mud you’ll want to leave your shoes at the door. Going in and out of the tent frequently means it’s easier for grown ups and kids alike to have something they can slip on and off. They double up as something to leave on in the shower if it’s not that clean. Flip flops work just as well
  5. Thermals. If you’re camping in the UK you need thermals, fact. Because there’s nothing worse than being cold when you’re trying to sleep. (Leaving them on through the day is optional depending on how unlucky you are with the weather/how late in the year you’re camping). Even my resident hot water bottle, AKA Husband, said he slept better in them when we were away last. The Tinies think they’re “camping PJs” and wear them under their normal ones.
  6. A sleeping bag liner. Forget blankets, these are what is going to keep you warmest, and with the added bonus of meaning you don’t have to traipse to the launderette with your sleeping bags quite so often. Although they’re just a thin cotton (or silk, if you’re posh) envelope to slide into, they trap a layer of air between you and the sleeping bag, which will keep you toasty warm all night when combined with thermals (see above)
  7. A bucket/other toilet substitute. You know that phrase which means you’re really poor – haven’t got a pot to p1ss in? Well, get camping-rich and buy one. I schlepped to the toilet block in the small hours more times than I care to remember before finally putting my foot down and buying one. It has a toilet seat and a lid and will be for late night/early morning number ones onl
  8. StepA magic step. That’s what we call them in our house at least. Introduced to our house by my mum (clever lady), it’s a step that folds flat. Perfect if you’re not big enough to put up the inner tents, for sitting on if you’re a Tiny, for taking to the wash back so kids can reach to brush their teeth, and as a small table for your wine by the campfire to save balancing it on those pesky tussocks
  9. Gaffer tape. On camping trip #2 we broke a pole. Luckily it was fibre glass and only split, so some gaffer tape shored it up for the weekend, even in East Coast winds. It also temporarily fixes holes and just generally sticks things. Why would you not?
  10. String. I canvassed fellow campers for this idea. It would make a great washing line for all the damp clothes, but is also ideal for making mini rafts according to Hazel at Yellowfields Camping.

Many other suggestions were made – a Buff, a well-stocked kitchen box, an axe – but I decided those above are my top 10. What would be on yours?

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14 thoughts on “The real camping essentials

  1. Popaloo

    For a proper camping toilet, have a look at Popaloo it folds down to just 420mm square x 90mm high, uses a dry powder bag system so no chemicals, saves space and is very strong and durable, and its Made In England. Popaloo a great investment for your bottom !!
    It’s something we all have to do..but it’s a lot nicer with a Popaloo.

  2. Hazel

    Interesting. I have never tried a sleeping bag liner, though I do see the logic of it. Don’t they get all tangled up around you though?

    1. Louise Post author

      I thought that. I’m not good at sleeping in a sleeping bag anyway, but actually, I thought it was great. The Husband and I have a double and I have a single sleeping bag liner which means I can still keep warm while snuggling up to him.

  3. Phil Daniels

    Agree with all your choices apart from the bag liner. Having used one, I ended up being strangled in a very painful place by the thing! I would also add a decent radio, preferably with DAB digital. We bought a Quest Retro that has DAB and an iPod dock and has superb sound. Can be powered by mains or battery.

    1. Louise Post author

      Good point Phil. We’ve been thinking about a radio because it’s ever so quiet sometimes (but then I can’t help thinking that’s the point!)

  4. Kate @craftsonsea

    Gaffer tape is a great idea! I haven’t been brave enough to camp yet with my son but whenever we go away I take selotape and I’ve always found a use for that, electricity plugs for a start!

  5. Jaime Oliver

    my mum thought i was mad using a bucket at night to tinkle in am so glad you have it on your list!

    on my list would be baby wipes – they clean EVERYTHING :-)

    1. Louise Post author

      Yes, they’re in our kit too. Just didn’t make it into the top 10. I have them in every car, handbag, upstairs & downstairs at home…

  6. Afra

    My essentials were always- directions.numbers for a selection of takeaways near the campsite for first night dinner. And hot chocolate.

    1. Louise Post author

      Ooh yes, hot chocolate. We have that with the marshmallows on top and, if we get out to a supermarket, squirty cream. Yum!

  7. Rob B

    I would add to that list resealable plastic bags, wet wipes and lots and lots of crocodile clips/clothes pegs. Useful for everything from hanging up wet socks to resealing open packets.

    A healthy supply of plastic carrier bags also come in handy.

  8. Verily Victoria Vocalises

    Absolutely fabulous tips here :). I love the tip for the magic step, thermals and particularly the crocs – wonderful stuff. I hope I got you more comments this time around – will tweet out too. Thank you so much for linking to PoCoLo and sorry for the delay in commenting xx

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