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Camping Essentials & Upgrades

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Over the course of many camping trips taken throughout the Mid-Atlantic region—from western Appalachia to the sandy shores of barrier islands—we’ve compiled a list of must-have items, upgrade ideas, wish-list wants, and tools that, altogether, make the camping experience more comfortable and enjoyable. The following list has been compiled with family camping in mind for a duration of 3–5 days…and the list is ever-growing! We include links to many of our chosen brands/items that have been field tested (but have no affiliation with Reel Chesapeake). Here is our list of Camping Essentials & Upgrades:

  • 2 large plastic storage bins (one for storing equipment/another for dry food)
  • Tent (we recommend upsizing; if you have a family of four, buy a tent sized for 6–8 persons)
  • Tent stakes (ditch the cheap plastic or “paper clip” thin stakes that come with your tent; purchase quality, heavy stainless steel stakes that can take the hit of a hammer to drive into hard ground)
  • Large tarp (especially versatile piece of equipment)
  • Pop-up canopy (a must-have for camping at the Atlantic beachfronts, where shade is needed)
  • Propane stove and 16oz tanks (simple, efficient means of cooking canned meals, breakfast, heating water, etc.)
  • Cooler/ice chest (definitely choose a quality, rotomolded cooler that can hold ice for several days)
  • Hammer/mallet (for driving tent and other stakes into the ground)
  • Hatchet/small axe (an essential for splitting and chopping wood)
  • Fire starters (absolutely essential for getting a good fire lit, especially if the wood is damp or moldy)
  • Fire poker (a nice tool to have, but not essential)
  • Butane lighter (double check your supply and bring a new one as needed)
  • Pet anchor/cable (very helpful to keep your pets within your campsite)
  • Pet food bowls (duh!)
  • Collapsible pet crate (helpful to have in lieu of the anchor/cable system)
  • Folding chairs (a must-have for enjoying evenings around the campfire)
  • Hammock (simple, lightweight version that packs into the size of a small purse and can be hung between two trees)
  • Air mattress (makes sleep much more comfortable)
  • Power inverter (connects to your car’s battery and inverts the power source so you can use electronics, like an air mattress inflator/deflator)
  • Sleeping bags/blankets/pillows (bring plenty of comfort/cozy items for those extra chilly nights)
  • Hand/baby wipes (good for wiping yourself clean, especially the grime and grit from your face)
  • Hand sanitizer (very good to have available when cooking and cleaning)
  • Bug spray (we love this all-natural spray)
  • Sunscreen (we love this brand)
  • First Aid Kit (buy one, buy five…and keep them handy in all your vehicles, home, etc.)
  • Paper towels (bring at least one roll with you on every trip)
  • Toilet paper (bring at least two rolls with you on every trip)
  • Reusable plates/dinnerware/cups (washable, reusable sets are the way to go; no trash!)
  • Trash bags (got to have them; “pack out what you pack in” includes trash!)
  • LED Lanterns (no need for propane lanterns these days; LED versions that run on a couple batteries are cheap and easy to pack in)
  • Cookware/mess kit (ideally a couple frying pans and boiling pots that nest together in one, handy set)
  • Dutch oven (if you have room to bring one, they’re fun for making one-pot family meals)
  • Telescoping roasting sticks (for roasting marshmallows, hotdogs, etc. over the fire)
  • French coffee press (the best and easiest way to make great coffee every morning)
  • Water bottles (a hydro friendly essential for walks, hikes, and keeping within reach when sleeping)
  • Can/bottle opener (essential for opening all those canned food items like baked beans, hash, soups, etc.)
  • Swiss Army knife (just bring one; if nothing else, you can use it to whittle away some downtime at camp)
  • Portable phone/camera chargers (preferably one that stores enough juice for at least two full charges)
  • Acoustic guitar (for singing songs around the campfire)
  • Bluetooth speaker (must-have item when the acoustic guitar annoys your camp mates)
  • Lawn games (cornhole, bocce, frisbee, darts, etc.)
  • Fishing equipment (research your location, fish species, and plan accordingly; keep it simple)
  • Towels (bring a couple each, of large beach towels and bathroom towels)

More items will be added and if you have a recommendation, please email us!

How many items from the list can you identify in this site shot taken during our Blackwater, West Virginia, trip?