This guide is for individuals, couples, or families who are interested in trying car camping. The following recommendations are not for backcountry camping, and are comfort-oriented for a “DIY glamping” type of experience. I fully recognize that many of the following items are not necessary, but my experience has been that comfortable campers are happy campers, and I’m proud to take credit for converting several friends who had never camped before, or who were skeptical about it, into willing, maybe even enthusiastic, campers. 🙂
This is not a sponsored post and the links provided are not affiliate links. I’m sharing this list of tried and true items that we have purchased and used on our own camping trips, and that we like enough to have recommended to our friends and family. I have provided links throughout this list. Most of our items were purchased from REI or Amazon, though some are from small shops such as power practical (luminoodle), miir (insulated camp cups), rumpl (sleeping bag like throws and blankets) and beautiful sackcloth and ashes throws.
DIY Tent Glamping Basics:
- Tent – We have the REI Kingdom 6. The general rule of thumb for comfortable family camping is to choose a tent at least +2 greater than the number of people you intend to sleep on the tent. We’re a family of 4, so bought the 6 person version. Some of our friends who like to spread out more or have older kids bought the 8 person version, and have plenty of room in their tent to fit 2 queen air mattresses, and have space in the front for storage and indoor card / board games (handy, in case of less desirable weather) . We also bought the tent footprint to keep the bottom clean and dry.
- Sleep system – We use air mattresses, and sleep comfortably while camping. Well, at least my husband and kids do. I always seem to have a hard time falling and staying asleep on the first night of camping. We have the REI Queen Sleep system , and it is such a comfortable air mattress, we’ve even used it at home when guests come over! We also have the Coleman twin cot which I got a super deal on, but mainly use just the air mattress part on the ground next to the queen bed.
- Cozy Blankets and Throws: The comforter that came with the REI sleep system is warm enough for summer camping in Southern California. For additional warmth and lounging by campfire, we like our Pendleton wool camp blanket and Rumpls (we have the original throw, but recently got a down blanket which is so light and packs down so small!) For a budget option, Costco is currently offering these down throw blankets.
- Sleeping Bag: After a very chilly camping experience, we found a sleeping bag necessary for camping down to 20 degrees F. Once we got this Teton Sports queen sleeping bag (I snuggled with my two boys – Jason slept in a 20 year old north face sleeping bag we already had), we were nice and warm. This sleeping bag is very cozy, but quite bulky (imagine two comforters), so if space/storage is a concern, down will pack down lighter but at a heftier $$$.
- Pillows: We’ve tried a few, and these thermarest compressible pillows are the most comfortable.
- Lighting: We got lanterns from Costco. We brought flashlights for the kids. My favorite lighting product are these black diamond Moji lanterns which are small but mighty, and can be hung on a carabiner to the top of your tent to provide a good amount of light at night.
Camp stove: Coleman triton with ignitor
- Cooking Table/storage: GCI Outdoor slim-fold Camp Kitchen Portable folding cook station
- Coffee supplies: We use a Stainless Steel french press, or this collapsible drip coffee maker. Our friends have had success with a percolater.
Cast iron pan with Lodge cast iron pan silicon handle
Oven mitts: Dont’ forget to protect your hands when handling hot kettles or roasting sticks.
Enamelware dining set: Coleman, and for Glamping, we have this beautiful dipped set from Barnyard Electric. It is $$$ and was a birthday gift, but we use them year-round and quite frequently for our backyard dinners and with the kids (enamel ware = childproof and unbreakable!) Recently, Ikea started carrying a very affordable and classy looking enamelware mug and plate.
- Camp cooking utensil set. This set has everything you really need.
Camp collapsible dish bin
Scrub brush for doing dishes
- Camp soap: campsuds
- Egg Storage: It really works and keeps our eggs from crushing!
- Cooler: Coleman stainless steel belted. We recently caved and got a Yeti (it was a birthday gift- do you see a theme? 🙂 Hopper flip and it really is amazing – keeps food cold all day in the summer heat with proper ice packs in place and doesn’t sweat. We were skeptical, but it really has outperformed all our other coolers, and it’s a perfect size for road trips and picnics.
- NOTE: On some camping trips (i.e. when water is limited), we have found it easier to use biodegradable disposable plates, rather bring all our enamel ware and do dishes. These not only look great, but they are really effective kindling as well!
- pop up trash can
- bath caddy or hanging organizer
- biodegradable soup: from REI
- microfiber towels – These are great and less bulky. I think they might be seasonal but you can find them at Ikea for a great low price.
- nalgene travel leakproof bottles for toiletries
- Don’t forget your camp chairs: we have an assortment of REI camp chair, coleman kids chairs, coleman adult chairs
- Camp organization: We have this ozark trail folding end table with cup holder.
- Camp table: It’s really nice to have a table to set things on when sitting by the campfire. For example, you’re s’mores or hot chocolate. I got a used Trekology table on sale off amazon.
- Luminoodle: I love these colored rope lights – they add a splash of color to your tent. Makes it easy to pick out your tent when it is dark out and you are walking back from the bathroom.
- Tablecloth: adds ambience and provides a trusty clean surface. Tablecloth weights: coleman watermelon table weights
- Glowsticks for the kids
- Telescoping Smore’s sticks: We like these ones.
- Mystic Fire – turns campfire into a rainbow. Everyone loves this!
- Gas campfire: We have the Camco big red campfire, and it comes in handy in Southern California where there are often wood fire bans.
- Kids play tent I found one on sale for a little over $10. This is nice to have because it provides shade for kids in summer, and a place to play. Meanwhile, they don’t track a ton of dirt into your actual tent.
- Doormat: I got a cheap one from target. Keeps the dirt from tracking into the tent if you’re camping by the beach or some other dirt campsite. We did not find this necessary when camping on grass.
- Bring from home: Scooters or bikes for kids.
I hope you find this list helpful. Again, this is just a guide and what has worked for us. None of this is “necessary” for having fun. As I prefaced, for some – a simple tarp will suffice. We did not buy all of this gear at once, but have accumulated items over the years. We generally wait until things are on sale – Labor day and Memorial day tend to be sale times for outdoor gear. There may be some black friday specials as well. We have not received any sponsorship for any of these items on this list, but are enthusiastic about camping, and are open to additional suggestions and/or opportunities to review new products. I don’t mention this in this post, but we organize our camp gear into several large bins, which we then store in our garage – always ready for our next trip. Happy Camping!