Because it takes place in the great outdoors — where Mother Nature can be awfully unforgiving —there’s an added pressure of packing when going on a camping trip. What you bring, or forget to bring, really does determine whether or not you’ll ever want to sleep under the stars again.
To make your camping experience easier, Men’s Journal contributor Clint Carter stopped by TODAY to share all of his favorite outdoor essentials. From tents that assemble in seconds to grilling must-haves, Carter has you covered on every aspect of the great outdoors.
Keep reading to see all 17 camping essentials for the whole family, plus more Shop TODAY finds that’ll make you a happy camper.
Camping gear essentials as seen on TODAY
Bedding and tent camping essentials
Carter likes this pop-up tent because it can be assembled in just 10 seconds, and can hold up to two people. Or if you’re camping with the whole family, there’s an option to fit four. According to the brand, this tent is made from fire and water-resistant polyester, keeping you dry even when the ground is wet.
Another quick-to-assemble find is this wind-proof and UPF 50-plus tent, which comes in an option to fit two or four people. Not only is it perfect for the great outdoors, but many reviewers say they love bringing it to the beach.
If you don’t like the idea of sleeping on the ground, try sleeping on a folding camping cot for more comfortability.
“A cot will let air circulate below you, which will keep you cooler on summer nights,” says Carter. Coming with a support-pillow, side storage pocket and carrying case, this cot can hold up to 300-pounds.
The brand says this “Coolmax” sleeping bag is designed to be moisture-wicking, which keeps you comfortable and from over-heating in warm and humid temperatures.
“For summer camping, this liner takes the place of a sleeping bag. It’s all you need,” said Carter. If you’re camping in cooler temperatures, he recommends pairing it with a light sleeping bag.
“It’s a battery-powered fan and light, which will illuminate your tent and keep you cool all night long. It’s clutch for summer camping,” said Carter.
This multi-functional fan and light is also to perfect to keep on hand when cooking; it will illuminate your food table while keeping the flies away. According to the brand, it has three brightness levels and will stay charged for up to 20 hours.
Upgrade your folding chair with this smooth rocking chair, which features a foldable side table that holds your beverages, phone and more. It also features an easy-to-carry handle allowing you to easily move it to and from your camp site.
Plus, GCI Outdoor is offering 10% off site wide through August 31st with the code TODAY10.
Kitchen and dining camping essentials
Show off your culinary barbecuing skills with this full-sized kitchen counter. This cook station will hold your portable grill, with spots to store your pots, tableware, utensils trash bags and more. The company says the aluminum counter top holds up to 48-pounds and the side tables hold up 30-pounds.
Plus, GCI Outdoor is offering 10% off site wide through August 31st with the code TODAY10.
The brand says you’ll be fine dining in the woods with this gourmet kitchen set. Carter loves this set because it has everything you need in “one neat package.” The 11-piece kitchen set includes a cutting board, spatula, serving spoon, whisk and more!
Carter says this butane stove will not only save you money since butane is cheaper than propane, but also it is perfect for warm-weather camping with it’s simmer-control feature.
Storing clean water is made easier with this collapsible water cube. According to the brand, this container holds up to 20-liters and is perfect for serving drinking water, or for cooking and cleaning.
Another option to hold your water is this 5-gallon collapsible water storage. The brand says it’s not only easy to carry, but also is leak-proof and dent-resistant.
Carter chose this convenient folding table, with four stools, as a great place to dine, play cards or even food prep. The chairs easily fold up and hide underneath the table, making it extremely easy to carry and transport to and from your camp site.
Lighting camping essentials
“This headlamp has a magnetic mount that makes it super versatile,” said Carter. With up to 155 hours of light usage, he says you can use it as a handheld flashlight, stick to a metal grill, attach it to bikes or a hiking pole, and even hang it up in your tent.
Mosquitos can be the peskiest part of camping, keep them at bay with this mosquito repellent lantern. According to the brand, this lantern acts as a dim light, has up to a 15-foot zone of protection and each fuel cartilage lasts for 12 hours.
Plus, you can save 20% off the Patio Shield Lantern XL through August 19 with the code TODAY20 through the Thermacell site.
“Flashlights create harsh light on small areas, this creates a soft glow over everything,” said Carter.
Decorate your outdoor space with ambient lighting with these useful solar string lights. Coming with an 18-foot cord, the brand says the lights will last up to 20 hours in a single charge. Hang them around the tent, on your cooking table or under an umbrella!
Plus, just for TODAY Show viewers, Mpowerd is offering 30% off these lights through August 16th with the code TODAY30.
Water fun camping essentials
Camping near a lake? This inflatable island is fun for the whole family — it holds up to seven people! Coming with six cup holders, the brand says it is easy to board with two inflatable platforms and durable enough to float on a river, lake or pool.
Whether you’re bringing floats for the lake or an air mattress to sleep on, this electric air pump comes with three different nozzles that will inflate your items within two minutes, says the brand.
More Camping gear must-haves
Shop TODAY rounded up some great camping gear that you’ll definitely want by your side as you rough it. From a cooler that floats (and keeps your favorite drinks cold for 24 hours), to a two-second tent that comes pre-assembled and a kid-friendly collapsible lantern, here’s what you should consider packing if you plan on camping this summer.
Forgot to drop your canned beverages into the cooler? With this genius gadget, you don’t have to sip on a lukewarm soda or wait for beer to get cold. Just drop your beverage of choice into the Chill-O-Matic and watch it spin to a perfect drinking temperature. According to the brand, it can chill liquids in just 60 seconds (240 times faster than a refrigerator) and won’t cause any frizz or messy explosions.
