Camping Equipment 101

Getting out into nature is one of simplest pleasures in life. Camping is a great way to spend some extended time in the great outdoors. Maybe you've been thinking about taking a camping trip, but aren't exactly sure where to begin. There are some basic pieces of camping equipment that are essential for a successful camping trip.

Tent: If you don't already own a camping trailer, a tent is the cheapest and easiest form of shelter while camping. Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and price ranges. They are made to fit from 1-8+ people; some even have multiple rooms. Most tents are of nylon construction. Larger tents will have more than one entry/exit flap and multiple windows. All tents will have screen sections to allow airflow, with the option of a window cover to zip over the screen for colder nights. Most tents come with a "rain fly," a covering to keep rain out. It is imperative to have a waterproof tent. It's no fun waking up in a puddle after a big rainstorm!

Sleeping bag: After a tent, a warm sleeping bag is the second most important piece of camping gear to own. Sleeping bags, like tents, come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and price ranges. They are most commonly filled with either down or a synthetic filling. Sleeping bags are rated based on the temperature to which they will keep you warm. For example, a sleeping bag rated 45 degrees would keep you warm down to that temperature, but lower than 45 degrees and you would definitely start to feel the chill and be uncomfortable. Sleeping bags also have different weights and sizes when they are in a stuff sack. This is important to take into consideration if space is an issue.

Sleeping pad: While not an absolute necessity, a sleeping pad can make a significant difference in the quality of sleep you receive while on your camping trip. Many people consider it an essential piece of camping gear and wouldn't consider camping without one. A sleeping pad puts a layer between you and the ground. This helps to insulate you from the cold ground, and also provide comfort from the hard surface of the ground. A sleeping pad will also protect your body from the unavoidable pokes of twigs, rocks, and pine needles on the ground under your tent. There is a multitude of sleeping pads to choose from. If space is not an issue in your tent or car, you can also consider an air mattress as an alternative for a luxuriously thick sleeping surface.

Camp stove: Unless you plan on eating every meal out of the cooler, you'll need a camp stove to cook up some hot, yummy meals. The two main types of stoves are gas or propane. A basic stove usually comes with two burners, although you can buy single burner stoves and more powerful, multiple burner stoves. A two burner stove will suffice for most families. Don't forget matches or a lighter to light it with! Most camp stoves are not self-igniting.

Lantern or flashlight: It will eventually get dark out there, and having some lighting options is essential. A few good flashlights are a must, preferably with extra batteries. A lantern is a nice additional option to provide a large amount of light over a picnic table for late night game playing or chatting. Lanterns are usually propane or gas fueled.

If you take the time to assemble this list of items, you will have all of the basic camping gear you need to get started. Throw in some cooking supplies and food and you will be ready for your camping adventure!