Tent camping must-haves for beginners

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Tent camping is a fantastic way to reconnect with nature and spend quality time with your family. If you’re new to tent camping, you’ll want to learn about the essential supplies you’ll need for a successful and enjoyable camping trip during summer.

Close-up of a colorful tent with a rolled-up sleeping pad leaning against it, set on a grassy field with trees in the background.
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Cooking equipment

Preparing meals outdoors can be a highlight of your camping experience. In addition to your favorite recipes, here’s what you’ll need for your outdoor camping kitchen.

Portable stove or grill

Choose a budget-friendly, compact, single-burner stove like the Coleman Butane Stove for your first camping trip. It features an automatic ignition system and an adjustable burner for precise cooking. 

Camp Chef Everest offers multiple burners and excellent performance for a more luxurious setup. With two high-pressure burners and a large cooking area, this stove lets you cook multiple dishes simultaneously.

Cookware and utensils

Bring a basic cookware set, including pots, pans and utensils. Look for nesting cookware sets and utensils that save space and are easy to pack. 


A standard cooler, such as the Igloo BMX cooler, is affordable and efficient. It features thick insulation to keep its contents cold for several days. 

The Yeti Tundra is a top-performing premium option. This cooler is known for its rugged construction and superior insulation, making it ideal for longer trips or hotter climates.

Food storage and preparation

A woman in a red checkered shirt is sitting inside a blue tent, packing or unpacking a red backpack. She is smiling and looks focused on her task.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Pack food carefully in bear-proof containers to prevent wildlife encounters. Consider pre-prepping some meals at home and adding dehydrated camping foods to simplify meal prep at the campsite.


Selecting the right tent for camping can make or break your first tent camping experience. Choose one large enough for your family that also suits the season and environment. 


For budget-friendly options, consider a tent like the Coleman Sundome. This tent features large windows, a ground vent and a quick and easy setup. 

The Coleman WeatherMaster provides ample space and superior weather protection if you’re looking for a higher-end beginner tent. This tent offers a large, livable space with a divided interior, perfect for families.

Tent accessories

Remember essential accessories like ground tarps to protect your tent floor from moisture and sharp objects. Buy a rainfly for additional weather protection during unexpected showers. Pack extra stakes for added stability in windy conditions.

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Sleeping gear

You’ll spend most of your tent camping trip outdoors and want a good night’s sleep. Choosing the right camping gear for sleeping makes all the difference. 

Sleeping bags

A budget-friendly sleeping bag like the TETON Sports Celsius tops the list of the most important tent camping must-haves for beginners. These sleeping bags suit warm summer nights and offer a soft lining and a draft tube to stay cozy.

For a premium option, the Marmot Trestles Elite includes added insulation for those unexpected chilly nights. This sleeping bag combines synthetic insulation and a mummy shape to provide maximum warmth and comfort.

Sleeping pads or air mattresses

Basic foam pads or inflatable mattresses are great budget-friendly options. Lightweight yet durable foam pads like the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest provide good protection and insulation from the ground. 

For added comfort, consider air mattresses like the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir. This air mattress features reflective layers to provide excellent warmth and support, and it comes with a built-in pump for easy inflation.

Pillows and blankets

Pack compact, inflatable pillows that pack down small to save on space. A soft, packable blanket can add an extra layer of warmth and coziness.

Safety and first aid

The first aid kit is another crucial item on the list of camping must-haves for beginners. Safety should always be a priority on any camping trip, especially with young campers. Brush up on outdoor safety for kids.

First aid and emergency kit

First aid kit essentials include bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers and personal medications. You can customize your kit to include allergy medications or special medical supplies.

Carry flashlights, lanterns, extra batteries, headlamps, a multi-tool and duct tape for emergencies. These items can be invaluable in unexpected situations.

Insect repellent and sunscreen

Pack all-natural insect repellent and sunscreen to protect yourself from bugs and sunburn. Look for effective yet gentle eco-friendly skincare products.

Comfort and convenience

Person setting up a green camping stove on a picnic table with various kitchen items, including a red stove, green cutting board, canned food, and a mug. Outdoor scenery in background.
Photo credit: Depositphotos.

Enhance your camping experience with added comforts such as family camping games, new beach toys or a pack of your favorite summer beverage.

Camping chairs and tables

Budget-friendly foldable chairs and tables, such as those from AmazonBasics, provide comfort without breaking the bank. They are easy to pack and set up.

Consider ergonomic chairs like the Helinox Chair One and a sturdy, portable table for more comfort. These premium options offer superior comfort and durability, making them worthwhile investments for frequent campers.


Pack headlamps, lanterns and string lights to keep your campsite well-lit at night. Headlamps are perfect for hands-free tasks, lanterns provide light for communal areas and string lights help define your campsite space.

“Having a headlamp and spare batteries is crucial for camping because it allows for hands-free lighting when setting up camp or navigating in the dark. It’s also essential for safety during nighttime activities like hiking or cooking, providing a reliable light source without holding a flashlight.”

— Bella Bucchiotti, xoxoBella

Personal hygiene

Bring a portable shower, biodegradable soap and other personal hygiene products to stay fresh and clean. A portable shower can be a game-changer, especially on longer trips. Use natural soap to minimize your environmental impact.

Clothing and footwear

Pack versatile, layered clothing to adapt to changing weather conditions, as well as sturdy footwear for each camper. Start with moisture-wicking base layers, add insulating mid-layers and finish with a weather-resistant outer layer to help you stay comfortable in various temperatures and conditions.

Rain gear

Affordable rain jackets and ponchos, like those from Frogg Toggs, provide basic rain protection for beginner campers. For premium rain gear, consider brands like Arc’teryx, which offer superior waterproofing and breathability.


Comfortable hiking boots or sturdy sandals should provide good support, traction and durability. Your feet should feel comfortable and protected throughout your camping trip.

Prep for tent camping with the right supplies

Being well-prepared with the right supplies can make your tent camping trip memorable and enjoyable. Start planning your adventure today, and enjoy the unique experience of tent camping with your family.

Sarita Harbour is a long-time lifestyle, business and finance writer. Her work has been featured in various online publications, including TIME/Money, Business Insider, CBS News and Bob Vila. She created An Off Grid Life to help people become more self-reliant.

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