15 Camping Essentials for Spring
An array of gear to help you enjoy the most underrated season for setting up camp
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As we begin to thaw out from winter’s grasp, one of the best times of the year to camp begins to reveal itself. While, yes, it’s likely going to be damp and chilly wherever you’re headed, you’ll also benefit from avoiding the regular season crowds. Spring camping (especially early spring) often means very quiet campsites and the opportunity to experience an environment outside the typical weather and climate you see posted all over Instagram.
Venturing out this time of year also gives you the flexibility to camp near snow but potentially not in it. You can frolic through a higher-elevation trek during the day, then return to your non-frozen campsite at night.
Plus, there’s simply more availability for the most popular sites as they open early in the season. There’s no reason to let a bit of potential weather or brisk air deter you from getting some outdoor time. With these 15 camping essentials in tow, you’ll do just fine.
Things to consider
Quality over quantity: You do not need to spend a fortune to find long-lasting, quality camping gear. Much of the material innovation formerly reserved for mountaineers and deep backcountry enthusiasts has trickled down to more modest sections of the market. You can get durable, lightweight steel and composite options in necessities like utensils and cooking kits. Investing in quality goods now means that with the appropriate amount of upkeep and maintenance (typically not much beyond proper cleaning storage), you will still be enjoying your spring camping essentials years down the road.
Think about your individual needs: When shopping for spring camping gear, it’s easy to get carried away by pre-planned imagery of adventurers deep in the wilderness with the latest and greatest in lightweight garb. Sure, if you’re trekking far from civilization and need all of that, then by all means, go for it. However, if you and a few friends drive out to a primitive campground for the weekend, and your car will be nearby, there’s a good chance you can have an equally great time with base-level or moderate gear. There’s a bonus here: You can opt for more comfort. Maybe it’s bringing a bigger pillow or a stove that’s easier to run. In any case, take some time to consider what will make your camping experience a comfortable one. That’s the first step in creating quality outdoor memories.
Check out resale: As outdoor brands rush to open official resale channels, there have never been more choices for gently-used gear to find new homes. While clothing remains the most available type of outdoor resale, some brands have branched out to include sleeping bags, tents, cooking systems, backpacks and more. Beyond the fact that buying a resale item has intrinsic environmental value by repurposing something already made, you’ll likely find your gear budget stretching much further than you thought it could.
REI Co-op Trail Hut 2 Tent with Footprint
The weather is much less predictable in spring, but you can prepare for those uncertainties with the right tent. You’ll want a footprint to keep the tent bottom dry, and it’s always nice to have a bit more space if you can swing it. The REI Co-op Trail Hut has fly doors that can work as a modular awning, and it comes with storage space to protect your gear from the elements.
The NEMO Tempo 20’s unique shape allows it to have extra space at the shoulder and knee areas. While you sleep you’ll have room to maneuver around if you find yourself in an uncomfortable position. It also has a water-repellent outer shell that can keep you dry during spots of rain. And if you were afraid that the extra room meant it would take up space in your pack, its compression sack means it can be folded up and stored away for longer trips.
For spring camping, you can opt for a 20-30 degree-rated bag – enough to keep you warm at night but not sweating. While fully-integrated bag/pad systems are nice, they can be more expensive. The Flexmat pad is a quality standalone pad that will do just fine in almost every situation.
FORE WINDS by Iwatani Savor Butane Stove
If you’re camping alone, plenty of decent, single-burner options exist. If you’re camping with friends, have a conversation about who is bringing what and look into a multi-burner option. Camp stove technology is remarkable these days, offering consistent heat and long cooking times in very small footprints. Fore Winds is known for its rugged and affordable camper stoves. It has a high-power burner, lightweight construction and a windbreaker, which blocks the flame from any late-night gusts.
Pinnacle Soloist II, One-person Cookset
There’s no need to overthink what you’ll cook with. Of course, you’ll want a warm meal, which can be as simple as a freeze-dried meal kit or as elaborate as a multi-course spread. It’s always a good idea to check the compatibility and fit between the cookware and the stove to ensure optimal efficiency while prepping dinner.
Glacier Stainless 1 Person Set
Don’t end up eating your camp steak with a plastic knife (this writer can personally attest to it). All you need are the basic utensils, something that pulls double duty as a bowl and a plate and a cup. Getting dual functionality from essential items is a major part of camping and making the most of your space.
Biolite HeadLamp 330
Don’t resign to using your phone light inside the tent. The vast majority of headlamps worth their salt are USB-rechargeable and have long running times.
Rumpl Origional Puffy Blanket Coast Retro Rays
As you already know, we’re big fans of the Rumpl blankets. The beauty of a quality camping blanket is that it’s a cozy wrap around the fire, extra warmth inside the tent and your new favorite summer picnic blanket.
Columbia Men’s Delta Ridge Down Jacket
Most campers spend the majority of their time in a well-insulated jacket. The good news is a fine synthetic fill outer layer can be had at a very reasonable price.
Marmot PreCip Eco Print Jacket
We’ve written about our favorite rain jackets in the past, but as you can imagine having one handy during camping season is crucial. Is it going to rain? Probably. Do you want to be caught without a protective outer shell? Definitely not. GORE-TEX is the industry standard, but other DWR-layered shells will do just fine.
Worn T3 Hike Mountain Child
If you ever want to understand the importance of quality socks, try drying out your only good pair for 20 minutes on a cold evening. First off, bring at least 1.5x what you think you’ll need for your excursion. Second, make sure they’re made from responsibly-sourced Merino wool or a good wool blend like this one from the Worn brand.
LifeStraw Peak Series Collapsible Squeeze Bottle Water Filter System
If you’re camping near a good water source – potable or not – there is no longer a need to lug multiple plastic gallons of water. A simple squeeze bottle with a durable membrane filter is an easy way to have safe drinking water for all your spring camping needs.
You can almost guarantee you’ll be dealing with damp wood as we transition into the spring season. Don’t get left out in the cold without a little help starting a fire. All weather matches are helpful in almost any condition, and fuel cubes will help you sustain and start your fire during inclement weather.
Reliance Products Luggable Loo Portable 5 Gallon Toilet
If you don’t have access to an established bathroom, don’t forget about this. A bucket toilet, waste gel and a set of plastic garbage bags is about as efficient of a bathroom setup as you can get. It takes seconds to set up and one more thing off the list.
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