Camping Gear Guide

camping gear guide in a vw van
We love camping!  I grew up camping with my family, we owned a 1968 VW camper.  My family travelled all over the United States, so I have very fond memories of camping.  Camping for my own family began when the kids were infants.  It was much easier to camp when our boys were infants, in comparison to toddlers.  As toddlers, they tend to put everything in their mouth, and are not aware of what is dangerous.  Regardless, it is worth it.  We have continued to camp with our boys as they have grown up and the memories are priceless.  We draw inward as a family when we camp, no distractions, just the outdoors, and each other.


Our family prefers to “free range” or “wild camp.”  This means that we prefer to camp in non-organized campgrounds.  We follow the guidelines given from the Bureua of Land Management BLM, which offers “free range” camping in most states.  The Federal Government owns nearly 650 million acres of land. These are lands that are held for all Americans. I like the US Public Lands app I have loaded to my phone.  The US Public Lands App displays a map of BLM, US Forest Service, and National Parks.  It tracks our van as we travel and I can easily look up a place for us to camp for the night.  I also use the iOverlander app.  This App shows campgrounds, “free range” camping, and gives great insider tips from a community of campers. All other National Park camping is a pre-planned trip done through  These campsites usually require pre-planning and booking, due to their impacted nature.

camping gear essentials


Once we have found a nice spot to camp based upon the two Apps listed above, we make camp.  There are a few things I absolutely love in our camp gear arsenal, that makes our stay enjoyable.  Keep in mind this is a camping essentials list that has taken us years to hone and acquire.  This is not sponsored, just honest camping experience that is worth sharing.  We also know camping equipment is not cheap, but when you have the right gear, it makes a world of difference.

camping gear guide essentials

1. the Snow Peak Chopping Board. I absolutely love this cutting board. The knife is dangerously sharp and conveniently packs inside the board. We take it on picnics or roll up to a nice lunch spot and cut up our cheese, salami, and veggies on a daily basis.  I most often use an antibacterial wipe for cleaning. 
2.The Luci lights are a genius design.  We keep them in our gear hammock facing out towards the sun while driving.  They are solar, inflatable lights that have a great lifespan of light.  They are nearly indestructible and pack down to nearly nothing.
3. I love our Jet Boil Camping Stove. We use this stove all the time while camping. It has a push button igniter and boils water in seconds.  It is compact and lightweight.  We also love the coffee plunger attachment.
4. I love the Snow Peak collapsible bucket for dual purpose. I pack our spare shoes in it while on the road and then use it to collect water and wash dishes while at camp. I love that is collapses flat and works with a tiny space.
5. The whisk broom is a must if you like a tidy camper van. I use mine daily. Camping is dirty and I like a clean camper.   
6.There are a number of clothing items I can’t live without when we camp, my down jacket and vest, and my Xtratuf boots.  I love Xtratuff boots for their durability and product longevity.  I have kept my boys in these boots since they could walk.  It minimizes the wet shoes from exploring and keeps their feet clean while camping. 
7. Cast iron cooking is a love in our family. We travel with at least two cast iron Dutch Ovens. If we are staying in a campsite for two days, we will do a cast iron meal. It does require up to four hours in the coals, but the result is worth the time invested.
8. Our Partner Camp Stove is a gem. It is a forever camping stove. We do not use the kitchen portion of our van, it’s a bit too cramped, and I prefer to set up an outdoor kitchen with a view. The Partner Camp stove is run on propane, we bring a small propane container with us when camping.  The four burners that cook at high heat, actually do a better job than my stove at home.  The stove folds up compact and has a nice carry handle. 
9.We love a campfire!  When “free range” camping, the Snow Peak Camp and Carry Fireplace grill allows us to have a fire without compromising the pristine area, and leave the campsite in the same condition we found it.  We cook on this daily and then enjoy a fire after our food is done.  The design is genius, it folds up flat, much like Japanese origami.
10. We have used many coolers over our camping lifetime. No cooler has performed like our Yeti Cooler. It keeps food cool longer and is extremely durable.

camping gear essentialsEAT

I try to keep our camping menu simple.  The simple staples I keep in our van if we are in a pinch: Top Ramen (not healthy, but has saved us), instant oats, pasta & sauce, and coffee grounds.  These are my emergency meals if we have come into a campsite late or didn’t find a grocery store in the area.  A few easy "go to" meals I plan for camping : pasta and meat sauce, tacos, brats on the grill. 

camping gear essentials

camping gear essentials

A more elaborate Cast Iron meal requires a day of tending pots in the fire.  My husband enjoys this process and the results are amazing.  Start your coals early, and don’t add the Cast Iron Ducth Ovens until the coals are white in color.  We ofte use a pork butt or tri tip, place it in the cast iron, add 1-2 onions, pour 1 beer over the top, and close the lid.  The cooking time varies between three and four hours.

camping gear guide essentials
I will usually cook a bag of noodles prior to camping, which allows me to make Mac N’ Cheese in the Dutch Oven easily.

Easy Dutch Oven Mac N' Cheese Directions:
Add layers of pre-cooked elbow noodles and 3-4 cups sharp cheddar in the cast iron pot.  Repeat layers of noodles and cheese. Mix 1 egg and 1 cup of half and half, pour over the top of the noodles. 
Add and salt and pepper, cover and cook in the fire.  We place this oven at the top of the stack with coals on the lid.  

Cast iron pots are to be stacked and must have coals placed on the lid for uniform cooking temperature.  The cooking time is about 30-45 minutes, just enough to get the cheese and egg mixture cooked.


I often use a variety of Google, Pinterest, and Yelp when entering an area of interest.  All three of these research tools allow me to find points of interest and visuals images. Our best camping spots and points of interest have always come from kind locals sharing their love for their area.  My advice is always ask around at a gas station or restaurant for local tips.

camping gear essentials
I hope this Journal entry gives you a glimpse into our camping life and gives you all a little more insight into what gear helps support our love for camping with our boys.


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