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Camping Essentials: The best tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves

Camping Essentials: The best tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves

Looking for a new tent? Here you'll find expert tips for durable equipment for camping holidays with the family. Find out more about the best tents, sleeping bags, camping cookers and more.

Camping Essentials: The best tents, sleeping bags, and camping stoves

Spending your days outside, experiencing nature, keeping active while enjoying a relatively cheap holiday? Sounds like camping! This blog article is about the fact that you don't necessarily need a motorhome worth the price of a medium-sized new home. to enjoy a comfortable camping experience. Nor do you always need ultra-light, packing-optimised trekking equipment. Robust, durable and sensible equipment for camping holidays with the family will make all the difference to your camping trip!

I'm Andreas, and I've preferred to spend my holidays in tents ever since my first Youth Red Cross holiday as a child. And nothing has changed since then. Fortunately, the rest of the family feels the same way. That's why family holidays for my clan and me usually mean putting a tent and sleeping bags in the boot and off we go. Whether to the west, east, north or south: pleasant, beautiful, natural, quiet and sometimes unique campsites can be found everywhere.

In our experience, the combination of tent and car is simply unbeatable when it comes to setting up camp somewhere and remaining as mobile as possible. Of course, in a campervan you can change base camps more quickly because you don't have to put up and take down a tent. But spontaneous short trips to the shops become more difficult. And apart from that, the best places on the camping site are usually best reached with a tent anyway (I only say terraced slope on the river bank ;-).

In the following I would like to introduce you to the equipment necessary for a successful camping adventure. Three levels are to be distinguished:

● Basic, which would be, as the name suggests, the simplest equipment level with which you can already have a lot of fun camping.

● Advanced will have a few more products that make your camping experience a little more comfortable, but the equipment to be purchased and transported a tad more expensive and extensive.

Finally, Premium means - who would have thought it? - the luxury version of camping equipment, with which hardly any wishes should remain unfulfilled within the scope of our specifications.

As an employee of Bergfreunde.de, the old story of the goat and the gardener with me in the leading role is repeated here; accordingly, I am naturally at the source when it comes to equipment, and this is also the basis on which the following recommendations were created.

For the sake of simplicity, let's assume four as the underlying pack size: Mum, Dad, Child 1, Child 2.

Camping Essentials: Basic

First of all, what basic needs do we have to cover on holiday? We need to eat, drink and sleep, and there are also certain sanitary necessities. The latter we want to outsource to the campsite operators, thank you very much!

So let's start with the most important: Drinking is comparatively easily covered - right? But what if the sanitary block is at the other end of the campsite, far away from our DeLuxe campsite directly under the three biggest and most beautiful pine trees on the site? I myself have run back and forth too much and far too often because of bad planning on my part (or a strategically clumsy but attractive choice of site). In that case, a water carrier is not a mistake, because its contents not only help against thirst, but also when making coffee, making food, washing hands, etc. pp! I would think of the simple, small, foldable Folding Water Carrier from Easy Camp with 8 litres, or, if you need more (or are further away from the sani-block), a somewhat larger calibre such as the Watercell X from Sea to Summit, which is available in various sizes up to 20 litres.

OK, fluid management, so far so good. But eating? Sure, you can stock up on baguettes and sausage, cheese and fruit; you'll survive just fine. But there's something to be said for a hot meal...? To be able to eat in a restaurant every day, you have to have one nearby, and then there's also the holiday budget. And, well, children like pasta with pesto. They like it every day. So we need a pot, like the Ottawa Pot from Robens, which you can also hang over the fire. But the water and food are still not warm, so we need another cooker. In keeping with the title of this section, I would like to bring in the undisputed classic of recent European camping history, namely the Campinggaz Bleuet 206, which is as small as it is practical. It sounds like a Peugeot, comes from France and has been reliably heating pots, pans and coffee pots for decades. Speaking of which - we never leave home without a mocha pot like the Manley Espresso Maker by Outwell.

