Ultimate Camping Comfort: 10 Essential Items for a Comfortable TripPublished on 06/15/2023 · 11 min readCamping and Hiking Expert Kat Smith lists 10 must-pack items for your next camping trip that will make your time sleeping under the stars more comfortable and fun!
Photo by Jonathan Forage
Even for those who love camping, “comfortable” isn’t the first word most people would use to describe their experience. Let’s face it, sleeping under the stars and being surrounded by the sounds and smells of nature may be awesome. However, it’s certainly not as comfortable as sleeping on a mattress under a cozy blanket, with your head on your favorite pillow, inside your temperature-regulated home after a hot shower.
But just because you don’t have the comforts of home doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable! Sleeping on the ground doesn’t have to mean shivering all night and a sore shoulder and hip in the morning. Cooking dinner outside doesn’t have to mean settling for a strict diet of packaged, non-perishable, and just-add-water meals. And hanging out around the campfire doesn’t have to mean sitting on a pointy, hard rock or log with no backrest. The 10 items described below will help to maximize comfort on your next camping trip, from sleeping to cooking to just hanging out.
A tent may seem like an obvious item to increase camping comfort since it protects you from the elements. But aside from performing its basic function of providing shelter and keeping you protected from rain, wind, dust, sun, as well as mosquitos and other animals, the right tent with certain specific features can maximize your comfort even more!
A tent with a tall peak height, such as the Eureka Copper Canyon LX 6 Tent, or near-vertical sidewalls, such as the Big Agnes Big House 4 Tent, means extra headspace and maximizes the interior square footage, providing a large space to hunker down and hang out on a rainy day or even do something as simple as changing your clothing.
Other features that maximize comfort include mesh windows, which will provide ventilation and breathability; two doors, which make it easy to exit and enter the tent; large vestibules, which provide an enclosed, protected space to store gear and muddy shoes (and sometimes even convert to an awning for shade!); and an appropriate season rating so that you can be protected from the elements when you need it!
2. Sleeping Surface
A sleeping surface, such as a sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress, is a key item to have to increase camping comfort! But not all sleeping surfaces provide equal comfort, as they come in a wide range of varieties with different features. While a one-inch thick sleeping pad with a low R-value may be more comfortable than sleeping on the cold ground, can you truly classify that night’s sleep as comfortable?
To maximize comfort while car camping, look for a double sleeping pad that is built for two people, is extra thick (think 4+ inches!), has plenty of insulation and a high R-value, and is self-inflating for minimal work, such as the Exped DeepSleep Mat Duo 7.5 Sleeping Pad or the NEMO Roamer Double Sleeping Pad. While a sleeping pad like this will provide plenty of comfort, some people opt to sleep entirely off of the ground. A camp cot such as the Therm-a-rest Luxury Light Mesh Cot is a great option that provides comfort while also keeping you off the ground.
3. Sleeping Bag
A sleeping bag is another item that may seem obvious. After all, it is an essential and well-known camping item! But just like a sleeping pad and tent, not just any sleeping bag will necessarily make your camping experience comfortable. Fill type, temperature rating, ventilation, and shape are all features to take into consideration.
If you are camping in Teton National Park in the fall, overnight temperatures will likely be in the 20s or 30s, so your 50-degree-rated sleeping bag likely won’t keep you warm and comfortable. If you’re going on a week-long camping and trekking trip in Nepal during the monsoon season, a down-filled sleeping bag may not recover from getting wet like a synthetic bag will, and nobody is comfortable in a damp sleeping bag!
Knowing where you typically camp and the weather in that area will help you narrow down the options and find a sleeping bag that will provide you with the most comfort. If you’re an explorer who rarely camps in the same place twice, a sleeping bag, such as the NEMO Tempo 20-degree Men’s Sleeping Bag is a good option that will hold up in wet conditions, will keep you warm in temperatures around freezing, and has a ventilation system to allow airflow on warmer nights.
When shopping to maximize camping comfort, also take into consideration features such as shape. The NEMO Tempo 20-degree Sleeping Bag is a “spoon shape,” ideal for side sleepers. Someone who knows they get cold during the night should look for a mummy-shaped bag. Someone who tosses and turns in the night or doesn’t like the feeling of constriction may do well with a rectangular-shaped sleeping bag. Ultimately, in order to choose a sleeping bag that will truly maximize your camping comfort, know the conditions and where you are going, and know yourself!
Do you sleep without a pillow in your bed at home? If you answered “No,” then why would you attempt to sleep without a pillow when you are camping? With a packable pillow such as the Exped AirPillow UL Pillow, you can easily have the comfort of a pillow while sleeping outdoors. This pillow is inflatable, takes up minimal space, and weighs just 1.6 ounces, making it a great option for backpackers and car campers alike. When you are hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and exploring the outdoors, you don’t want a strained neck from sleeping on a balled-up sweatshirt (or nothing at all!) slowing you down! Bring a pillow, and get a great night’s sleep, no matter where you pitch your tent for the night!
