In order to ensure you have the best camping trip possible, it’s important to ensure you have all of the camping gear essentials. Without these items, you just won’t be comfortable, and in some cases, you might even be putting yourself in danger.
The problem? Outdoor gear is expensive, and even just gathering camping basics can cost a small fortune if you aren’t careful. This is where affordable camping gear comes into play.
There are plenty of good quality affordable camping and hiking items out there. In most cases, you’d have to do a little bit of digging to find them, but lucky for you, we’ve done all the work and put together a list for you.
Below is a list of the most high quality affordable camping gear. Choose items from this list when gathering your camping essentials and you’ll be good to go!
RV Camping Must-Haves
Let’s start with RV camping basics. The cool thing about RVing is that you don’t actually need a whole lot in the way of outdoor gear in order to have a great getaway. Most of what you need will be included in an RV rental, and if you own your own RV, a lot of these items will live in the rig, making packing a cinch.
Sheets, Blankets, and Pillows
You will of course want to make sure you have bedding for the RV beds. If you are renting, ask if those things are included—and if they aren’t, bring some along from home. If you own your RV, we recommend purchasing bedding that can live in the RV so you aren’t constantly carrying it back and forth.
This inexpensive bed-in-a-bag set is a great place to start!
Pots, Pans, and Cooking Utensils
One of the benefits of traveling in an RV? The kitchen, of course! That said, you can’t use the kitchen without pots, pans, and cooking utensils. We recommend this cookware set to keep in your RV all the time.
Plates and Bowls
Obviously, you will need something to eat those home-cooked meals off of. That’s where your RV plates and bowls come into play. If you’re buying a set to keep in the RV all the time, we highly recommend a Corelle dinnerware set, which doesn’t tend to break in RV cabinets.
A surge protector is a must-have to protect the RV’s electrical system. Be sure you grab one of the correct amperage and use it every time you plug in. We really like the POWSAF surge protector, as it includes diagnostic LED lights.
(Note: Rental RVs should include a surge protector.)
Water Pressure Regulator
You’ll also want a water pressure regulator. This Camco option is super inexpensive and helps ensure the water pressure coming into your RV doesn’t exceed the pressure that your RV water lines are rated for. This is included with most rentals.
Fresh Water Hose
A fresh water hose is a must-have in order to connect your RV to the city water or fill the fresh water tank. Be sure to grab a white one such as this trusted hose from Camco and only use it for potable water. This is another item that most rentals will include.
You need a sewer hose to dump the black and gray tanks once they have been filled up. A basic and affordable kit like this should do the trick in most situations. If you’re renting, don’t worry about getting a sewer hose, as it will be included with the rental.
Nobody wants to camp in an RV that isn’t level. Besides being uncomfortable, parking a rig on unlevel ground can actually damage the refrigerator. If you aren’t renting an RV with blocks included, be sure to pick up some leveling blocks to keep things level! Lynx Levelers are some of the best and are as affordable as they come.
Lastly, those who own their own RV will need to throw some wheel chocks in the storage bay. These are placed under the wheels of the motorhome or trailer to ensure it doesn’t roll while you’re camping. We really like these MAXXHAUL chocks because they are solid rubber and super heavy duty, without the price tag that comes with so many other heavy duty options.
Tent Camping Must-Haves
Of course, RV camping isn’t always an option. In that case, you will need to pack quite a bit more. That said, if you use the list of affordable camping gear below, you should still be able to make your tent camping adventure an inexpensive one.
Okay, so clearly, you will need some sort of shelter, so a tent is in order. There are tons of different kinds of tents out there, but we really like the Coleman Sundome Tent. Its classic design hasn’t changed for decades, and for good reason—it’s solid. Besides that, the price point is excellent.
Sleeping bags are another tent camping must-have. This REDCAMP sleeping bag should work in warmer spring and fall temperatures, as well as during the summer. It’s lined with comfy flannel and packs up tight into a handy storage bag.
A sleeping mat to put under your sleeping bag will help ensure you’re comfortable on hard ground. Honestly, any pad you choose will probably do the job, but we like that this one is affordable, folds up small, and comes with a built-in pump.
Grab some pillows off your bed at home or pack an inexpensive inflatable camping pillow to save space. It doesn’t matter which, but make sure you do one or the other!