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If the pack then wants to sit comfortably together in front of the tent and enjoy the sunset, a seat pad might be advisable, depending on the texture, temperature and moisture penetration of the ground. Stoic offers the Logo Seat Cushion, a foldable outdoor seat cushion that makes hard surfaces softer, cold ones warmer and damp ones dry. Recommendation!

So now the four of us are dog-tired after an exhausting day of hiking - despite coffee after dinner for two of us - and want to lie down. So off to the tent! But which one? Since we are dealing with the basics here, I would like to suggest a fairly purist, solid dome tent for four people, such as the Denali IV Tent from Salewa. It has to be waterproof and windproof, and the tent floor should be robust and of course also waterproof. Thanks to two entrances, it offers variable possibilities for use and very good ventilation when needed; there are also ventilation openings - all of which you quickly learn to appreciate when you're heading for warmer climes. I would always recommend a self-contained inner tent with insect protection, because mosquitoes are terribly annoying, and scorpions, for example, are fascinating to watch, but I still wouldn't want them in my sleeping bag. In really hot weather, you can also just put up the inner tent of the Denali IV, as a sort of insect screen, and leave out the outer shell completely. As the tent is free-standing (it only needs to be fixed to the ground with pegs), it does not need guy ropes. It is also stable against wind, although the relatively flat, rounded dome tent has an advantage over models with a larger surface area. Also important: the small, roofed vestibule under the outer tent, where luggage and (dirty) shoes can be parked so that they are at hand again immediately after waking up (and don't make a mess in the tent).

The sleeping bag is still missing! If we assume for now that camping mainly takes place during the warm season with a geographical tendency towards the south, then in theory a so-called summer sleeping bag is sufficient, which is comfortable down to about +10°; at lower temperatures, however, it can become uncomfortable. The rule here is: what is far too warm for one person can quickly become too cold for another, especially towards the end of the summer, when the nights become fresh again in August and September. So, for the less chilly, a sleeping bag like the Lunar I from Mountain Equipment will suffice for the warm time of year. But if you're a more sensitive person or don't only want to camp in summer, a three-season sleeping bag such as the Trestle Elite Eco 30 by Marmot might be more appropriate, as it will keep you nice and warm even at lower temperatures. And if in doubt, you can open up a (too) warm sleeping bag and use it as a blanket. For children, I would always recommend a three-season sleeping bag, simply because they freeze more quickly, and if they get too warm, they'll kick themselves out anyway ;-) I particularly like the Biopod Wolle Kids World Traveller by Grüezi Bag for two reasons: on the one hand, it is filled with wool as an insulating material, which keeps the child fluffy and warm, and on the other hand, this sleeping bag grows with the child, as you can extend the foot end if the occupant(s) threatens to outgrow it. For a more in-depth look at this topic, I would like to refer you to the article on buying advice for sleeping bags in the Bergfreunde base camp blog.

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For the time being, the only sleeping pad I can recommend in the Basic chapter is the classic sleeping pad: the Ridge Rest Classic from Therm-A-Rest. Universal, light and indestructible. You can use this mat in front of the tent as a seat, as a windbreak for the gas cooker, as a starting aid for the car when stuck in the snow or simply as an additional layer of insulation on the ground (all suggested uses are Andreas©-tested!). But of course it's thin...so if you want to be a bit more comfortable, there's no way around a simple air-insulated mat. Outwell has two that would work: the Sleepin 3.0 offers 3cm of foam insulation and air chambers; it's still slim, but offers a bit more comfort. If you really want to put a lot of space between you and the ground, you need something like the Classic with pillow, which is 18 cm high and can be inflated quickly with an integrated foot pump; it also has a slight elevation at one end (that's the pillow part, so it's like an integrated pillow). How basic this mat (or mattress) still is, however, remains to be seen.

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And at the risk of going beyond the basics, I wouldn't want to sleep without a pillow. I find the Drift Pillow by Klymit particularly clever, because you can either have it inside the tent with the comfortable jersey cover, or use it outside with the water-repellent, more robust surface.

