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Camping gear for beginners | Important things to bring car camping

Camping Gear for Beginner Car Campers

One of the questions I get the most is “What camping gear do I need as a beginner?” 


While I don’t like saying that you *need* gear to spend time in nature, in the case of camping, you will need shelter, something to sleep on/in, and a couple of other things to keep you safe, comfortable, and happy! Here’s some camping gear I recommend for beginners! 


Tip: You can keep your initial investment low by renting or borrowing the pricier items like the tent, sleeping bags and sleeping pads. 

Camping gear for beginners

Camping Gear for new tent campers


The most important piece of camping gear for beginners is a tent. When choosing your tent, you’ll want to keep in mind how many people (or pets) will be sleeping in it.


I’ve tried a couple of different tents and like REI Co-op and Coleman! I used this 2-person REI Co-op tent for car camping and backpacking trips for 8 years! Here’s the 4-person tent from REI Co-op that I like to take car camping. 

Here are a couple of budget-friendly tent options: 

Tip: Practice setting up your tent at home before you go camping! And don’t forget a tarp or footprint to go under the tent to protect your tent floor + keep rainwater from seeping into your tent. 

Some of the links in this post are affiliate links meaning I get a small percentage of your purchase at no additional cost to you! All my opinions are my own.

Sleeping bag 

When picking out a sleeping bag, looking at the temperature rating is a good place to start. Because you can always unzip your sleeping bag if you get too warm, I suggest going for a lower temperature rating than you expect to need. 


For beginners, I recommend going with a 3-season sleeping bag so you can use it for spring, summer and fall. I also suggest going with something roomier (unlike a mummy bag, which is popular for backpacking). 


My first sleeping bag was made by Coleman and purchased at Costco! Here’s a similar model for under $100


If you have more to spend, I personally love having a hood on my sleeping bag. This one from REI Co-op is a great option and goes on sale frequently! 


Tip: When you’re home, store your sleeping bag outside of the stuff sack to keep it working properly! Here’s more information on storing your sleeping bag

Sleeping pad 

You won’t have your bed when camping so a sleeping pad will be your best friend as a beginner camper! Unlike the big air mattress that you use for guests at home, a sleeping pad has high-tech insulation that will prevent you from losing all your body heat when sleeping on cold, hard ground. 


(But of course if you have an air mattress and feel comfortable using it – go for it!)


I’ve tried a handful of sleeping pads and this one from Klymit is my favorite (and less than $50!). 

If you have a feeling you will like camping and want to splurge on an amazing sleeping pad, check out this one from Exped


I bought this $50 Coleman Classic Propane Camp Stove 8 years ago and it’s still in perfect condition! I recommend bringing a couple of fuel canisters and don’t forget your lighter! Make sure you light it at home so you know how it works. Trust me, you don’t want to go on a camping trip with a stove that doesn’t work. 



If you already have a cooler – great! If you need one, I recommend this one from RTIC – it’s cheaper than competitors and works just as well. Here’s my full review of the RTIC coolers



A bright light is a camping essential! You can use a flashlight but I highly recommend getting a headlamp to keep your hands free as you do things around camp. Here’s my favorite $20 headlamp!

Cooking gear + utensils

If you’re going to eat on your camping trip, you’ll need stuff for food prep and consumption! You can bring things from your home kitchen and make sure to grab a towel, scrubber, and biodegradable soap to do some dishes. 


Tip: I love packing all of my cooking gear in an Action Packer tub because it doubles as a table for your camp stove! 

Camp chair 

This isn’t technically necessary… but it is in my book! I can’t go without a comfy place to sit. Camping chairs can be found pretty much anywhere – Costco, Walmart, Target, etc. My favorites are from REI: 

Woman standing under a tree next to a tent in an Arizona Hipcamp

I hope this was a helpful camping gear guide for beginners!

Camping is such an incredible way to experience nature! I hope this was a helpful guide that encourages you to get outside! Please let me know if you have any questions in the comments below and be sure to download my free camping gear guide and packing checklist!

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