My Camping Gear: A High Quality, Comfortable Approach
This camping gear list contains my recommendations for gear that is high quality and built to last as well as making the camping experience more comfortable.
When we initially started camping, we bought cheap budget gear – and most of it wasn’t the best quality and didn’t last long. Over time, we’ve replaced almost everything with better products, although a few small items from our first camp kit remain.
The setup we currently use prioritizes spending a bit more for comfort – and on durable gear that will last over time. I like to rationalize the cost by comparing it to frequent stays at hotels, or to owning and maintaining an RV (which we seriously considered). Now we love our “glamping style” of camping!
Synonymous with camping, a tent is usually the first purchase made – and for good reason. The style of tent you choose should be based on the type of camping you prefer, from larger tents that can accommodate standing up inside to smaller tents that have the ability to fit into tighter spots or can be used for backpacking as well as camping. Here in the Pacific Northwest, having good coverage in case of rain is an important consideration as well.
My Favorite “Luxury” Tent
Big Agnes Bunk House 4: After years of using smaller tents, we upgraded to this four person, feature-rich tent that is large enough to stand up inside as well as having plenty of space for two cots. Constructed of high quality materials, the Bunk House provides good protection from inclement weather with a full coverage rainfly and multiple points to attach additional guylines. The two large doors have double-sided panels of mesh and solid fabric to allow for adjustments based on the conditions. Multiple pockets on the interior are great for stashing small items, and you can attach two included corner bin pockets where you want them. I especially like the attached awning, which makes a great front porch for hanging out in inclement weather. My full review of the Big Agnes Bunk House 4
Best Versatile Tent for Two
REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus: A versatile camping tent that’s much larger than most two-person tents, the Half Dome 56″ x 90″ and has plenty of width for two 25″ rectangular sleeping pads with extra space at the top and bottom for storing gear. With full rainfly coverage and multiple guyline attachment points, the Half Dome can withstand inclement weather much better than standard camping tents. This tent can also be used for backpacking – or is great option for solo campers looking for a spacious camping tent. And while not cheap, REI often discounts the Half Dome for as much as 30% during their sales.
My favorite comfortable sleeping bag
Zenbivy Bed: this innovative quilt and sheet combination makes sleeping on camping trips a more comfortable experience than when using a traditional sleeping bag. I toss and turn a lot when I sleep, and don’t like feeling constricted by a mummy bag, while rectangular bags tend to let in drafts and make me cold. The Zenbivy gives me plenty of room to move around inside – and the top acts more like a blanket that can be tucked in or folded down. The setup includes a sheet for a mattress, and the sheet has “wings” that zip to the quilt to prevent drafts. The sheet also includes an extra-large hood for holding a pillow in place. For more info, see my full review of the Zenbivy Bed.
Cold weather sleeping bags
Therm-a-rest Questar and Parsec: roomier than other mummy-shaped sleeping bags, the Questar and Parsec are high quality sleeping bags offered in three different sizes and 0-degree, 20-degree, and 32-degree temperature ratings so you can choose what works for your body size and the conditions you’ll be camping in. Shown here are two 0-degree bags that we also use when backpacking in colder temps.
An important part of a sleep system for comfort and warmth is the mattress you choose. We initially used a queen-size inflatable mattress with no insulation value. After too many cold nights, we decided to upgrade to better sleeping pads. Using two separate pads instead of a double-wide has the benefit of being to individually control the firmness – and when one partner moves around, the other won’t feel the movement.
Most comfortable sleeping pad
UST Gear Fillmatic Sleeping Mat: The Fillmatic Sleeping Mat is a 4″ thick self-inflating foam mattress – the ultimate in comfort for camping. With an industry standard warmth rating of 6 (R-value), this pad is considered warm enough for winter camping. The self-inflating feature means not having to blow it up, although I usually add additional air for firmness using a battery-operated pump. The outer fabric is soft and feels similar to a flannel sheet, yet it’s very durable so I don’t worry about punctures. Clips at the ends allow two mattresses to be connected together when needed. My full review of the UST Gear Fillmatic
Best Budget Sleeping Pad
Wilderness Technology Comfort Series Sleeping Pad: This self-inflating pad costs much less than similar options, yet is still quite comfortable. The 25″ x 78″ size provides plenty of space to move around without falling off. And the exterior is extremely durable and easy to wipe clean after trips.
While you could take the pillow you normally sleep on at home, I find that it’s better to have pillows specifically for camping so my main bed pillows stays clean and dry at home.
Therm-a-rest Compressible Pillows: these compressible foam-filled pillows are the closest feel to a pillow from home and they compress small for packing. Available in multiple sizes, shown above are the small and medium. For packing, they compress down and fold into the pocket flap on the side of the pillow.
Cots for Camping
We camped for well over ten years without using a cot and could have easily continued to do so. But adding cots to our tent setup has greatly enhanced our level of comfort when camping. There’s no more crawling around on the floor to get and out of a sleeping bag, and it’s much easier to get dressed when you can sit on the side of the cot. Plus storing gear under the cots frees up space in the tent.
Mountain Summit Gear Campside Folding Cot: I chose these cots based on the style of the horizontal curved legs so they don’t put too much pressure on the tent floor, and for being able to store gear under them. The unfolded size is 72 x 27.55 x 13 inches, which work great with 25″ wide sleeping pads. Unlike cots that are collapsible, these don’t require any assembly – instead, they fold in half for packing and storing.We also use these at home when we have guests so we get more use out of them than just for camping.
Having a small table between cots makes for a handy nightstand when camping. We use ours to hold a small lantern, our phones, headlamps, and water bottles. This table could also be used between camp chairs to hold drinks or to play a game.
Yihuiko Folding Camp Table: This small table is 24″ x 16″ – just the right size for use as a side table in a tent. Two segments of removable legs allow the height to be adjusted from 10″-24″, and the table folds in half for easy storage and packability.
Camp Chef Everest 2X High-Pressure stove: we recently upgraded to the Everest 2X when we were looking for a stove with better temperature regulation. The knobs on our old camp stove wouldn’t stay in place and the burner would revert to the high position unless we held it in place, leading to burnt meals. The Everest 2X features provides 20,000 BTU of heat output and an auto igniter for easy lighting, and a much more fine-tuned control of the burner.
Stanley Adventure Cooler: A hard-sided insulated cooler is a must on every camping trip. This cooler holds 28 quarts and keeps food cold for multi-day trips, while the locking lid keeps raccoons (common at campgrounds) from accessing my food. Instead of ice, I use two large Yeti ice packs to keep food cool without the mess.
REI Co-op Camp Prep Table: This sturdy table features heat-resistant aluminum slats on the top surface, and each leg is independently adjustable for creating a stable base on uneven ground.
Good lighting can create a fun ambiance at camp, but more importantly, having a well-lit camp can keep you from tripping in the dark. I like to use a variety of lights, including headlamps for those middle-of-the-night bathroom trips, and lanterns or string lights for tents and camp kitchens.
Princeton Tec Axis: This headlamp has high-power LEDs that are dimmable, a red lamp for preserving night vision, and it’s rechargeable using a mini USB cable so there’s no need to carry spare batteries.
Petzl Tikkina Headlamp: a more budget-friendly option, this headlamp provides 300 lumens of light and uses 3 AAA batteries. I’ve had the same headlamp for over five years and it’s still operates like new.
UST Gear Spright Solar Lantern: This LED lantern has four modes of light: high (120 lumens), low (50 lumens), amber nightlight, and amber candlelight flicker mode, and can be charged via solar or USB. The silicone globe collapses into the base to take up less space. Since it has several soft light modes, I like using this light inside the tent.
UCO Rhody Hang Out Lantern: For lighting while cooking, this rechargeable lantern provides up to 130 lumens of brightness and can be hung facing downward via a loop on the bottom.
Big Agnes MtnGLO String Lights: I add two light strings for soft light in our tent and I love the fairy light ambiance that they provide. The MtnGLO lights can be powered via 3 AAA batteries, or by plugging into a USB power bank device.
MPOWERD Luci 44′ Solar String Lights + Detachable Power Hub: this string of lights has a 44 ft. long cord and three brightness settings: 140 lumens of light on high, 70 lumens on medium, or 20 lumens on low. The detachable hub can be used to power other devices, although I prefer to save the energy for just using the lights. The unit can be recharged via solar or USB-C (charging cable included). The longer length of these lights are great for lighting up a campsite. I like to attach them on a pop-up canopy for lighting up the camp kitchen area.
We used inexpensive camp chairs for years. They worked okay, but they weren’t comfortable. Whenever I would sit down, the front of the seat would put pressure on the backs of my thighs. And since I’m short (5’1″), a typical camp chair sits too high for my feet to reach the ground. So I searched for replacements that would provide a better fit but still be collapsible for easy storage.
REI Co-op Skyward Chair: These chairs sit slightly lower than a typical camp chair, and the mesh fabric with x-shaped webbing cradles your body while providing even weight distribution and good airflow. The drink holder on one armrest has a shape that conforms to different sizes of bottles, and the other armrest has a drop-down pocket that can be cinched closed, perfect for holding a cell phone or car keys.
REI Flexlite Camp Dreamer Chair: More comfortable than a typical camp chair, the Camp Dreamer offers flexibility with movement and a shape that cradles your body like a hammock. Two slot pockets on the sides are handy for holding small items like phones or car keys.
When we first started camping, we didn’t have a canopy. But when heading out on a camping trip with rain in the forecast, we made a quick trip to a sporting goods store to pick one up. Now we use it regardless of the forecast. We like to place our canopy over the picnic table to keep our kitchen area covered. Most campsites we stay at are under tall trees that drop needles and this keeps our cooking and eating space cleaner. We can also hang a light under the top of the canopy for better lighting when cooking at night.
EZ Up Sierra II 10′ x 10′ Canopy: This canopy is easy to setup and includes a storage bag with wheels. Since there is no vent at the top, we always stake the canopy to keep wind from blowing it around. We are also careful to make sure it’s completely dry before storing to keep moisture from degrading the fabric or causing it to mildew. We’ve been using the same canopy for over ten years and it’s still in great condition.
MY GEAR POLICY
I purchased most of these items with my own funds. As an independent gear reviewer, my policy is to only list items that I have used on multiple outdoor trips and that I feel are quality products worthy of recommending.
I Heart Pacific Northwest is a participant in affiliate link programs through Amazon and Avantlink, which provides a small commission if a purchase is made through gear links on this site. This does not change the price of the item. I am not sponsored by any gear companies and the items listed here are owned by me and unless otherwise stated, are purchased with my own funds. My policy is to only link to products that I've used and would recommend. Thank you for supporting this blog!