Finally, in the Basic section, you can't do without the oldest tool known to mankind: the knife. In this case, a pocket knife. They are welcome to come from Switzerland and, in addition to the obligatory blade, should also contain a saw, corkscrew, bottle opener, awl, tweezers and can opener. Behold the D05 from Swiza. I have really used all of these functions many times and appreciate this tool beyond measure! And the children need the pocket knife for whittling and for sawing and sharpening grill sticks from hazel wood.

Of course, there are destinations where it is clear that a campfire will also be made, and in that case I would recommend a camping axe as part of the basic equipment. The best one for me is the really tiny but incredibly powerful and practical Agelsjön from Hultafors. With such mini axes, you can also carve excellently, provided you have a bit of practice.

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For hammering in the pegs, I always have a standard hammer with me, because on dry, hard ground you (and the peg) quickly reach the limits of your strength.

Camping Essentials: Advanced

Ok, we've got the basics behind us, maybe we've been on the road a few times (or even a few years?) with more or less of the above equipment, but now the holidays are getting longer and we're longing for a bit more comfort and variability? Well, let's have a look, there are quite a few things we can do. Let's start with the food intake: you might want to cook "properly" on your camping holiday, i.e. make a sauce for pasta, sauté fresh vegetables with rice, or fry sausages and boil potatoes. The only thing that helps is another cooking option. And that's what the two-burner Outwell Olida Stove offers, for example. Equipped with piezo ignition and a windbreak, you can literally step on the gas here and conjure up a small feast for your family. But wait - we need several pots for that! And a pan if you want to serve meat or fish. This is available, for example, as an all-in-one solution in the form of the Biwak stainless steel 3-set from Basic Nature. Includes three pots and a lid/pan combination as well as a pot holder. Oh yes, on a related note: if you're tired of lugging around old, discarded cutlery from home, you can now upgrade to a lightweight, 24-piece cutlery set for four in the form of the Group Dinner Set by 360°. Disputes over the wrong colour for the right person due to monochrome are out of the question. However, if you cook more, you also produce more dirty dishes that have to be washed. We like to use a folding dishwasher bowl like the Folding Bowl 20 by Ortlieb, which is easy to transport, rinse and store.

And: if you cook more often, you might not necessarily want to eat your meals stored on the floor? An ensemble of camping tables and seats can help here: e.g. the clever - because foldable - mini camp table by Coleman, and these really very comfortable (and foldable) camping chairs by Lafuma. Kids love them too, I speak from experience. If you want extra chairs for the little ones, then Uquip's Sandy is the obvious choice, because although they have a relatively low standing height, they are suitable for both children and adults and can therefore be used without anyone outgrowing them.

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Now, the more and the more often you camp, the greater the likelihood that it will rain or you might even catch a real spell of bad weather. And if you then have to spend a bit more time in the tent, it can quickly become cramped in a comparatively small four-person tent, and you then long for a bit more space. So let's take a look at some of the larger tents with an anteroom, where you can also stay in bad weather to eat, play, read, listen to the rain pattering, etc. Since we are in the "middle class" here, the range is quite extensive, and I have selected three tents suitable for families for you:

The Laza 4 II tunnel tent from Ocampo would be a good example. Not bad either: the lounge area has windows that can be darkened if necessary, e.g. if the sun is too strong. Another plus point, especially for taller campers, is the ceiling height of 1.95 m, as most people can get dressed and changed standing up. As a bonus, the tent interior is equipped with organiser pockets so that everything has its place. In keeping with the camping fridge mentioned in the Premium section below, the Laza 4 II also has a cable grommet for putting electricity into the tent.

If you're looking for a tent that's not only a bit bigger but also more extensively equipped, the Joro 450 from Vango comes to mind. This tunnel tent is sometimes referred to (see the description in the Bergfreunde shop ;-) as a "mobile single-family house", and it lives up to its name. With a total floor space of just under 6m x 3m, it offers plenty of room. The layout is also practical: the entrance area is roofed and can be closed with a zip-secured door if necessary, and only then is the actual tent entrance. Clever when it's wet outside! Behind the entrance is the living area, which is also quite spacious and can also be entered via a side door, and only at the end of the tunnel is the sleeping chamber, which can be divided into a parents' cabin and a children's cabin, for example, if required. The Joro 450 also offers the option of running a power line into the tent.

