I’m an Avid Camper, and These Are the 7 Pieces of Gear I Always Take on Outdoor Trips

When my family goes camping, these are the things we take to ensure we have the best — and more comfortable — time ever.

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I Go Camping with My Family Multiple Times a Year, and These Are Our 7 Must-Have Items TOUT

Travel + Leisure / Reese Herrington

My family and I are avid outdoor enthusiasts who love to hike and camp worldwide. From beautiful state parks and national parks in the US to far-flung destinations like Australia and India, I have camped with my kids since they were six months old. 

While I understand that camping with children — and in general — can be intimidating, bringing the right gear can make all the difference in ensuring that a trip is comfortable and enjoyable. Based on a lot of trials and tests on what works and what doesn’t, here are seven must-haves that I always pack for every camping adventure.

Kelty Discovery Basecamp Backpacking Tent

Kelty Discovery Basecamp Backpacking Tent


This is a free-standing, dome design tent that allows for a fast, simple set-up. It has lightweight, sturdy fiberglass tent poles, a waterproof rainfly, a vestibule, and plenty of internal storage pockets. My kids have gone camping multiple times, so they know how to set up tents, but the pre-attached guylines mean the setup is a breeze, even if this is your first camping experience. 

At 53 square feet wide and 58 inches high, this tent has plenty of room and includes everything you need for a family of four in the woods. Yet it only weighs 8 pounds 8 ounces, so it’s super easy to carry if your campsite is a little further away from where you park your car. If your kids are older and need more room to spread out, or you’re a group of adults, the six-person tent is a great option.

One Amazon shopper found that the tent was “big enough to fit in a queen size inflatable mattress and still have some rooms for backpacks and pets.”

To buy: amazon.com, from $125

UST Monarch Sleeping Bag With Temp Control

ust Monarch Sleeping Bag with Temp Control,


When camping outdoors and sleeping under the stars, a good quality sleeping bag can make all the difference between getting a good night’s sleep versus being miserable all night long. The Ust Monarch Sleeping Bag has a temperature control feature that is a game changer when camping with kids. No more complaints of being too hot or too cold. The wings on the bag help control the temperature by adding or removing one or both. Both wings set the bag to be rated for 17 degrees, one wing sets it to 24 degrees, and no wings for 37 degrees. When the wings are not in use, they can be tucked for added comfort or stuffed into the pillow pocket for added head support.

If your kids hate sleeping in their socks, then you will really appreciate the ventable overstuffed foot box that adds warmth and space for your feet. The tent comes in a compression stuff sack as well as a 100% cotton storage bag for easy transport. When you are home from that outdoor adventure, you can hang it out to air using the hanging loops for non-damaging drying. My kids love the vibrant colors of this sleeping bag, and it’s available in both regular and long sizes.

To buy: ustgear.com, from $140

Vasque Breeze Hiking Shoe

Vasque Breeze LT NTX Hiking Boots - Women's


When it comes to camping with kids, one of the best ways to engage them beyond the campsite is to take them hiking along all the trails and paths surrounding the campground. Admittedly one of the hardest things to shop for when it comes to outdoor adventure is a good pair of all-terrain hiking shoes that don’t weigh a ton.

I’m a big fan of Vasque because I find their shoes lightweight and great for hiking. My teens love the mid-length Vasque Breeze Hiking Shoe, which is waterproof and made of recycled materials. The high-rebound footbeds give the right amount of support on the trails, and at only 1 pound 8 ounces, these shoes are easy to pack and wear for extended periods. Plus they are currently 25 percent off at REI, making it a great time to buy these shoes for the whole family.

To buy: rei.com, $140 (originally $190)

Exped Typhoon 15 Daypack

Exped Typhoon 15 Pack


Daypacks are a must when camping. Not only do they help carry the essentials like clothes, toiletries, and extra socks, but act as a catch-all for when you are doing activities around the campsites. I like multipurpose ones – they expand if you need extra space or compress down when you need to carry a few things for a quick hike on the trail. The Exped Typhoon 15 Pack is a favorite among my family because it offers all the features of a traditional Exped backpack but in a much smaller size. 

For instance, the roll-top closure is easy for little hands to open and close, keeping the bag sealed and dry, no matter the weather. The adjustable padded shoulder straps are anatomically curved, which means they fit me just as easily as my much taller teen. But perhaps our favorite feature is the breathable mesh back panel that provides ventilation, offers back support and prevents objects inside the pack from poking into your back.

To buy: rei.com, $85

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent LED Camping Lantern

Thermacell Mosquito Repellent LED Camping Lantern


Love camping but hate bugs? Me too. That’s why I carry more than one of these bug-repellent lanterns whenever we camp. I place one of these around the perimeter of our campsite, and with a 15-foot protection zone, I know the bugs will stay away. Each package has one reusable lantern, one fuel cartridge that lasts up to 12 hours, and three mosquito-repellent mats that last four hours each. It has four light settings, so you can use it from dusk to dawn. And at nearly 50 percent off right now, it is the best time to buy several for this year’s camping season.

To buy: amazon.com, $20 (originally $33)

Stasher Storage Bags

Stasher Silicone Reusable Storage Bag


It is no secret that I love Stasher bags and use them everywhere, including traveling. They are reusable, durable, and a great camping hack because you can use them to store frozen foods, snacks, and sometimes even act as serving bowls. 

The Stasher Bowls are leak free with a strong sealing top and made of durable food-grade platinum silicone. They keep food fresh, and I throw them into the dishwasher to clean once I’m home from our camping trip. I use the smaller Stasher Go Bags in the kids’ daypacks to carry things like sunscreen, lip balm, wet wipes, and other essentials that I know they’ll need when we’re out and about.

To buy: amazon.com, from $13

REI Pack Away Soft Cooler

REI Co-op Pack-Away 12 Soft Cooler


If you’re a parent of active kids like me, chances are you have a cooler full of drinks and snacks in your car. This REI Pack Away Soft Cooler is so versatile that it comes with us wherever we go — including camping. It’s soft-sided and has a gear capacity of up to 17 liters. The side clips quickly change the bag from free standing cube to a lay-flat tote, and the straight-zip design provides a wide-mouth opening for easy loading and unloading. It has a fully seam-sealed, leak-proof liner and padded, adjustable shoulder straps for easier carrying. As an added bonus, daisy chains and an external pocket let you carry extra gear because we all know that when camping with kids, you always bring extra stuff.

To buy: rei.com, $35

Laird Superfood Snacks for Camp and Trail

Laird Superfood Functional Protein Bars


Nutrition is one of the most crucial parts of any camping adventure. I’m all for convenience when it comes to snacks, and Laird Superfood has a range of products that are easy to use. My son loves their protein bars, which are boosted with adaptogens and contain naturally occurring essential amino acids. My daughter enjoys the hydrating mixes and functional mushroom blends, and I love the Instant Chai Latte, which has coconut creamer, making it a great vegan option. It’s the perfect pick-me-up when sitting by the campfire relaxing after a busy day. In most cases, all you need to add is water. 

To buy: amazon.com, $26 for 10-pack

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