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Essential camping gear: Equipment, tents and tools for your trip

Read our guide to everything you need for sleeping under the stars

Louise Whitbread
Tuesday 28 July 2020 08:29 BST
Camping equipment is all about being functional, portable and practical, so here are the must-have products worth investing in
Camping equipment is all about being functional, portable and practical, so here are the must-have products worth investing in

In the the next stage to the government's roadmap to easing lockdown, the prime minister Boris Johnson announced that from 4 July, people in England will be able to stay overnight at holiday and second homes, as well as book stays at hotels, caravan parks and campsites.

Families from two different households will also be allowed to congregate inside as long as social distancing measures are observed. These measures have been eased from 2m to 1m-plus.

For campsites and caravan parks, this was welcome news as it allows them to reopen just in time for the summer season. Boris Johnson warned that shared facilities on these sites will need to be kept clean to reopen safely.

Whether you’re an avid camper or are looking to do so for the first time, we’ve put together a guide for all products you need to be well-equipped for sleeping under the stars. For our full IndyBest reviews, visit our camping section.

You can trust our independent round-ups. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.


Adequate shelter when camping is the most important part to any outdoor trip. If you plan on camping with family members, a bigger tent will always be beneficial. The larger styles available have internal space that you can use for resting or running around. They will also provide a safe haven for everyone if it's raining, along with storage space to keep your things dry.

Look for features that will enhance your camping experience, such as a built-in awning for shade, a porch for wellies, brightly coloured guy ropes to avoid any tripping and double zips on sleeping compartments.

Typically the larger the tent, the heavier it is, so keep that in mind if you’re going to be lugging children’s toys and board games from the car to the campsite.

If there’s few of you or a group of just adults, an inflatable tent may be worth your while to make setting up much quicker and the tent far lighter to carry. However, they tend not to be as sturdy as an old fashioned pole construction, so check the weather forecast for your camping trip before you make a purchase to avoid a blustery night’s sleep.

This family tent is perfect for young families (The Independent)

If you choose the pole style set up, don’t forget to pack a mallet to secure your tent to the ground, as you don’t want the wind to try and take your tent while you sleep.

In our guide to the best family tents, we found this Vango Longleat II air 800 XL (£599, Outdoor World), to be the best investment.

Describing this tent as a "staple of summer campsites", our reviewer praised it for being very simple and adaptable, with two removable blackout bedroom compartments.

"The bedrooms can be split in half with a thin divider, great if you have smaller children and don’t want them rolling between rooms or you can leave it open if you want a lot of space – to sleep with babies, for example," our tester says.

It's durable enough to last without being so expensive that you'll panic about keeping it pristine.

Sleeping bags

An uncomfortable night's rest can ruin a trip, so invest in the right sleeping bag and doze off in an instant.

Sleeping bags come in two shapes – mummy and rectangular – and are often rated by comfort and season. The comfort rating indicates the coldest ambient temperature at which you’ll be comfortable, while the season rating tells you the time of year the bag is most suitable for. Getting this right is important, especially as British summertime can still mean chilly evenings.

We loved the Thermarest questar 20F (from £209.99, Ultra Light Outdoor Gear), as a great all-rounder. It's technical, lightweight, comfortable and warm all at a reasonable price.

This sleeper is ideal for remote and rugged adventures (The Independent)

It weighs just 990g and packs away very compactly, yet the 650 fill power down – which is thickest where you need it most – still keeps you warm down to 0C.

"The best feature is the clever sleeping mat connection system, enabling seamless integration of bag and mat. There’s no accidental sliding off your mat onto the cold, hard, unforgiving ground," our reviewer says.

Sleeping bag liners

Often dismissed as an unnecessary extra, a sleeping bag liner can provide relief as a lightweight travel sheet when it’s hot, or act as a layering piece to keep you warm in colder months. It will also add a bit of extra padding, which is always a plus if you don't have the luxury of lush grass beneath you.

A decent liner will help your bag last longer, providing protection from sweat and dirt, which is ideal if you’re camping for longer periods of time.

Acting as a bug proof travel sheet and sleeping bag liner in one, we love this multi-purpose camping aid (The Independent)

This Cocoon insect shield Egyptian cotton travel sheet (£33.95, Absolute Snow), impressed us for its versatility.

The "comfortable and breathable" liner doubles up as a bug proof travel sheet, with an odourless insect repellant that keeps mosquitos and midges at bay.

Our reviewer loved the "box construction, which means your feet don’t feel constricted and you can sleep comfortably on your side."

Air beds

If a night in the wilderness relying on a humble sleeping bag isn’t for you, another option is an air bed.

They’re just as lightweight and portable, but are more raised from the floor, so will feel closer to the real deal.

The best one we tried is the Coleman extra durable double air bed (Amazon, £60.17). Our reviewer said that "It is just the right height for comfort without being so high you get the air bed wobble; it’s perfectly firm and about as close to a real bed as you can get on a camping trip."

Air beds strike the perfect balance between comfort and being carriable (The Independent)

Inflation can be done with a 12v car pump or a rechargeable battery pump, so kicking off your adventure with a sturdy bed is simple. They are easy to foldaway and pack up too.


There’s nothing worse than waking up in the middle of the night needing the toilet and scrambling around in the dark to find the tent door, or if you’re unlucky enough to still be setting up your tent after the sun has set.

This is why you should never head off on a camping trip without a torch. Look for a long-lasting model that delivers good quality light to illuminate your space.

In our guide to the best torches, the Maglite mag charger LED rechargeable torch (Torch Direct, £149.95), took the top spot.

It's easy to turn the beam from spot to flood by adjusting this torch head and charging is quick and easy (The Independent)

Weighty and water-resistant, it will add a noticeable difference to your camping rucksack, but is a worthwhile investment. It’s made from a water-resistant material and is rechargeable, although our reviewer noted that its eco mode meant that the battery lasted for days.

Cooking gear

Campsite cooking may have you conjuring up images of burnt marshmallows and charred bake beans, but thanks to the advancement of tools at your disposal, these days you can even bring a pop up kitchen sink that can be used to chop vegetables and dice kebab meat.

While it won’t be gourmet cooking, it can be pretty close if you shop smart. In our guide to camping cook gear, we found several products that are must-haves.

Our best buy was the Trangia 27-8 stove hard anodised pans with kettle (Alpine Trek, £91.95). Bringing a complete cooking system may feel excessive but trust us, it's worth it.

This set of pans is everything you need in campsite cooking gear; it's lightweight, portable and functional (The Independent)

It packs away ingeniously into a single pot, so there won’t be random pots and pans floating around the rest of your belongings, and it's made from hard anodised aluminium, which will protect it from bumps and scrapes.

You’ll be surprised at how light it is too, despite the whole kit containing a kettle, two pans, a frying pan and a windshield. Whether you want to use it for simmering, sauteing or gently boiling coffee, this set does it all.

Camping-appropriate cutlery is another piece of kit worth investing in, rather than trying to prep and eat food with blunt knives. This Opinel nomad cooking kit (Cyclaire Shop, £51.98), is by a French knife manufacturer that has created a set of three folding knives specifically for cooking in the great outdoors, with serrated edges for bread-cutting and peelers for vegetables.

This set of foldable knives, cutting board and tea towels will make your mealtimes feel more gourmet (Cyclaire shop)

Along with knives comes a cutting board and quick-drying microfibre cloth to raise your cooking and cleaning game.

For more reviews, visit our IndyBest camping section

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