Camping Planning

5 Essential camping items to buy for your first camping trip

If you’re toying with the idea of camping but have no gear and no idea, don’t fret! You don’t need to go crazy for your initial camping venture but there are some items you can’t really go camping without. Read on for my top 5 essential camping items to buy for your first trip.


The five essential items you need to camp


1. A tent

Starting with the basics, you will need a tent (unless you plan to sleep in the car). To help work out what type of tent will suit your needs, consider the following.

The type

If you’re tight on space I would suggest getting a ‘hiking’ tent. They take a little longer to construct than a camping swag but pack down into a small bag for easy storage. If you have space (or in other words, a very big car), consider a camping swag which will save you time setting up your camp. These simply roll out and you can even get one with a foam mattress built-in. I see a lot of people using camping swags but I don’t own one myself so I can’t say which is better. This will depend on what you think will suit your needs. 

The size

A ‘two-person tent’ literally fits two people side by side. Meaning it’s not actually big enough for two people to sleep in comfortably. At least not if you want extra space around the sides for bags. Instead, you will need a three-person or even a four-person tent. It’s worth considering whether you would like a porch area to walk into the tent, or a separate area for getting changed in. Although this can mean more poles and a longer set up time.

The height

If buying a tent, do you want to stand up inside? To get changed for example. This is something else to consider, although be mindful that more height can also mean the tent moves around a lot on a windy night.

The tent I have is a Kathamandu Retreat 80 3 Person Tent and I’d recommend it for its size, quality and ease of setting up.

If you’re really not sure you’re going to like camping and don’t want to invest a lot up front, look for second-hand tents instead, on a site like Gumtree. Just make sure you always set up the tent before you go away to check everything is in order. This applies to buying any tent (new or used). You don’t want to be working out how to set it up late at night after a long drive. And you definitely don’t want to discover a pole is missing in the dark!


tent essential camping item
Kathamandu Retreat 80 3 Person Tent


2. An airbed

I cannot recommend the Kathmandu Retreat TPU Double Airbed enough. As someone who normally struggles with their sleep, getting a good airbed and paying more than I would normally to get one was non-negotiable. It was $100 in the sale (down from $200) but 3 years later and I’m still getting a strangely exceptional night’s sleep on it (better than a mattress). So that $100 quickly became 100% worth it. And if for some reason (I cannot think of) you never go camping again after your first trip, an airbed will always come in useful when having people over to stay.


3. An air pump

My advice is to go electric and go cordless. At the time I bought mine, I was amazed by how expensive these were in camping shops (over $50) but this rechargeable air pump from Kmart is only $25 and means it can be recharged quickly after each camping trip. If you can’t get to a Kmart easily, order one online. It will still be cheaper than other camping brands with the delivery fee included. I’ve had mine for 3 years now and it still works a treat.

Tip: Get extra use out of this item when starting a campfire! Simply point it at the base of the fire to give it a burst of oxygen and you’ll have a roaring fire in no time. Check if there are any fire bans in place before you ever start a fire when camping but if it’s safe to do, believe me, this really saves time getting the fire going.


4. Plastic plates and cups

For your first camping trip, it’s likely not essential to buy anything to cook on as a lot of campsites provide gas BBQs (if one isn’t provided these are my camping stove recommendations). However, it’s a good idea to buy some outdoor plates and cups.


5. An esky

Or, a cool box if you’re British. I debated whether having your own camping chair to sit on was more essential than an Esky but sided with keeping your food cool. If I’m being honest, being able to keep the beers cold, was the clincher.

I’ve found the Dometic 22L to be a good size and the most effective when it comes to keeping everything cool for a whole weekend. You will need to add ice or refreeze your ice packs if you are away for longer.


esky essential camping item
Cheeseboards could also be considered essential for camping

Tip: Re-use your plastic water bottles by topping them up with water and freezing them instead of buying ice packs. It also means you won’t be as precious about keeping it in the communal camp kitchen to re-freeze overnight if you need to.


Other essential camping items to take with you

You will most likely have these items already and I would recommend taking them with you.

  • Bedding and pillows: Just swipe them off your bed and put them in the car.
  • A charged smartphone: For directions, communications, general survival and the torch function for when it gets dark.
  • Cutlery and tongs: To cook with on the BBQ and anything you would normally take for a picnic or BBQ.
  • Washing up kit: Sponge or cloth, washing up liquid and a tea towel.
  • A first aid kit
  • Mosquito spray


Tip: Take some baking paper with you in place of washing up. This is a game-changer when it comes to using public BBQs! Simply cover the whole BBQ before you cook and it removes the need to clean it after use.

There’s no point in spending a fortune on your first camping trip in case you end up hating it so these are my camping essentials to try it out. Camping isn’t for everyone and these are what I started with for my first camping trip but if you do love it, my gear has grown to include more items for a more comfortable experience.  But if you’re contemplating your first trip away, or tagging along with mates, then these 5 items are all you need. 


Happy camping!