Whether you’re a seasoned Lake District traverser, a first-time camper, or looking to upgrade your festival packing list, your trip requires preparation and more than a few key items.
Luckily for you, we’ve asked outdoorsy people — including artistic adventurers, wild campers, and enthusiastic hikers — for their expert gear recommendations. As we’ve racked up a rather extensive roster of camping guides at the Strategist, we’ve compiled the very best of our camping coverage into a one-stop shop. Please bear in mind that for a very specific trip (perhaps you’re the type that enjoys a quick whistle-stop tour of the Arctic tundra), you can read more in depth about specialist categories in our full-length stories, which will be linked below. Otherwise, read on for a breakdown of absolutely everything you’ll need to adventure, camp, and hike, from sleeping bags and hiking boots to status Finnish compasses.
This tent took the top- pot of our expert-recommended roundup after being recommended to us by hiker Joey Holmes, founder of Black Girls Camping Trip, Tianna Johnson, and award-winning travel writer Emily Woodhouse. All three of them specifically mentioned being fans of the tent’s versatility, finding it suitable for backpacking to wild camping. The tent is also ultralightweight (weighing 1.5 kilograms) and adaptable to a variety of weather conditions. Thanks to its double-porch feature for storing gear, both Holmes and Woodhouse personally found the tent to have ample space for two people, where Woodhouse mentioned it was a prime choice for fellow plus-size sleepers. Read more here.
With an average rating of 4.5 stars from over 1,700 reviews, this three-man option from Coleman was the best-rated overall in our people’s choice tent roundup. Sixty-nine reviewers marvelled at how easy the tent was to erect, and 35 others were advocates of the porch area, which is large enough to sit in during the day. As for adverse weather conditions, the tent is certifiably durable, with one couple reporting that the tent withstood both Storm Ellen and a heavy downpour in the Dordogne. Read more here.
For larger groups, this octagon shaped tent from Coleman is suitable for, fittingly, eight people. With both a sewn-in waterproof groundsheet and a flysheet that’s entirely removable on humid days, the tent is suited to both winter and summer time trips. Whilst designed for large groups, Black Girls Camping Trip’s Johnson says the tent is also great when camping solo as it makes it easier to “delegate space” for areas like “a hygiene corner or a reading corner”.
Best sleeping bags
Richard Prideaux, lead instructor at Original Outdoors, selected this Therm-a-Rest as his ultimate sleeping bag pick when we spoke to him for our expert roundup. Suited to handling subzero temperatures, the bag is actually ideal for damp-weather protection, being made up of quick-drying synthetic insulation. Whilst there is no official GSM rating (the amount of weight per square meter in an insulating material) available for the bag, it is a solid choice for both winter and summer camping. It also has the added bonus of packing away easily — so there’s no need to dread a festive end-of-trip wrestling match with the storage bag. Read more here.
An exceedingly well-rated — and cheap — option comes in the form of the Trail Outdoor 3 Season sleeping bag. Usually, the higher a GSM rating, the warmer the sleeping bag. The Trail Outdoor bag has a rating of 250 GSM, meaning it’s suited for outings from spring all the way up to early winter (though reviewers do make a point to stress the ‘early’ aspect, noting the bag cannot withstand below-freezing temperatures.) Where over 30 reviewers made a point to stress the bag’s comfort, one reviewer in particular said that the bag’s 190 cm length allowed a good night of sleep for the tallest of campers. Read more here.
If sleeping flat on your back isn’t really your thing, this sleeping bag for side-sleepers could be the perfect choice. With a central zipper that will refrain from impaling your hips as you’re snoozing, the Sidewinder is designed specifically for those that tend to curl up on their sides through the night. With a mix of synthetic and high-loft, water-resistant natural down, as well as keeping you comfortable, the sidewinder will keep you warm and dry too.
Just as important as a carefully selected sleeping bag in some situations, a sleeping mat offers a solid foundation for a decent night’s sleep whilst camping. Providing a crucial layer of protection between your bag and your groundsheet, a mat can add a layer of warmth and comfort on a good day or protect you from damp leaks on a bad one.
