I have previously discussed (see Renting Gear makes Sense for New Campers) how prospective new camping families can save money by renting gear, or buying used gear. In addition to the lower initial cash outlay, a big advantage to renting is that your family gets to find out what kind of gear you like, without getting stuck with something that doesn’t work for you. Whichever route you decide to take, there are a few items to round-out your camping kit that you should consider buying new.
Yes, whether you rented or bought a tent, it came with tent stakes. But regardless of how much money you paid for it, they are most certainly short, flimsy, and inadequate for any camping outside of your backyard. Good tent stakes that will keep your tent from blowing over in the middle of the night (and it always seems to happen in the middle of the night) come in two varieties. The first type of tent stake looks like a 10 to 12-inch metal spike. These are great for most situations, except loose soil conditions. For loose soil, a blade-type of tent stake performs much better.
Coffee pot and/or tea kettle
Whether your preference is coffee, tea or hot cocoa, a coffee pot or tea kettle is the best way to heat water over an open fire or on a camp stove. Even in the middle of summer, there’s no replacement for a nice, hot cup of your favorite beverage to get you going in the morning, or warm you up after the sun goes down.
Simplicity is the name of the game when it comes to camping cookware, so look for traditional percolators and kettles that are thick and heavy, so that they can survive repeated use on a hot fire grate, or gas burner. Remember that when cooking over a campfire, everything tends to get hot, including handles, so be sure to pack hot pads or oven mitts. For this same reason, avoid products with insulated, or plastic, handles.
When we first started camping, we would just take a case of bottled water with us, which was more than sufficient for a weekend of camping for our family of five. We quickly discovered, however, that all of those empty water bottles create a small mountain of trash – and trash is not always easy to deal with in a camping situation. Of course, later on we started hearing about the harmful effects of BPA (Bisphenol A, a plastic additive) and quit using bottled water, altogether.
Sports bottles come in various forms of plastic (all the popular ones are now BPA free), aluminum, and stainless steel. Note that only the stainless steel versions are suitable for hot liquids, as even the aluminum bottles have a thin plastic liner.
An ice chest is useful for so many different family functions, like birthday parties and sports events, that it makes sense to purchase your own. The newer five and six-day ice chests work so well that they really justify buying new, also. We have found that our 72-quart model is sufficient for our needs, but if we needed more room we would get a second ice chest, instead of a larger one. A 72-quart ice chest is plenty heavy, when you factor-in the weight of the ice.
Bag chairs are cheap (see The Great Bag Chair Shootout) enough that everyone in the family can have their own and it really is a lot more comfortable to sit around the campfire in a chair, than on the cold hard ground.