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Your First Camping Trip: Gear to Buy and Borrow

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Are you considering embarking on your first camping trip? Camping can seem overwhelming. New campers may not know how to start camping or what to buy for a first camping trip. Not to worry! You need not invest hundreds of dollars in equipment. This short list of camping gear to buy features the essentials you need. We also share what items you can borrow to save money on camping.

Buy sleeping bags for your first family camping trip
Buy sleeping bags for your first family camping trip (Photo credit: mac_sim,

1. Sleeping bags

First time campers will want to buy their own sleeping bags. I mean, some people might not mind sleeping in someone else’s sweaty old cooties, but wouldn’t you rather use one that only has your cooties in it? When you buy a sleeping bag, you’ll need to consider the weather where you plan to camp, and how warm or cool you like to be when you sleep. Learn how to choose the right sleeping bag for camping.

Good hiking boots are essential for camping
Good hiking boots are essential for camping (Photo credit: ChiccoDodiFC,

2. Good hiking boots

If you plan to do any hiking during your camping trip, especially while carrying a weighty backpack, then you will need to buy some sturdy, waterproof hiking boots. Ankle protection is important, too, even if you think it will be too hot. Look for grippy soles to keep from slipping on the trail. Before embarking on your first camping trip, break in your boots. Hike in your boots so they conform to your foot, your stride and your bunions. This will help prevent getting blisters during your trip as well.

Zappos offers a wide array of hiking boots for men, women and children in a variety of price points and colors. Vasque Breeze is my hiking boots brand of choice. They took me through Newfoundland’s hilly East Coast Trail and Chile’s muddy Cochamó Valley with equal ease.

Keep feet happy and dry with moisture-wicking socks on your first camping trip
Keep feet happy and dry with moisture-wicking socks (Photo credit: DesignPicsInc,

3. Moisture-wicking socks

Your best protection from blistered hiking feet are some wool, moisture-wicking socks. Believe me, you’re going to need these. If your socks do get wet from crossing a stream, rain, or other mishap — then be sure to dry them out before putting them back on. Depending on how many days you’ll be camping, you may want to pack a few pairs per camper. Check out the impressive selection of moisture-wicking socks from Zappos.

Don't forget to pack a first aid kit when camping
Don’t forget to pack a first aid kit when camping (Photo credit: SimpleFoto,

4. First aid kit and other safety gear

You don’t want to be stuck in the middle of the wilderness without a first aid kit. It’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when far from medical help. For safety’s sake, you should also be sure to pack a safety whistle for every member of the family. You should also bring at least one can of bear spray, just in case you come across any bears, wolves, mountain lions or other aggressive animals during your camping trip.

All family members should carry their own backpacks when camping
All family members should carry their own backpacks, if possible (Photo credit: monkeybusiness,

5. Backpacks

It’s important to have the right-sized camping backpack to be comfortable and avoid injury. Think about how much stuff you’ll need to carry, and cut it in half. The most painful part of overnight hiking is the weight you carry on your back. If you have more room, you’ll take more stuff, and you’ll be sorry. Trust me on this. Take a look at these highly ranked camping backs.

Water bottles are essential for staying hydrated when camping
Water bottles are essential for staying hydrated (Photo credit:,

6. Reusable water bottles

Hydration is important for good health, especially when camping. All campers should carry their own durable, refillable water bottle so they have easy access while hiking on trails.

Camping gear to borrowTo learn what to borrow for your first camping trip, I spoke to Kristi Bray of, the website for reserving campgrounds in National Parks in the U.S. She suggests that you borrow the following things from more experienced camping friends, if you can.

  • Tent
  • Sleeping pads
  • Stove
  • Walking poles
  • Compact cooking kit
  • Water filter
  • Lanterns
  • Head lamps
  • Camping chairs
  • Secure food bins (for locking food away from wildlife like bears)

When considering camping gear to buy for your first trip, a tent is probably the first item that comes to mind. While tents are an important part of camping success, they can be expensive, especially if you’re not sure whether your first trip will be your last. (Let’s hope not!) When borrowing a tent, practice putting it up and taking it down properly before you go. Bray also suggests you test any tent’s waterproofing and reseal the seams if needed.

Most people will be happy to share their camping gear, which usually only gets used a few times per year. If you don’t have any camping friends from whom to borrow these items, then you can buy all the camping gear you need from outdoor experts Bass Pro Shops or Cabela’s. Alternatively, you can rent camping gear from OutdoorsGeek.

Now that you know what to borrow and what camping gear to buy, get out there and have fun on your first trip! Family camping is a great way to connect with nature and your kids. And after a few days of roughing it, you’ll all appreciate the comforts of home more!

Some camping gear you should buy, but there's lots you can borrow
Some camping gear you should buy, but there’s lots you can borrow (Photo credit: Gorilla,

Learn more camping tips

Make the most of your first camping trip with these tips from a camping expert.

Keep your family safe while exploring the outdoors with these camping safety tips.

Take a look at these camping meals for families.

Not sure where to camp? Find camping sites near you.

