Although the UK is emerging from lockdown at long last, the rules around international travel look to remain fairly strict. If you’re looking to avoid a fortnight’s quarantine when you go holidaying this year, you might be considering a homebound camping holiday. Maybe you want to hike around one of Britain’s many beauty spots, or you and your friends will be jamming out at a music festival - whatever your reason for heading to the countryside, it’s a great time for newbie campers to get their first taste of the great outdoors.
That said, if you’ve never been camping before, the prospect of spending your nights outdoors can be pretty intimidating - especially as you’ll likely be out in the sticks with no plan B if you’ve forgotten to pack something! But never fear, OnBuy’s camping checklist is here to help! We’ll start off by giving you some great camping advice for beginners before providing a comprehensive list of gear to prepare you for your first wilderness excursion. So if you’re stuck wondering what to take camping, you’d best keep reading!
The three types of camping
Before we start on what to take camping, we need to know what kind of camping holiday you’re taking this year. There are three types of camping holidays you can go on: campsite, festival, and wild. The first two are the best options for beginners, but we’ll briefly explore all three.
Campsite camping: For this type of recreational retreat, you’ll have to pay a small fee to pitch your tent on a specific plot of designated land. It’s perhaps the easiest form of camping, as you’re surrounded by fellow campers, and most modern sites have contemporary amenities like hot running water and even Wi-Fi. For the purposes of this guide, we’ll be treating the campsite as your default destination.
Festival camping: In a similar way to the campsite variety, you and your friends will set up camp in an allotted area. Unlike campsite camping however, you won’t have to source your own entertainment - you’ll have a whole host of headliner acts, food trucks, and bars to enjoy! Often associated with the muddy fields of Glastonbury, this form of camping is a must-do for any music maven - just remember to pack some wellies!
Wild Camping: Arguably, this is the purest expression of camping. It’s just you, the clothes on your back, and whatever you can fit into your rucksack. It’s a freeing experience, but it’s also tougher and can be dangerous if you’re not very well prepared and know exactly what to do in an emergency. It’s also illegal to wild camp in most areas of the UK. There are a few slim exceptions in national parks, as well as unenclosed land in Scotland, but you’ll need a lot of planning just to make sure you’re not breaking the law. That’s why we don’t recommend wild camping for beginners.
What do you need for camping?
Now on to the real camping advice for beginners. Of all the camping essentials, a tent is the most essential of all. Sleeping underneath a blanket of stars might seem romantic, but the appeal will vanish about the same time your feet go numb! Generally speaking, buying a bigger tent than you need is a good idea, as many manufacturer’s idea of what constitutes a two- or three-person tent is on the small side. Most tents come with a set of pegs to secure it to the ground - make sure not to leave them behind! However, if your tent of choice doesn’t come with a set of tent pegs, you can find replacements in our tent accessories category.
The next entry on our list of what to take camping is a snuggly sleeping bag. Even if you’ve set up a tent and are blessed with warm weather, it’ll get too chilly to sleep comfortably without one once night falls. It might seem simple to purchase a sleeping bag at first, but we have one important piece of camping advice for beginners on this topic: Know the difference between comfort and extreme temperature ratings. Most sleeping bags have at least two temperatures that they’re rated for. The higher temperature is the limit for sleeping comfortably. The extreme temperature is how cold it can get before you begin to develop hypothermia. You might make it through an extreme temperature-rated night unharmed, but the experience won’t be pleasant. Try to find a sleeping bag that has a comfort rating a few degrees lower than what the weather reports predict. That should give you some breathing room if the temperature’s lower than expected.
One of the pleasures of camping for many is leaving technology behind and reconnecting with nature. If you’re planning to take a digital detox for a week, it’s still a good idea for at least one of your campers to take their mobile phone with them in case of emergencies. And since there’s no guarantee of a power socket at your camp, you should take a power bank to stop its battery running dry.
Other important items to add to your camping checklist include a portable stove, camping cookware, and a selection of utensils to cook your meals with. It’s just as important to keep yourself well hydrated when you’re active, so water supplies like water bottles and water carriers are also camping essentials. You should pack at least one portable lantern that will let you see in the dark, and some basic medical supplies are a good idea, too. We’ve picked out examples of a few of these essential items later on, but remember to browse our camping and hiking supplies category for great examples of the rest.
