Camping UK 2021: the best camping gear for outdoor living - essential kit for a fuss-free camping holiday
With uncertainty still surrounding travel to foreign destinations, campsites across the land will be full with holidaying Brits this summer.
All the equipment you need for a fuss-free camping holiday
This article contains affiliate links. We may earn a small commission on items purchased through this article, but that does not affect our editorial judgement.
And with a good number of them being newcomers to a vacation under canvas, retailers are already reporting low stock on many camping essentials.
But just what are the vital pieces of kit everyone needs to consider when planning their camping trip? We’ll assume that no one is going to overlook a tent and sleeping bag, so in this list we round up some of the other popular items within the camping sector.
When you first start shopping for camping equipment it can be a daunting prospect.
The amount of choice available is vast, with manufacturers seemingly in competition to be the best in extreme conditions, producing kit for the coldest temperatures, the smallest spaces, or that will weigh the least. Shell out on just a few of these specialist items and you’ll soon be spending more than the price of a week in the Ritz.
However, unless you’re planning to spend a week on the side of a mountain and live out of a small rucksack, the extreme stuff can be ignored.
Instead, for this list, we’ve geared our selection more towards traditional camping holidays in the UK summer months, with some selections allowing for the fact you’re likely to be traveling by car that has a bit of room in the boot.
THE CAMPING STOVE: Campingaz Camping Kitchen 2CV Camping Stove
Camping stoves range from the compact Trangia that is popular with backpackers to set ups that put some fitted kitchens to shame.
For practical performance at a good price head first to Campingaz – a single stove costs less than £15 while an upgrade to this newer twin stove model will cost around £50.
The stove locks away into a slim case when not in use – ideal for keeping it hidden from children’s fingers – and, when open, the lid offers a bit of protection against the wind.
You can use two 24cm pans on the rings which light quickly and have easily controllable gas flames to efficiently heat up your meals, boiling water in a little over six minutes.
The gas is safely connected to a Campingaz CV470+ cartridge and you can disconnect and pack the lot away – even when the canister is not empty – without gas leakage. It’s a basic, practical stove that offers great value for campsite cooking.
THE SLEEPING MAT: Snugpak Travelite Self-inflating Sleeping Mat
While it’s perfectly possible to get some decent kip in a sleeping bag that lies directly on the groundsheet, investing in a sleeping mat will infinitely improve your snooze.
A good mat will act as a soft buffer against the hard turf of your pitch while providing some insulation from the cold earth that lies beneath.
Snugpak’s mats are self-inflating and also have a blow valve, allowing you to fill them up to your desired level of inflation for tailored comfort. Mattresses have a habit of getting in the way when not in use, so the Travelite (183cm x 51cm x 2.5cm when inflated) is ideal for anyone conscious of space – not only does it pack up small but you can inflate and deflate it at speed, tucking it away tidily when not in use.
For those with more floor space in their tent, and more room for luggage, larger mats are available and, for even more comfort, you can even get one with a built-in pillow.
THE CAMPING LIGHT: Coleman 360 Light and Sound LED Rechargeable Lantern Speaker
This handy rechargeable lamp doubles up as a music speaker, with a BlueTooth connection allowing you to play tunes from your smartphone.
The lamp is perfect for extended periods in a tent, with three brightness settings (400, 175 and 80 Lumens) that give all-round lighting without causing a harsh glare. It’s suitably sturdy to sit on the floor, acting as a focal point for tent based activities, while the handle can also be used to suspend it if required.
The speaker is a genuine bonus – of good enough quality that you can keep the sound low and thus avoid annoying your neighbours. We found it excellent for children, providing soothing sounds to help them sleep, the lowest light setting giving us enough glow to see what we were doing without disturbing them.
It’s also weatherproof, making it versatile enough to be cranked up to illuminate an outdoor party with light and music, although we suggest that a campsite isn’t the place for that kind of revelry.
THE CHAIR: Kelty Lowdown Chair
One of the main pleasures of camping is spending time outdoors simply sitting and watching the world go by.
Kelty’s Lowdown chair enables you to do this in maximum comfort, with its wide, low-lying seat allowing you to stretch out and the padded material both softening the burden on your bones and adding insulation for a cool evening.
One of the adjustable arm rests also features a pocket that can hold a glass of ale, or whatever other item you most need close by.
The steel frame opens and folds back up with ease and even the roll-tote carrying case is padded, allowing it to double up as floor mat, knee blanket, dog bed or whatever else your imagination allows. This chair is so comfortable that it’ll likely become a feature of your garden long after your camping trip is over.
THE TABLE: Life Under Canvas Bamboo Table
For a family camping holiday a table becomes advantageous although, by its nature, it will be one of the largest items you pack. Life Under Canvas’ table is made from bamboo, with slats forming the table top (91cm X 60cm) that roll around the legs when collapsed, allowing it to fit in its narrow carry case for portability.
