It’s *finally* getting warm again, which means outdoor activities are back on the agenda. And if you’re trying to plan a weekend getaway to nature (hello, camping trip!), you’ll need a solid game plan and the necessary gear.
If you’re one of those people who can cram just the essentials into a tiny backpack and spend two months alone in the wilderness, we applaud you. But for everyone like us (a.k.a. you want to start camping but have absolutely no idea where to begin), we’ve got you covered. Our friends at Wirecutter tested out tons of different camping-related products and consulted the experts in order to bring you the best of what’s out there.
This post was done in partnership with Wirecutter. When readers choose to buy Wirecutter’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work.
If you’re looking for a functional tent that won’t break the bank, the Coleman Sundome 6-Person Dome Tent is by far your best option. Wirecutter calls it “a cheap but appealing tent for mild conditions,” so it should hold up in all types of weather. It’s a breeze to set up, roomy enough for six people, and even has an outlet to charge your electronics.($106.19; walmart.com)
Sometimes less is more when it comes to a portable stove. The Coleman Matchlight Propane Stove is durable, easy to use, and only requires a lighter to get things cooking. Wirecutter says, “The Coleman boiled water faster than nearly every other stove we tested, while still having delicate enough temperature control for most things you might want to cook,” making it the best camping stove on the market without being very expensive at all.($42.88; walmart.com)
The First Aid Only First Aid Essentials Kit has all the basic supplies you’ll need to be prepared for bumps and bruises on the trail, Wirecutter says. The fabric case will fit perfectly in your pack, and the clear pockets make it easy to spot the different pieces (all 299 of them!). Better safe than Band-Aid less and blistered, ya know?($12.18; walmart.com)
Dealing with bugs is easily the worst part of camping, but finding an insect repellant that stays on for hours without feeling sticky is up there too. Wirecutter recommends the Cutter Backwoods Dry Bug Repellant. It has 25 percent DEET, lasts for three to four hours, and feels comfortable on your skin.($4.32; walmart.com)
For a good night’s sleep, you can’t beat the Coleman Oak Point Cool Weather Sleeping Bag, which Wirecutter recommends as the best option for frequent car camping (so any trip where you won’t have to lug a sleeping bag on the trail with you). It fits people of most sizes and can accommodate whichever sleeping position you prefer without making you feel like you’re trapped in a cocoon. And with plenty of insulation, it’ll keep you warm in temps as low as 30 degrees.($33.74; walmart.com)
Whether you just need a reading lamp or want to light up your whole campsite, Wirecutter says the UST 30-Day Duro LED Lantern will do the trick. It runs for up to 30 hours on low without needing a battery change. It’s also the smallest choice for something this powerful, so you won’t have to worry about it weighing down your gear. Plus, there’s a flashing mode to use for emergency signaling and a hook so you can hang it from a tree or the top of your tent.($32.86; amazon.com)
There’s a reason it’s called the Kelty Bestie Blanket—you’ll want to take this everywhere with you. Wirecutter loves it as a budget-friendly, durable blanket that can withstand outdoor use. It’s puffy, well insulated, and easily packs down into a stuff sack with a handle, so you can cozy up around the campfire even during those colder months.($22.95; amazon.com)
Want to take things up a notch? The Coleman 6-Person Instant Cabin is roomy enough to fit cots and air mattresses, and it goes up in only two minutes—making it one of Wirecutter’s top choices for car camping with the family. It’s a bit bulky, so it works best for trips where you can park right next to your campsite. This tent is durable and convenient for large groups.($169; amazon.com)
For a picnic or day trip, the Coleman Mountain View 12 × 12 Screendome Shelter offers shelter from all kinds of weather conditions. Zip up the mesh side panels for protection from wind and rain or remove them completely to make an open-air canopy. Wirecutter suggests using this tent anywhere from the forest to your own backyard, so your glamping trip stays comfy and low-maintenance.($174.99; walmart.com)
If you’re taking a car on your trip and plan to do a little cooking, this low-maintenance cast-iron skillet will be your friend. The Lodge Pre-Seasoned 12-inch Skillet is affordable, durable, and comfortable to use, making it the best pick for most people.($19.92, walmart.com)