I Wish Someone Had Told Me… the Best Camping Gear to get for Newbies

When it came time for me to get my own camping gear, it took a lot of research. Here’s a list of camping gear I own and love! The pros and cons to each and the gear I’m still looking to buy. 

Before you pull buy any gear, always look for a discount! You can become a lifetime member with REI for a one time fee of $20 and then for certain purchases you’ll get credit back to spend at the store. (My mom got a dividend of like $600 one year! She’s a spender. My dividend is more like $60 a year and it’s still awesome.) It’s fun to dream about what to spend the store credit on.  Last year Tom got hiking boots and this year we put it towards an Osprey day pack.

Tent: MSR Papa Hubba NX 4 Person Backpacking Tent

When I was researching tents, I wanted to get one that I could take backpacking and car camping. (I didn’t want two separate tents, so I figured it would be best to get a backpacking tent that can be used for car camping. Logical and cheap.) This tent is phenomenal for both! It’s incredibly small, light weight and is easy to set up! Fits in our backpacks great and takes up hardly any space in our car when we go car camping. My parents have the Marmot Halo 4 Person Tent that they use for car camping and it’s incredibly heavy and takes up a decent amount of space when packed away. (Every time I see it “packed” away I go, “Wait, that’s your tent?!” They store it in a large military duffle bag.) Their tent is easier to get in and out of and has more head space but the MSR Papa Hubba is more aerodynamic. Another awesome feature with the MSR Papa Hubba are that the cords used to hold the tent down are reflective so you don’t trip over them in the dark! It’s a small feature that goes a long way.  

I know what you’re thinking, “My God you should love the tent! It’s $600 flippen dollars!” We didn’t pay $600! We found a discount and bought it off backcountry.com for less. I don’t remember how much we paid but I can tell you we didn’t pay $600! Look for discounts and never pay full price. 

(Side note: Most tents don’t come with the foot print. Ours was an extra $50 but it’s worth.  You already spent at least $400 so what’s an extra $50 at that point, amiright?) 

Overnight Packs: Osprey Men’s Atmos AG 50 Backpack and The North Face Women’s Terra 55 Exploration Pack Dapple
Day Packs: Osprey Stratos 24 Backpack

I’m a bag junky so this is my favorite part of camping! Does anyone else love the sound of the fabric moving and the zippers and the fun hidden pockets, or is that just me…? 

Tom has the Osprey 50 Liter pack and if I could go back – I would buy an Osprey pack. It fits better on the hips and is built better. I bought my North Face pack based off of color and a couple of reviews but mainly color. My pack works fine and gets the job done but the Osprey one just feels better. That’s about it. 


Sleeping pads: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Venture Lightweight Camping Air Mattress

Before buying online – check the size! Apparently there are kid sized sleeping pads and we accidentally bought one… we then drove out 8 hours to camp in the Badlands and didn’t discover our small sleeping pad until 9pm and in the middle of BFE (bum f**king Egypt)… It was a long night. 

These sleeping pads pack down to about the size of a Nalgene bottle. They don’t self inflate (that’s what keeps them light though) so we got the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump. You can easily blow them up yourself but I get weirded out with the potential moisture buildup and the pump doesn’t add much weight (note, it takes 2 triple A batteries). 

The Therm-a-Rest sleeping pad works great with our short tent. They don’t add any height (unlike thick air mattresses) but are still surprisingly comfy! Ours aren’t very wide but you can buy a wider version. I’m a side sleeper and it still works for me. I don’t wake up with my shoulder hurting and my hips stay off the ground. If you’re not going to be backpack camping, you would probably want to get thicker sleeping pads and a taller tent anyway. But if you’re looking for gear to do both with, I recommend these mats! 

Hiking Boots: KEEN Women’s Targhee II Hiking Boots and Vasque Men’s Monolith Hiking Boots

My parents bought me a pair of Keens for my birthday and at first I thought “Oh golly. I just aged 25 years!” Mostly because I’ve only ever seen 50 year olds wearing them, but in all honesty I love them! (Amazing footwear is worth every penny… Still find a deal or at least get the REI dividend.) You can wear these boots year round. I wear them hiking in the winter and they keep my feet warm and they get traction. I’ve also worn them all over the island of Oahu and even got a unexpected compliment on them while climbing the Koko Crater Railway Trail. They were the only shoes I packed on our trip to Hawaii. (We planned a lot of hiking! Want to know how un-relaxing a Hawaiian vacation can be? Let Tom and I plan it, we hit 20,000 steps before noon most days.) 

Tom owns a pair of Vasque’s boots and we bought them with the REI dividend. (He also got a complement on them by some stoned high school kids while we were on the top of a pill box. It was a good hike.) He likes them for the most part but for some reason he thinks he should own hiking shoes instead… I think boots are more practical but he’s the one wearing them. So think on if you prefer a hiking boot or a hiking shoe before buying. 

Solar Lanters: MPOWERD Luci – The Original Inflatable Solar Light

Blow up solar lanterns are awesome! You can clip little carabiners onto them and hang on the outside of your pack while hiking so they charge or you can set them on the picnic table when car camping. By the time you’re ready to crawl into your tent, they will have plenty of juice. These guys are light weight and collapsable. Just blow them up when you’re ready to use them and turn em on. They works great for inside the tent and we hang ours inside the tent and use it to read or play cards. 

Headlamps: Black Diamond Spot Headlamp

Needed. Buy now. These head lamps are great! (Black Diamond) They’ve done us well. I know you can buy cheaper ones but I’m not sure how long they will last. If you have kids, just get them the cheapies. But you want a nice headlamp that will last and get the job done – I recommend these. 

Things We Need:

Sleeping bags! I’m looking for two that are light weight (backpacking capable) and that can be zipped together. Otherwise, I’m debating the Kelty Tru.Comfort 20 Degree Double Wide Sleeping Bag… which only checks off the double sleeping bag requirement and nothing else… The jury is still out on if I should pop on it or not.