How to choose the right hiking clothes?
If long walks will feature heavily in your holiday, proper clothing should be right at the top of your camping checklist. But how should you choose the right apparel? We’ve written a quick primer to give you some tips before you start packing!
Lots of outdoor retailers like Trespass separate their hiking clothes into three different groups: The base layer, the middle layer, and the outer layer. The best base layer clothing are vests and other activewear. The purpose of the base layer is to draw moisture away from your body, keeping you comfortable and dry during the summer and warm and toasty in the winter.
The middle layer is usually a long sleeve t-shirt or a fleece jumper in the winter, coupled with a pair of sturdy trousers. Wearing an ordinary t-shirt can be problematic during the summer because your forearms will be exposed to the sun for long periods. If you do choose to go short-sleeved, make sure to cover your arms with a high SPF sunscreen.
The final outer layer is usually only necessary when it’s cold, windy or raining. A sturdy waterproof coat and waterproof outer trousers make a solid outer layer and will keep you protected against almost all elements. Pair these hiking clothes with some season-appropriate accessories for a complete outfit.
In the winter, you’ll want to finish your look with a tight-fitting beanie and a pair of gloves to keep in the warmth, while a baseball cap will stop your face and neck from getting sunburnt in the summer (a pair of sunglasses is also a critical accessory for a summer camping gear list). Variations on all of these hiking clothes can be purchased from our clothing categories. With so many designs available, you’re certain to get what you need in no time.
Buying hiking boots and walking shoes
If you’re lucky enough to get pure blue skies for the whole of your camping holiday, you might not need a waterproof coat, but proper footwear is crucial whatever the weather.
You’ll first want to figure out which type of walking boots you should invest in. If you’re only going for gentle countryside walks, low-cut hiking shoes are probably the best. They’re flexible and comfortable, but still give you decent support. True hiking boots are a necessity for steep hills and other rough terrain, or if you’re carrying a heavy backpack. Look for tall cuffs that wrap around your ankles and laces that are long enough to be properly tied.
When you’re wearing walking boots, you’ll usually be wearing fairly thick socks, so you’ll have to account for that before you place an order. If you wear orthotic devices like insoles or pads, they will affect the fit of walking shoes as well. It’s usually a good idea to buy hiking boots in a store, because you can try on a variety of shoes to see if they fit properly. If you do this, try waiting until the end of the day to do it. That’s because your feet tend to swell after several hours of walking, so they’ll be a little larger than in the morning and you won’t buy boots that are too narrow.
If you do choose to shop online, you’ll find a terrific range of hiking shoes in OnBuy’s boot categories. We have separate categories for men, women, boys, and girls, so the whole family can be kitted out for the adventure.
Setting out on the trail
That was a lot of advice, but we promise that all of it was useful! Now that we’ve covered the basics, it’s time to move on to our recommended camping essentials. Like we mentioned before, this guide gives out camping advice for beginners, so we’re assuming that you’ll take it easy on your first excursion into the great outdoors. That means that most of the products here are suitable for summer camping, not bivouacking in the winter.
With summer staycations high on the agenda this year, now’s the perfect time to kit yourself out - and these camping essentials are sure to make your trip extra enjoyable!
Pros: Can be assembled in a few seconds, protection from both weather and insects
Cons: Fairly fragile poles, not suitable for all conditions
Something that puts off a lot of first time campers is the thought of having to spend hours trying to put up a tent just to get a good night’s sleep - but with this practical pop up product, that’s a problem of the past! Time-saving and wonderfully simple to set up, this terrific tent is a neat solution for bivouacking beginners!
Rather than a set of interlocking pipes that you have to fit together yourself, this tent’s support poles are all connected together, ending with a small mechanism at the top. If you pull the mechanism up from the top, the poles will spring into place and your tent is pitched in seconds. It’s really that simple!
Collapsing the tent back down is slightly more complicated, but it’ll only take a few minutes, and you can roll it up into the carry case provided. A little caution is needed when taking it down, however. The aluminum support poles need to be flexible for the pop-up mechanism to work, which means they can be bent out of shape if mishandled.
That ‘double layered’ part in the name comes from the two pieces of fabric that form the tent’s canvas. The outer layer is made from hydrophobic polyester that provides protection from water, while the inner layer is made from a special kind of high density gauze that can protect against insect intrusion - an essential feature if you’re camping in the summer when mosquitos are out for your blood!
