The Best Camping Gear You Need in 2022

Buying new camping gear can be overwhelming.

This is especially true if you’re a new camper buying your first set of gear.

Before you spend your hard-earned money, make sure you know which camping supplies are really necessary – and which are more like luxuries.

Below I break down the camping gear that every camper needs plus a few of my favorite non-essential camping accessories!

Note: This gear list is tailored to dispersed camping. Some of the suggested gear might not be necessary if you typically camp at developed campgrounds.

Related Post: Best Camping Gifts for 2022


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My Favorite Camping Gear for Dispersed Camping

Here are some of my top camping essentials. If you’re a newbie, start with the necessities and build from there. The right gear definitely makes dispersed camping more enjoyable.

Tent

The North Face Wawona 6 Tent

The North Face Wawona 6 Tent

A very tall and spacious 6-person tent with a huge vestibule for sitting under in the rain.

Some dispersed campers sleep inside their vehicles (whether that’s an RV, van, or a passenger vehicle) – everyone else needs a tent.

The best tent for you depends largely on size/capacity and seasonality. Since you’re likely dispersed camping near your vehicle, tent weight doesn’t matter as much as it does for backpacking.

For 2022, my go-to dispersed camping tent is my Poler 2+ Person Tent. Previously, I’d been using The North Face Stormbreak 2 (which I still strongly recommend).

Although I almost always camp alone or with just one friend, I recently picked up The North Face Wawona 6 Tent for the occasional group trip and to have a bigger weather-protected space when camping in the rain.

REI’s extensive line of camping and backpacking tents are also worth considering. Their Base Camp tents and Kingdom tents are available in 4-person and 6-person models (the Kingdom is even offered in an 8-person model).

Although I don’t have any personal experience with rooftop tents, they’re increasingly popular in overlanding circles thanks to their convenience and security. A rooftop tent is perfect if you prefer to sleep up off the ground.

For new campers, Ozark Trail tents are hard to beat. Their quality is definitely inferior to the tents mentioned above, but they’re a super cheap way to try out dispersed camping without forking over the big bucks on an activity you might not end up liking.

Sleeping Bag

Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag

Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag

This lightweight mummy-style sleeping bag keeps you warm in temperatures down to 32°F and a bit below.

A quality sleeping bag is perhaps even more important than a good tent for dispersed camping.

The most important factor to consider is temperature rating. A sleeping bag’s temperature rating dictates the lowest temperature at which the bag will keep the average user warm.

Know, however, that temperature rating isn’t standardized across brands. And that’s not to mention how differences in metabolism, what clothes you wear to sleep, and sleeping pad insulation effect warmth from person to person.

Personally, I recommend a sleeping bag rated for about 10° to 15° Fahrenheit under the coldest temperature you expect to encounter while camping.

When it’s warmer, simply unzip the bag a bit to let it breath. When it’s colder, zip the bag up all the way (you can also add a sleeping bag liner for an additional boost in warmth).

As for my go-to sleeping bag, I’m currently using the Kelty Cosmic 20. It’s a relatively lightweight (2 lbs 15 oz for the regular length version) mummy-shaped bag. I’m very pleased with its performance so far. I’ve stayed plenty warm on cold nights with temperatures hovering around freezing.  

Prefer a sleeping bag with a bit more room? The Kelty Galactic 30 is a great choice. It’s an awesome rectangular-shaped sleeping bag that’s perfect for spring, summer, and fall dispersed camping.

Men’s, women’s, and kid’s models are also available as are double sleeping bags which can fit two sleepers (The North Face Eco Trail Bed Double 20 is a solid two-person bag).

Just like with tents, buying a sleeping bag from Walmart is a great budget option. Ozark Trail sleeping bags are super affordable, although I only recommend them for mild summer camping (even if the bag is rated for a colder temperature).

The great thing about dispersed camping near your car is weight isn’t an issue – I always bring a few wool blankets (they’re pricey, but I love Pendleton blankets) in the spring, fall, and winter for extra warmth.

Yet another option is to buy a tent and sleeping bag bundle. REI currently offers two: the REI Co-op Backpacking Bundle and the Kelty Discovery Basecamp Bundle. Both come with a two-person tent, two sleeping bags, and two sleeping pads.

Sleeping Pad

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

Exped MegaMat 10 Sleeping Pad

This oversized “sleeping pad” is extremely comfortable and warm. It’s perfect for tent camping or sleeping in the back of a vehicle.

A sleeping pad provides extra comfort as well as some additional insulation from the cold ground.

When dispersed camping near my vehicle, I much prefer an inflatable air pad for the extra comfort. But, when I’m backpacking, a closed-cell foam sleeping pad is my go-to because they’re much more lightweight and compact.