The Wolf Moon from Robens would then be a clear step towards the top class. It costs considerably more, but offers a lot in return. The material is not only quick-drying, waterproof and windproof, but also much more robust and breathable as well as UV-resistant. In addition, the fabric is flame-retardant; the material melts on contact with flames and does not catch fire itself. Due to the higher water column, the Wolf Moon has a recommendation for year-round camping and offers better protection against moisture. And if (ventilation or light) is needed, there are three entrance options that can also be opened at the same time, giving the lounge area a pavilion-like character. The guy ropes for a stable, wind-proof stand are connected to the outer tent and tent poles by flexible loops, so that forces caused by strong gusts are optimally distributed over the entire surface. A mosquito net is integrated, and there is of course also an opening for a power cable.

Finally, in the advanced segment, where camping holidays are simply a given, part of the family's leisure time canon and take place regularly, the sleeping pad - if not already done in the first step - can also be made a little more comfortable. It is advisable to move away from pure sleeping mats towards thicker, softer, self-inflating mattresses, for example. We find double mattresses the most practical, as they really create a feeling almost as if you were sleeping in a real bed. By the way, these mattresses can also be used as such at home, they make excellent guest beds. One option is the Comfort 7.5 Double from Vango, which has an integrated pump and is therefore self-inflating. With this mat you have 7.5cm height from the ground and a sleeping area of 2m x 1.3m. With two of these mats, the sleeping area of an average-sized 4-person tent is basically complete, and all four can make themselves comfortable to their hearts' content. If you prefer an even softer scenario that is even closer to the "real" bed, the so-called air beds are also an option - such as the Flair Jumbo from Brunner. This mattress is a whole 38cm high!

Camping Essentials: Premium

Where is there still room for improvement if we can already eat well, sleep well and sit together comfortably? Answer: There is always room for improvement, as always the scale is open, and changes depend only on personal satisfaction. Here are just a few more tips on what else is available in the wonderfully colourful world of camping equipment. But let's proceed as above and start with the camping kitchen. And with their portable gas barbecue, Campinggaz have a premium product on offer. It is foldable, has three gas flames, a motorised (!) rotating spit for grilling a chicken and a grill grate. In addition, the grill has long legs and you can work standing up. Perhaps a bit over the top, but in individual cases certainly nice to have; for example, in southern Europe barbecuing with an open fire is often not allowed because of the omnipresent danger of forest fires.

And if you don't want to do without your beloved pulled pork, there is now also the Dutch Oven for on the go - the fire pot from Petromax, available in seven sizes from 0.93l to 16.1l capacity. The bulky cast iron pot braises vegetables and meat tenderly with ideal heat retention, and the lid can be used separately as a pan. Everything is completely fireproof, but can of course also be used with the gas cooker. For a delicious, crisp, fresh salad, Brunner offers a salad bowl that is break-resistant, easy to clean and has a non-slip rubber ring on the bottom for a secure stand.

Increased cooking is often accompanied by more extensive stockpiling, and it's a good idea to be able to store and, in some cases, refrigerate these victuals accordingly. Camping coolers such as the Polaris Travel 28 from Brunner are ideal for this purpose, as they can be operated with a cable from the car's cigarette lighter while driving, but are otherwise supplied with power via regular sockets. Butter, cheese, vegetables, eggs, meat or fish: everything can be made and stored! And don't forget the cool drinks; after all, there aren't ice-cold mountain streams everywhere where you can keep your bottles cold. For the more relaxed among us, there are things like the Laze Inflatable Set from Outwell. This includes a sofa, an armchair and an ottoman, each inflatable. When you need a whole camping living room...