This large tent is designed for use in summer and spring. Its weatherproofing will stand up to the occasional shower and gust of wind, but if you expect more severe weather, it might be worth purchasing a hardier tent. The North Face makes excellent tents for harsh environments, although they are more expensive.
Pros: Multiple safety features, easy-to-use, comes with accessories and a handy carry case, lightweight and compact
Cons: Butane canisters are somewhat rare, can’t be used everywhere
Something that can really spoil the experience of camping for beginners is the limited cuisine. If you’re camping for a few days or more, you may be surprised at how quickly you get sick of cold food. Not to worry, though - add this portable stove to your camping gear list, and you can enjoy hot meals morning, noon, and night!
The NJ Portable Gas Stove is exactly what it sounds like - a powerful, two ring gas burner hob that’s powered with gas canisters. Some portable cooking implements use large propane tanks as fuel, but this nifty stove uses much smaller butane canisters. These cans are about the size of a can of hairspray and fit inside the stove’s body. They’re a little more difficult to source than propane tanks, but they should be available in your local hardware store. You’ll also find a selection of appropriate canisters in OnBuy’s very own gas canisters category!
The beauty of this butane gas stove is that it’s easy to set up and easy to control, too. An automatic piezo igniter means you don’t need to add matches to your camping essentials, and you can adjust the strength of the flames with the front-facing knobs.
Some portable gas stoves are dangerous to use, but the NJ Portable Gas Stove has multiple safety features to prevent accidents or malfunctions. A double seal valve prevents gas leaks and the stove will shut off automatically if too much pressure builds up as you cook. Remember to always cook food and make hot drinks in a well-ventilated area away from your tent.
While this portable stove is indeed useful if you’re staying at a regular campsite, it’s less useful if you’re staying in a place where food is readily available, like a festival ground. You should also check beforehand if the campsite you’re staying at allows camping stoves, BBQs, and other fires. You should also look through OnBuy’s extensive selection of camping cooking supplies for all kinds of cookware and utensils that you can take camping with you.
Pros: Good waterproofing, ‘mummy’ shape preserves heat, rolls up into a handy travel bag
Cons: Not warm enough for winter, heavier than a down bag
Next up is our choice of sleeping bag for your first time outdoors. This polyfill sleeping bag boasts what’s commonly known in the camping community as a ‘mummy’ design. It’s called this because its shape roughly resembles the sarcophagi of ancient Egyptian mummies. Not only stylish, this design feature is incredibly practical: The tapering at the bottom reduces the space that air can circulate in, helping to keep you warmer.
This sleeping bag is made entirely from synthetic materials. This makes it particularly suitable for beginners, as it’s more waterproof than sleeping bags stuffed with natural fillings like goose down or duck feathers. It’ll dry out much faster, too. That said, one compromise you make with a synthetic sleeping bag is that they’re heavier than bags filled with down and feathers, as they need more filling to provide the same amount of warmth.
Many of the products on our camping gear list are equally suitable for use in the winter and summer. Unfortunately, the ASAB Polyfill Sleeping Bag is not one of them. That’s because its lining is only 200gsm thick, which for a synthetic filling equals a comfortable minimum temperature of about 5°C. That’s great for warm summer nights, but you’ll be very chilly if you try to kip in it during the winter months. For beginner campers, this sleeping bag is an absolute bargain and makes a great addition to your camping gear list.
Pros: Comprehensive 90pc medical kit, great for unexpected emergencies, easy to carry
Cons: Can be difficult to repack, soft-shelled so shouldn’t be stored under anything heavy
Accidents happen, especially in the great outdoors. So be prepared, and add the TMZ First Aid Bag to your camping checklist. This 90pc medical kit has everything you need to treat a variety of simple injuries, ensuring happy campers all round!
The pack includes several types of bandages and wound dressings (letting you pick the right one for the injury or body part you’re treating), antiseptic wipes, tweezers, and more. All of these items fit neatly into the kit bag, which zips open for easy access. It also has a pair of carrying straps built into the top. You can carry it by hand or use a piece of cord or a carabiner to secure it to your backpack if you need to keep your hands free.