I’m currently using the Exped MegaMat 10 for dispersed camping. It’s extremely comfortable (the most comfortable sleeping pad I’ve ever used), very warm from the ground on cold nights, and a beast in terms of durability. It works just as well in the back of a vehicle as it does in a tent.

Check out my full review of the Exped MegaMat 10 here.

Exped makes several other models in the MegaMat family, including a two-person version of the MegaMat 10 (the Exped MegaMat Duo 10) and a slightly thicker version (the Exped MegaMat Max 15).

If you don’t have the room or the need for a MegaMat, the NEMO Switchback has long been my go-to closed-cell foam pad. I’m a big fan of the REI Co-op Trailbreak if you prefer an inflatable model.

A useful trick (which I often employ) is to use an air pad on top of a closed-cell foam pad for a one-two punch in comfort and insulation.

A camping cot makes a great alternative to a sleeping pad. I’m partial to the Kelty Discovery Low Cot, although I’m not sure if it’s still being made. The Mountain Summit Gear Horizon Cot is a good alternative.

If you’re car camping, you might even have enough room to bring an actual folding mattress (the single size of the Milliard Tri Folding Mattress is amazing) along.

Folding mattresses like those from Milliard are also a great choice for sleeping inside a vehicle (whether it’s a van, pickup truck bed, or back of an SUV).

Cooler

RTIC 45 Quart Cooler

RTIC 45 Quart Cooler

A robust premium cooler with a rotomolded design, 3-inch insulated walls, and a freezer-quality sealing gasket to keep your ice cold for longer.

Right now, I’m using the RTIC 20 Quart Cooler for short solo trips and the RTIC 45 Quart Cooler for longer solo trips or short trips with friends.

RTIC coolers like these are very similar to (and a bit more affordable than!) the very popular coolers made by Yeti, like Yeti Roadie 24, Yeti Tundra 45, and Yeti Tundra 65 coolers.

Although “premium” coolers like those from RTIC and YETI are well worth the cost, especially on longer trips, any old cooler does the trick for short weekend outings.

The Coleman Xtreme Cooler is a great compromise between a budget and a premium cooler. Even the standard budget-model Coleman cooler gets the job done for weekend campers (or use a cheap cooler for beer and your higher-end cooler for food).

But, much more important than the model you go with is using your cooler correctly. Specifically, keeping it closed as much as possible and storing it out of the sun.

If possible, pre-chilling your cooler (even keeping it in the coolest part of your house the night before your trip helps), using block ice rather than ice cubes, and freezing food and drinks (when it makes sense) will help any cooler stay colder for longer.

An electric cooler, like the Dometic CFX3-25, is yet another option. But, because of their hefty price tag and energy requirements, they are better suited for full-time boondockers and van dwellers as well as serious overlanders.

Camp Stove

Coleman Classic Propane Stove

Coleman Classic Propane Stove

A simple yet effective two-burner propane camp stove with built-in wind-blocking panels.

I can’t recommend the Coleman Classic Stove highly enough. It’s a simple, seemingly bulletproof two-burner propane stove that doesn’t break the bank.

I’ve had my Coleman Classic for over 10 years and it still works like a champ. Although each burner is adjustable, it’s quite difficult to adjust the temperature on these stoves (especially if you need to simmer something).

Recently, however, I upgraded to the Eureka Ignite 2-Burner Camp Stove. It’s more expensive than the Coleman, but it’s much easier to adjust the temperature of the burners (even to a simmer), plus it comes with a push-button ignition.

Although dispersed camping typically doesn’t come with the same space/weight restrictions as backpacking, you certainly can use a single-burner backpacking stove like the Jetboil Flash Cooking System (my favorite) or the MSR PocketRocket 2 Stove if you prefer.

And, for those that really want to take their camp kitchen to the next level, the Camp Chef Big Gas Grill and the Camp Chef Outdoor Camp Oven are for you.

Lighting

BioLite AlpenGlow 500 Lantern

An adjustable 500-lumen lantern that provides 360° illumination with a variety of modes (low light, warm light, candle flicker, etc).

Flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps are the most popular ways to illuminate your campsite at night. I usually bring a mixture of all three, especially when I’m dispersed camping far from civilization.

My go-to headlamp is the Petzl Tikkina Headlamp. A headlamp is a must for hands-free functionality at night. A hat light, like these Ozark Trail Cap Lights, clips to the brim of your hat to accomplish much the same thing.

As for lanterns, I usually like to bring two or three. I’ve been very happy with these Vont Lanterns with adjustable brightness at a super affordable price. For something a little fancier, the Black Diamond Moji+ or the BioLite AlpenGlow are good choices.

