7 Often Overlooked Items You Should Have When Camping

Updated on July 15, 2019
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John is a fervent writer, gamer, and guitar lover. Former automatic-transmission repairer, current welder and hobbyist game developer.

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Anyone who’s been camping will no doubt have experienced that sigh-inducing moment where you find yourself needing the one thing that you either forgot to pack—or worse still; never even thought about packing. Even experienced campers can forget something essential, especially when they’re going on a family camping trip and have to worry about getting their children ready to go.

This article is going to go over seven essential (but easily forgotten) pieces of gear you should make sure you have in your kit before heading out. And we’re not going to be talking tents or sleeping bags here, those shouldn’t need saying for even a complete novice camper.

Please, don’t forget your tents and sleeping bags!

1. Water Butt

This can really mean any container for keeping water in. A water butt, canteen, even a used soda bottle. The chances are, you’ll have access to water somewhere near your pitch. Be it a water source in your campsite, or even a natural stream near the spot you’re sneakily wild camping in. You’ll still want to have something to carry water in, however, and you’d be surprised how often inexperienced campers overlook this small but crucial detail. Having access to running water is nice, but it’s still a pain to have to walk across the campsite to get a cups-worth when you want a coffee.

If you are camping somewhere where you expect to be getting your water from natural sources, be sure to include some kind of filtration system with your water storage. It should go without saying that no filtration system should be considered sufficient by itself, however. Always boil your water.

There are many ways to store water when camping, including canteens like the ones pictured.
There are many ways to store water when camping, including canteens like the ones pictured. | Source

2. Fire Starter

If space is not an issue, perhaps a gas igniter will also do the trick. However, if you’re trying to keep the mass of your travel gear to a minimum, a small lighter or a set of (preferably waterproof) matches should always be part of your camping kit. Even if you have no intention of lighting a fire, or your camping stove comes with its own ignition system. Plans change, parts fail, but having the ability to ignite a fire when camping is always better to have and not need than to need and not have.

Of course, proper caution should always be exercised when working with fire, particularly if you’re wild camping or in any region where the climate is or has been especially dry.

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3. First Aid

Quite possibly the most overlooked piece of kit in camping, a first aid kit should be considered absolutely crucial, whether you’re wild camping miles from anywhere, or you’re in the middle of a packed family-friendly campsite with outstanding facilities.

First aid kits are one of those items that you can probably go on half a dozen camping trips and never need, but the one time you do need it, you’ll be very glad you brought it. Camping first aid kits can be as comprehensive as you like. Obviously, the more you put in your kit, the more space it will take up. But as a bare minimum, have plasters, something to disinfect any potential wounds, and pain killers, such as paracetamol. If you want to go above and beyond the bare minimum, consider adding a roll of bandage and some gauze to your kit, and possibly even CPR mouth barrier (assuming someone on your trip knows how to administer CPR).

A camping first aid kit doesn't need to have everything, but you should definitely have a kit with you when you hit the trails.
A camping first aid kit doesn't need to have everything, but you should definitely have a kit with you when you hit the trails. | Source

4. Raincoat

Now, if you’re camping somewhere in the UK, the chances are you won’t forget to bring a decent coat. Conversely, if you’re camping in a Californian desert, the chances are you won’t need a coat. But for climates where rain is a realistic possibility, some kind of waterproof clothing should be in your bag. If the chances of rain are pretty low, you could make this item an emergency waterproof poncho, rather than a full raincoat.

The trouble is, camping doesn’t offer a lot of opportunity to get dry when the rain is falling. If you get caught in a shower and then the Sun comes out, you can feasibly dry off naturally just walking around. But if the rain stays, drying off in a tent is very difficult. Getting soaked through can even be dangerous if you’re camping somewhere a bit cooler. In those cases, the cold and damp could very realistically pose a health risk.

For most regions, it's wise to have some kind of rain protection. Even if it's just a lightweight emergency poncho that takes up almost no space in your pack.
For most regions, it's wise to have some kind of rain protection. Even if it's just a lightweight emergency poncho that takes up almost no space in your pack. | Source

5. Let There be Light

You may be surprised at how often inexperienced campers (and even experienced ones) set out on a trip and forget to bring some kind of light with them. This can be a head torch, a regular torch, even a key-ring light. The perils of blundering around in the dark should be obvious if you’re camping in the middle of nowhere, but it’s possibly even more important in campsites and at festivals, where there will be plenty of other tents around you. You don’t want to have to climb out of your warm sleeping bag in the middle of the night to use the facilities, only to trip over half a dozen guide ropes on your way there.

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6. Communication

The allure of getting away from it all is stronger than ever. Leave emails and tweets and calls behind and head out into the wild for some quality you time. Because of that, it would be understandable to feel like you should be leaving your phone at home so you aren’t tempted to check your social media or read the latest news.

You should always make sure you have some form of communication, however… just in case. You never know when you might need to contact a close friend or family member. On that note, make sure someone knows where you’ve gone—especially if wild camping—and when they should expect you back.

7. Toilet Paper

It may not be pleasant to talk about, which goes some way towards explaining why a lot of people never think to bring any, but bringing your own toilet paper can save you no end of trouble. This is especially true for festivals. While it may seem like they may have more portable toilets than people onsite, the toilet roll tends to vanish within the first few hours of the day. For a regular campsite with decent facilities, this might not be as big a concern, but if you’re camping wild… well there’s no toilet paper tree, let’s put it that way.

Regardless of the facilities where you're camping (if there are any), it's always wise to bring your own toilet paper. This is especially true for festivals and wild camping.
Regardless of the facilities where you're camping (if there are any), it's always wise to bring your own toilet paper. This is especially true for festivals and wild camping. | Source

So there’s your seven oft-overlooked items that should be in your camping pack. Space is obviously at a premium when camping, but there are some things you should always try and make room for.

And, once again, don’t forget your tents and sleeping bags!

© 2019 John Bullock

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