There’s no set list of camping gear that’ll guarantee a good camping trip. That’s because the gear you need depends on the type of camping trip you’re taking. And more gear doesn’t mean a better trip. In fact, sometimes the best camping experiences come from packing light, getting way off the grid, forgetting about modern amenities and getting as close to nature as you possibly can. Personally, some of my best camping experiences reflect this — like camping at the edge of a raging river in Nepal and along the rim of the Ngorongoro Crater in the Serengeti.
However, just like in life and just like I say in my travel philosophy, it’s all about striking a healthy balance. For all the rugged and no-frills camping trips I have on my bucket list, there are just as many luxury camping (or glamping) trips I’m itching to experience. In fact, I just returned home from one of North America’s premier luxury camping (aka glamping) destinations, The Ranch at Rock Creek, a 6,600 acre retreat located deep in the heart of western Montana.
The comforts of The Ranch at Rock Creek got me thinking about a few simple ways, and some essential camping gear, to help you turn camping into glamping — or at least get a little more comfortable on your next camping trip.
How To Turn Your Next Camping Trip Into A Glamping Trip
1) A Big Tent
A big tent is the most important item on the list and the foundation for turning camping into glamping. Even if there’s only going to be two people sleeping in your tent, that doesn’t mean you should buy a two person tent. Go big! Get a six, eight or 10 person tent so you can spread out, stand up and be comfortable.
Slumberjack Grand Lodge - With enough room to sleep eight people, the 156 square foot Slumberjack Grand Lodge is a solid choice for luxury camping in the spring, summer and fall. Plus, it has an interior height of 8 feet at its center. $439.95
Snow Peak Land Lock Tent – This is one high quality tent (and it’s reflected in the price). The Snow Peak Land Lock Tent is made out of the highest quality materials and its 266 square feet are suitable for five to eight campers. It even comes with a room divider to create separate bedroom and living/entertaining quarters. $1,799.95
Northwest Territory Front Porch Tent - If you’d like your tent to resemble a small cabin, then the Northwest Territory Front Porch Tent is for you. This 10-person tent clocks in at 156 square feet with an extra 60 square feet of “porch” space and has and interior height of 7.5 feet. This tent will definitely make you feel at home — or like you’re in a home. $279.99
2) Get Off The Ground
A rock digging into your back while you’re trying to sleep is a surefire way to turn glamping back into camping. The fix is simple — get off the ground! Like I said above, there’s a time for roughing it and there’s a time for mixing nature with the luxury comforts of home. A good air mattress, especially a double high air mattress, will seriously elevate your camping experience.
Coleman Queen Double High Quickbed Airbed with Coleman Rechargeable Quickpump - Like the name says, the Coleman Queen Double High Quickbed it’s twice as high as a normal air mattresses, getting you further off the ground, and feeling more like your sleeping in a real bed. Don’t forget the Coleman Rechargeable Quickpump though. Just charge it up at home or in your car and it’ll give you the air you need to blow up your air mattress wherever you are, no cord or outlet needed. $59.99 and $39.99
Extra Trip: Really want to step up the luxury level? Try the AeroBed Elevated King Airbed – a king size air mattress sure to give you enough room to spread out and fill up your massive tent. $159.99
3) Stay Comfortable And Warm
Next step: make sure you and your bed are comfortable and warm. There’s nothing like coming home to a good blanket to relax by the fire with and a warm bed to sleep in after a hard day spent exploring the wilderness. Remember, just because you’re outside doesn’t mean you need to bring the oldest or cheapest bedding material you can find. Splurge a little here and you won’t regret it.
National Parks Blankets by Pendleton - Yes, camping gear can look good, really good. Case in point, Pendleton’s National Parks Blankets. Since the early 1900′s, Pendleton has made blankets from 100% pure virgin wool commemorating the National Parks, like Yellowstone National Park, Rainier National Park and Grand Canyon National Park. Not only are these blankets warm, one would make an excellent companion to your air mattress. $239 for queen size
Extra Tip: Bring along some sheets from home or buy a soft flannel set to cover your air mattress. And don’t forget a good pillow.