I’m personally not a huge fan of flashlights for camping. I prefer a very bright spotlight instead. Although I rarely need to use it, I like the sense of safety that bringing a very bright light camping provides. My current go-to is the EverStar Maxx 1000 Lumen Spotlight. If you do want a flashlight, I always hear good things about the Coast G22.

Yet another option, and one that seems popular with the vanlife crowd, is string lights. A set of battery-powered string lights is a great way to add ambiance to the inside of your tent or the back of your vehicle.


My Favorite Camping Accessories for Dispersed Camping

A lot of camping gear you don’t explicitly need does make life a lot easier. These camping accessories are worth investing in after you get the basics out of the way, but you certainly don’t need them on your first couple of dispersed camping trips.

Water Storage (and/or Water Filter)

Ozark Trail 6-Gallon Water Jug

Ozark Trail 6-Gallon Water Jug

Simple, reliable “jerry can” water storage with a comfortable handle and easy-pour spout.

Most dispersed campsites don’t have access to running water.

Of course, you can use water bottles or jugs of water, but I prefer dedicated water storage in the form of the Ozark Trail 6-Gallon Water Jug.

Another option is to bring along a water filter or purifier. Use yours solely with a water bottle or to filter enough water to fill your water storage jug.

In my opinion, the MSR Guardian Purifier is the best of the best when it comes to camp water purifiers. But it’s very expensive and better suited for backpacking (versus car camping).

Most dispersed campers are better off with something more affordable, like the Sawyer Mini Water Filter or the Katadyn BeFree Water Filtration System.

Recently, I’ve been eyeing the LifeSaver Jerry Can. It combines just under 5 gallons of water storage with a built-in water purifier. There’s even an optional shower attachment.

Solar Shower

Sea to Summit Pocket Shower

Sea to Summit Pocket Shower

A 10-liter solar shower with adjustable shower pressure so you can take a hot shower anywhere.

On weekend trips, I usually skip showering altogether (or just take a dip in a river or lake to wash off). But, on longer trips, I really appreciate using my Sea to Summit Pocket Shower.

I almost always camp quite remotely, with no neighbors around to see me, so taking a camp shower is no big deal. But, if you plan to use a solar shower in a developed campground, it’s nice to have a portable privacy shelter like the Kelty Blockhouse.

Near the very top of my list for dispersed camping accessories to try out is the Yakima Road Shower.

It locks to your vehicle’s roof rack and delivers pressurized water for easy showering and washing off dirty gear. It heats up on its own (via the sun) during the day. It comes with a stick-on thermometer so your next camp shower is the perfect temperature.

It’s also possible to make a DIY car-top solar shower for a fraction of the price of the Yakima Road Shower.

Camping Toilet

Luggable Loo Portable Toilet

Reliance Luggable Loo Portable Toilet

A simple bucket-style portable toilet with a comfortable toilet seat and snap-on lid so you can easily “take care of business” while dispersed camping.

It’s completely possible to go poop in the woods without a toilet.

Just dig a cat hole (make sure it’s 200 feet from any trails, water sources, or campsites and you dig at least 6 inches deep) or, better yet, pack out your waste (basically using a dog bag for humans).

But, doing your business in a portable camp toilet is much more pleasant. I’m a big fan of the Luggable Loo, which is basically just a 5-gallon bucket with a snap-on toilet seat and odor-blocking lid.

You can always make a DIY camp toilet, but at just $20, the Luggable Loo is a no-brainer (in my opinion).

I personally use normal extra-strong garbage bags in my Luggable Loo, although Reliance does sell special Double Doodie Waste Bags with Bio-Gel made for camping toilets (each contains a gelatin powder that solidifies liquid waste and masks unpleasant odors).

Portable Power Station

Jackery Explorer 500 Portable Power Station

Jackery Explorer 500

This 518 Wh portable power station is ideal for powering small appliances like electric coolers, mini fridges, CPAP machines, and electric blankets as well as charging smartphones, tablets, laptops, and more.

The Jackery Explorer 500 is a great mid-size portable power station for dispersed camping (check out our full review here).

It’s perfect for charging a smartphone, laptop, or satellite messenger and is also capable of powering an electric cooler or CPAP machine for about 9 hours on a single full charge.

If you don’t plan to continuously power any gadgets and just want to recharge small devices, then a smaller portable power station, like the Goal Zero Yeti 150, will likely do the job just fine.

You can actually check out my full review of the Goal Zero Yeti 150 here – I break down everything you need to know about it for dispersed camping.

Another option, if you just want to charge small USB devices, a portable power bank, like the BioLite Charge 80 PD, is a much lighter and more affordable option than the Yeti 150.

For even more charging power, look at the Jackery Explorer 1000 and Bluetti EB150.

