The essential camping kit you need but no one ever tells you about...
Psst, want to know a secret?
Have a look at our list of alternative camping items that no one ever tells you to take on your trips but will massively improve your tent life.
- Alternative essential camping equipment
- About our magazine
And don't forget to take a look at our Camping shop for more specialist recommended camping products.
Introduction: The alternative camping essentials
Typical kit we all know about
The essential kit
We all know there are some items of camping kit that you simply can't live without: a tent, sleeping bags, a camping stove, chairs, etc.
The good to have kit
Then there's the kit that is good to have, if not absolutely essential, such as storage furniture, dining tables and electric lighting.
The luxury kit
And finally, the stuff that falls into the luxury camping category, like an inflatable sofa, a gas barbecue or even a TV.
The camping kit nobody tells you about
But what about that other category of equipment that no one ever tells you that you should bring, but that makes camping life so much easier?
We're talking about products that aren't strictly designed to be used for camping but are ideal for using around the tent and the campsite.
Some of them are just basic common sense – like bringing flip flops to wear in the shower or using your own pillows from home. Others, like hot water bottles or thermal socks, you learn through years of experience.
But there are some items that might never occur to you as being useful for camping in a million years, but could turn out to be game changers. A slow cooker in a tent? Don't knock it until you've tried it!
So here is our alternative camping kit list – and if you've got any suggestions of your own, please let us know on social media or drop us an email at [email protected]
The essential alternative camping kit list
So here is our list of the secret essential camping items that nobody ever tells you about. Split into five sections and containing 35 essential items that are easily forgotten.
Your camping kitchen
Here are some top tips for gear to take for your camping kitchen. These are mostly ordinary everyday items that you might never think to take with you, as well as some novel ideas for your camping comfort.
Three-in-one coffee sachets
So-called cofficionados will no doubt throw their hands up in horror, but these are brilliant to have for a quick caffeine burst in the morning.
This is the ultimate in instant coffee – just boil the kettle and pour. No need to worry about keeping milk fresh or sugar dry.
Speaking of sachets, we always save up sauce packets from cafés and fast food restaurants and take them on camping trips to save a bit of money.
You can do the same with sugar and salt and pepper.
FryLight spray oil
It's healthier to cook with this, of course, but using spray instead of a bottle of oil has other advantages.
There's far less chance of a spillage for a start, and it takes up much less space in the camping box.
Another one to upset the purists! Again this is all about the convenience and instant tea has improved dramatically over the years.
You might think this is insane, but believe me, if you have electric hook-up, a slow cooker will change how you think about campsite cooking forever. Start cooking in the morning, leave it to do its thing all day, and by dinner time you'll have a fantastic curry or pork stew all ready to serve up.
I wouldn't advise going off and leaving it unattended during the day, but if you're around the campsite then it's perfect.
Frozen bottles of water
Freeze them at home before you set off and keep them in the coolbox. They'll help keep the temperature down inside the box and, as they melt, will provide you with a ready supply of chilled water.
It might seem obvious, but you'd be amazed how many people don't think about packing these.
Kitchen roll is a truly essential piece of camping kit, as you'll forever be mopping up something around the tent.
A tidy tent
Our list continues with the alternative kit list for keeping your tent organised and tidy.
Keep these by the tent door so when you want to pop out during the night you don't have to spend ages putting on your trainers or boots.
A mini washing line
String it up between trees or from a tent pole to your windbreak. Ideal for drying towels, tea towels and swimming cossies.
Pack these, too, or you could find your favourite Speedos speeding their way across the campsite if the wind picks up.
Some tents come with them, but, if yours doesn't, it's well worth getting one and placing it at the main entrance to avoid getting muddy footprints through the tent.
Folding clothes horse
If it's wet outside – and let's face it, it often is – then a clothes horse is the ideal way to get your things dry. Set it up in the front porch or one of the bedrooms to avoid cluttering up the living room.
Dustpan and brush
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, tents get grubby and a dustpan and brush is the easy way to sweep up grass cuttings, sand and dirt.
These flexible plastic buckets with handles come in all sorts of sizes and have plenty of uses. The largest versions can be used as a makeshift bath for kids, while smaller ones can sit at the tent door to store wet shoes and jackets. Our favourite use is as ice buckets to keep drinks cold.
Handy for fixing things, such as broken zips, but just as useful if you make them into loops and use as hanging hooks.
