Ah camping. One of the best ways to spend time outdoors. Whether you base yourself at a particular site for a week and explore the area around you, or walk/ride/drive from place to place to make the most of the scenery along the way, it’s a great way to get some fresh air, relax, and go with the flow. And whether you are a full on glamper with all the mod-cons and camping tech, a lightweight single bag backpacker, or anything in-between, there are bits and bobs that can make our camping experiences a little easier.
In this post I thought I would share a selection of the little extra things that I always pack when I go camping. These are the items that are not necessarily essentials, you could quite happily do without them, but they are all incredibly useful and tend to live permanently in my camping box for any getaway. They are the handy extras, the helpful additions, the practical items that make all the difference.
Have a read and let me know at the end what you always pack…
01. A Lantern
You should never go camping without a torch, and generally speaking a head torch (such as this good value battery operated one from Alpkit that has been my staple for five or six years now) is the way to go. Hands free, always pointing the way you are, and small and lightweight to pack. But one thing I always like to take as an added extra, especially for spring and autumn camping when the nights start just around dinner time, is a proper lamp or lantern to light up my tent or outside space. A good lamp like this one from Varta provides plenty of light to read, cook, eat and get changed by. Or if you have just a small tent and don’t want to take something quite so big, my mini Varta lantern is such a useful little light. They also do one with an orange light said to attract 60% fewer insects… and yes, I have a lot of lanterns!
02. Multi Tool
You just never know when you might need to fix, open, break, undo, screw, saw, file or poke something when you’re camping, and so I always carry a multi tool with me. I also carry a sharp knife, but I’d put that in the essentials pile rather than the extra handy bits and bobs pot. I have this one by Raitex, and it certainly does the job. It’s got 14 stainless steel tools built into the aluminium shell, and has already proved very useful, mainly to cut things and pick things up on recent camping trips. It’s not an expensive multi tool at around £25, but it does seem to be good quality; I’m particularly impressed that the pliers are spring loaded, which makes using them much easier to use than if they weren’t. The three leading brands in the multi-tool sector are Gerber (this one looks good), Leatherman and Victorinox (for the Swiss Army Knife) – you could spend hundreds, and you may want to if you are relying on this for your survival, but I find something around £25 to £35 does everything I need. There’s a bunch here on Go Outdoors if you want a range to choose from.
03. Insulated Mug with Lid
Have you ever been able to find a completely smooth and level spot to put your cup of tea or coffee down when you are camping? Nope? Me neither. And so while I love my enamel mugs, I do tend to pack my lidded tumbler whenever I go camping, you know, because tea spillages makes Zoe cry. Get an insulated one and that’s even better because then you can have hot tea even on the coldest of mornings. The love of my tea life is this Klean Kanteen Tumbler (20oz), I highly recommend it – although note that it’s not quite as secure as a cup with a screw-on lid. If you want something that is absolutely spill proof, I highly recommend another Klean Kanteen product, the TKWide. Whatever you go for, make it insulated, because that will not only keep your hot drinks hot, but also your cold drinks cold, which is very important for warmer days on the campsite. I’ve written a whole post on this topic here.
Even if you’re not planning on eating at the campsite, take a spork. Yes, ideal as a cooking and eating utensil for your camp kitchen, it’s also very handy for tea making and also take-away scoffing. I’ve not bothered with proper cutlery when camping for a long time, the humble spork (this one by Light My Fire is what I have) does the job just perfectly. I have to admit that after using one at my Wilderness Weekends adventure I have since got myself a long handled one now; the normal one is great for everything except when eating out of those Firepot meal pouches, which is when the long handled one comes into its own.
05. Battery Packs
I nearly didn’t include battery packs in this camping bits and bobs article because in my mind they are an essential, but when I was taking the photograph I realised that having power isn’t actually a must-have, it is much more of an added value kind of thing. You can argue in the comment below if you like… These two battery bricks – the left one is the OUTXE rugged pack I reviewed recently (read it here) and the right one my trusty Tecknet – are both good for six charges of my iPhone 8, which is plenty for a week off grid even at my level of usage. Both are great and not expensive. The leading brand is probably Anker. If you’re just camping for one night, take something small that’ll do just the one charge, such as this one, as batteries are heavy.
