Camping Gear to Round-Out Your Kit

Bag chairs are inexpensive and much more confortable than the cold, hard ground

Bag chairs are inexpensive and much more confortable than the cold, hard ground

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.

Tent stakes

Heavy duty spike vs. blade-type tent stake

Heavy duty spike vs. blade-type tent stake

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

Probably the coolest tea kettle I've ever seen - this cast iron baby is perfect for campfire duty (affiliate link)

The coolest tea kettle I've ever seen - this cast iron baby is perfect for campfire duty

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.

Water bottles

Water bottles come in (left to right) stainless steel, aluminum and plastic.

Water bottles come in (left to right) stainless steel, aluminum and plastic.

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.

Ice Chest

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.

See also…

7 thoughts on “Camping Gear to Round-Out Your Kit

  1. Jenn – I’ve been wanting one of those roll up aluminum tables (or maybe two). My tables are junk and they take up a lot of space. I haven’t written specifically about my Thermos and Stanley mug, but they are awesome!

  2. Oh me again! I think a must have in today’s electronic world, even if you are not camping, is an Inverter that plugs into the plugs in your car. Sometimes I use an Aerobed airmattress and that’s how I blow it up.

  3. A rubber mallet to pound those stakes in, and a S shaped tool to pull them out.

    I also have a roll up metal table, but it had no directions and I don’t know how to set it up. Need to problem solve that one but recommend a separate table. Also have a short round metal folding table (folds like a TV tray) and is very useful for cooking sitting down, or beside a cot in a tent, or between chairs around the campfire.

    Love that cast iron tea pot! When I start cooking, I start a pot of water to boil for cleanup.

    Is there a topic in here about Thermos? Somewhere I picked up a nuclear type Thermos. I fill it with boiling water before I go to bed. Water is still boiling hot after 24 hours. This is my hot water in the morning for coffee and instant breakfast cereal. If I plan ahead, I get all this together in the car at night, then get up early enough to drive over to the lake, set up chair, little metal table, make coffee/cereal and watch the sunrise.

  4. Hank – that’s true, we carry one for our stove. With 3 kids, we take up too much room on the picnic table to put the stove there 🙂

  5. Excellent idea – we pack 2 of them so (like you said) we can use one for a ground cover if needed. Also, you need 2 for those long picnic tables that most of the parks seem to have.

  6. Three cheers for quality stakes (and steaks, but that’s a different comment). If I had a nickel for every cheap, aluminum stake I’ve bent in half… well, I could probably buy a bag of the good ones. Here’s another must-have: A rubber-backed picinic blanket (or two). These are great for laying out on the ground for the kids to play on. They also work as a tablecloth, or tent footprint (in a pinch). Back home, throw ’em in the wash and they’re good as new.

    Mike Hahn’s last blog post..Vegas, baby…