6 Best Camping Gear Items: Reviews and Buying Guide for 2020

Camping season brings a lot of activity, and with it, a lot of gear. But it can be very confusing to know what type of equipment to get and what brands to buy.

We review the best camping gear and show you what to get and what to avoid so that you can make the most of your camping trips.

Evaluate Your Needs

Before shopping for camping gear, you need to make a list of the items you will need.

Going camping is like staying in your house without electricity or modern bathroom facilities, so you should include the following items on your list:

  • Kitchen utensils and camping dishes
  • Camp stove and cooking fuel
  • A tent and sleeping bag, or other sleeping gear
  • A flashlight and a camp lantern
  • Toiletries, such as toilet paper, soap, and whatever items you need for personal hygiene
  • Trash bags, so you keep your campsite clean
  • Food that cooks well with a camp stove or over an open fire

Chances are, you have most of those items already, such as toiletry items. We review the best camping gear and help you make the best choices for you.

Features to Look for in Camping Gear

When you buy camping gear, you want to know you are getting the best deal for your money. Much of the camping gear on the market are not built well and does not stand up to regular use, but there are some brands of camping gear that stand up well. Look for these components of the camping lifestyle when shopping.

Camp Stove

Without a camp stove, you are stuck eating cold food, so getting a high-quality camp stove is essential. The best stove when starting is a two-burner camp stove, as it is smaller and more portable than larger stoves. Unless you have a large family, a two-burner stove is sufficient for all your cooking needs.

Most stoves come with a propane fuel canister that screws onto the stove, so all you need to do to start cooking is to turn on the flame-like you would with a regular gas stove at home. Other stoves come with a white gas, which you pour directly into a tank on the stove. While this may burn hotter and cleaner, there is more risk of accidental fires.

Cooking Utensils and Dishes

Cooking utensils and dishes used for camping will be slightly different than what you use at home. Your home dishes are too fragile for packing and unpacking multiple times. However, metal or melamine dishes are best for camping, as they do not break as quickly, and can stand up to various uses.

Pots and pans for cooking outdoors are usually made from cast iron, which can last for over 100 years or more, with proper care. Plus, cleanup is effortless, as all you need to do is rinse them out after use, wipe with a paper towel, spray it with a bit of cooking spray, and it’s ready to use again.

Personal Hygiene

Staying clean can be a bit challenging while camping, especially if you aren’t staying at an established campground. If you are at a campground that has bathroom and shower accommodations, then all you need to bring is your grooming and cleaning supplies.

However, going completely off-grid requires more planning. Portable camping toilets and shower tents with water hoses can help you take care of those necessities. Shower tents and portable showers with a heating element work well when you’re off-grid, as the water heater element is solar-powered, eliminating the need for electricity.

Bring biodegradable toilet paper, as it breaks down more completely, which is better for the environment.

Relaxing and Sleeping

Sleeping outdoors is not like sleeping at home. However, depending on the tent size you have, you might come close to it.

The tent size you choose should be one that you can stand up in, as you will be that much more comfortable compared to a tent where you need to crawl inside.

When shopping for a tent, look for one that has an extra rain fly or protection, as it will help keep you and your gear dry. If you can’t find one, buy a tarp to place over the tent as extra protection against the elements.

A sleeping bag will keep you warm at night, but adding extra padding will keep you warm from the damp chill from the ground. If you can afford it, an air mattress would be better.

Best Camping Gear Under $75

Hopefully, you have some of this camping gear already, and all you need are a few essentials. If not, check out these budget recommendations.

Camco Portable Travel Toilet

When you’re camping, even in an established campground, and the urge to go in the middle of the night, this portable camp toilet is just the thing you need for instant relief. The portable toilet has two separate holding tanks for waste and flush water, which is excellent for the middle of the night trips.

Pros:

  • The side-valve slides closed to keep odors in where they belong.
  • It supports up to 330 pounds.
  • A removable cap at the back of the waste tank allows for easy disposal.
  • Each toilet comes with orange drop in tablets to reduce odors.