Rumpl Twin Peaks Blanket - Craftsmen of seriously high-quality blankets inspired by the outdoors and outdoor gear like jackets and sleeping bags, Rumbl and their Twin Peaks Blanket is strong yet soft and breathable. Plus it’s water, stain and odor resistant which makes it perfect for camping trips. $199.99 for queen size
The North Face Dolomite 3S 2-Person Sleeping Bag – If you’re going to opt for a sleeping bag vs. blankets and sheets (or maybe go with both) choose a sleeping bag that allows you and your camping partner to get close. The North Face Dolomite 3s is a great choice. Built for two, this sleeping bag is lightweight, highly compressible and ideal for summer camping. $205
The Napsack by Poler Stuff - An awesome twist on the sleeping bag, The Napsack is sure to keep you comfortable and warm while camping. Just unzip the sides to let you arms out and unfasten the bottom to let you legs out and you can now wear your sleeping bag anywhere you want. Genius. $130
4) Kitchen Comforts
One of the absolute best ways to distinguish camping from glamping is the food. Keep in mind, by no means does the food need to be gourmet, you just need to have the right gear to help you prepare it well and without stress. That’s why no list of camping gear would be complete without a few kitchen comforts.
Bass Pro Shops Deluxe Camp Kitchen – Although I think all food while camping should be prepared over a campfire, that’s not always possible. For these moments, Bass Pro Shops Deluxe Camp Kitchen is a camp cook’s best friend. The set up gives you all he counter space you need to spread out and prep a meal, plus shelving, hooks and hangers to keep everything organized. Luckily, it all folds down into a heavy duty carrying bag for easy transport. $129.99 (stove not included)
Extra Tip: If you’re looking for something a little more rugged and compact, check out Grub Hub’s Mesa 1 portable camping kitchen. $479
Primus FireHole 300 and Primus Profile Duel - Primus makes it hard to choose just one stove, especially when it comes to the FireHole 300 and the Profile Duel, which each offer something unique. The FireHole 300 packs a punch — and with a built in light, cook timer and fold down windscreens which double as prep areas, it was built for the serious camp chef. Then there’s the jack of all trades, the Profile Duel, which comes with one burner and an integrated BBQ grill. $295 and $139
Brew Cutlery – One great way to feel at home while camping is to use good cutlery — no plastic forks, sporks or utensils on a key chain. To get your food to your face and open up your bottles of beer, grab a set of Brew Cutlery, a fork, knife and spoon each with a bottle opener on the end. Camping is all about utility — and if you can pack one item that does the job of two (plus looks as good as Brew Cutlery) you’re doing it right. $35
Yeti Tundra 45 Cooler - Yeti is the Bentley of coolers, or maybe the Mack truck of coolers would be a better way to describe it. Nearly indestructible, the Yeti Tundra 45 is heavy duty and heavily insulated — and when it comes to camping, more cooler insulation means more happy campers. No one wants spoiled meat or worse yet, warm beer while camping and the Yeti will save you from both. $349.99
Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink – Thinking about how you’ll wash your dishes, pots, pans and cooking instruments is a detail easily forgotten when planning for a comfortable camping trip. Don’t find yourself pouring your bottled water over your plate and wiping it down with your hand after ever meal, just get a Sea to Summit Kitchen Sink. Problem solved. $24.95
5) Create Atmosphere
The last item on the list, creating atmosphere, is all about the details. Believe it or not, it’s the little things that can make a huge different when turning camping into glamping. After all the essentials are taken care of (a big tent, a good bed, gear to keep you comfortable and warm and quality kitchen supplies) these are a few of the finishing touches that will amp up the luxury factor on your next camping trip.
