Ah, the great outdoors. And if you’re feeling refreshed and relaxed after your hikes or nights under the stars, science can tell you why.
Studies have shown that those who camped in the forest for two nights had a lower level of the stress hormone cortisol than those who spent the same time in an urban area. There’s also research that suggests being among vegetation can help you live longer, and breaking a sweat outdoors through hiking and walking helps release mood-boosting endorphins.
Plus, there comes a time when we all just need a break from our hectic lives, something that a weekend camping session can solve.
But before you head out in search of an adventure, you’ll need to make sure you’re well stocked. We’ve compiled a cheat sheet of some of our favorite camping products to get you prepared and ready to go.
Relying on an open fire to cook your meals can severely limit what you eat on a weekend camping trip. So if you want more variety than hotdogs and marshmallows, a portable grill can help you prepare tasty grilled vegetables and burgers. Weber’s Jumbo Joe 18-Inch grill is compact enough to not take up much space in your car while you’re on the go, but big enough that you can grill multiple items at once. For just shy of $70, the grill is an affordable choice for camping, but can easily work for beach trips or backyard barbecues. A 4.7-star rating and free two-day shipping from Amazon Prime don’t hurt, either.
No one wants to think of the worst possible scenarios, but be prepared for emergency situations. You’ll need to make sure your phone is juiced up just in case you need to contact someone. Consumer Reports recently tested emergency phone chargers, and its top pick in terms of versatility was Goal’s Zero Lighthouse Lantern. It features a hand-cranked generator that gives you light and charges up to four devices. An added flashing red light can help attract help should you need it. For a device that gives you top-rated functionality, and more important, peace of mind during high-pressure situations, $70 seems like a steal.
Having a tent is a no-brainer. Choosing the right one is a different story. First, you’ll need to consider how many people will join you on your adventure. For larger parties, it saves space and money to use to a multi-person tent. Coleman’s eight-person Instant Tent features vertical walls and a tall center to make it perfect for larger groups. And if you’re looking for a tent on a budget, the Instant Tent is under $200, a similar price to smaller sleeping ones. But as some Amazon customers noted, it’s just as cozy for two campers who want to use a cot or airbed setup. And an instant setup design also lets you pitch the tent in under 60 seconds (yes, you read that right).
When shopping for a sleeping bag, it’s important to find a pick that marries comfort, weight and warmth. The Boundary 20 degree bag has an optimal design featuring layered, offset quilt construction to prevent cold spots and a draft tube along the zipper to keep cold air out and prevent heat loss. It can hold its own against the elements and will keep you protected if the weather isn’t on your side.
If you would rather sleep under the stars, a hammock is a solid option that takes up minimal space and weight in your backpack. Eagles Nest Outfitters has a lightweight hammock that’s both affordable and incredibly durable. Its DoubleNest Hammock, which has received an impressive 4.8-star rating from over 2,500 customers, can support up to 400 pounds even though it weighs in at just under a pound and a half. It’s also big enough to let two people relax during their camping trips, back yarding, musical festivals and more. And when it’s all said and done, it can be compressed to the size of a grapefruit.
Big groups call for big meals. To help feed your party, you’ll need to carry decent-sized cookware. The major issue with this is that it’s tougher to pack larger pots and pans. MSR’s Flex 4 Cooking System, however, takes the essentials you need — two nonstick aluminum pans, a strainer, four plates and four mugs — and fits them inside the largest pot for easy packing. It’s as compact as cooking gets.
Accidents happen. The best way to bounce back is to be prepared. In the case of camping, the elements and the surrounding environment could get the best of your equipment. So when rips and tears happen, we recommend McNett Tenacious Tape. This ultrastrong repair tape features maximum strength adhesive that sticks to most surfaces including tents, sleeping bags, backpacks, rubber boots and down jackets. At $5, it’s a small price to pay to make sure you’re covered during your weekend retreat.
And if you have a mishap, this mini emergency kit has your back. Inside you’ll find quick fixes like deodorant, combs, shave cream, tampons and even a facial wipes. And beyond your camping excursions, you can keep it in your back pocket for all your travels and day-to-day routines.
On a hot day, you’ll want to cool down with a gulp of ice-cold water. The issue with traditional plastic bottles is that they’re not insulated, so when the temperatures begin to peak, your water also will heat up. The simple solution is to have a water bottle that’s vacuum-insulated. This will ensure that your H20 is kept at the temperature you want it. S’well’s Steel Water Bottles up the ante by keeping beverages cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. They’re also made from nontoxic, nonleaching and BPA-free materials so you can feel good about staying hydrated all day long.
It doesn’t matter where you are in the world – if you’re a caffeine addict, you have to start the day with your morning jolt. The easiest way to do this is with instant coffee, where all you have to worry about is boiling water. Starbucks’ VIA Instant packets are a fan favorite (they scored high marks from Amazon customers) thanks to the smooth, nutty flavor and complete ease in preparation. Trust us, making the perfect brew without a traditional kitchen doesn’t get any easier.
Mosquito bites are a real pain. And unfortunately when you’re outdoors during the summertime, they’re often unavoidable. So, to hold off mosquitoes, ticks, gnats and fleas, you’ll need some sort of repellent. If you’re not a fan of aerosol cans or are traveling where you can’t transport them due to travel restrictions, repellent wipes can do the trick. Packaged almost like baby wipes, Repel’s Mosquito Repellent Wipes can help protect you from insects that can transmit Zika, dengue and West Nile virus. As many customers noted, they’re essential if you’re in areas where you’re more likely to contract these diseases. A 4.6-star rating can attest to that.
A sudden rainstorm is a sure way to dampen spirits during any camping trip. And while you might not be able to avoid the weather that comes your way, you can avoid getting soaked. REI’s Red Ledge Vinyl Poncho is a super lightweight, completely waterproof poncho. And for only $5 a piece, you can deck out your entire family in matching ponchos.
If you’ve ever watched a survival show, you’ll know that clean water is one of – if not the most – important elements of survival while in the wilderness. The Lifestraw is a super simple tool that helps ensure you’ll have clean drinking water no matter what situation you find yourself in. A huge bonus to your purchase? With every product sold, Lifestraw provides a child in need with safe drinking water for an entire school year.
Note: The prices below reflect the listed retailers’ prices on the date this article was published