Since your tent probably doesn’t include a kitchen, you will need to figure out some way to cook while tent camping. This small propane camp stove is a simple and inexpensive solution that we love.
Cooking Gear Kit
You will need something to cook in and eat off of. This amazing camping cooking set has everything you need and all the pieces nest in one another, so the set packs down and is small and easy to carry.
Cold food needs to stay cold. Without a fridge handy, you will have to turn to an ice chest. There are many high-end ice chests out there, but if you’re on a budget, you really can’t beat the Coleman Chiller 30-Quart Cooler.
Lantern and Flashlights
A lantern and some flashlights are a need when tent camping (and can be handy when RV camping as well). We really love this LED Camping Lantern from NanaHome, which is both a lantern and a flashlight. It includes a rechargeable lithium battery, a cable to charge the battery, and an option for solar charging.
You’ll need a dishpan to wash the dishes! This collapsible one is great for saving space.
Because you’ll likely be dumping your dishwater outside, it’s also good to grab some biodegradable soap in order to make sure you’re taking care of the plants and animals in the area. We like Mrs. Meyers soap for this purpose.
Health and Safety
No matter which type of camping you choose, you will still need to keep your health and safety in mind as you spend time in the great outdoors. That’s where the following important items come into play.
Sunscreen is essential for protecting yourself from the sun, and yes, you do need it even during the winter. You probably already know what type of sunscreen you love, but if not, we recommend Vanicream Broad Spectrum Sunscreen for the best protection.
You’ll also want sunglasses to protect your eyes. Honestly, we tend to use cheapie sunglasses from the dollar store when camping, but Goodr makes some great budget-friendly sunglasses that hold up to outdoor activities nicely.
Grab your favorite lip balm (we like Burt’s Bees) to protect your lips from wind and sun!
Bug repellent is another must-have item, especially for summer camping. OFF! Deep Woods is ideal for keeping bugs away, but those who prefer a DEET-free option should turn to Coleman SkinSmart.
First Aid Kit
Of course, you will also want a first aid kit. Keep one in your RV or tent and another in your hiking bag just to be safe. You can build your own or buy a pre-made first aid kit like this one.
Planning to do some hiking? In our opinion, hiking is an important part of any camping trip. That said, you will need some special outdoor gear to hike comfortably and safely. The items below are the day hike must-haves.
First, you will need to find a good hiking backpack that falls within your budget. This will hold all of your gear as you wander the trails. The LOCALLION Hiking Daypack is one great low-cost option.
Pack a water bottle! Any bottle you currently have should be fine, but if you’re looking for a new hiking water bottle, you might consider a Nalgene Wide Mouth Bottle.
Obviously, some snacks will be in order while hiking. Trail mix, protein bars, and beef jerky are some good options.
Map and Compass
A map of the trail and a compass are also must-haves. AllTrails can be handy for navigating as well, especially if you pay for the ability to download trail maps.
Hiking shoes are a great investment if you plan on doing much hiking at all. That said, you don’t have to spend hundreds to have a solid pair of hiking shoes. For instance, these EYUSHIJIA Men’s Outdoor Waterproof Hiking Boots are super affordable and surprisingly well-made.
Weather Appropriate Clothing
You will obviously want to wear weather-appropriate clothing and dress in layers. We’ll talk more about weather-specific clothing later in this article.
Finally, it’s a good idea to throw a multi-tool into your bag. Something like the Gerber Gear Suspension NXT should do the trick nicely.
Don’t Forget Your Pets!
Taking your dog along? Want to bring your kitty on your adventure? We love that camping is totally pet friendly. That said, you will definitely want to head into your trip prepared with all the things you need to camp with a pet.
Food and Water Bowls
Food and water bowls are clearly an important thing to bring along. Any pet bowls you have sitting around will work, but these collapsible bowls are ideal for saving space and carrying while hiking.
Food and Treats
Don’t forget to grab the food to put in your bowls! Some treats are a good idea too.
Harness and Leash
You will definitely want a harness and leash for your cat or doggo. This allows you to take your pet on walks around the campground and even hikes. This is something you probably already have for your dog, but if you have a cat who doesn’t yet have a leash, we have to recommend the rabbitgoo Cat Harness and Leash.
Obviously, you can’t leave your pet’s waste laying around everywhere you go. Pack some poop bags so you can take care of business wherever it happens.