Rugged Wireless Speakers - Sometimes nature provides the best soundtrack, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t also bring your own. The right tunes can go a long way to create the perfect atmosphere, especially while sitting around the campfire. To bring your music into the wilderness, you’ll need wireless speakers that are rugged and can hold a charge. Two great choices are:
Braven BRV-1 – This ultra-rugged speaker was built for the outdoors and can survive almost anything, even getting dunked in water and run over by a Hummer (there’s video on the company’s website). The Braven BRV-1 is light weight, shock absorbent, streams music wirelessly via blue tooth, lasts for 12 hours on a single charge and it all fits in the palm of your hand. $149.99
Eton Rugged Rukus – When you need your music to last and access to electricity just isn’t an option, the wireless, bluetooth connected Eton Rugged Rukus has got you covered. The device is solar powered so you’ll never run out of jams, and when the sun goes down, the internal lithium battery will last for 8 hours. As if that wasn’t enough, there’s even a USB port which you can use to charge your phone. $99
Practical And Ambient Lighting - Some of the best times while camping are had when the sun goes down and the world around you gets dark. To create the right atmosphere at night, the only thing you really need to remember is not to use one of those electric lanterns that create a cold, blue florescent light. Instead, try these:
Coleman Kerosene Rounded Globe Lantern - With its classic look, the Coleman Kerosene Rounded Globe Lantern is a great choice for bringing some authentic style to your campsite. All you need to do is fill it up with two pints of kerosene fuel and it’ll burn for 5.5 hours. $109.99
Snow Peak Hozuki Lantern - It’s rare for a non-fuel powered lantern to put off a natural, candle-like light, but the Snow Peak Hozuki Lantern does just that. Running on four AA batteries, this small device even has a candle mode in which is flickers to the sound of wind. But don’t worry, it’s also powerful and packs enough punch to illuminate your whole campsite or tent too. $89.95
Moroccan Inspired Lanterns - If you really want to get fancy and turn camping into glamping, bring along a few Moroccan inspired lanterns and candles (or battery operated candles). Hang one in your tent or put a few around while your hanging outside at night. $10 and up
Vivaterra Outdoor Area Rug- The last item on this list of camping gear is for the true, diehard glamper. Made out of recycled plastic bottles and packing materials, The Vivaterra Outdoor Area Rug can be cleaned with a sponge or hose and doesn’t trap water or mildew. Throw it down outside the door of your tent or inside your tent to create a homey feeling. $110 for a 5′x8′
6) Important Odds And Ends
While comfortable camping may not require some of the items below (for example, you could bring a real pillow instead of a camping pillow, a real towel instead of a camping towel, or jugs of water instead of having to purify), these items can still come in very handy and should be part of your camping arsenal. You never know when you might need them.
1) Sea to Summit’s Aeros Pillow Premium - Sure you could make a pillow out of rolled up clothes, but with how surprisingly light, compact and comfortable this pillow is, you’d be crazy not to bring it along as a backup.
2) Pocket Towel from Sea To Summit - You could bring a soft, bulky towel, but this one is soft too, plus it’s super light and drys quickly.
3) Crater C33 from Leatherman - It’s always a good idea to carry a knife while camping. You may never need to use it, but it’s a tool you’ll want to have around just in case.
4) Long Spork from Sea To Summit - A very practical and versatile tool to have in you camp kitchen. Make sure sure to buy one for every member of your camping trip.
5) iPhone 6 case from Catalyst - A good waterproof phone case can be a serious life saver while camping. Aside from protecting your precious phone from water, it’ll also protect your phone from dirt and being dropped on the ground.
6) Water Purification - There are several ways to purify water on the trail, including using filtration pumps, UV light (like SteriPen) and filtration bottles (like Grayl). But the lightest and perhaps easiest method is with chlorine dioxide Micropur tablets. Chlorine dioxide is the same chemical used to treat municipal water supplies and when added to the water your gather from a stream, river or lake, will kill viruses, bacteria, and Giardia in 30 minutes.
And Don’t Forget: Toilet paper, AAA batteries, bug spray (depending on where you’re camping and time of year, you may not need it), sunscreen, lighter, sunglasses, cordelette (thin but strong rope that came come in handy and put to various uses), Benadryl/Advil, and an extra phone battery.
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Photo Credit: Top photo by Leonora Enking. Product photos by their respective companies.