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Published Jun 24, 2022 4:08 PM
Part of the fun of getting geared up for a new season is picking out a few new pieces of camping gear to take to the campground. But sifting through the dozens—sometimes hundreds—of new offerings each season can also be daunting. To help you narrow down this selection process, Outdoor Life writers have been testing tents, mattresses, kitchens, grills, hammocks, and more for months. Here are our picks of the best camping gear available today:
Things to Consider Before Buying Camping Gear
Some great pieces of camping gear can cost thousands of dollars, while others are relatively inexpensive. Before choosing what you want to spend this year’s budget on, consider what items in your gear closet are most in need of an upgrade. What is starting to wear out? What did you purchase a decade or more ago that would benefit from an upgrade? What most limits your ability to enjoy the outdoors?
Beyond budget, one of the biggest constraints with camping gear is space, so consider if the amount of space a new piece of gear will take up in your vehicle will help to maximize your camping experience.
Before you drop some of your hard-earned money on a new piece of camping gear, it’s important to know if it is a solid long-term investment. The Outdoor Life gear team looks carefully at the durability of the products we test to help you make you this decision.
Making Space in Your Gear Closet
Don’t just toss that older piece of gear you are replacing in the trash; see if there are friends, family, or neighbors that might benefit from it. Many of us started our gear closets with the castoff of older, more experienced campers, and handing down gear that you’ve outgrown to the next generation of campers is an important tradition to uphold.
- Dimensions: 13 feet x 10 feet
- Height: 7 feet
- Weight: 33.5 pounds
- Poles: 10
- Packed Size: 11 inches x 29 inches
- Doors: 2
- Windows: 6
Why It Made the Cut
A spacious interior and great weather durability made this the best family tent I tested for camping.
- Great livable space on the interior
- Withstood both rain and wind on the testing trip
- Lots of doors and windows
A great family tent is one that provides enough space for everyone to spread out and provides ample protection against the elements—rain and wind, in particular. The Eureka Copper Canyon LX8, reviewed as part of our test of the best 8 person tents, accomplishes both of those goals at a price point that is half of some major competitors.
Despite the strong winds and intermittent rain that struck during testing, the Copper Canyon LX8 bounced back quickly without damaging the fiberglass poles. At one point the rainfly came unattached at a corner, but after a member of the testing group re-secured it with the provided velcro tabs (which I forgot to do during the initial setup), it wasn’t a problem. And the rainfly turned out to be plenty of protection against overnight rain once the windows were zippered up.
Even better, the ceiling height (seven feet) combined with the near-vertical walls on this one made it easy for the 6-foot 1-inch member of the family to walk around without having to stoop at the edges.
The only downside to this tent is that it is an usually complicated setup. Three fiberglass poles crisscross the ceiling and then connect to six steel poles at each end to form the walls (the tenth pole creates the awning over the doorway). The directions for this were reasonably easy to follow—it just took a while. While I was able to set up the body of this tent by myself, a second (taller) person was needed to add the rainfly.
- Weight: 19 ounces
- Weight limit: 400 pounds
- Dimensions: 9 feet 6 inches x 6 feet 4 inches
- Suspension straps not included
- Material: 70D nylon
Why It Made the Cut
Clear instructions combined with durable fabric and a wide profile make this our pick for the best camping hammock.
- Durable material
- Easy setup
- Comparatively low weight limit for a two-person hammock
ENO’s DoubleNest was easily the most straightforward camping hammock to hang up that I tested when reviewing the best camping hammocks. Like other models, the instructions were minimal and easily fitted on a hangtag tucked inside the stuff pouch, yet they were also specific enough—including details about diagonal lay and the correct angle of the suspension system—to provide this first-time user with enough information to get the most out of the hammock.
The fabric of the DoubleNest is thicker than the others I tested, and that durability increased my confidence in the hammock’s support. Once I sat down and swung my legs inside, I was surprised at how comfortable and secure I felt. The Doublenest had the smallest profile of the best camping hammock picks, and it would easily fit into a daypack for someone looking to lounge and enjoy the view at their destination.
- R Rating: 6.5
- Height: four inches
- Weight: 9 pounds, 13 ounces
- Size: 51 inches x 79 inches
- Shell Fabric: 30D polyester upper, 75D polyester base
- Packed Size: 27 inches x 9 inches
- Lifetime Warranty
Why It Made the Cut
The Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe was so cushy that I actually forgot I was sleeping on a camping mattress.
- Extremely comfortable
- Confusing valve design
Out of all of the best camping mattresses for couples that I tested, the Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe came closest to the feel of my mattress at home. Its four inches of foam not only made this pad super cushy but also provided substantial warmth. The 6.5 R rating here was more than enough to protect me from the cold of the ground while sleeping outside in temps that fell to the 40s, which is why it’s a no-brainer pick when it comes to the best camping gear. I also appreciated that I was able to inflate this camping mattress to my preferred level of firmness after the self-inflation period was complete.
