I grew up camping. I loved sleeping in a tent with my mom, dad, and sister; waking to the smell of my dad cooking bacon over a fire; playing games; and making s'mores. Thinking back, it was such a sweet time in my life.
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Now that I'm grown-up and have my own family, I'm happy to say that the camping tradition lives on. I first turned my husband onto the joys of camping early in our relationship (he eventually proposed to me while camping in the Joshua Tree), and we now continue to camp with our kids. (We've even set up a no-fail system for packing.)
Here's one thing to know about me: I get really excited thinking about camping gear. And throughout the years, I've found some things that are either need-to-have or nice-to-haves — but really, to me, they're all must-haves. Here are some of my favorite things I like to bring to the great outdoors
These are very bright, so if you're going for a dim, moody light, these are not what you're looking for. However, if you're walking from point A to point B in the dark, you're going to want some light. We love how these expand and collapse, because compact is key. Speaking of, the top of the lid has a small space for storing things like keys or spare batteries.
Everyone we go camping with is so grateful when we pull out this table, because you always need more table space. (If our site comes with a picnic table, I like to keep that for dining and games only.) It's lightweight and easy to set up. We use it to hold our camping stove, and also for food prep or for setting up our morning coffee bar. Speaking of coffee …
Heaven looks like this to me: it's early morning, I'm sitting outdoors in a camping chair, surrounded by nature, with a cup of joe in hand. The coffee part is essential. I love YETI mugs because they keep my coffee nice and hot for a long time. (It's the insulation and top lid that does the trick.) So, I can just sit and relax knowing my coffee won't go cold on me. Trust me, it may be pricey, but this mug is worth it.
I admire those who plan on cooking all their meals over a campfire, however we've learned that we also need a camp stove. It's great for heating up water in the morning for your French press, scrambling eggs in a minute when someone is "starving," and making grilled cheese sandwiches for an easy lunch. This runs on propane, so don't forget to pick up some of that as well.
You didn't think I was going to let that French press remark go by, did you? Remember how I said the coffee part is essential? Well, this is how you make it while camping: in a durable, insulated French press.
Such a simple product, but so smart. When we pack our eggs in our cooler, we always place them in this handy holder. It's made of hard plastic, so your eggs are protected and won't get crushed. It holds one dozen eggs, so depending on you long you're going, you might want two.
For us, it's not a camping trip unless s'mores are involved. When it's time to break out the marshmallows, we use these roasting forks. They extend so you don't have to get too close to the flame, are made of stainless steel, and they come with protective coverings to put over the sharp parts of the forks when not in use.
My younger days of sleeping on the ground are long gone. When tent camping, we always bring blow up mattresses for everyone. I love camping, but come on. When I sleep, I want comfort. This is a need-to-have.
My husband and I have this, and I'm surprised how much I love it. At home, we sleep on a king-size bed because we like to stretch out, plus our two dogs share it with us. But when camping, we choose this two-person queen-size sleeping bag — it's quite cozy. Especially during cold nights when we can snuggle down. But, if you try it out and find it's not for you, it can easily detach into two individual sleeping bags.
Say what, now? A chandelier on a camping trip? Yes. We hang a cute little plastic chandelier from the center of our tent and it adds unexpected charm. The glow at night when you're getting ready for bed is really sweet. We use one that is meant to stick to the top of a locker, but with some clips and imagination, we're able to McGuyver our very own hanging light fixture.
Really, all these items are just some of the products I love to bring with me. There are many other products that can make your outdoor living easier, such as a Leatherman multi-tool; a hammock; waterproof matches; a headlamp; a hand towel with a snap hook; compact cookware ... I could go on and on. Because camping is meant to be fun — and it is! — especially when you got the right gear.