Cons:

  • It can only flush 3-5 times before it needs to be refilled. 
  • The water pump can be difficult to pump water for flushing.
  • The latches may not secure all the way to lock the tank to the rest of the unit.

Coleman Gas Cooking Stove

A two-burner, propane burning stove, this Coleman cookstove is portable and easy to pack with your camping gear. It heats up quickly with its 20,000 total BTUs and adjustable burners. While the propane cylinders are sold separately, they are an affordable add-on product.

Pros:

  • The wind-blocking shields keep your burners from going out.
  • The pressure regulators keep the heat consistent for precise cooking.
  • It fits on any medium size table and takes up less room than other camp stoves.
  • The stove runs up to one hour of cooking time on one cylinder.

Cons:

  • The windshields feel flimsy.
  • Temperature control knobs are poorly aligned.

Best Camping Gear Under $150

When you need a bit more camping gear to complete your kit, check out these affordable recommendations. 

Texsport Instant Portable Outdoor Camping Shower

Even when off-grid, you still want the conveniences of home. The portable shower kit, complete with a privacy tent, will fill your shower needs. The portable five-gallon shower is solar powered for accessible hot water.

Pros:

  • The shower tent has a mesh shelf for your supplies.
  • A solar-powered water heater bag allows you to have hot water whenever you want it.
  • Tent poles are rust-resistant.
  • The privacy mesh windows and panels allow for ventilation.

Cons:

  • Setup instructions are poorly written.
  • The water bag seams are a bit weak.

Coleman Cabin Tent with Instant Setup

If you would rather hike or swim, rather than set up your tent, this is the tent for you. It sets up instantly, without the significant hassle of other tents. With pre-attached poles, all you need to do is unfold the poles, snap them into place, raise the tent, and stake the corners for added security.

Pros:

  • The corner welds and tub-like floor keeps out the rain better than other brands.
  • The double-thick fabric keeps out the wind up to 60 MPH.
  • It conveniently folds back up into the included storage bag when not in use.
  • The roomy interior allows for one queen sized, or two double, air mattresses.

Cons:

  • Tent door is not centered correctly.
  • The integrated rainfly does not work as well as it could.

Best Camping Gear in Class

To round out your camping experience, we give you the best in class for camping gear. 

Coleman Zero Degrees Mummy Sleeping Bag

If you like cold weather camping, this is the bag for you. Insulated with a Thermolock draft tube, you will stay warm even in single-digit conditions. The top zips around your head, keeping you warm from head to toe.

Pros:

  • The zipper is designed to keep away from the fabric, which will not snag the bag when opening or closing.
  • Even tall people can use this, as it accommodates heights up to 6’2”.
  • The bottom can be unzipped for extra ventilation on warm nights. 
  • The quilted construction keeps you warm on even the most frigid nights.

Cons:

  • Stitches can be a bit weak.
  • The zipper pull tends to break after only a few uses.

Coleman Camping Cot and Air Mattress Kit

When you don’t want to sleep on the cold ground, this cot and air mattress combo could mean the difference between a great night’s sleep and a mediocre night’s sleep. It comes with a battery-powered air pump so that you can use it out in the middle of nowhere.

Pros:

  • The coil construction curves to your body and provides more comfort than other air mattresses. 
  • The mattress cover keeps it firmly on the cot all night. 
  • The steel frame holds up to 600 pounds. 
  • The air mattress is leak proof, and should stay firm all night. 

Cons:

  • The pump nozzle does not fit snugly to the opening.
  • Cover stitching is weak and may rip easily.

Conclusion

The camping experience can either be the best time of your life or an absolute disaster, depending on the equipment you choose. We’ve reviewed the best camping gear to help you have a worry free camping trip.

Our favorite gear for camping is the portable shower and toilet. If you’re camping out in the middle of nowhere, the last thing you want to worry about is where to go or how to get cleaned up. These are the essentials for any successful camping trip.