It’s a bit weightier than plastic tables, but it’s reassuringly sturdy, with stainless steel joints that help it support up to 120kgs, and it’s easy to assemble. The bamboo gives it extra sustainability creds, besides looking a bit more stylish than most competitors. Matching chairs are available to complete the look.
THE WATER CONTAINER: Colapz 2-in-1 Water Carrier & Bucket
In most campsites you’ll have to take a short stroll to the nearest water tap, so having a container you can fill and keep by your tent is a necessity. Old-school jerry cans do the job, but the modern camper tends to look for collapsible containers to save them space when not in use.
Most cheap collapsible containers are fine for a while, but continued use can eventually cause splits and leaks. You’ll also find that many plastic containers are made with the chemical bisphenol A, which can seep into liquid causing health problems, so it’s worth looking for those labelled BPA-free.
Colapz have come up with smart looking containers that are both BPA-free and more flex-friendly than others on the market. With an 8 litre capacity they have a wide opening for easy filling and a tap for precision pouring.
The handle and joints are strongly sealed, making it robust when lugging around full, while it folds down to a height of just 6cm when empty. It also cuts a dash in a range of bright colours while attachments are available for a campsite shower conversion.
THE TABLEWEAR: Fresco 12-Piece Bamboo Fibre Dinner Set
The key criteria for camping plates and bowls is durability. Plastic does the job, but isn’t the nicest surface to eat off, and although hardened hikers love the clink of metal when munching on rehydrated sausage casserole, for the rest of us the constant clatter can be an irritant.
We suggest you turn instead to bamboo for tableware items, not least because it’s a more environmentally friendly option. Tower produces all manner of tableware, from cups and bowls to lunch boxes and kids meal sets (and even bamboo socks) at a decent value.
Made from chopstick offcuts they’re tough, lightweight and perfect for campsites and beaches.
THE CUTLERY: Zuperzozial Tak-3 Bamboo Cutlery Set
Specialist camping cutlery can be surprisingly expensive, with all sorts of curiously shaped implements available for ultimate packing perfection. We think this basic knife, fork and spoon set is as good value and functional as you’ll need, with the bonus being that it’s fashioned from bamboo making it an eco-friendly option.
The three utensils come with a carabiner clip, which keeps them together when not in use, and enables you to hang them in your tent, or on a bag when transporting them to the campsite kitchen – losing or misplacing individual items of cutlery is a common camping mishap.
The bamboo and maize fibre cutlery is tough wearing, comfortable to hold and dishwasher safe, allowing you to give them a more thorough clean when you return home before storing them away for the next trip.
THE PILLOW: Forclaz Inflatable Pillow
Comfort seekers are often tempted to pack their regular pillows on camping trips, but besides taking up precious room they also have a habit of getting damp. This inflatable pillow solves both problems. A couple of puffs see it swell to a satisfactory size (36cm x 25 cm x 7cm) and its firm but soft comfort is enhanced by its own padded pillow case.
Release the air through the smart valve and it all squishes up into a small bag that would fit into a hiker’s backpack pocket. It’s a cheap, space-saving item that will enhance your sleep.
THE MULTITOOL: Victorinox - Camper
Investing in a good quality multitool will bail you out of all sorts of bother when camping, being useful at both Tent HQ and on day trips in the great outdoors.
And for quality, they don’t come much better than Victorinox, the shiny red Swiss products with tools that tuck up together satisfyingly small.
The multitool they’ve aimed at the camper has the customary pair of sharp knives along with other essential items including bottle opener, can opener, tweezers and toothpick.
The saw is more useful for those who need to cut wood in the wilds, but it can also come in handy for running repairs around the tent (ropes and thick plastic that would damage the blades). And even the awl (that sharp, pointy thing with the hole in it) has its occasional use, such as puncturing stubborn tin cans or creating new holes in leather straps.
Such is their quality that a well looked after Victorinox will last a lifetime, so even if you don’t use all the tools on your first trip, we’re certain that if you become a seasoned camper they’ll all get a run out eventually.
THE TORCH: Maglite Mini AA
All campers need a torch they can tuck into their pockets for nighttime trips to the toilet or fumbling around in the dark looking for any number of misplaced items (see cutlery, above).
Maglite has been setting the standard for years with their durable, water-resistant tube lamps that are available in a range of sizes. The Maglite Mini is, at 14.5cm, perfectly suitable for pocket portability and has an adjustable beam, allowing its 9 lumens of light to be focussed to a spotlight or spread out to floodlight mode for lighting up a larger area.
This classic version takes just two AA alkaline batteries to power it up and the tough, protective coating will keep them safe and dry long after other rivals rust or leak.