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This camping gear will make your next trip easier

Coffee maker
A coffee maker is an important bonus item while camping.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

You have a tent, portable stove, cookware and sleeping bag, and you’re getting ready to go camping, maybe in the backyard, maybe at a campground. You’re not going to be roughing it, but you won’t be glamping either.

So what else do you need?

Light sources

A reliable light source is an essential accessory for camping.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

You need headlamps; you can’t beat their lightweight, hands-free convenience, and most cost a relatively modest $20 to $70. (Store them by your bed at home for the next power outage.) Petzl, Fenix and Black Diamond will bury you in options. You’ll have to decide just how bright you want to be.

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Unless you’re traveling ultralight, you’ll also want a lantern ($30-$90; some double as device chargers). Coleman, which makes camping gear, is an old-school favorite for lanterns, which can use D batteries, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries or propane.

Many people swear by Luci lights (made by Mpowred, about $18-$45), which use solar energy and can serve as lanterns, flashlights or emergency beacons. (You can even string them up bistro style.)

A multitool

A multitool means a lighter backpack.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Once, Swiss Army Knife was the last word on this subject. Nowadays, the name is Victorinox SwissTool ($30-$150), and it has stiff competition from Leatherman and Gerber. Both offer more affordable options than Victorinox, and most include pliers, knife, a little saw, wire cutter, often a Phillips screwdriver, a file and a bottle opener.

The may be the Summer of Camping, but new rules remind us that it’s not immune to the pandemic.

First aid and survival kit

First Aid Kit
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

You could spend $15 to $200 on a kit, and you could spend hours curating the list of what should be inside. Hand sanitizer, pain reliever, antibiotic ointment? Sure. Something to treat diarrhea? Adhesive bandages? Gauze pads? Yes, yes and yes. Duct tape, sterile wipes and hydrocortisone cream? Yes three times. Silver emergency blanket (a.k.a. safety blanket, thermal blanket or space blanket) to conserve body heat in the cold? Yes. Scissors? Tweezers? Well, yes, unless you have these on the multitool.

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Here is a detailed list for your kit..

Pad or inflatable mattress

An inflatable mattress or sleeping pad makes for a good night's sleep.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

You need something under your sleeping bag. If you like your creature comforts and you’re camping in the backyard or within 50 feet of your car, why not use an inflatable mattress or even one atop a cot? Without a cot, they can cost $30 to $120. Practice inflating it before you camp with it, and do not forget the portable pump that comes with the mattress.

If you’re going to cover some ground between your car and your overnight location, consider a sleeping pad. It might deliver a bit less comfort, but it’s simpler and more durable. Some are foam; some are self-inflating.

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Compass and map

A compass is essential for backcountry treks.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

This doesn’t matter much if you’re just lolling around your campsite. But after all these weeks of hunkering down, you may want to stretch your legs. Even if you’re hiking only a mile, you need a compass and a map, whether it’s on a piece of paper or a hike-tracking or mapping app (GaiaGPS.com is a popular one; Topo Maps+ is another) on your phone or hand-held device. Bear in mind, these apps can drain your battery quickly. Bring an extra external battery.

Camp chairs

A camp chair means no sitting in the dirt.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

You’ll almost certainly want a collapsible chair, especially if there’s a fire ring to stare into. You can pay $10 each (Target) or $120 (REI). (My 10-year-old $10 chairs are still fine.)

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If there’s no picnic table where you’re headed, or you’re not sure, you’ll need a roll-up or fold-up table too. Sporting goods stores, REI or Cabela’s can oblige. That will cost $35 to $80.

Waterproof matches

Have a camp stove? You'll need matches too.
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

A camp stove without fire isn’t much good. Coghlan’s, an old-school camping brand based in Canada, makes a cardboard box of 40 waterproof matches for about $1, sold in sporting goods and outdoors stores.

Coghlan’s and other outfitters also sell fancier “storm-proof” matches (said to withstand water and wind). Seattle-based UCO, which makes stylish outdoor gear, will sell you 25 waterproof, windproof matches in a plastic canister for about $8.

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Toilet paper

Toilet paper
(Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times)

Stash it in a bag to keep it dry.

Yes, coronavirus guidelines from federal and local public health officials still apply in the outdoors. But not everyone gets that.

A bonus item

All hiking and no horseplay makes Jack (or Jill) a dull trail mate. Maybe you need to add a fancy coffee maker.

Or a margarita jug . Or a see-through camping flask.

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Outfitters Cabela’s and REI have dozens of versions of these tools, as do L.L. Bean and most sporting goods stores. In lower price ranges, Target has some gear; Walmart has more. Companies such as Outdoors Geek and Arrive Outdoors also rent gear.

For a longer list of gear possibilities, check the REI website or ReserveAmerica’s list. And of course the Sierra Club has ideas too.


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