Whilst some may view a camping pillow as unnecessary, after “enough nights of sleeping on a greasy sack”, for contributor Maggie Slepian it’s a nonnegotiable. When deflated, Slepian finds the pillow to take up no more than the space of “a pack of cards”, but after a few deep breaths, the pillow inflates to a “generous size”. As for durability, Slepian promises that even after a “heck of use”, the pillow holds up just fine.
Best hiking backpack
One expert, Camping With Style’s Shell Robshaw-Bryan, said that Osprey’s packs guarantee “decades of service”. Another expert, adventurer Holly Budge, stood by the pack after taking it on perhaps the ultimate measure of quality: a successful hike to the summit of Mount Everest. She said the backpack gave “lots of support through the waist strap, making weight more manageable”, and faced “extreme heat, wind, and snow” without letting her down.
Best kids’ camping items
With room for both a little one and their belongings, the Poco Plus Child Carrier is an ideal choice for parents hoping to adventure out on a hike with a kid. Able to carry toddlers at a weight of up to 18 kg, the carrier is “astonishingly well designed“, according to adventurer Mary-Ann Ochota.
Andes Pichu sleeping bags came recommended by experts, including Alex Ion, who runs the Dozy Owl sleep blog. Unfortunately they’re out of stock and tricky to find online. We researched some of the best-rated sleeping bags on Amazon and thought this option, by tried-and-trusted Tresspass, would be a safe bet. It has over 800 reviews, 73 percent of which are five stars.
Best camping chair
Seasoned wild camper Aoife Kitt is a strong advocate for this lightweight camping chair (it weighs less than a kilo). Taking up the same space as a pair of trainers amongst your kit, the chair is beyond convenient to transport, and its two deep pockets are convenient for popping down a nice brew (or perhaps something stronger) whilst you relax. Importantly, it’s also really rather comfortable, she adds. Read more here.
Best gear, gadgets, and tools
With an mAh (milliamp hours) of 26,800, enough to charge an iPhone 11 eight times over, this Anker Power Bank was hyperenthusiastic reviewers top choice for a portable charger. Reaching full charge in just eight-hours and with the ability to charge up to three devices simultaneously, many reviewers named the item as an absolute essential for campaign trips. One such reviewer claimed that the power bank had been a lifesaver for both herself and her boyfriend, who’s own charger had died hours into their trip, meaning the Anker Power Bank had had to step in to save the day. Read more here.
For a lighter (and less-expensive) option, the PowerCore Light came highly reviewed, too. It can also charge up to three devices simultaneously and, with 10,000 mAh, can fully charge an iPhone 11 at least twice on one charge, according to reviewers. It’s light enough to take on the go, with one reviewer saying they no longer have to fear the dreaded one-percent-battery tube ride home.
According to arborist Alex Vaught, a pocketknife is an essential for camping. He recommends this one from Victorinox. “It’s small and light, it easily fits into a pocket, and it’s unlikely to look intimidating to anyone,” he explains, revealing that no matter what specialist equipment he might require for a job, he’ll always find himself packing his Swiss Army knife.
Meanwhile, contributor Hanna Hanra also recommends the “dinky” six cm version.
One thing no campsite should be without is a fully stocked first-aid kit. But if you’re scratching your head as to what needs to be included, we chatted to experts — including a medical director at St John’s Ambulance — for their advice. In addition to fabric plasters and bandages, they also recommended tweezers, thermometers, and a quality eye wash and eye bath, such as this one from Superdrug. Read more here.
This Enzees Foot Soother provides a “pillowy softness”, according to contributor Aleta Burchyski, who pinches a puff of the yarn to wrap around her angry toes. The Enzees soother is the only thing that’s enabled Aleta to tackle the home stretch of her and her husband’s hikes, and she thanks it heartily for saving her toes from slowly declining into “shredded grapes”.
Expert hiker Maggie Slapein recommended packing a headlamp for longer journeys “just in case something goes wrong, and I’m out longer than I think I should be in the dark“, she explains. She also emphasises the importance of having any torch beyond just a phone, as even with a portable charger, you may not always be able to rely on it as a light source.
