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Now that summer is right around the corner you might be thinking about getting outside and camping. It’s actually a great idea, since studies have shown that nature makes us happier, and that being among vegetation can help you live longer.

But if you’ve never gone into the wilderness before, you might need a camping packing list. That’s why we asked experts for some tips and gear advice to make your first time out as fun and safe as possible.

“The pandemic and lockdowns sparked a massive spike in outdoor recreation, and more people than ever are getting outside,” says Backcountry gearhead Rob Lindsen. “It’s great to see people getting to experience so many new, fun outdoor activities, but it is important for new outdoor users to learn proper outdoor etiquette and principles, like Leave No Trace.”

Leave No Trace is an easy set of seven principles to follow when you venture into nature so you can help minimize your impact. They include planning, traveling on durable surfaces, proper disposal of waste, leaving what you find, respecting wildlife, being considerate of others and minimizing campfire impacts. “Don’t make a campfire unless you’re 110% comfortable and sure it’s safe (and legal) to do so, and never leave a fire unattended until it’s completely put out,” Lindsen says. “Too many forest fires get started by careless campers!”

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Dennis A. Vásquez, bureau chief of field operations at New Mexico State Parks, says planning is key when camping. “Do some online research on the area where you are going camping,” he says. “Be aware of forecasted rain, extreme temperatures and other weather conditions. Prepare accordingly.”

Campspot ambassador Kendra Clapp Olguín, who lives in an Airstream with her partner and fellow Campspot ambassador, Tyler D. Way, says actually figuring out where you’re going to camp is one of the most important parts of planning. “Finding a campground or campsite can be a daunting process, so I always recommend that first-time campers turn to Campspot,” says Olguín. “Further, a great way to introduce yourself to camping is to go with friends who have camped before.” Other than Campspot, reservation sites such as ReserveAmericaThe Dyrt and are extremely helpful when looking for a place to camp. You can search by location and browse different campgrounds with varying amenities so you can find a perfect camping experience. “It is strongly advised to make campsite reservations in advance, when that option is available,” says Vásquez. “A less popular, less crowded area might be a good introductory experience.”

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When it comes to gear, you’ll need a few camping necessities like a tent and sleeping bag, but Olguín encourages new campers not to go wild buying a long list of camping items. “For your first trip, keep the camping equipment essential,” she says. “You’ll learn from experience what equipment and items work best for your style of camping.” Vásquez echoes this too. “It’s not necessary to buy the fanciest or most expensive equipment,” he says. “Start with basic, solid, modestly priced equipment. If you get hooked on camping, you can upgrade as you go along.” REI and Backcountry have brands that fit into this category with REI Co-op and Stoic, both of which have quality gear that’s typically cheaper than other big brands.

Below, we’ve followed our experts’ advice and put together a camping checklist for your next trip to the woods. We also have advice on expert-recommended hiking gear, backcountry camping and hiking boots for all your summer adventures.

Camping tents and chairs

“Our in-house brand, Stoic, makes a ton of great gear that’s an awesome value for both beginners and experienced campers alike,” says Lindsen. The Madrone 4 is a three-season tent, which means it’s built for everything but winter camping. Setup is easy, and it comes with two vestibules so you can stash your gear right outside of the tent and it’ll still be protected from the weather.

One of the hardest things to get used to when camping is the lack of space. That issue is solved with REI Co-op's massive Wonderland 4, which has a peak height of 75 inches.

If you've got the whole family in tow and need lots of room, check out this six-person tent from Kelty. It's heavy and only has one door, but more than enough space for your friends, family and gear.

If you live in an area with a lot of rain, consider this four-person tent from trusted brand Coleman, which has full rainfly coverage and a protected vestibule to shield your gear from the weather too.

If you don't know how to set up a tent, or just don't want to deal with it, this four-person option from Caddis basically assembles itself. A six-person version is also available for $299.

“Bring a comfy camp chair; it’s a must-have for roasting s’mores by a fire, and great for napping in the sun during the day,” says Lindsen. This chair from Amazon is simple, with tons of cushioning and built-in beverage-cooler pouches.

This chair is Olguín’s go-to for chilling at the campsite. “Inexpensive, oversized camping chairs ... allow you to sit with your legs criss-cross comfortably,” she says.

This simple chair is great not only for the campsite, but also for the park or backyard. At just $30, there's no reason you shouldn't have one.

This folding camp chair is a great pick since it has a convenient side table with a cup holder so you can eat dinner in comfort.

Sleeping bags, blankets and pads

A sleeping bag that keeps you warm at night is essential, so make sure to research how cold it will get. Sleeping bags have temperature ratings, but most of the time those numbers are lower-limit comfort ratings. That means if you have a 20-degree bag, it definitely doesn’t mean you’ll be snuggly and warm on a 20-degree night. In fact, you’ll probably be quite cold. This Kelty bag’s lower limit is 21 degrees and its comfort rating is 32 degrees, meaning it should keep you warm and comfy on most nights from late spring into early fall, depending on the climate.

This bag from REI Co-op is one of the best deals on a sleeping bag out there. At just $100, this 20-degree bag is cozy for any camping trip, and even light enough to take backpacking.

If you’re planning on summer camping, this cooler bag from L.L.Bean will do the trick. Plus, its flannel-lined build is more comfortable than the polyester you typically find in warmer bags.

If you’re camping with your partner and don’t want to sleep in separate bags, this double bag is the perfect solution. Built with two hoods equipped with pillow pockets, dual two-way zippers and an interior stash pocket, you and your camping buddy will stay cozy and snuggly all night long.

Editor Favorite

If summer camping gets too hot, you might want to consider just using a blanket instead of a full-on sleeping bag. This puffy blanket from Rumpl is perfect for warm-weather camping, or you can bring it on colder trips to bundle up when you’re relaxing around the fire at night.

Olguín loves to bring this gorgeous Pendleton wool blanket with her camping to keep her warm by the fire. “Wool is naturally fire-resistant, so we feel safe using these blankets around the campfire,” she says.

“Don’t skip bringing a sleeping pad either; a bad night’s sleep can quickly ruin any camping trip,” says Lindsen. This option from Therm-a-Rest is 3 inches thick to ensure comfort all night long.

Another fantastic piece of gear from REI Co-op's Trailmade collection, this affordable pad is self-inflating and 1.5 inches thick to keep you comfy on rocky terrain.

If you don't need 3 inches of padding, this thinner pad might not be as comfortable but can still do the trick. Plus, at just $65, it won't break the bank.

Sea to Summit offers stellar camping gear, and this pad is no different. With 1.5 inches of thickness and an R-value of 4.2, it's a great option for spring, summer and fall.