What do you NEED to go camping?

A huge part of planning a large scale trip, and one of the biggest drawbacks for people who want to start camping, is gear.

So what do you even need for your basic campout?



  • Campsite
  • Ground Pad (or air mattress if you’re glamping)
  • Tent (optional)
  • Cooking method
  • Cooking utensils
  • Food

Okay, so a lot of times people have this mental list of all thing things they “need” to go camping. They have decided that it requires a tent, ground pad, sleeping bag, specialty pillow, specialty stove, special utensils, special clothes, special coolers, and on and on it goes. People end up racking up hundreds of dollars in things they supposedly “need” to go camping.

But it’s not all that.

If you go to a nearby state park or check out hipcamp.com to use someone’s property, there are really only a few things you need. You could even camp under the stars without a tent if you are up for it, or make a rain fly out of a tarp for some protection. I prefer a tent, so this is how it looked for us before we had gear.

We got a tent with gift cards from our wedding so we lucked out there, but we got it from Target. If you’re just starting out, you don’t need a to head to REI and get an ultralight tent. A Coleman tent from Target will do just fine.


Here’s my Target tent! We’ve had it for 9 years and it is still going strong.

We bought some cheap ground pads although honestly, some of those egg crates or even a mattress pad would have been just as good because the ones we bought were barely a step up from the ground. My kids actually don’t mind sleeping directly on the ground as long as there aren’t rocks, so you have that option too.

So did we buy fancy sleeping bags or…. no. No, we didn’t. The husband had an old sleeping bag from high school and we had a lot of blankets that we took of our bed. We also brought our regular pillows from our house. Ta-da, your accommodations are taken care of!

So now for the next most important part – eating. You have to eat. As you can see here I brought a cooler and a large tub for this campout but before that, we used cardboard boxes that were leftover from having items shipped to our house or wedding presents. If you don’t want to worry about cooking (I have done a no-cook campout before), you can just bring granola bars, cereal, dried fruit, apples, and anything that does not need to be refrigerated. And for the first night, you could pack yourself a sandwich or something that can last outside the fridge for a short time.

But if you do want to cook, you have two options. You can buy a camp stove or you can learn to cook over a fire. The good news is that you’ll probably want a fire either way because campouts feel sad without a fire. Wood is cheaper than a stove and often times can be purchased (or even must be purchased) at your campground. Make sure that the wood is good and dry or it won’t do much good. I’ll talk in another post about the best ways to get a fire started, but for now, let’s just assume you can start a fire (bring some newspaper or something to help you out). Ta-da, stove.

When we first started out, guess where we got our cooking pans and utensils? If you guessed our house, you are on the money. We just brought our own pots/pans and spatulas or whatever we needed. We stored food in the cooler with two bags of ice and ate on paper plates. (note: make sure to bring trash bags and properly dispose of your trash) We actually ate canned chili with our first kid campout and had to open the chili with a Swiss Army Knife because I forgot a can opener. You live, you learn, you never bring canned goods on a campout again (if you’re me).

Most campsites have a fire ring – this is the safe place for your fire

So now you have no excuse. It’s so clear that you need very little to start camping and the cost of a campsite is often times under $10.

So, where will you go?!

See you Outside!


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