Camping essentials: the ultimate checklist for sleeping in the great outdoors

No matter your reason for venturing into the great outdoors, here's the rundown of everything you'll need

Whether you're a camping pro or a bit of a novice, here's everything you need to think about before you head out into the great outdoors (Photo: Shutterstock)

Whether you’re heading out into the great outdoors for a music festival, to unplug from city life or just to try something new, it’s always wise to make a list of essential equipment needed for your next camping weekend.

Ranging from the obvious to the more obscure, here’s everything you’ll need for your next getaway.

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Choosing the right tent

Probably the most obvious piece of kit needed for your camping adventures, the tent you choose can make the difference between a comfortable night’s sleep and a waking nightmare.

What a tent can offer you really depends on your budget and what you’re doing. Hitting a festival and only need accommodation for the night? A budget tent will probably see you through fine. Anything more strenuous than that might call for something more substantial.

Waterproofing is essential, especially for any camping you plan on doing in the UK. You can get an idea of how watertight a tent is by looking out for the ‘hydrostatic head’ label. Ideally you’re looking for something above 1,500mm, as that will keep you protected from heavy rainfall.

Another thing to keep in the back of your mind is actually assembling the tent. Are you more invested in getting something up quickly, or are you willing to put in the time to get something more sturdy? Pop-up tents are a great fast option, but something with more structure might do better in adverse weather conditions.

Lastly, and possibly most importantly, is how many people a tent sleeps. While lots of tents claim to have space for four, the general rule of thumb is to divide the number the tent claims to sleep by two, unless you and your friends want to be sleeping sardine style.

Sleeping soundly

For a good night’s sleep while camping, a sleeping bag is vital.

There are a couple different factors to consider when selecting your sleeping bag. How you are getting to your campsite will dictate whether you can handle something heavy duty, how you sleep at night will determine the shape best for you, and the climate of the area you’re setting up camp will also need to be kept in mind.

For those that are serious about their camping comfort, a camping mat might also be a wise investment. There are a whole variety of camping mats out there to provide ultimate comfort - from self-inflating and foam to down-filled. It simply comes down to personal preference.

Carrying your kit

If you’re planning to do a bit of hiking or hill walking while on your camping adventure, a sturdy backpack is a necessity.

Of course, taking into consideration what you’re bringing with you and how big your bag needs to be to fit everything is merely the first step in finding your perfect rucksack.

If you’re doing a lot of walking in a hot climate, a backpack with adequate ventilation is what you should be looking out for, whereas if you’re sticking to the UK for your outdoor venturing, then waterproofing is key.


Prioritise practicality and comfort over style when it comes to which clothing to pack for a camping trip.

The right jacket can really make or break your foray into the outdoors - you don’t want to be soaked in a downpour, roasting in the heat or freezing in the cold. Women are recommended to look for a female-specific cut, as a slim fitting jacket will keep you warm.

If you’re anticipating some precipitation, then waterproof gear is a no brainer. Waterproof trousers for women and waterproof trousers for men come in different sizes, but ultimately whatever fits you best is what you should spend your money on.

Similarly to your tent, you’re going to want to check out the ‘hydrostatic head’ label on the trousers to measure up their waterproofing qualities. Avoid anything labelled as water resistant, as that will only see you through a light shower and nothing more.

Hiking boots

Seeing as your feet are going to be carrying you everywhere, it is absolutely paramount that you have a good pair of shoes to protect them. Obviously men’s and women’s hiking boots come in different sizes, but you’re looking out for the same features regardless of gender.

But first, much like everything else, you’re going to have to decide what you’re using your chosen footwear for, as that will narrow down your options. Fabric boots are more breathable in warm weather, but tend not to offer the same protection as leather boots in the cold.

Lots of hiking boots come in a high cut style, which offers benefits like warmth and protection on uneven ground, but if you’re looking at something more fast paced and during the summer, a low-cut shoe might be a better option.

The sole is the key part of the boots to consider - keep an eye out for something with light and bouncy soles, but with deep lugs. These are the indentations that help the boots grip, especially on wet or rough terrain.

If you’re looking to get some bouldering in then you’ll also need to invest in speciality bouldering shoes.

The extras

For some, getting away into nature presents a perfect opportunity to indulge in some photography. If that includes you then you might want to invest in the perfect bag to transport your camera on your travels. Depending on your level of expertise, you can choose between a simple bag for your camera, a full sized backpack for all your gear, or somewhere in between.

When you’re out and about in the middle of nowhere, it’s important to make sure you’re hydrating properly. When exerting a lot of energy, you need to be sure you’re looking after your body, and grabbing a quick drink isn’t as easy as just heading to the fridge. Invest in a quality reusable water bottle - your body, and the environment, will thank you.

Something else to consider is whether you’ll need a torch for your camping trip. Modern torches are portable and practical, and they may just come in handy when you can’t find something in the middle of the night.

If your camping destination is abroad, then a travel wallet and passport holder might be just the thing to keep your important documents organised, meaning one less thing to worry about when on your travels.

On that note, it might be worth considering a travel pillow that you can use both heading to your destination and when you’re hunkering down in your tent for the night.