5 Non-Essentials to Consider this Summer

If you got a few family camping trips under your belt last summer, then you probably have a good start on some core camping gear and are ready to hit the backcountry. Some camping gear cannot really be classified as “essential” but it sure makes your life a lot easier, or safer, around the campsite. Here are five items that we have acquired, over the years, that have become an essential part of our camping gear, even though they don’t show-up on very many camping gear lists.

Weather Radio

Midland weather radio for family campingYou don’t have to live in the tornado belt in order to justify a good weather radio. Thunderstorms and lightening can crop-up at the most inopportune times, like a Saturday afternoon in the backcountry. A weather radio, like those offered by Eton® and Midland®, can warn you of potentially dangerous weather conditions in your area. Models with Specific Area Message Encoding, or S.A.M.E., can be set to only alert you about conditions in specific counties, which reduces false alarms.


daypack for hikingThe first few times you take your family camping, you might find yourself sticking around the campsite and getting familiar with the camping routine. Eventually, however, you and your family are going to want to venture out on the trail and see some sights. A daypack is the best way to carry all of that “stuff” that makes family hikes go smoothly. Snacks, water, camera and hopefully the “10 Essentials” will all fit inside a small daypack.

Topo Maps

topo maps are great for exploring around the campground

Once you start becoming a regular at certain campgrounds, you will probably want to find out more about what there is to see around those favorite sites. Topo maps are the best way to discover waterfalls, compare trails and generally get ideas on places to go around the area. Generic topo maps are available directly from the USGS, or from commercial companies that provide more customized maps. The cost of a map from either source is very reasonable.

Rollup Table

Rollup table for the camp kitchenIf you are still cooking with your camp stove on the picnic table, it might be time to take a good look at aluminum rollup tables. Rollup tables provide a stable surface for cooking, freeing up valuable room on the picnic table and keep the hot stove away from little hands. Best of all, they roll up to about the size of camp chairs, making them much more portable than folding tables.


A dishpan is great for washing at the campsiteOne of the most-used pieces of camping gear we own isn’t even made for camping. The Rubbermaid® 15.25 Qt. Dishpan is perfect for washing dishes or clothes, because it is deep enough to hold larger items. The handles are great, too, if you have to carry water back to the campsite.

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15 thoughts on “5 Non-Essentials to Consider this Summer

  1. I’ve have a lot of crazy camp gadgets, but my all time favorite is my weather radio. My family gathers around it in the evening before hitting the sack. Its a great tool for teaching children and adds a little security.

    • We are stuck with a non-folding table, right now. I really want a rollup, though, because it will be so much easier to pack in the car.

  2. We love our dishpan. You’re right, they are definately must haves. We have one hard plastic one and a collapsible “Kitchen Sink” version. It’s nice to have one for the wash and one for the rinse water. Also, the hard one works well for collecting tinder.

    And I agree Roy, we stopped using the paper plates/plastic utensils since they are not “green” and went back to the old school style camping and wash our dishes.

    We use our daypacks everywhere and love having the weather radio just in-case. I don’t have the table yet, but I’ve had my eye on the REI roll up table too.

    • Karen – that’s true, the dishpan is just the right size for carrying all kinds of stuff, like tender.

  3. A dishpan is a must. It also carries my cleaning supplies. Be containerized is a must too. Having a weather radio is one of the most important things have anywhere you go in the outdoors.

  4. Great list…simple, but you are right, they aren’t often on the “must have” list.

    I too love the dishpan. Might need to check that out before we do a summer camping trip! Tks!

      • LOL…exactly Roy! 🙂

        I know, I can’t remember the last time I used paper/plastic when camping. Ever since I was little we’ve had those re-usable/washable camping kits.

  5. A dishpan has definitely made our must-have gear list, too. I love that your Rubbermaid choice has handles – something I should look into.