Like all self-inflating mattresses, it’s best to keep your expectations low the first time you try to inflate. During testing, the Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe did not inflate at all when left open for an hour—typical for self-inflating mattresses during the first use and after lengthy storage periods. Subsequent attempts to allow the air mattress to self-inflate went much better, but still expect to do some significant top-off. The valve for the Comfort Deluxe is also somewhat confusing if you are used to the valves seen on their air sleeping pads. The valve that I thought I was supposed to use to dump out all the air from the mattress was in fact the valve to self inflate. To deflate the mattress, I had to open the self-inflate valve, flip the toggle around (not twist, which is what the arrow on the toggle initially seems to imply) to the side that said “deflate,” and then reattach it to the valve. But once you get the hang of the setup, this one comes together surprisingly fast for a self-inflating sleeping pad.
The dimensions of the Sea to Summit Comfort Deluxe when rolled up are significant—this pad was as big as the 8-person tents that I tested on the same trip. It is also recommended that you store this pad inflated at home to maximize its lifespan, which can be difficult for anyone with limited storage space.
- Included carrying case
- 23 pounds
- Aluminum components
- Includes integrated sink, lantern pole, overhead hooks, zippered pantry, dish-drying net, trash bin
Why It Made the Cut
This camp kitchen had many of the comforts of home while also being compact and comparatively inexpensive.
- Strong aluminum-frame construction and non-slotted tabletop for food prep
- Collapsible design stores easily in durable canvas carrying case
- Multipurpose features, including sink and drain
- Limited counter space for food prep
- No paper instructions for setup, but fairly intuitive to figure out
- Takes about nine minutes to set up
This all-in-one kitchenette, with lots of bells and whistles, won our test for the best camp kitchens. The writer especially appreciated the moveable overhead hooks that could hang rags and/or pots/pans, which, to her delight, could be used to hang a water reservoir above the sink for dishwashing. She found the sink to be generously sized with an integrated hose for draining, which made for easy dishwashing and disposal of greywater (be sure not to leave a trace and follow campground protocols). The under-the-counter removable mesh shelf was also a perfect dish-drying and storage area that kept spent dishes out of the way.
The writer had no problem storing all of their cookware and dishes in the side canvas storage compartments, and noted that these nooks could also serve as a food pantry. The lantern pole accessory is nice for hanging a camping light for sunrise and sunset kitchen duties. It also had a versatile side mesh bin that served as a trash receptacle.
Even though it boasts 63 inches of workspace, there was less real estate compared to other kitchens in the test. Once a two-burner camp stove was set up next to the integrated sink, it only left 20 inches of prep area on the two non-slotted side tables.
- Includes both non-stick grill and flat top griddle inserts
- Combined 18,000 BTUs/hour for both burners
- Push-button ignition
- Three-sided wind screen
- Holds up to a 10-inch pot on burner
- Carry bag
Why It Made the Cut
The grill portion of the heavy-duty Camp Chef Rainier 2X heats evenly and has a non-stick cooking surface.
- Extremely versatile unit
- Included griddle surface
- Carrying case keeps all parts packed together
- Consistent performance even in windy conditions
- Heavy duty stove top surface handles the weight of a full pot of water
- Heaviest (16 pounds) unit tested
- No channel for grease to drain from griddle
Of all the tested units, this grill stove combo is one of the most well built. While all that extra metal comes with the price of a few extra pounds, if you are looking for a unit that will stand up to the rigors of camping for years to come, this is the stove for you. Even in a stiff breeze, the wind flaps worked well to keep an even flame. And they conveniently locked in place with the stove’s side latches. These were a nice improvement over some of the small clips of the other units.
The non-stick cooking surfaces are easy to clean, and the area under the grill is fully enclosed and smooth, with no nooks or corners, which makes it easy to wipe out with just a paper towel or two.
Cooking breakfast, toasting bread, and even grilling burgers and onions on the included flat top griddle is a breeze. The included carry bag makes transporting the stove easy and makes a handy spot to store the griddle when not in use. While a slide out grease tray would make for easier clean up, it only took a few minutes to wipe out the smooth chamber below the grill grates.
Q: How much does camping gear cost?
Camping gear can cost next to nothing if it’s a hand me down or purchased secondhand to thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Q: What should you not bring camping?
Do not bring anything camping that you wouldn’t want to get dirty, dusty, or wet. Beyond that, just about anything can come camping with you as long as you take care, and respect its limitations. Many campers also choose to leave behind a preponderance of electronics so that they can fully enjoy their time recharging in the wilderness.
Q: What are the most important items to have when camping?
The most important items to have while camping are a tent (to protect you from the elements), a sleep system (a bag and a mat), appropriate clothes for the conditions you expect to face, and a food preparation strategy, which could involve everything from a full camp kitchen and electric cooler to simple boil-in-bag meals that need nothing more than a backpacking stove.
The camping gear in this article was chosen after months of research and testing by the Outdoor Life gear team and our contributors. Included are selections from our test of the best camping tents, the best camping hammock, the best camping mattress for couples, the best camp kitchens, and the best grill-stove combos. All of our testing involved hands-on, in-the-field experiences, with each product and its competition.
The best camping gear will last you and your family for years. Prioritizing those pieces of gear that will bring the most long-term benefit will help to maximize your time out of doors.