Our camping gear essentials include the best new camping gear this year, plus a few updated classics.
Whether you camp a little or a lot, your camping gear can make or break your trip. Since we have a compact SUV and like backcountry camping, we’re always looking for gear that is compact, lightweight, and durable – and comfortable. Here are some of the best new / improved pieces of gear we’ve tried recently. Prices are in Canadian dollars unless indicated otherwise.
Disclosure: I received free samples of some items and earn a small commission on some items at no extra cost to you, but all words and opinions are my own. Thank you for supporting our camping fees!
1. Moonshade Portable Awning ($350 US)
How it works: The portable awning can be attached to your vehicle, trailer, or structures!
What we like: Large awning packs provides sun protection when camping, picnicking, or boondocking; but packs down small
What we don’t: Suction cups don’t work in cold temps (tip: get magnetic attachments to keep the awning in place)
The Moonshade Portable Awning is a compact and affordable portable awning perfect for camping, picnicking, or tailgating. Its 9′ x 7′ canopy covers a picnic table with room to spare, and has a reflective underside for illumination at night (the better to see your playing cards!). The entire kit weighs only 8 pounds and packs down to the size of a sleeping mat (28″ x 6″).
Various anchors – magnetic / suction cup / adhesive / rail / Sprinter rail – are available, so you can attach the awning to any vehicle or structure. This said, the awning is best suited for a taller vehicle such as an SUV, van, or truck so you have more headroom. The Moonshade is super easy to set up, but if you’d like to use it in cold weather, order magnetic/adhesive anchors to keep the shade in place (I learned in January that suction cups prefer warm weather).
Constructed with 420D ripstop polyester with UV protective treatment and aluminum poles, the Moonshade is built to last. Bring it on all your adventures!
For more information, or to order now, visit Moonshade.
2. Baffin Unisex Cabin Hybrid Slippers ($80)
Who they’re for: Everyone!
What we like: Warm sherpa-fleece lined slippers with a felt insole and rubber sole are comfy and warm
What we don’t: They fit a bit big (but tightening the toggles keeps them on and keeps heat in)
There’s nothing like taking your hiking boots after a long hike! For warm and cozy feet at camp, slip on the fleece-lined Baffin Cabin Unisex Hybrid Slippers. With sizes from Youth Small to 3XL, everyone in the family can get a pair!
The water-resistant nylon and microfiber uppers are easy to wipe clean, and rubber soles mean you can wear them to the camp store or evening amphitheatre program. Toggles keep cold out and heat in, and keep the slippers on your feet.
Available in Charcoal, Merlot, and Black from Baffin, an awesome Canadian company that tests gear in extreme conditions.
3. Big Agnes Copper Spur Tent HV UL3 ($699.95)
Best suited for: Backcountry campers
What we like: Super lightweight and compact; one person can easily carry it (I attach it to my backpack); 2 doors + 2 vestibules; 1200mm waterproof polyurethane coating that withstands torrential rain
What we don’t like: High price (but you get what you pay for)
The Big Agnes Copper Spur is an award-winning ultralight tent that is a favorite of backpackers. The latest iteration of this popular tent (redesigned in 2020) features NEW awning style openings on both sides, a new double ripstop fabric that is lighter than ever, redesigned tent poles, and unique tent corner construction that secures the pole tip, fly, and stakeout loop. All this while keeping the weight under 4 pounds!
Like most backpacking tents, the 3-person tent is a tight squeeze for three adults. I’d say it’s best for 1 adult + 2 kids, or 2 adults. My kids are 5’1″ and I’m 5’3″ so the UL3 is just right for us. We love how light it is, and how easy it is to set up!
4. LifeStraw Peak Series 3L Gravity Water Filter ($79.95)
How it works: Fill the bag with water and hang it in a tree/from the picnic table
What we like: compact, inexpensive, BPA-free, comes with flow-control clip
What we don’t like: dark color absorbs heat (though this is a plus in cold weather)
You may already know of LifeStraw’s flagship product, the ultralight and compact LifeStraw personal water filter, but did you know they also make pitcher, dispenser, water bottle, and gravity filters? The LifeStraw Peak Series 3L Gravity Filter boasts a 0.2 micron filter (many only filter bigger stuff with a 0.3 micron filter) that removes 99.999% of parasites and microplastics, and 99.999999% of bacteria. It filters 1.7 L/minute without pumping, weighs 228 grams, and rolls up super small so you can bring it on dayhikes or overnighters! If you’d like a larger filtration system for the family, an 8L gravity bag is coming soon.
In addition to making high quality filters, LifeStraw is big on giving back. For every purchase, LifeStraw will provide clean drinking water to 1 child. They also provide emergency access to safe water; most recently, they have provided water filters to Ukraine.
5. Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTHERM Sleeping Pad ($299.95)
Who it’s for: Backcountry and frontcountry tent campers
What we like: This sleeping pad is super lightweight and compact (it’s the warmest for its weight!), packs down to the size of a Nalgene bottle, is comfortable even for side sleepers due to horizontal baffles and 2.5″ thickness, insulated for 4 seasons (but I recommend a foam pad underneath in extreme temperatures), and deflates quickly when you open the WingLock valve.