This TODAY-approved “venom vacuum” with a 4-star average rating from more than 46,000 reviews is an Amazon No. 1 bestseller. It works by sucking out venom and other irritants that can cause reactions like itching, redness and swelling, according to the brand. It can even be used to remove splinters. It is designed to be pain-free and easy to use.
Sometimes, the best defense is a strong offense. So before you let yourself become a buffet for bloodthirsty mosquitos, this popular repellent designed for clothes can help. Spray it directly on your clothes (outdoors) before putting them on. It protects you from mosquitoes, mites, chiggers and disease-carrying ticks for up to six washings or six weeks, according to the brand.
If you’re prone to mosquito bites but not a big fan of bug spray, these repellant patches are definitely worth a try. They contain essential oils that can repel mosquitos up to three feet for six to eight hours, and are safe to use for all, according to the brand.
Camp cooking is easy with this stainless steel cooker that comes with two 10-ounce insulated nesting tumblers. It has an impressive 4.8-star average rating from nearly 20,000 reviews and is currently ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s list of Best Sellers in Camping Pots, Pans and Griddles. Use it to prepare hot chocolate, soups, chili, dehydrated meals and more. Vents on the top make it easy to strain liquids let out steam. It’s lightweight — weighing less than a pound — and dishwasher safe, according to the brand.
Access to fresh and clean water is arguably the most important thing to have on any camping trip. The filter water bottle from LifeStraw is designed to protect against small particles of plastic, chlorine, sand, dirt, and more. On top of all that, it also improves the taste of the water, according to the brand.
If you can’t live without baking — even when camping — the Omnia Oven comes in handy. You can use it to bake everything from cakes to potatoes to quiche. It’s designed to bake on any type of burner and can even be used over a grill, according to the brand. Thanks to its unique Swedish design, the oven bakes with heat coming from both the top and bottom of the oven.
This leak-free, sweat-free cooler with a cult-like following is to camping what the mini fridge is to hotel rooms. It’s guaranteed to keep food and beverages cold for up to 24 hours (with some reviewers reporting it keeps ice frozen for 48 hours). It comes in 11 colors and a range of sizes from a 12-can cooler for $90 to a 40-can cooler for $150. It even floats so you can take it with you on the river or in the lake.
As seen on “Shark Tank,” the LuminAID Solar Inflatable Lantern is a lightweight, collapsible solar lantern that can emit light for up to 24 hours when the battery is fully charged. It’s also waterproof and is designed to be shatter-proof, so you don’t need to worry about having it around kids. With multiple settings, you can choose your brightness level depending the activity or time of day. You also have the choice of recharging the battery via solar or USB.
Rough it without really roughing it by crashing on this camping pad. Two inches of support may not seem like much, but when you’re sleeping on the ground it makes a massive difference. This pad weighs less than a pound and packs down so it takes up about as much space as a water bottle. You also don’t need to worry about leaks since it’s made of a tear-resistant, waterproof nylon fabric.
No camp experience is complete without sitting around the campfire. This chair is the perfect seat thanks to its comfortable cushioning, back support and armrests — one of which has an insulated pouch that keeps up to four cans of your favorite drinks cold for hours. The other armrest has a built-in cupholder and a convenient side pocket for stashing your phone, snacks and reading material. The Coleman Camping Chair comes in four colors and has a 4.7-star average rating from more than 46,000 reviews.
If you prefer a more traditional tent design and need more room, invest in this TODAY-approved tent. Weather-wise, the bestseller comes with a waterproof rainfly and is designed for spring, summer and fall camping. The frame is built to survive winds of up to 35 miles per hour. Inside, there are storage pockets and a handy hook for hanging a lantern or flashlight. It comes in three colors and four sizes: 2-person, 3-person, 4-person and 6-person.
This bestselling machine-washable blanket is made for the outdoors. Thanks to its durable water repellent coating, the fabric is water resistant and stain resistant, the brand says. Simply put, spills can’t soak in. Amazon users love that it has a clip so it can be worn like a cape for hands-free warmth. It comes in 90 different colors and styles including national park and NFL motifs. When packed down in its stuff sack, it easily fits in a tote bag.
If your goal is to set up camp as soon as possible so you can fully relax or go explore, this is the perfect tent for you. It comes pre-assembled and pops up in a matter of seconds. In other words, there’s no need to untangle and unfold a stack of poles. All you have to do is stake it to the ground and add the waterproof flysheet. Wind-resistant, it’s able to withstand winds of up to 30 miles per hour, according to the brand. But perhaps the coolest feature is the blackout fabric allowing you to nap during the day in total darkness. It weighs a little more than nine pounds and comes with a three-year warranty.
This bracelet has five survival essentials so you can travel light without sacrificing any of your emergency supplies. It includes a compass, fire starter, emergency whistle, ferro rod striker, and 12 feet of military-grade paracord, the brand says, and comes in a set of two. It also has an adjustable fit so you don’t have to worry about ordering the perfect size.
Depending on what setting you use, this rechargeable fan can last anywhere from six to 24 hours. The adjustable height reaches a little over three feet, and can be completely folded away when you’re done for easy storage. The front frame can also be detached for easy cleaning, the brand says, which is especially important if you’re taking it on a long camping trip.
It can be helpful when camping to have a dedicated private area to shower or change your clothes. This tent from Abco Tech, which reviewers have called “very handy” is designed to be extremely lightweight and requires no installation, and measures 75 inches tall.
Turn a sink or bucket of water into your own personal outdoor shower. This showerhead sticks to any flat surface, according to the brand, and can be used continuously for up to an hour. It also conveniently charges through your laptop, car adapter, or anywhere with a USB port.
If you’re an avid hiker, these anti-slip sneakers are a must-have. They have over 4,000 five-star reviews, with many people saying how comfortable they are. The strong traction is also designed to help in bad weather conditions.
For more stories like this, check out: