By: Kirsty Petrides
If you’re planning your first ever camping trip, knowing what gear you need can be daunting. Plus, a lot of it depends on your budget and how comfortable you’d like to be.
So, we’ve done the hard work for you – whether you’re happy with just the basics, need a few more creature comforts or want a total glamping experience, here's all the gear you need for your first time camping.
First things first: Standard camping essentials
Regardless of your budget or desired comfort levels, there are some basic necessities that will ensure you have a good time as well as respect the environment - but the good news is they’re items you’ll already have in your house.
So go buy a big plastic tub, write ‘camping gear’ on the lid and fill it with the following:
- General supplies: Citronella coils for mosquitoes, sunscreen, a water storage tub, and bags or cardboard boxes for your rubbish.
- Bathroom supplies: A flannel, toilet paper and - if you're going off-grid - trowel or small shovel to dig a toileting hole.
- Cooking supplies: Matches or lighter, plastic plates, bowls, cutlery, pots, pans, cooking utensils and salt, pepper and spices.
- Dishwashing supplies: Small bucket to wash dishes in, sponge and a sustainable washing liquid like Wilderness Wash.
Under $400: Smaller budget, but willing to rough it
A good quality tent will likely be the most expensive item on your list, however, there is a caveat. Tents are often expensive because of the features that protect you in harsh weather conditions – for instance, being water-proof in torrential rain or wind-resistant in storms.
So if you're camping in WA with our mild climate, you can likely get away with a slightly cheaper tent. It would pay to get something with ventilation flaps for air-flow or where you can take the fly off completely and just sleep under the mesh on exceptionally warm nights.
Grab a piece of tarp to lay on the ground underneath your tent – it's very affordable and can be found at camping stores or even Bunnings. Not only does this keep you warmer in case the ground is damp, it also keeps your tent clean, making pack-down a bit easier.
Next, you’ll need a sleeping mat or mattress to make sure you don’t wake up with an aching back. They can start from as little as $65 – but if it's your first time, grab something self-inflating to save you having to pump it up yourself, and something good quality to ensure your first camping trip is a comfortable one.
As with tents, sleeping bags are often pricey because of their technical features and ability to keep you warm. Most sleeping bags are categorised by the minimum temperature they’ll keep you warm at - for instance, a bag categorized as -8 is going to keep you warm at sub-zero temperatures. So if you’re camping in WA, chances are you can safely look at sleeping bags with a higher number and thus a cheaper price tag.
You can get a sleeping bag made for warm-weather camping that will only set you back about $120. However, if you think you'll be taking more camping trips to slightly colder spots, you can opt for something more heavy-duty that will take you all the way from the heat in Exmouth to the cooler nights in Esperance.
You’ll need an esky to store your food and drinks, so swing by your local supermarket or Bunnings and grab one for $20. Bonus budget tip: Put the lid on your esky and it doubles as a camping table.
And finally, to make sure you can see everything come night time, a head torch is essential. Head torches are categorised by lumens, which is the amount of light they provide. Two hundred lumens is plenty and would only set you back about $30. Another budget tip: Your head torch can also double as a camp lantern. Wrap it around a water bottle to use it as a table light while you’re cooking, and hang it from the inside top of your tent to act as a ‘ceiling light’ while you’re tucking into bed.
Under $650: A bit more to spend and need some creature comforts
If you’ve covered off the above items and still have a bit more to spend to make your camping trip a comfortable one, grab a camping table and chairs. You can get tables from as little as $30 and decent chairs from as little as $20, and having them ensures you’ve got a comfy spot to read a book and eat your dinner.
If you’re camping somewhere with cooler weather or tend to get cold easily, you can also invest in a sleeping bag liner. They increase the effectiveness of your sleeping bag, keeping you warm and toasty, and start from around $90.
If you don’t want to forgo your morning brew, get yourself a gas cannister and camping stove, which act like your regular kitchen stove-top, just much more lightweight. Pop your favourite ground coffee beans in to a stove-top coffee maker, and you’ll have freshly brewed coffee in less than five minutes. If you pack a saucepan from home, you can also use the camping stove to boil water for a cup of tea or for cooking dinner by your tent.
Finally, if the thought of being disconnected leaves you a bit anxious, you can also choose to invest in a power bank to ensure your phone doesn’t run out of charge on your camping trip. Good quality ones that hold more power and thus more charge can be a bit more expensive, but you can find some models for as little as $30.
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Under $2,000: Big budget and need total comfort
If you want to camp in comfort, then a slightly bigger tent will be the first thing to tick off your list - you can comfortably stand up, making it much easier to change in and out of clothing, as well as having extra room to store all your gear. Some have an awning at the front so you can relax under the shade, feature heavy duty PVC floor to keep you comfortable at night time and are waterproof – just in case you stumble into some rain. Plus, if you get one with an instant aluminium frame, it basically sets itself up in about 30 seconds.
True comfort means not having to pee in the bush, so get yourself a portable toilet. Depending on how comfortable you’d like to be, you can get a basic foldable camping loo for as little as $35, or a proper toilet complete with flush for $130. And if you want to add some privacy, get yourself a pop-up ensuite to enclose it in – they can be set up in seconds and will set you back about $90.
While you’re setting up your camping bathroom, you can also grab a camping shower. They plug into your car’s power outlet and then have a hose to connect to your water source, so you can have a legitimate shower in the wilderness.
If you want to cook in comfort, you can invest in a few primo cooking items instead of the basic camping stove attachment mentioned above. A Jetboil is an attachment for your gas bottle that can boil two cups of water in under two minutes, and will set you back about $210. You can also get yourself a portable espresso maker for $110 to save you time and effort with your morning coffee.
For cooking your dinners, you can grab a portable stove or camping barbeque. And if you’d rather not take your everyday pots, pans, crockery and cutlery into the wilderness, you can get a cooking pack that includes two pots, two plates and two cups for around $150, and camping cutlery sets for around $7.
To keep all your cooking ingredients cool, swap out the esky mentioned above with a camping fridge - the more affordable ones start at around $70 and will keep ice frozen for up to 10 days. If you’re planning a longer camping trip, there are USB or solar-powered options from about $690 complete with an app for you to set the temperature from your smartphone.
And finally, if you’ve got a bit of budget left, invest in a good quality, rechargeable camping light. Some can boast a whopping 600 lumens, have several light panels you can pull out and use as flashlights, with each panel having a built-in magnet - so you can stick them to your car or any metal surface when you need both hands free.
Ready to start thinking about a camping trip?
Don't forget, RAC members save up to 20%* on accommodation at our Parks & Resorts across the State.
*Terms and conditions apply. Member rate varies according to season. See website for full details.
Last updated: February 2020