What we don’t like: Pump sack is not as easy to use as expected, crinkly sound may bother light sleepers
I bought the NeoAir XTHERM a couple years ago after trying a friend’s on the Rockwall Trail. I couldn’t believe such a thick and comfy sleeping pad fit in her backpack! In 2022, the best-selling Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTHERM Sleeping Pad is still the warmest sleeping pad for its weight. The regular 20″ wide NeoAir XTHERM is only 470 grams (1.1 lbs)!
Horizontal baffles are good for side sleepers so you don’t compress a long section of the sleeping pad and sink in. A Triangular Core Matrix™ prevents heat loss, while reflective ThermaCapture™ technology traps radiant heat and minimizes weight and bulk. The latter is kind of crinkly, but I don’t mind because the NeoAir XTHERM delivers on warmth and comfort while keeping weight and bulk down.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTHERM Sleeping Pad is available in three sizes: Regular (20×72″), Regular Wide (25×72″), and Large (25×77″). If you prefer a rectangular sleeping pad, try the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Max WV Sleeping Pad (same specs, different shape).
6. MEC Talon -10 Down Sleeping Bag ($489.95)
Who it’s for: 3-season tent campers, especially if you camp at high elevation where it can be -10 C in summer
What we like: Light weight, high loft and warmth for a reasonable price (it’s hard to find an 800 fill-power down sleeping bag for under $500); comes in short, regular, and long lengths so you can get the right length without carrying extra weight; stuff sack and storage sack included
What we don’t like: Made in China
The MEC Talon -10 Down Sleeping Bag has amazing loft (16 cm) and warmth thanks to 800 fill-power down. The draft tube along the zipper keeps heat in and cold out, while the 20-denier recycled nylon shell has a PFC-free DWR finish that makes it water-resistant.
We’ve owned LOTS of MEC sleeping bags over the past 20 years – toddler, child, women’s, unisex, winter, hybrid (down upper & synthetic lower) – and have stayed toasty warm and never had a zipper fail. With MEC sleeping bags, you get a lot of bang for your buck, and features of high-end sleeping bags for less money. Choose the right size for your height to keep warm and keep pack weight to a minimum.
- Small fits to 5′ 6″ (168 cm) and weighs 1.09 kg
- Regular fits to 6′ 0″ (183 cm) and weighs 1.17 kg
- Long fits to 6′ 6″ (198 cm) and weighs 1.24 kg
Find the MEC Talon -10 Down Sleeping Bag at MEC.
7. HydroFlask Coffee Cup ($39.99)
Why you need this: This leakproof, BPA-free coffee flask keeps your drink hot (or cold) all day!
What we like: Vibrantly colored powder coating is dishwasher safe, bottles don’t leak, and loop handle is easy to grab or clip the bottle to your backpack.
What we don’t like: The leakproof sippy lid has several pieces to take apart and clean. (If you prefer, you can get a standard non-sippy wide-mouth lid instead.)
Keep hot drinks hot (up to 12 hrs) and cold drinks cold (up to 24 hrs) with a HydroFlask coffee cup with Flex Sip Lid. Double-walled 18/8 food-grade stainless steel insulates, and the durable powder coating in your favorite color will brighten your morning. The leakproof sippy lip means you can bring your hot (or cold) drink on the trail with you, and the color coding on the lid makes it easy to tell if the lid is open or closed (red).
8. Pull Start Fire fire starters ($14.99-$19.99)
How it works: Set up your firewood in a log cabin shape, put the loop of string around a piece of wood, then pull on the orange string to light your fire. Lights in seconds and stays lit even in 200+ mph winds!
What we like: The fire starter burns for 30 minutes, even if firewood is wet! And no matches or lighter are needed.
What we don’t like: They’re a bit pricey, but totally worth it in case of emergency or bad weather (no need to split wood and cut kindling in the rain).
Get Pull Start Fire five-second fire starters at Canadian Tire.
9. Adventure Medical Kits 0.7 Ultralight & Watertight First Aid Kit ($27.50)
Who it’s for: Made for 1-2 people for 1-4 days, but we bring it on family multi-day trips
What we like: Abrasion-resistant, water resistant outer bag; waterproof inner bags for comprehensive first aid kit that contains gauze, medical tape, bandaids, moleskin, butterfly closures, gloves, antiseptic wipes, AfterBite wipes, elastic bandage and safety pins, knuckle bandages, mini roll of duct tape, and needle tip tweezers that can remove splinters and ticks; extra room to add Tylenol, Benadryl, Gravol, and Polysporin.
What we don’t like: Would prefer 2nd Skin blister pads to moleskin. Some medical scissors would be nice to have too.
10. Serac Ultralight Pocket Hammock ($109.99)
Why you need this: For total relaxation! Kick back with a book, take a nap, or watch the stars from your comfy hammock.
What we like: Made with one sheets of diamond ripstop nylon (no seams to dig in!), weighs only 420 g/15 oz, and sets up fast with new “Easy Hang Cinches” (get the perfect tension without knots or bulky daisy chain straps), 5 year warranty, 500 lb capacity, packs down to 6×3.5″ and stuff sack is included
What we don’t like: Straps are too short for large trees
Buy the Serac Ultralight Pocket Hammock from Amazon.
More Camping Essentials
For more camping essentials and a PDF pack list, see our Ultimate Camping Pack List. It includes everything you need from camp chairs and stove, to sunscreen and dishes.