Matt Johnson

12 Must-Haves for Tent Camping

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Jul 16, 2022Updated: Dec 13, 2023

When it comes to camping, there are a few essentials to make your experience a success. After all, preparedness is key to any outdoor adventure. Here are twelve must-haves for tent camping that you don’t want to be without.

Tent or shelter.

If you’re going tent camping, this probably goes without saying, but you need a tent! When picking out a tent, consider the number of people who will be using it, as well as the climate you’ll be camping in.

You’ll also want to make sure that it’s easy to set up and take down. Some tents even have a built-in rainfly for extra protection from the elements.

Do your research and find the perfect tent for your next camping adventure.

Cots or sleeping pads.

You’ll want something to sleep on when you’re camping, and a cot or sleeping pad is a must. Sleeping on the ground can be uncomfortable, and a cot will provide you with a bit of extra support and padding.

If you’re looking for something even more comfortable, consider an air mattress. Just make sure to bring an air pump so you can inflate it when you get to your campsite.

Sleeping bags.

Now that we’ve got your tent set up and somewhere to sleep, you’ll need something to keep you warm on a chilly night. You could bring some blankets, but a sleeping bag is a must for any good camping trip.

Like the tent, the type of sleeping bag you’ll need will depend on the climate you’re camping in.

If you’re camping in cold weather, you’ll want a warm and cozy sleeping bag that will keep you comfortable all night long.

On the other hand, if you’re camping in warmer weather, you can get away with a lighter sleeping bag.

Sleeping bags are rated for different temperature ranges, so make sure to pick one that’s appropriate for the climate you’ll be camping in.

Camping stove and cookware.

The Complete Kitchen Utensil Box - Full Stainless Steel
Make sure you have everything you need to prepare your food. Photo courtesy of Warden Outdoors.

We all forget something, but this is something you don’t want to forget. If you’re planning on cooking any meals while camping, you’ll need a stove and some cookware.

There are all sorts of different camping stoves available, from small backpacking stoves to larger ones that can accommodate multiple pots and pans.

You’ll also need some essential cookware, like pots and pans, to cook your food. Don’t forget the all-important can opener, too (if I had a dollar for every time I forgot a can opener on a trip).

Heavy duty cooler to last the whole trip.

Heavy Duty Cooler for Tent Camping
A cooler is a must-have for any tent camping excursion.

Depending on how long you’re going and how hot it gets, you might need a cooler to keep your food and drinks cold.

If you’re only going for a weekend, a small cooler should suffice. But if you’re planning on staying out for a week or more, you’ll need a larger one that can hold all of your food and drinks.

Just make sure to pack enough ice to keep everything cold, as well as some extra for your drinks.

It also goes without saying to make sure the cooler is full of everything you need for a great weekend – including some adult beverages for around the campfire.

Camping chairs.

After a long day of hiking or exploring, you’ll want somewhere to relax and take a load off. That’s where camping chairs come in. These deserve a top spot for any must-haves on a tent camping trip.

Camping chairs are lightweight and easy to transport so that you can take them anywhere. And they come in different styles, from basic folding chairs to more luxurious recliners.

You’ll love having a place to sit around the campfire at night or just to relax during the day.

Lantern or flashlight.

It gets dark in the woods at night, so you’ll need a way to see. Bring a lantern or flashlight (or both), so you can find your way around after the sun goes down.

Just make sure to pack extra batteries if your light starts to dim. You don’t want to stumble around in the dark, looking for your way back to camp.

If you want to take it a step further, there are tents with lights built in that will illuminate the inside of your tent at night.

First-aid kit.

This is always one of the most overlooked must-haves for any trip, but it’s essential for camping.

You never know when you might need a bandage or some antibiotic ointment, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Just throw a basic first-aid kit in your car before you head out, and you’ll be prepared for anything. You don’t need anything fancy, but something that can cover the basics is a must. 

Sunscreen and insect repellent.

Sunscreen and insect repellent are right up there with the first-aid kit for the must-haves when tent camping. They’re often overlooked and sorely regretted later.

Make sure to pack both of these must-haves for any camping trip, especially if you’re going to be in an area with lots of bugs.

Sunscreen is a must to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, and insect repellent will keep the bugs away so you can enjoy your trip.

Towel and toiletries.

You don’t need to take a bath or a shower when you’re camping (oh, we do, but then again, we also glamp and don’t rough it much anymore), but you’ll need a towel to dry off after swimming or hiking.

And don’t forget your toiletries! Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant… you know the drill. Just because you’re roughing it doesn’t mean you have to smell like it.

Map of the area.

Have a Map of the Area
Make sure you have a map of the area so you don’t get lost.

If you’re in an unfamiliar area, it’s always a good idea to bring a map. You can usually find maps of the site at the ranger station, or you can print one out before you go.

Just make sure to familiarize yourself with the area before you head out so you don’t get lost.

Don’t rely on Google Maps or anything like that unless you know you’ll have a signal. Even then, it’s always good to have a backup.

Dress comfortably and have extra clothes.

Always dress comfortably when you’re camping. That means loose, comfortable clothing that you can move around in quickly.

And don’t forget to pack extra clothes, just in case you get wet or dirty. It’s always better to have too many clothes than not enough. If you’ve never been soaked in a rainstorm while camping, trust us, you’ll want a change of clothes.

Hiking boots or comfortable shoes.

You’re going to be doing a lot of walking when you’re camping, so make sure you have the proper footwear.

Hiking boots are ideal, but if you don’t have any, comfortable shoes will do. Just make sure they’re broken in before you go so you don’t end up with blisters.

If you’re new to camping, or if it’s been a while since you’ve gone tent camping, there are some must-haves that you need to bring with you. In this article, we listed 12 of the most essential items you shouldn’t leave home without. Sure, there are other things you might want to consider as well if you’re bringing a dog or other considerations — but these are the bare essentials.

So whether you’re hitting the open road for an epic cross-country camping trip or just spending a weekend in the woods, make sure you have these items packed and ready to go.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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