Ikea blue bags/supermarket bags for life
Use these as laundry bags or take them to the shower and put all your dry clothes inside to keep things protected from shower splashes.
Bin bags for wet clothes
Just what it says. Fill your black bin bags with wet and dirty clothes and sling them in the boot of the car, out of the way.
Foam floor tiles
For a softer, more comfortable tent floor instead of a carpet and excellent insulation under airbeds in the bedroom.
Our alternative kit list continues with our bedtime and sleeping section.
If you don't have a darkened bedroom in your tent, you'll appreciate just why they are so popular every time you wake up at 4.30am with the sun rising. An eye mask is a quick fix, until you upgrade your tent.
Sleeping bags are the usual method of keeping warm at night, but, if you have space in the car, a duvet can be even better. In fact, if it's really chilly, how about a sleeping bag with a duvet over the top?
Extra thick socks
I find I lose most of my heat in bed through my feet and once they get cold it's impossible to get warm again. When it's cold, I always wear a pair of thick fleecy socks when I go to bed, even if I take them off during the night if it gets too warm.
Tents don't offer much in the way of sound insulation, so if you're a light sleeper, the night chorus of snoring campers, crying babies, barking dogs and cars on distant roads can keep you awake. This is the solution.
Fleece or blanket for under the bed
If you're sleeping on the floor, most of the cold comes from the ground, so a blanket or fleece laid down on the groundsheet under your airbed or self-inflating mat, provides a vital layer of insulation
Hot water bottles
When campers talk about how to stay warm in bed they come up with all sorts of solutions, but the good old-fashioned hot water bottle is the most obvious and arguably the most effective. Stick it in your sleeping bag half an hour before bedtime and you'll be toasty warm as soon as you tuck yourself in.
Your own pillows
Another fairly obvious one but, for sleep comfort, real pillows from home are an essential.
This section of our alternative kit list for camping concentrates on living and spending time outside your tent.
Stick these into the ground around your tent and not only will they add a welcoming glow, but they'll illuminate guylines and pegs so you avoid any accidents in the dark.
Letting the kids roam free without adult supervision is one of the big attractions of camping. But it's also handy to know where they are and for them to be able to request help if needed.
A pair of walkie talkies will be reassuring for both parties… and, of course, they're great fun!
You can get fancy camping lights that release anti-mosquito fumes into the air, but, if you want to sit outside after dark in the summer, a few citronella candles should keep the biting bugs at bay. Don't use them in your tent, though.
Most people like a campfire, but not everyone has the knack of lighting one. Firelighters will provide plenty of help.
Finally, our list ends with the practical items that ensure your camping trip is as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
If you only take one item from this list, make it this.
Otherwise known as duct tape, it has loads of camping uses, including repairing tears and holes in your tent; splinting broken fibreglass tent poles; mending splits in waterproof trousers; making a watertight seal on a torn groundsheet; wrapping around trouser and sleeve cuffs to keep bugs out; fixing broken buckles on rucksacks; using as a heel patch to prevent blisters; even removing verrucas.
The list goes on. You name it, Duck Tape can do it.
Campsite shower trays can be slippy, so carry a small mat with you when you go to do your ablutions.
Again, these will prevent you from slipping in the shower, but, even more importantly, will reduce the risk of you catching something horrible from the shower floor.
You don't want to be wearing dirty shoes around the tent, but, equally, walking around on the cold, lumpy groundsheet can be uncomfortable. Slippers are the perfect solution – either special camping slippers or just an old pair from home.
Portable camping toilet
Some people don't mind trekking across the campsite to the toilets during the night, but others like the convenience of having an en suite loo in their tent. Make sure you've got a suitably private spot to set it up, though – no one likes an audience when they're on the loo!
So that was our alternative camping kit list of things people never tell you to take camping with you. We hope you enjoyed reading it as much as we did creating it.
If you've got any suggestions of your own, we would love to hear about them on social media or drop us an email at [email protected]
Expert Camping advice to your door!
Camping magazine has been the voice of campers for over 60 years!
Camping is the UK's only magazine devoted to the wonderful world of life under canvas and the freedom it brings. Every issue is packed with inspirational travel, the top camping sites to stay on, reviews of the latest tents, camping gear reviews, practical help and much more to help you get the most out of your camping adventures.
Want to know more about Camping magazine?About Camping magazine