Is glamping (glamorous camping!) more your style? Take a look at these popular glamping spots in the U.S.

What Camping Gear You Need to Buy for Your First Camping Trip and What You Can Borrow

Save this list of camping gear to buy!

Be sure to save these camping gear recommendations for future reference. Simply pin the image above to Pinterest. We hope you’ll follow Travel Mamas on Pinterest while you’re at it!

Where will you go on your first camping trip? Is there any additional camping gear you recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

About Paige Conner Totaro, The Startup Travel Mama

Paige Conner Totaro likes to help make dreams come true, whether helping people start businesses or helping people plan the trip of a lifetime. She made her own dream come true by taking a trip around the world with her husband and twin daughters in 2012 and is always planning the next adventure in travel or business (or both). Paige was a founder of Misra Records and Unquote Travel, a founding board member of the arts organization, Transformer, in Washington, DC; and a longtime board member and director of Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts. Paige is a fan of Scandinavian design, Ethiopian food, Arab hospitality, Japanese vintage stores, Brazilian music and Thai beaches, but also American craft beer, garage rock and roller derby. Can you see why her travel company is called All Over the Map? Connect with Paige on Instagram at @alloverthemap.

  1. Agness of aTukTuk says

    Awesome and very practical tips! I will definitely try to remember them! The moisture-wicking socks sound like a great idea!

  2. I am going Leh Ladakh end of the july to enjoy trekking, camping there. Trekking is my favorite activity and tried several times but going to try camping in the forest first time. I very much excited. This list gonna be very useful for me.

    • Paige Totaro says

      Have a great time! I find camping to be a very empowering experience. When you can fend for yourself overnight, you feel like you can do anything! At least I do….

  3. I so need this list! My family and I are going camping this summer!

  4. Autumn R Reo says

    This is a great list. I wish we would have had it early on. We own it all so this list is a great one.

  5. Toni | Boulder Locavore says

    These are really helpful tips! It’s not our first time to camp but I really find these tips useful! Thanks for sharing!

  6. Dawn Lopez says

    As a complete beginner when it comes to camping, I think I can safely say this post is a life saver! It’s good to know what is really essential to buy and where I can actually purchase it too.

    • Paige Totaro says

      Amazon is a life saver but do go to an outdoor store to look at things in person. The staff can be very helpful in sizing backpacks and telling you about latest technologies.

  7. Tatanisha Worthey says

    This is a GREAT list idea. I love the idea of borrowing things you are not going to use all the time from a friend– this is also a great way to save money!

  8. valmg @ Mom Knows It All says

    These are all great suggestions. I have always wanted to check out a Bass Pro Shop, I hear they’re really something inside!

  9. Great advice. We went camping with a family who had never been out before. I was happy they had tested the waters with us and not rushed out to buy tons of things they wouldn’t need.

  10. This is really great info! I am going to share this with our scout troops since we always have families going camping for the first time every year!

    • Paige Totaro says

      Great! Scout trips are a great way to test out overnight camping in a group. I have great memories of camping as a scout and a leader!

  11. Lisa Bristol says

    I think everyone should own a sleeping bag and first aid kit. You never know when an emergency might happen and we will need to have some basic survival gear. I really like this waterproof four-season sleeping bag. Camping is so much fun. We try to go a few times a year.

  12. TColeman says

    This is such great advice! I know that you can definitely borrow some things but others you definitely need for yourself.

  13. Danielle says

    This is a great list. We’ve never been camping, but would love to experience it with the kids. Now I know what we can save money on by borrowing.

    • Paige Totaro says

      If you have a neighborhood email list or NextDoor, that’s a great place to put out the word that you’re looking to borrow stuff. And most people are happy that the equipment is being used!

  14. Definitely borrow a tent for your first camping trip. We used to borrow them from friends who only used them once or twice, and at one point our garage had 11 of them and no one knew who they belonged to, because no one recognized them. Everyone thinks they need to buy a tent for their first trip, but chances are you have multiple friends who already have one they can lend you. Definitely on the list of things to buy is a good flashlight or lantern.

    • Paige Totaro says

      Good point! I love a good headlamp. My husband and I use them to read in bed at night so we don’t disturb each other.

  15. Liz Mays says

    Ah, this is really helpful. I do want to plan a large road trip with some camping along the way and we’d definitely need some new sleeping bags.

    • Paige Totaro says

      I really recommend that you shop for sleeping bags in person so you can feel the fabric. I ruled out quite a few based on the material.

  16. Kristen @ My 3 Little Kittens says

    Great camping tips! Summer camping trips really are the best!

  17. Stacie @ Divine Lifestyle says

    I love this post. The first time we went camping we bought everything, and we only used about half of it!

    • Paige Totaro says

      The other great thing about borrowing equipment is that you can try out different styles before you commit to purchasing one. And you can make sure that you like camping enough to go a second time! 🙂

  18. Jennifer says

    Thanks so much for sharing these tips. I’ve been camping a few times, and I know just how expensive camping equipment can be. You don’t have to clean out your local sporting goods store to go camping!

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