Give your furry friend someplace comfy to sleep. A pet bed such as this Chuckit! Travel Dog Bed is a great way to make sure your pet feels at home.
Grab your pet’s favorite toys or buy some new ones especially for the trip. Just make sure they have some things to play with so they have a fun getaway too!
If your pet needs a safer way to ride in the vehicle or if you need a place to leave them when you leave camp, a kennel might be in order. Be sure you get one that is the correct size for your pet and take measures to make them comfortable in the kennel before you leave them there.
It’s important that you always carry your pet’s medical records. Many campgrounds want to see that your pet has all of the vaccinations before they will allow you to stay. Additionally, if there is an emergency, you will want to have their records to give to the emergency vet.
While the list above includes the basics, check out this pet camping gear checklist if you want more ideas.
Cold Weather Camping Gear
Planning a winter camping trip? Believe it or not, winter camping can actually be quite fun if you go in with the cold weather camping essentials. The affordable camping gear listed below will help keep you warm as you enjoy Mother Nature at her chilliest.
All-Season Sleeping Bag
The sleeping bag we recommended above is great for much of the year. However, if you’re going winter camping specifically, you will need a winter sleeping bag. Try this option by Rioyalo for plenty of warmth without the high price.
Double Sleeping Pads
Those sleeping pads we mentioned before? We have a pro tip for winter time use: Double up on them to get yourself off the cold ground.
Long underwear should be worn under everything. Merino wool long underwear is the best option, and cotton should be avoided to prevent your underclothing from holding onto cold moisture. For those on a budget, we recommend the LAPASA Merino Wool Base Layer.
Cotton socks are a big no-no when camping, especially if it happens to be winter time. Instead, you will want some high quality wool socks to keep your feet toasty warm. Don’t worry, this set of wool socks is very affordable.
Fleece Lined Pants and Warm Shirts
Some fleece-lined pants will keep your legs toasty warm, and you’ll want to make sure to pack all of your warmest shirts! These go over your wool base layer.
A warm hat or two will go a long way. Grab this pack of four beanies so you have some spares.
Insulated gloves will keep your fingers warm during winter camping. There are tons of great options out there. These Ozero gloves are especially great for winter camping.
Your coat will give you an extra layer of insulation. It can be taken off if you get too hot, but is definitely nice to have when the temperatures drop. Amazon Essentials actually makes a decent puffy coat that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. The WHATWEARS Men’s Waterproof Ski Jacket is another good choice.
Waterproof Pants and Jacket
You should also have a waterproof outer layer to keep everything nice and dry. This should include waterproof pants (we recommend Inno Men’s Waterproof Fleece Lined Cargo Pants) and a waterproof jacket (Columbia Men’s Glennaker Lake Rain Jacket is a nice option).
Lastly, you’ll want to grab some waterproof boots. We mentioned waterproof hiking shoes above, but the slightly more expensive NORTIV 8 Hiking Boots are likely a better pick for cold weather.
Hot Weather Camping Gear
On the opposite end of the spectrum, summer camping can also be a ton of fun, as long as you have the right camping gear to stay cool. The hot weather camping basics below will help keep you cool and comfortable as you immerse yourselves in the beauty of nature this summer season.
Lightweight, Light Colored, UPF Rated Clothing
Lightweight, light-colored clothing that is UPF-rated is best for hot weather camping. Generally, nylon and polyester are good fabrics. Cotton can be okay in hot weather, but it might cause chafing, so be careful.
Be sure to pack some breathable, light-colored long sleeves and long pants in case you end up going on a hike or participating in other outdoor activities that require extra protection.
A sun hat is very important to have when spending time in hot weather. Get a breathable hat with a wide brim such as this affordable hat from EINSKY.
Obviously, you’ll always want to take your water bottle camping and hiking. However, if you’re participating in outdoor activities in the summer months, you might also want to invest in a TETON Sports hydration pack. This allows you to carry more water, and the straw gives you quick and easy access to that water throughout the day.
Many people use a wet bandana wrapped around their neck to keep cool while spending time outdoors during the hot season. This is fine, but a Frogg Toggs Cooling Neck Band will work even better.
There you have it, a list of the must-have camping gear basics and our favorite affordable camping gear. Why not start filling your shopping cart now for your next big adventure?
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