With tents, of course, there is always the possibility of upgrading or expanding. The Dogon tunnel tent from the Dutch manufacturer Nomad, the "giant among family tents" (Bergfreunde.de product text), leaves hardly any room to be desired. First of all, it has a total area of more than 20 square metres and an interior height of more than 2 metres, which are impressive values even for a 4-person tent. The interior climate always remains pleasant, as the outer tent is made of a high-quality blend of cotton and light polyester, which makes it not only windproof and waterproof, but also breathable. The sleeping chamber can be divided into 2x2 cabins or used as a pure 4-person cabin; an extension with another 2-person sleeping accommodation (the "guest room") is possible and planned. In addition to the front entrance, which can be divided into two wings, there are two side entrances, so that the lounge area is not only large but also optimally ventilated. Inside the tent there are organisers that make it easy to stow away and find frequently used items. It is also easy and quick to set up; the colour-coded, very stable aluminium poles are very helpful.

Finally, on the subject of tents, Robens offer an extravagant, but nevertheless practical and extremely cool tent, the Klondike. A tepee-like bell tent that can sleep up to six people comfortably and offers standing height for all occupants almost everywhere! And it is also very versatile: the floor of the tent can be opened and removed by zipping from the entrance to the light metal centre pole, where a tent stove can be set up. There is an opening in the roof for the fireplace. Yurt feeling! Or just an Alaskan gold-rush atmosphere. So this tent can definitely be used all year round if you use a stove. Alternatively, the area with the floor removed can be used to store muddy, dirty, wet shoes. Ventilation is provided (with the entrance closed) by darkenable, half-moon shaped windows with mosquito nets. The fabric behaves towards flames in the same way as the Wolf Moon tent discussed above, melting instead of catching fire. Storm stability in winds up to 160km/h has been tested in the wind tunnel, and for persistent rainy weather the tent has a perimeter eave. Anyone who has spent a wintry night in such a dwelling will have loved it and will definitely (want to) do it again.

Camping essentials: favourites & indispensables

Now a small collection of favourites and indispensable items, which I have gathered from suggestions from friends and colleagues or contributed through my own experience!

Always handy, not only when camping: a multitool. First of all, a somewhat extended alternative to the pocket knife, but a multitool can - and should - be much more and can even replace a small toolbox. In my opinion, it has to offer at least a pair of scissors and a bit holder in addition to the obligatory pliers, such as the Power Lock Tool from SOG.

When it came to the hammock, all the female respondents agreed at first that it was a must. However, the ladies are right, it is indeed highly recommended, I also say from my own experience. Available, for example, from La Siesta.

A solar lamp is always a good thing in the tent - it provides brightness without you having to worry about batteries. Put it in the sun during the day and relax and read in the dark. Possible, for example, with the Luci Lux by MPOWERED.

Another clothing tip from us as a three-season camping family: especially when it's fresh at night, clothing (especially underwear/ski underwear) from Engel made of wool/silk or even nice and warm merino are really worth their weight in gold, keep you warm and make sleeping in the tent comfortable and cosy.

When it comes to camping-compatible barbecues, nothing, but nothing, can beat the Esbit

the Esbit BBQ Box 300 S. Whether camping or at home, I have never experienced a faster, better heat, better draft and better adjustability of the grill height. In addition, the part is collapsible, housed in a waterproof transport bag, and in the collapsed barbecue itself there is room for another waterproof transport bag for a load of charcoal. Fun fact on the side: the BBQ Box is the only grill we own. Ingenious!

We would rather not call it a "favourite", but unfortunately we also regularly need tick tongs, available from Coghlans, for example. Unfortunately indispensable!

Conclusion

I hope I have been able to provide an interesting and helpful insight into the realm of camping equipment. It goes without saying that this insight cannot be exhaustive within the framework of this article; nevertheless, a few essential aspects have been addressed. The products mentioned are also a good starting point for further research of your own. All explorers who would like to read further into the subject matter, related topics and the broader outdoor theme are advised to visit our base camp blog. But the general rule is: the proof of the pudding is in the eating. So: just do it, try it out a bit, go out, pitch your tent, a weekend here, five days there; you still have the rest of your life to optimise your equipment. And that learning curve is really fun for a change. With this in mind!

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