By: Kristen Finley (@dolphinley)
As of recently, camping has become a popular way to get back in touch with our natural tendencies. While it’s depicted everywhere and seeming more popular than ever, what do you need if you’re just getting started while on a budget? To help get the ball rolling, I’ve comprised an Amazon Prime list of gear to get started under a total of $200.
When camping, there are three major components that will make or break a great experience: Food, rest, and lighting.
Let there be light:
While camping usually doesn’t and should never involve an emergency, using emergency lamps for camping are designed to last long and conserve energy. Plus, AA batteries are a lot cheaper, last longer, and are a lot less dangerous than propane. They don’t put out heat like a campfire or a propane lamp, but it’s a safer and more durable surrogate. Not having any means of light could make any camping trip an uncomfortable experience. Don’t forget extra batteries!
Rest assured (comfortably, and affordably!):
In the back of a car or on the ground (assuming a tent is already in the equation), a sleeping bag is a convenient, space saving way to keep warm and comfortable. Pillows and a plethora of blankets are a popular way to depict camping on Pinterest or Instagram, but speaking from experience, it’s a lot less comfortable than it looks and it takes up a ton of space.
Also, sleeping bags don’t usually slip off from tossing and turning, and can’t be hogged by another camper. However, a sleeping bag on its own isn’t usually enough to keep your back, neck, and hips from becoming sore. Of course, depending on how firm the backs of the seats are when they’re folding down or how hard the soil your tent is on.
So, I found an optional, light weight, and self inflatable camping pad for $39.99 to add comfort and convenience. When using an inflatable sleeping pad, be sure to have a layer between you and the pad, as they’re known for sapping away body heat - making for a very cold night’s sleep. Like the sleeping bag, it folds up neatly to take up as little space as possible.
Gourmet dining, but in the woods
Starting with a propane stove for $42.88
Since the use of fire pits or campfires depend on the season and how dry it is, it’s a safe bet to have one of these in the camping arsenal. Double burner stoves are handy since cooking multiple things at once is possible and thus quicker, and the removable grill piece makes roasting marshmallows a breeze (just cover the metal surrounding the burner in foil to prevent staining!). Wind protection helps keep the flame burning and alive, and helps keep the heat from the burner even.
Now that there’s a stove in the shopping cart, it comes down to what to cook with. Gold Armour offers a cheap and handy cooking and cleaning set through Amazon for $25.99.
This is a kit designed to fit in a backpack, so the pieces are small, but it’s a great way to get your foot in the door. The kit also saves space since the components fold away neatly, which saves time considering how easy they are to clean.
The inclusion of a single serve burner in this kit is major a plus for people who prefer camping solo – it would save $42.88. Or, depending on what’s for dinner, a third pot or pan can be used in addition to warm up more food at once. However, using a single burner by itself would limit what can be cooked and how quickly. The lack of protection from the wind would make it difficult to prepare meals as well.
Propane for either the single or the double burner stove is a lot cheaper if bought from a store in person. When purchasing online, the cost is higher when shipping a flammable, pressurized liquid. For example, a pack of two cans from most sporting goods stores are typically around $12.99. When bought online from Amazon, a single can is $16.
When this entire list is added up (excluding the propane since it’s strongly advised to buy it from a store), the online total is $161.84. Without the sleeping pad, the total changes to $121.85. When a two pack of propane at their typical price is added, along with the sleeping pad, it’s $169.83. What’s left over ($30.17) can be used toward more propane, food, or gas. Either way, it’s a great way to test the waters for a new kind of adventure.
Before you proceed to checkout...
When dealing with propane in any form, it’s a matter of safety that the containers not in the vehicle or tent with you while you’re sleeping. It’s not common, but leaks are possible, and the fumes can be dangerous depending on the length of exposure and previous or present health issues – better safe than sorry.
Additionally, while they weren’t on the list of things to buy because they’re wise items to carry regardless of whether you’re camping or not, be meticulous about carrying emergency supplies in your vehicle. If your rig isn’t already equipped with important supplies (gauze, bandages, road flares, fire extinguisher, jumper pack, etc.) be sure to have those handy as soon as you can. Adventuring or not, it never hurts to be prepared.
Before stepping into the shoe’s of an outdoorsmen, familiarize yourself with the 7 principles of Leave No Trace. It is essential to the health of our environment that every camper adopt this mindset to preserve our public land for future generations. Leave every campsite or spot better than the way you found it.
- Operate any propane stove in your car or tent for any reason. Open flame in a flammable car or tent is ill advised, and heightens the risk of danger. Especially since the area people who car camp typically sleep on is above the gas tank.
- Leave any kind of open flame unattended, for any period of time. It only takes a second to start a fire, and only a few more for it to get out of control.
- Leave food in your car. Food in your car can attract animals that don’t care much for obstacles, and will not hesitate to tear apart a car to get to food. Even gum or gum wrappers can attract animals.
- Same goes for trash. While it’s common sense to not leave trash, keeping the site clean is unfortunately not a common practice. Trash can also attract animals, which is a lot more dangerous for animals than people, due to the severe consequences imposed on animals when they get too close to people.
If you’re car camping, don’t..
- Sleep in the car with the engine running, under any circumstances.
- Close yourself off from fresh air. Always sleep with at least one window cracked open.
- Sleep with propane in your car.
If you have any recommendations of items or lists you'd like reviewed, let us know!
None of these items are sponsored, nor do we have an affiliation with these companies. These items were discussed and reviewed as a group.
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