This fabulous first aid bag is easy to open, but you need to be careful to keep track of all its parts. Because the bag is so compact, there aren’t any dedicated pockets for you to keep the different components separate. That makes it easy to lose track of which items you’re about to run out of. It can also make repacking the bag a little difficult. We recommend that you pay close attention to how the TMZ First Aid Bag is packed when you first open it and try to replicate the original layout as much as possible.
The soft-shell case also doesn’t provide much protection against drops or knocks for the contents inside. Most of the components won’t be damaged this way, but it’s important to note when you’re buying replacement parts.
Please only treat injuries if you’re confident you know what you’re doing, as improper treatment can make injuries worse. A great companion piece for this first aid kit is the Dorling Kindersley First Aid Manual, endorsed by the British Red Cross and other first aid organisations. It contains detailed instructions, along with step-by-step photography, to treat over 100 conditions.
Pros: Handy insulated cup holder, very portable thanks to practical folding design
Cons: Very little padding, not the strongest weight capacity
If you’ve spent the day hiking across hills and valleys, you’ll almost definitely want a comfortable seat to rest your weary feet - and that’s where this folding camping chair from the outdoor specialists at Regatta comes in! It folds out quickly, letting you kick off your walking boots and relax in no time.
It's not unusual for camping chairs to have a cup holder, but the Kruza Camping Chair goes one step further by surrounding its cup holder with a layer of insulation. This helps to keep hot drinks warm and cold drinks cool - it’s an ideal place to store your refreshments all year round!
What you gain in portability you lose in comfort, though. The frame of this chair is made from breathable fabric, which cuts down on sweating, but there’s next to no padding. No portable folding chair will ever be as comfortable as a proper fixed chair though, so this is by no means a deal breaker. The fabric seat also means that its weight capacity is less than other portable chairs. Its steel frame supports up to 100kg, or about 15 stone.
Pros: Very bright, can be dimmed, handy hanging feature, multiple lighting modes
Cons: IPX4 waterproof - not the most hardy, limited battery life, not compatible with rechargeable batteries
This lamp is ideal for your camping gear list because it’s both powerful and flexible. It can produce up to 1000 lumens of light at its maximum brightness, which is seriously impressive for such a small piece of kit. For context, the recommended minimum brightness for a floodlight is around 700 lumens, so 1000 is seriously luminous! Thankfully, if its maximum setting is too bright for you, you can dim it with a single button. The Gr8 Garden LED Camping Light also has different lighting modes, including a strobe like flashing setting. This is particularly useful for camping, as it can be used as an emergency beacon if you get lost or need help.
While the Gr8 Garden LED Camping Light is water-resistant, it’s not waterproof. It’s been tested to the IPX4 water resistance standard, which means it can withstand splashes of water from any direction, but it can’t be submerged or left outside in the rain. Despite this, as long as you take care to keep it sheltered if rain starts to fall (and don’t take it swimming!) it should be safe to use in most conditions.
Something else to bear in mind before adding this lamp to your camping essentials is that it’s not the most energy efficient LED light in the world. It’s powered by three D-cell batteries. A set from a reputable brand, like these Duracell batteries, can provide up to 12 hours of light at full luminescence. That’s not horribly short, but you can find longer-lasting lights on the market if you’re willing to pay more money. Gr8 Garden states that rechargeable D-cells won’t work with their lamp, so if you anticipate a lot of night time use, it might be a good idea to add spare batteries to your camping checklist.
Let the outdoor adventure begin!
We’ve reached the end of our guide on what to take camping - have a good trip! On the hunt for more gear? As mentioned previously, you can find an even bigger selection of camping essentials within our comprehensive collection of camping and hiking supplies. With everything from portable cooking equipment to foldable furniture, sleeping supplies to inviting illuminations, we’ve got everything you need to brace the great outdoors here at OnBuy. For the more active among us, we have a fantastic range of hiking clothes and walking boots in our clothing, shoes and accessories category.
If you’re camping with family and friends, this is the perfect time to enjoy a good board game or two. Ideal for beating the boredom if the weather takes an unexpected turn, there’s something to keep every happy camper entertained among our selection. Alternatively, if your camping companions are all grown up and you’re looking for something a little more age-appropriate, why not read through our recent blog post on 10 adult-only twists on classic outdoor games?
With so much to explore, see, and do, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying an al fresco experience like no other - whatever the weather!
Please note: The information in this buyers guide is correct at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.