06. Washing Line
Yea you could hang your wet towel and washed undies from your tent guy ropes, sure, but wouldn’t it be much more convenient to have a proper washing line? Especially one that has a couple of strings of elastic so you don’t need pegs. We have this one by Go Travel, but there are other similar ones around. It takes up barely any space and has proved as useful when hotel hopping as it has for camping. Middle aged? Yes, I think so.
07. Memory Foam Pillow
You don’t need a pillow when you’re camping. You can quite easily roll up a jumper, bung your spare clothes in a dry bag, or just not bother, and I have done all of those things. But I know that I get a much better night sleep with one, and I have realised that I sleep even better than that with a decent memory foam pillow. I recently gave in and purchased a Thermarest Compressible Pillow; it’s a memory foam pillow made from off cuts from their mat-making process, squishes and rolls down as small as my old cheap (and actually quite rubbish) blow up camping pillow, and is at least a hundred times more comfortable. Other than taking the one from my normal bed, that is. This is now very much a staple in my sleep set-up now, making it into my bits and bobs box as an excellent added extra for camping trips. I have written lots of posts about how to keep comfortable when your camping, including this one.
08. A Chair or Stool
Having somewhere to sit that’s not on the floor is much more important than I often give it credit, and so these days I do tend to take a stool – or a chair – with me when I go camping. These super simple stools (I’ve had this green one since I was about 14 I think…) take up hardly any space in the car and also fit in my motorcycle camping roll pack, and work a treat for around a camp fire or inside the tent. This one at Go Outdoors costs a ridiculous £4. You can indeed go very cheap and be happy, but I would also highly recommend the NASA level of camping chairs; the Helinox Chair One is a very small and lightweight chair that packs down incredibly small, very expensive indeed but we’ve had ours for a couple of years now and they are so useful for road tripping and much nicer than a stool. Yes, picnic blankets are great (see below!), but don’t underestimate the comfort you get from being off the ground and able to relax your back.
09. Picnic Blanket
Probably a bit big to count as a “bits and bobs” item, but hey, who cares?! A picnic blanket always makes it into my kit bag because they’re good for in the tent under your sleeping mat as an extra layer of insulation between you and the ground, useful for outside the tent to sit and stand on, and handy as somewhere to put all your other bits and bobs when you’re cooking, packing, sorting, and whatever else.
I’ve been singing the praises of my Ordnance Survey PACMAT over the last few months, and while it is more expensive than most picnic blankets on the market it is definitely worth it for how small and light it is (read my review), but I do also have a big fleecy one that is equally as useful when I camp by car and so space is not at a premium. There’s a whole bunch of sizes and designs on the PACMAT website.
10. Flip Flops
One of the most useful extra bits and bobs that I always pack when I go camping – whether that be on a multi day hike carrying my own gear, or when car camping – is a pair of simple and cheap flip flops. These are my shower shoes; they have the very simple purpose of getting me from my tent to the shower block and back again without needing to put my feet on the (normally damp, probably muddy) ground. I can also keep them on during my shower, which is particularly handy when the showers have already been used by twenty people before me and no-one else thought to sweep the grass out. Apart from anything else, they mean I don’t ever have to worry about trying to dry my feet and put socks and boots on inside what are always the smallest shower cubicles going. Honestly, go to the supermarket or wherever, spend a couple of those UK pounds you keep in the parking money in the car, and get some simple flip flops before your next camping trip – it’s a revelation.
11. Dry Bags
And finally in my list of useful camping bits and bobs, a means to carry all the above with you and keep your kit organised – dry bags. I use packing cubes for my clothes, but dry bags like these are just the perfect thing for everything else; one for tech, one for wash kit, one for food, one for kitchen stuff, one for underwear, you get the idea. I have a couple of sets of the Lomo ultralight dry bags, which I highly rate for being durable, definitely waterproof, and great value – only problem being that they are all red so it’s harder to quickly find something if you use a lot of them to separate your gear. I’ve been using mine for four years now and they are still going strong, I trust them and wouldn’t be without them.
What else would you put into the “super useful camping bits and bobs” category. I’m sure there are things I’ve forgotten. Comment below and I’ll let you know if it has a place in my camping box of stuff…