The 10 Essentials For Camping 2021

When heading out for any outdoor activity, your main headache will be what camping essentials to pack and what to leave behind. The 10 Essentials is a list of the basic items needed to spend at least a night outside. This is a list first developed by The Mountaineers, an outdoor-based organization in Seattle, in the book “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.”

Since 1974, the 10 Essentials have formed the cornerstone of camping and hiking backpacking.  Below is a comprehensive guide of what to bring camping.

1. Shelter

If you will be camping for more than a day, you need a good quality tent to shelter you from elements. You could sleep in your car, but that doesn’t give you the classic experience of camping. At Outdoor Stuff Guides, we want the best experience for you.

There are two main types of sleeping tents based on the shape – dome shaped and cabin tents. If you camp in an area with winds and rain, a dome shaped tent is aerodynamic enough to keep the winds and rain water off. Cabin tents are great when you camp in a large group in a place sheltered from strong winds.

If you have never used a tent, you might want to set it up in your backyard before heading out to ensure you are able to set it without much struggle. Depending on where you choose to camp, you can choose between 2-season, 3-season, and 4-season tents. These three tents offer different levels of protection from elements.

If you are going for a day hike, you might feel as if shelter is not important, but you need it. You might end up staying in the jungle for longer than you planned. In such as a case, bringing a tarp, lightweight trash bag, or a single use bivy comes in handy.

2. Navigation

Other camping must-haves are navigation supplies. You can get lost even when you stick to trails. Your cell phone is a great navigation gadget, but it might run out of battery or lose the signal.

For starters, you need a map. Maps are lightweight, easy to use, readily available, and affordable. Most parks provide a map at the entrance, which shows you trail details. You can buy maps or view online maps from National Geographic Trails Illustrate for all United States.

Next, you need a compass to tell direction. Compasses show you where the north is, helping you distinguish between true north and magnetic north. This is an easy way to find your way when you are lost.

You might also need an altimeter that shows you the altitude of your location. You can compare the altimeter readings with the altitude readings on the map to find out exactly where you are. An altimeter might be in the form of an app, a digital watch, or analog equipment.

3. Sun Protection

Prolonged exposure to the sun damages your skin, thanks to the harsh UV light. When camping or hiking, you will spend most of your time walking under the hot sun. As such, you need to stay protected. Sun protection is more important in case you suffer and injury, and you have to stay in the sun for long.

For starters, you need a wide-brimmed hat. A baseball cap’s visor will cover your face, but it leaves the ears and the neck exposed.

Next, you need to choose sunglasses. While the hat covers the face, it does not protect you from the reflected UV rays. With sunglasses, not only do you protect your eyes, but you also see better when you head out. If your budget allows, pick polarized sunglasses as they cancel reflected rays better, allowing you to see further. 

Even with protective gear, you still need sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. When shopping for sunscreen, ensure a rating of “Broad Spectrum” to protect you from both UVA and UVB rays. Again, ensure the sunscreen is rated at least 30 SPF (Sun Protection Factor). If you are prone to sunburn, wear sunscreen rated at least 50 SPF.

Instead of wearing sunscreen, you can wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants to cover your arms and legs. Today, there are clothes with sun ratings to allow you to venture outdoors without worrying about sunburn.

4. Insulation

When you walk deeper into the wilderness, the weather becomes more unpredictable. If you climb hills and mountains during the hike or the camp, the temperature drops significantly as altitude increases.

If you start your hike during the day when the sun is up, you might not see the need for a heavy jacket. As evening nears, the weather changes, and cold kicks in. It is important that you bring extra clothes for insulation. You also need a good quality sleeping bag and sleeping pad for the night.

Better yet, check the weather forecast in your destination to better understand what to put in your backpack. Bring thick socks to wick away sweat to keep you warm and dry. Pack between a light and a heavy coat based on the weather forecasts.

It is crucial to bring a raincoat even if the weatherman says it will not rain any day soon. Raincoats are lightweight and can pack compact, which means you can carry them anywhere. If it rains, you will be glad you packed one.

5. Fire

Fire is not only a way to stay warm at night, but also a means to cook food and signal your location. It is not easy to create a fire from scratch unless you have done it several times. Luckily, there are several tools to help you start a fire.

A basic matchbox can help you start a fire, but it might get wet during outdoor use, and it is flimsy when used in a windy area. You can replace these with replaceable butane lighters, which can start a fire in almost any condition. The challenging bit with butane lighters is that the butane might run out.

Stormproof matches sport a waterproof design to allow you to use them any time you want without them getting wet or failing you. If you want to have that classic camping experience, bring a Ferro rod, which is a rod from ferrocerium. These rods are weather-proof and long-lasting.

