So the weather is warming up and the days are longer, which can only mean one thing. Camping season is upon us. Now Rich and I will attempt to pitch a tent any month of the year, but we can’t wait for Spring to be in full flow to really dust off the gear and enjoy the outdoors. Whether you are a complete novice looking to camp for the first time or have several seasons behind you, follow along with our ‘Preparing for the Camping Season’ series to help you make the most of your time outdoors.
We will cover what sleeping gear you’ll need for a comfortable night, our recommended hiking apparel, recipes for your camping stove, those nifty time saving extras and how to best plan your getaway.
So let’s kick off with everything you are going to need to get a good nights sleep.
Tent: There are a few things to thing about when purchasing your first tent. This portable house will be your window to the outdoors, protect you from the elements and be your home away from home. You need something light weight but strong, quick to assemble and compact enough to fit in your pack.
Our favorite tent is the REI half dome 2. We can get this beauty up in 10 minutes flat and it has protected us from thunderstorms, earthquakes and vicious winds. It can be folded up into a lightweight and compressed bundle that easily fits into your back pack for longer hikes and takes up minimal space in your car.
Sleeping Bags: Depending on the types of places you plan on camping will influence what kind of sleeping bag you will want to buy. The main considerations you want to deliberate are; season, shape and weight.
Season– Sleeping bags are graded depending on their lowest temperature ranges and can usually be split between Summer Season, 3 Season and Winter.
If your intentions are to stay in warmer climates, +35 degrees, then a Summer Season will cover all your needs. Likewise if you are looking to do some hardcore camping, 10 degrees and below, then you definitely need to be looking at the Winter bags. For a great all rounder that enables you to camp from the beginning of Spring to the end of Autumn a 3 season (click here) is perfect. Rich and I both have a 3 Season and they are so versatile.
Your main options are rectangular or mummy. For simple camping where you will be driving most of your gear to the campsite, a rectangular will suit you well. You can often attach these to a second bag for comfortable double sleeping and give you ample room for leg stretching. Mummy bags are best for back packers who also car camp, they are warm and light weight but can be a little restrictive due to their shape.
Weight– This is an important factor to consider if you are going to be backpacking. It is so important that your bag won’t take up all you pack space or weigh you down. When you’re in the store looking at all your options it’s hard to see how well they will actually fit into your pack. I would recommend looking around the $200 range if you intend to hike with it. If you are going to be primarily car camping, base your decision on filling, shape and warmth as weight won’t affect you!
Another tip from me, as a woman, would be to check out the gender specific sleeping bags. They are tailored to the female form taking into account wider hips and the need for extra insulation at the feet!
Your sleeping bag is an essential that should be thought about carefully before purchasing. You want to ensure you can stay warm at night, are able to carry more than just your bag on an overnight hike and that it rolls away easily into a compact ball. Trust me there is nothing worse than having to spend you morning puffing away as you attempt to stuff your sleeping bag back into the tiny sack it came from.
Sleeping Pads For cushioning and insulation, your sleeping pad will become one of your best friends. The main categories are; air, foam and self-inflating.
Air– They are very light weight and there is a design for every season. You will have to inflate them yourself, or bring along a foot pump, but they are great for backpacking. They are on the more expensive end of sleeping pads and do run the risk of punctures but usually nothing a little repair can’t fix.
Foam– Great for carrying on the outside of your pack, incredibly light weight and durable with the bonus of being lower cost. However they do tend to be less comfortable and bulky.
Self Inflatable– Rich and I both have this kind of pad (click here) and we love them. They offer great insulation and you can adjust the firmness by adding or releasing more air accordingly. They roll up well for your back pack and are budget friendly. They are slightly bulkier than the air pads and also have the risk of punctures but the tough material makes them pretty durable.
Pillows: Depending on whether you are car camping or overnight hiking this could be considered a luxury. When we overnight hike we tend to just use folded up clothes as a head support, and you can by all means bring your pillows from home if you have enough room. However we do also have compact pillows that provide good comfort whilst taking up minimal room for all the other camping.
So there is everything you need to get started with your first overnight trip. A little research will go a long way and this is a great start, check out the stores and don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. Consider spending a little more to get a better quality item that will not only fulfil its requirements but last you a long time.
We would love to hear what your favorite sleeping items are, what won’t you camp without? Leave us a comment and let us know!
Keep traveling and stay tuned for next week’s Preparing for the Camping Season where we will be discussing essential cooking equipment and our favorite recipes.
Steph & Rich