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Camping for all kinds of beginners

Written by Fiona

April 17 2015

Many people ask me about a basic kit list for camping and where are the best places to try camping? This is a huge topic and it does depend on what kind of camping you are thinking about.

Camping includes lightweight backpacking and bivvying out overnight, wild camping, weekend camping, car-to-campsite family glamping. All styles require the same basic kit list but the weight, type, cost and comfort levels are very different.

Basic camping kit list

Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mattress, cooking and eating equipment, food, water, stove lighter, torch and mobile phone and charger. You’ll need a rucksack if you plan to walk anywhere to camp. See a daypack guide.

Keeping it light

People who enjoy backpacking or wild camping and want to camp away from people and busy places will be looking for lightweight camping kit. Usually, lightweight kit costs more money because designers are required to pare down the gear yet keep it functional and lighter materials, such as down fill, can be more expensive.

A lightweight one-man tent might weigh no more than a couple of kilograms, yet it still needs to be robust enough to cope in tricky weather. Take a two-man tent if there are tow of you and you can split the weight of the tent between rucksacks.

1-man-blade-100-outdoor-tent-green-30For super lightweight camping you might also want to think about a bivvy bag. See my guide to bivvy bags.

Sleeping bags should pack down into a light and compact stuff bag yet when in use should be warm and cosy. A three-season bag even for summer camping in Scotland is a good idea.

While down is a warmer product unless it has been treated with some kind of hydrophobic technology, synthetic fill will work well for longer. This is because down can become damp through body heat and condensation and once wet it is not warm. Synthetic fill tends to work better in damp conditions.

A self-inflating sleeping mattress pack down into lightweight bags but still offer good comfort levels when inflated.

In addition, a lightweight camping kit list will include a small cooking set that comprises stove and cooking pot. Basic cutlery could simply be a “spork” (spoon and fork combo).

Don’t forget a lighter for the stove, some lightweight food such as couscous or pasta and a sealed tub of sauce (or take dried camping food packs), teabags and dried milk, water and a head torch. A portable phone charger is also a great idea.

You’ll also need a fairly large rucksack for carrying all your kit. A 55litre rucksack will be the minimum for most people.

Weekend camping

Weekend campers are more likely to park a car and walk a short way to a wild camping spot or campsite. This means the tent does not need to be so small or light although it does depend on how far you will hike first.

The same goes for sleeping bags and mattresses and if you fancy throwing in a plump pillow, hot water bottle and your favourite teddy bear then that’s fine, too. Just remember you’ll need to cary it all to – and from – your camping spot.

The focus for this type of camper is ease and comfort levels. Pop-up tents (if the weather is fair) are simple to erect, for example.

Also, many weekend campers do not want to spend a lot of equipment because they will be testing out camping to see whether it’s for them.


Choose a tent that is one size bigger than the number of people it will hold. So a three-man tent will be perfect for two people. This means you will have extra room to stretch out and for all your kit.

Tents that have good head height are a good idea, too. It can be very annoying to do everything bent double. Head height, in this situation, is when sitting down, rather than standing up. If you want to be able to stand up in a tent you will need a family tent (see below).

Spending more generally brings you a tent that is more durable, waterproof, strong and longer-lasting.

You could take self-inflating mattresses or go for more comfort with a larger blow-up air beds. Sleeping bags do not need to be as high tech as for backpacking so look for good ratings of warmth.

If you are a couple you might like to buy sleeping bags that zip together for a double sleeping bag. Two bodies are warmer than one!

You can also pack cooking and eating equipment that suits your desires, rather than weight allowances. So a double burner gas stove or potable barbecue are good buys.

Plastic crockery, meant for picnics, can be bought from the supermarket or take disposable paper plates etc. Camping stores do sell camping specific cooking and eating utensils and they will make a good, longer-term investment.

Added extras might include a cool box or a cool bag (there are lots of ideas I this camping cookware department), plastic wine or beer glasses, camping chairs, iPad or Kindle for evening entertainment, camping lights and “proper” food. If you are camping close to where you parked the car there is no reason why you can’t bring all the food and wine you would normally have for a home-style barbecue.

I also recommend that you fill a hot water bottle before retiring for the night.

Camping for families

This is most often the luxury, “glamping”, style of camping. It can be home-from-home in the most literal sense because you will most likely be heading to a campsite in a car.

Pack what you want to fill the boot and head off to enjoy a more comfortable camping trip.

In this category, tents are large and multi-roomed. Tent envy can play quite a large part among family campers so buy as big as you can afford (and can face erecting on each trip) if you are bothered by such things.

lunar-6-man-camping-tent-with-2-side-doors-green-680-x-240-x-195cm-31A bedroom for each person or couple, a living area and also an area for all your kitchen and cooking equipment is the basic set up for a family tent. A six-person tent might be just the thing.

Then you can add all the comfort-style extras that you can think of. Why not go for camp-beds or big and soft blow-up airbeds?

Sleeping bags should be comfortable, so choose them large and rectangular. Why not buy a double sleeping bag or you could even bring your duvets from home?

The list of added extras for family camping could include, camping trolleys (for moving all your mounds of kit), camping tables, chairs, camping kitchen, fridge or long-lasting coolbox, lanterns, and even carpet, portable heaters and chemical toilets.

Most families will take a portable barbecue for easy cooking or they go out for their meals in nearby pubs. Family camping is about taking it easy, as well as comfort.

Remember to follow the Scottish Outdoors Access Code on wild camping.

* Outdoor Camping Direct asked me to write a post about different styles of camping for different types of campers.

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