Best coolers, BBQs, and kitchen tools for camping
With an average rating of 4.7 stars from well over 1,500 reviews, the Campingaz Party Grill is a solid choice for those seeking a portable grill. The barbecue is a gas model, but have no fear, reviewers said that the (various) compatible gas canisters were easy to track down online. Twenty-seven reviewers reported that, crucially, the portable barbecue was easy to transport, and over 90 said that cleaning it was also a doddle. Read more here.
The Uten barbecue grill has a similar number of reviews as the Campingaz — over 1,500 — but is a third of the price (and a Strategist best seller). Despite the cheaper price point, reviewers (36, to be exact) said that the grill was easy to assemble, and an additional 16 remarked on how little time the straight-forward assembly had taken.
The top-rated option for keeping your drinks chilly came from Thermos. Of the 30-litre cooler’s reviewers, 76 percent awarded the bag five stars. Reviewers reported that while the bag was more than capable of keeping drinks chilled — such as a frozen water bottle in 30 degree heat — it was also suitable for snacks and even the entirety of a big shop. Read more here.
When we chatted to experts about statusy water bottles, the PureVis from Larq came out on top. As it uses UV and LED light to purify water, it’s especially useful for hiking — the bottle eradicates 99.9 percent of bacteria. The bottle is available in two forms, PureVis and Movement PureVis; we recommend the latter for campers and hikers — while it lacks temperature-regulation capabilities, it is much lighter. Read more here.
Strategist writer Chris Mandle wrote an ode to this “jumbo” water bottle that became a vessel for cold brew and batch cocktails during his lockdown-mandated walks. Most impressive is the volume — it can fit an entire bottle of wine or a Brita jug’s worth of filtered water in it — and the contents stay cool and crisp for several hours, even when it’s left out in the sun.
Best hiking gear
When we asked experts to recommend the best hiking boots, many of the options were in the £200-plus price range. But Thao Nunns, a hiker based in the Lake District, told us about this Karrimor pair, which she wears on long hikes up Pike O’Blisco and Helvellyn. “I like that they really support my ankles well,” she adds. “I go hiking almost every other day, even in the snow or ice, so I use them a lot and they’re still in very good condition, including the soles.”
You’ll need some appropriate socks for hikes (and festivals) too. Our U.S. colleagues recently named Darn Tough the best brand for hiking socks. Writer Jordan Bowman, a keen hiker himself, said, “They’re padded to add comfort, so you will immediately notice the thickness in comparison to medium-weight socks like Uniqlo’s and Muji’s. They also have a snug fit, so they won’t slip around while hiking. Because they are made of merino wool, they regulate temperature; your feet will stay comfortable and dry in a variety of weather settings.”
To keep you fuelled on your expedition, we’ve rounded up a selection of the healthiest snacks available on Amazon. There’s something for salt lovers and sweet tooths alike, from crispy seaweed thins and crunchy coconut bites to this selection box of Nakd bar best sellers. Read more here.
This set has a very respectable rating of 4.6 stars from over 1,600 reviewers, 23 of which commented on the tremendous value for money the game was at just £7. Ideal for campers that like to travel far and wide, reviewers also reported that the game could be played on various terrains, from grass to sand. It also comes with a nifty little carrying case, which makes it a no-fuss addition to your camping gear. Read more here.
We first discovered Molkky in Paris (it’s a cult summer game) but also spied it when we perused lawn games on Amazon (it has an outstanding rating of 4.8 stars). It’s easy to see how the game has gained its reputation, as in addition to commenting on the materials and portability of the game, at least 30 reviewers stated just how addictive the fun game was.
If you’re looking for a raincoat, we’ve spoken to tasteful men and women alike to find out their recommendations. Anthony West, singer in Oh Wonder and owner of Peckham coffee shop Nola, said this cagoule can usually be found stashed in the boot of his car. “Side pockets on cagoules are always too small and inaccessible to comfortably hold a phone and wallet, whereas this large pocket is perfect for throwing all your essentials in to keep them dry.”
Editors, stylists, and musicians alike told us about the versatile and statusy Rains jackets. If you’re looking for a raincoat that would be just as suitable for a weekend trip to Copenhagen, this would be it. Not only is Rains less expensive than Stutterheim, but they’re regularly on sale at End clothing.
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