As we know there’s a big difference between car campers, big haulers, old school hikers, backpackers and ultralighters; but theres a few items by necessity we all share. The brand, size and weight will vary depending purpose but if you are going to make the expense, put aside the trials and go for reliable.
The sport of backpacking has boomed in recent years with a massive competition of the niche market. Globalization and manufacturing overseas has tilt the balance in terms of cost.
“Backpacking is not longer expensive”
So lets talk about the most basic things we all carry aside the big 3 (shelter, sleeping bag and backpacks)
Headlamp: we recommend the new black diamond cosmos, has 160 lumens with a cost of $25 retail. Is reliable and dependable, and can be used for almost anything.
Basecamp lantern/ tent lantern: luci in the last 2 seasons has captured a big market with a solar inflatable lantern with multiple options including infrared and sos signal. At $15 is a no brainer.
Tarp: regardless of the type of camping you do a shelter will always come handy even during emergency situations; while ultralighters are exploiding the latest strongest and lightest set up of cuben fiber known now as dynnena; the 24oz UST tube tarp is hard to beat for performance, weight and cost ratio with a price tag of $30
Can be used as emergency shelter, bivy, flat tarp or hammocking.
Pots and pans: without breaking the bank the msr alpine pot 2 is made of aluminium, comes with 2 size pots, lid and handle. You can take it anywhere, serve food for multiple people and can be put directly under fire. $40 is not a bad trade off for lifetyme warranty. You can find for sure cheaper, digging in amazon. If you are looking for a solo pot stay away from titanium if you are planning in setting your fancy container under fire.
GPS: car campers have no need for such unless you do plenty of day hiking. Garmin etrex 10 has almost everything you ever need, unless you tap into mountaneering. $100 might sound steep but getting lost inside a canyon is no fun.
Water bottles: nalgene made a big name with super rugged, almost industructable containers but if you are trying to go light the famous Smart Bottle 750mm and 1L are super handy for almost any need. Additionally your water filter (sawyer mini fits directly into it)
Filtration: nobody can beat the mini sawyer, comes with antibottle (meaning is a flat bottle that can be rolled to take less space) $20 to keep you safely hydrated.
A step higher the sawyer squeeze is a better fit for long multiday hikes for only $30
Utensils and such: from plastic party silverware to titanium, theres plenty options. Long, short, sporks and so on.
We recommend light my fire plastic spork. $2.
Stoves: for car camping purposes our selection is unlimited (meaning you can bring the entire kitchen if you want) but if you are moving, packing between sites the MSR pocket rocket has built a reputation for reliability and light weight that wont break your bank at $30.
Other options like brs 3000 available at amazon is hard to beat at less than 1 ounce for $13 but their quality production control seems scatter.
Towels: for cleaning purposes, drying your tent from condensation, cleaning your pot, or your face, making cowboy coffee or a sling. Lighload towels are hard to beat, they are rugged, multipurpose and pack tiny. Their regular size once wet expands to 12.5 x 22
Rain jacket: if you are car camping and forgot a tarp, or you are heading up a mountain range; marmot precip rain shell is a solid option for all your needs. You can always opt for frogg toggs if your idea of camping is to simulate a sauna.
Coffee: an italian expresso perculator sounds fantastic while car camping, the gsi french press is a good option if you like a strong taste and more than one cup. And while you are backpacking the gsi ultralight java drip hits the spot (make sure to grind your coffee super fine for drip or bring a paper filter size #2)
Socks: car camping, hiking or backpacking. Wool socks are a good investment.
“Once you go wool you don’t go back”
Knife: a cheap reliable option is opinel #8 the frenchmade ultralight knife has a carbon foldable blade and cost $13. For rugged activities like making tinder a Morakniv companion features a swedish stainless steel blade for all your camp needs and costs only $20.
Chairs: the luxury has a weight penalty for backpackers. For some is a must have. Alite and helinox are both reputable companies; others they preffer a simple stool like grand trunks mini, some others, rather sit in a log in order to save the weight.
If you want superlight check: litesmith ultra chair. Steep at $65 with carbon poles and worth to brag on.
For cheap and reliable: thermarest sitting pad is a must.