It is important to bring at least two of these fire-making solutions in case one fails.

6. Food

This is one of the most important items among the 10 Essentials. Bring some snacks to feast on even if you are on a hunting or fishing camp. Even if you are on a day hike and you plan to be back home after a few hours, you still need to bring snacks. Foul weather or any other emergency might keep you out for longer than planned.

Food gives you the energy you need to walk another mile and also keeps you warm when cold weather kicks in. Even if you plan to cook your meals once you set up the tent, always bring ready-to-eat snacks.

A good outdoor snack should be in a sealed bag for portability. It should also be non-perishable and ready-to-eat. Again, it should not be spicy and should offer enough calories to keep you going.

Ideal hiking snacks include power bars, pistachios, peanut butter, beef jerky, and jelly sandwiches. If you love caffeine, you can bring instant coffee or a few caffeine pills.

7. Water

You can survive for a few days without food, but not water. You need at least two liters of water every day. If you are hiking under the hot sun, you need more than two liters to replace the water you lose through sweat. 

Bring a sufficiently large water bottle to carry enough water for at least a day. Stainless steel bottles are better than plastic ones as they do not damage with ease or give you a plastic taste and smell in the water. Water bladders might also be a great option.

A water bottle is only good for a day’s hike. After that, you need to find more water from the wilderness. This is where water purification and water enhancers kick in. You can bring a portable water filter/straw or water purification tablets. Tablets are easy to use as you only need to add them to the water and they instantly purify it. If you do not want the chemicals in the tablets, choose a water filter.

There are plenty of affordable water filters on the market, and all you need is to choose one that meets your needs.

8. Source of Light

Do you need a flashlight in your backpack if you are hiking during the day?

You need a flashlight just as you need temporary shelter when hiking during the day. You might underestimate your walking pace and end up walking so much away from your initial target distance. Again, an emergency such as an injury or getting lost might keep you in the wild for longer than you expected.

When the sun goes down, you need a flashlight to illuminate the trails or rummage through your bag. If you are camping, a flashlight is even more important as you will need to find your way in the dark. A flashlight also signals rescuers towards you when you blink it incessantly.

You could use your smartphone as a flashlight, but it is not as bright or as effective as a flashlight.

When shopping for a flashlight, pick one that balances weight and brightness. For outdoor use, you can pick headlamps with LED bulbs as they use less battery power. They also keep your hands free and are lightweight. You can also bring tactical flashlights, which are compact, but bright. These tactical units sport highly durable materials to last long.

Remember to bring a new battery pack and ensure the bulbs are in good condition before heading out.

9. First Aid Kit

You will likely not suffer an injury, but you can never be too prepared. Cuts, sprains, and bruises are common during a hike. When considering what to bring camping, a first aid kit should be one of the items you bring.

First aid kits do not have to be bulky boxes that take up a few liters of space in your backpack. Today, you can pick waterproof first aid kits in Ziploc bags. Instead of creating a list of all the items you could bring, buy a complete first aid kit and pack it. However, if you would like to curate the contents of the kit, you can bring:

  • Gauze
  • Bandage and skin closures
  • Brace or wrap
  • Tweezer
  • Painkillers
  • Topical antibiotic
  • Antiseptic
  • Nitrile gloves
  • Antihistamines
  • Tourniquet
  • EpiPen for those allergic to bees


You do not need all the above, but these will get you started. If you have any medical condition, talk to your doctor to know any other camping must-haves for you.

10. Tools

The last of the 10 camping essentials is tools. These are simple tools to help you do more than your bare hands allow.

A knife is the most basic of these tools as you can use it to prepare food, administer first aid, and start a fire among others. Instead of a simple knife, you can bring a multi-tool that adds a pair of scissors, a nail file, a screwdriver, and a bottle or can opener among others.

You also need small length of paracord. You can use this cord to make traps, fix your tent, use it as emergency fishing lure, or fix your bag.

A repair kit is also important to keep your supplies in good condition. Simple items to bring include fabric, zip ties, duct tape, and replacement part for your tent. Your tent comes with repair fabric to help you mend holes on the fabric of the tent.


Above are the 10 essentials or camping essentials that you must never forget.

When backpacking, think of what might happen if you are ever stuck in the woods. If it gets dark and you are deep in the woods, what will you need to survive? From there, prepare a list of the items you need to survive. The number of items you bring will depend on how you get to the campground. If you are driving, you can bring everything you need. If you are backpacking, you might need to shed some of the items that are not necessities.

Here is another quite useful article you might want to read: 63 Camping Tips and Tricks For Beginners