Camping is an incredibly fun activity when done right, but a lot of people, especially first-time campers, tend to underestimate the importance of having the right camping gear. If you’re only going out for a night or two, you don’t need to have too many things, but a good sleeping bag, quality tent, comfortable backpack, and a nice light are absolutely crucial.
When it comes to a sleeping bag, you have two options – synthetic or down filled.
Synthetic bags tend to be a bit more affordable, and if it gets wet, they maintain their insulation rather well. However, they don’t pack too well, because they’re thick, and to add to this, they’re a bit heavy. If you’re going to be hiking more than a couple of miles to get to your destination, you don’t want extra weight on your shoulders.
On the other hand, a down filled sleeping bag is usually the more premium pick, for a few reasons. One, it can be packed incredibly small, taking up minimal space in or on your backpack, and it’s incredibly lightweight, too, so you barely feel it as a weight when you’re hiking. To add to this, they’re immensely comfortable when you set them up, and perform admirably when it’s dry. And here’s the kicker – they’ll keep that level of performance even if you use them extensively for a couple of years, which makes them somewhat more expensive pricing worth it.
To keep things short, a synthetic bag is good if you’re camping in the wet, or you want to save money. Otherwise, go for the more premium variant and enjoy a more comfortable night’s sleep. Oh, and make sure you go for a temperature rating suitable for the conditions.
The key to picking a tent is how you’re going to use it. If you’re primarily going to camp during the summer, you want a tent with solid ventilation. If you camp often during the winter, or during colder months, insulation and wind resistance is a bit more important. It’s important that you pick the tent according to the conditions you will primarily be using it in.
The other big thing about tents is to pick the right capacity. Make a note of how many people will sleep in it – are you camping alone or with a partner? Do you have kids you’d like to bring? Keep those things in mind when you’re considering the capacity, and here’s one more thing to consider: each person needs about a foot or two of elbow room so they can sleep comfortably, so make sure that’s included in your calculation, too.
These are the most basic things that should have you covered when you’re buying your first tent, but a more extensive guide might come in handy if you want to take things up a notch.
Many people seem to believe the misconception that the main thing about a backpack is its capacity. And while it’s certainly up there in the list of priorities, it’s not first, but second. First comes a good weight distribution.
A backpack with a good weight distribution will put the weight equally from top to bottom, rather than having one or two pressure points. Pressure points can get nasty over a longer period of time, and you’ll notice cramps and pain, which are things you want to avoid at all costs. Of course, how you pack things inside the backpack matters too in terms of weight distribution, but a solid backpack goes a long way.
Then come things like capacity, the number of pockets and sections inside and outside, but these are all individual things that you should decide based on how you do your camping and what things you’d like to take. Having a couple of extra liters when it comes to capacity is always a good idea – they don’t weigh you down if you’re not using them, and with good weight distribution, you won’t feel them at all.
Last but not least, a quality light that’s built well and has some kind of weather resistance can also go a long way towards making your camping trip more enjoyable. And here’s a tip that might come in handy: opt for a headlamp, rather than a handheld lamp. It’s going to keep your hands free, and you want them to be free when you’re setting up your tent and sleeping bag, or you’re making dinner for yourself. Some things just can’t be done with one hand.
There are a lot of criteria to choosing the right headlamp, but if it’s your first and you just want it to be a nice experience, get one that’s budget-oriented, isn’t too heavy, gets bright, and has replaceable batteries. Then, just throw a few spare batteries in your backpack and you’re good to go – you can replace them in mere minutes if they’re empty.
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