Portable power stations any larger than this (such as the Bluetti AC200P or Goal Zero Yeti Lithium 3000X) are better suited for RVs, off-grid living, and home emergency backups.

Yet another option (one I don’t have any personal experience with) is a DIY portable solar power system.

I highly recommend checking out Gnomad Home’s awesomely detailed guide on how to install a campervan solar electrical system if a DIY system interests you.

Portable Solar Panel

Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar Panel

Goal Zero Boulder 50 Solar Panel

A 50-watt portable solar panel with built-in kickstand to charge your portable power station or portable power pack.

You can charge most portable power devices via a standard wall outlet, car charging port, or solar panel.

Right now, I use the Goal Zero Boulder 50 to charge my Yeti 150 power station in the field. It fully charges my Yeti 150 in 6 to 10 hours (depending on cloud coverage).

Larger panels like the Goal Zero Boulder 100 and Renogy 200W are also available. Both of these solar panels (as well as the Boulder 50) can be permanently mounted to the roof of a vehicle if desired.

Just make sure that the solar panel you buy is compatible with your portable power device (adapters are usually available for non-compatible models).

When looking at solar panels for camping, don’t confuse them with solar chargers.

A solar panel can’t charge devices on its own – you have to use it to first recharge a battery pack which you then use to charge your devices.

A portable solar charger, on the other hand, is made to directly charge small devices via the energy from the sun. Most are also capable of charging small USB power banks, like the Goal Zero Flip 12.  

I’ve always been happy with Goal Zero’s Nomad line of solar chargers which include the Nomad 10, Nomad 20, and Nomad 50, among others.

Check out my full Goal Zero Boulder 50 review here.

Satellite Communicator

Garmin inReach Mini 2 Satellite Messenger

Garmin inReach Mini 2

A palm-sized satellite communicator with two-way messaging, GPS location tracking, and emergency SOS feature.

My Garmin inReach Mini 2 immediately became a staple on my dispersed camping checklist when I first bought it (check out my inReach Mini 2 review here).

In addition to an SOS feature which sends your exact GPS coordinates to a 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center, the inReach Mini is ideal for communicating with friends and family back home.

It’s best used to send pre-set messages (with your GPS coordinates) to pre-set contacts, although you can also use it to send custom text messages while in the field (no cell service required).

You can also receive text messages (two-way messaging), track your location online, and much more. The device utilizes the Iridium satellite network which ensures 100% coverage anywhere on Earth with no gaps or fringe areas.

Do note that both the inReach Mini 2 does require a paid monthly subscription to use (even the SOS feature requires this).

As a frequent solo camper, the peace of mind that my inReach Mini 2 provides (for both me and my family) is well worth the somewhat hefty price tag – you really can’t put a price on safety!

Camping Hammock

ENO SingleNest Hammock

ENO SingleNest Hammock

An affordable camping hammock for relaxing or sleeping in. Hammock straps sold separately.

My favorite camping hammock for outdoor relaxation is hands down the ENO SingleNest (a “double” model, the ENO DoubleNest, is also available).

Do note that ENO hammocks don’t come with a suspension system out of the box. You need to buy hammock straps (like the ENO Atlas Suspension System) separately.

In my opinion, ENO hammocks are best for lounging – not for sleeping in overnight.

If you do want to sleep in a hammock while camping (rather than inside a tent), I recommend a camping hammock with an asymmetrical design. The Hennessy Hammock Explorer Deluxe is an awesome choice.

The Explorer Deluxe comes out of the box with a suspension system, large rainfly, and built-in bug net.


Other Camping Gear Resources

Looking out a campsite from the inside of a tent.

At Campnado, we strive to be your go-to resource for everything dispersed camping, including gear reviews and buyer’s guides.

We always buy all the gear we test ourselves – and never accept free products, sponsored posts, or paid reviews – to give you the absolute best reviews possible.

But we’re a small team. And we’re just getting started.

If you’re looking for gear reviews on products we’ve yet to test out, we strongly recommend checking out Outdoor Gear Lab.

They’ve long been my go-to for in-depth gear reviews whenever I’m in the market for a new product (although I do think their side-by-side comparison rating system can use some work).

We’re not affiliated with Outdoor Gear Lab in any way – I just wanted to give them a shout-out as thanks for years of objective advice

But, in all honesty, your best bet for unbiased reviews and opinions on camping gear is most likely a camping forum. I’m a big fan of various camping subreddits like r/CampingGear. I also check customer reviews on REI when it’s time to pull the trigger on something new.

I’m a firm believer that the more information and opinions you get before making a purchase, the better, especially when plunking down a big old chunk of change.

If there’s a specific piece of equipment you’re dying to get our opinion on, shoot me a line and there’s a good chance we can work it into our budget: jake@campnado.com