Everyone is more comfortable when their belly is full with a hot, fresh meal. With a cooler such as the YETI Tundra 45, there is no reason to settle for bland, just-add-water meals. You can safely pack perishable foods and truly eat gourmet meals cooked over an open fire or on your camping stove while out in the wilderness. With extra-thick insulation, this cooler will stay cold for days, so you won’t have to worry about restocking ice in the nearest town. After a long day of hiking, climbing, mountain biking, and just exploring the outdoors, freshly cooked burgers, potato packets, and veggie kabobs will keep your hunger at bay and increase comfort!
A table, such as the Decathlon 4/6 Person Camping Table or the Helinox Cafe Table, is a luxury item that will greatly increase camping comfort. It may be one of those items you don’t know you need until you finally have it! Laying out your cooking ingredients on a table while you cook rather than on the ground in the dirt makes cooking easier and keeps food out of reach of hungry pups and bugs. Setting up your camp stove on a table so that it’s on a flat, hip-height surface allows you to cook comfortably without having to squat down, bend over, or work with a wobbly stove top. Gathering around a table to enjoy a freshly cooked meal with loved ones is more enjoyable than having to awkwardly shovel food from your lap to your mouth. A camping table will fold up to a packable size, and will be a game-changer for your camp kitchen comfort!
Hanging Out Comfort
7. Camp Chair
Have you ever hung out around a campfire while seated on a rock or stump? Even if said rock or stump looks flat and “comfortable” initially, it starts to feel uneven and pointy pretty quickly! Enter: camping chair. Whether you are car camping or backpacking, there is a chair out there to increase your camping comfort. A classic folding chair such as the Eureka Camp Chair is a great, basic option for car camping that will give you a comfortable place to sit while eating or just hanging out around the campfire. Want even more comfort? The Eureka Highback Recliner allows you to stargaze without straining your neck! Embarking on a backpacking trip and worried about weight? The Helinox Chair One weighs just two pounds and packs up small, so you can take the comfort of a chair anywhere!
A hammock is the ultimate luxury item to bring on a camping or backpacking trip! If there is downtime during the day and you are just hanging out at your campsite, a hammock is the perfect, comfy spot to post up, take in the sounds of nature, and relax. With a hammock such as the Eagles Nest Outfitters Sub 6 One-Person Hammock (along with the Eagles Nest Helios XL Suspension System), you can be suspended from the trees, reading a book, taking a nap, or just taking a load off after a long day of hiking, even deep in the backcountry. This hammock weighs just 5.6 ounces, and the suspension system weighs just 6.3 ounces, so throw it in your pack or car and take it anywhere!
Not concerned about weight? A hammock such as Eagles Nest Outfitters Double Nest Hammock is large enough for two people, so enjoy the ultimate comfort with a friend! And with a sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, and a few carefully chosen accessories such as the Eagles Nest Outfitters ProFly and the Eagles Nest Outfitters Guardian SL Bug Net, you can even ditch your tent altogether and comfortably give hammock camping a try!
9. Campsite Clothes
For many people, being dirty is a part of camping, and they embrace it. But whether you are opting to “bathe” in a nearby lake or not to wash at all, putting on dry, warm, and (somewhat) clean clothing when you return to your campsite after a long day of adventuring makes a world of difference! A set of designated campsite clothes, including a shirt, pants or shorts, socks, and underwear, is a small thing that goes a long way in camping comfort. Even if you are embarking on a backpacking trip and trying to keep your pack light, a set of clean, dry clothing may be worth those extra ounces, especially if you get caught in a downpour or sweat through your hiking clothes. And with a stuff sack such as the Outdoor Research PackOut Ultralight Stuff Sack, you can compress your clothes down, so they don’t take up any extra space. Look for versatile clothing that is lightweight, is breathable, provides some warmth, has built-in sun protection, and is comfortable to really get the most out of each item!
10. Campsite Shoes
A pair of designated campsite shoes will have the same effect of maximizing comfort as the campsite clothing. If your hiking boots are wet, sweaty, or rubbing and creating blisters, the last thing you want to do is wear them all evening long when you are trying to set up camp, cook dinner, and relax around the campfire. The North Face Men’s ThermoBall Traction Mule V is a great choice for ultimate foot comfort (and they come in women’s, too!). These shoes have a fleece lining and insulation for warmth and are easy to slide into, making them ideal for wearing just about anywhere!
In addition to the items listed above, there are a few smaller items to add to your camping gear that will help to increase comfort even more! Bug spray or even a mosquito net will be a lifesaver during early summer camping trips when the mosquitos and gnats are rampant. If you are a light sleeper, earplugs may give you the chance to get a solid night’s sleep without being kept up by the sounds of nature (or your friend snoring in the tent next to yours!). A headlamp, flashlight, or lantern will provide you with the comfort of light in the middle of the night when you need to sneak out of your tent to use the bathroom. You should always have rain gear on every camping trip, regardless of the weather forecast because an unexpected rainstorm can roll in, in the blink of an eye. Don’t underestimate the little things that provide big comfort!
Maybe you can’t have all of the comforts of home while camping, but you certainly don’t have to be uncomfortable. With the right gear, you can maximize comfort while sleeping, cooking, and just hanging out, whether you are backyard camping, car camping, or backpacking! If you have questions about any of this gear, or other camping gear, reach out to a Camping and Hiking Expert here on Curated and we would be happy to talk through all of your camping needs!