Must-Have Camping Essentials for Women: Gear and Tips

Kristin Shaw Avatar
camping essentials for women - sunglasses

Never been camping? It’s never too late. Going on a camping trip can be rewarding and wonderful, especially if you know what to pack and where to go to get the right gear. Fear not! We have you covered.

I never thought I’d be a camping fan until I entered the Rebelle Rally as a competitor; the all-female 1,500-mile off-roading competition required camping in a tent for eight days straight. 

This was no glamping experience, either: my driving partner and I were responsible for pulling our gear from the back of our Hyundai Santa Cruz and setting up camp at night, then tearing it all down in the morning. We quickly learned which gear worked well for us and took note of what other competitors were using. 

With that experience under my belt, I’m going to teach you how to get granular with your camping packing list to ensure you don’t forget anything important. Of course, you’ll want the typical things like bug spray, hand sanitizer, water bottles, a camp chair for sitting around the fire roasting marshmallows (these are our favorite camp chairs), your toothbrush, and trash bags to make sure you will leave no trace of your residence in the wild. 

But you’ll need much more than that for a successful camping trip.

Here’s the SheBuysTravel checklist of camping essentials women should buy before a trip so you’ll be ready for your own outdoor adventures around the world, from state and national parks to public lands, and everywhere in between. 

The Best Clothing for Camping

1. Sorel Hi-Line Hiking Boots

  • Excellent rubber sole support for hiking
  • Waterproof leather
  • Comfortable and firm, yet flexible
  • High quality; worth the money

These waterproof lace-ups are great for long days and they’re ready for just about any camping trip. I’ve worn mine in the mud, on rocky terrain, and in the sand, and they hold up very well. Lightweight and flexible, these boots are appropriate for driving to the campsite and then hiking to wherever you want to go. 

And in fact, the high sides helped ensure my boots didn’t fill up with sand when I was tackling the Imperial Sand Dunes of California. Nor did they fail when I had to push the vehicle and dig out from the dunes. 

Bonus: the sole imprints the distinctive Sorel bear logo every time you step.

2. Anitek Hoodies

  • Light and breathable fabric
  • 30 spf sun protection
  • Packs into a small roll

Back zipper pocket for keys or snacksLight, moisture-wicking hoodies from Anitek are the absolute best for keeping the sun off your arms and neck and for layering to keep you warm. The Breeze Tech Hoody provides a built-in sun protection factor of 30 spf + and that’s important to prevent damage to your skin. When you’re standing outside reading a map in the desert (even on a cloudy day!) these hoodies keep you covered and they’re so comfortable you’ll barely know you’re wearing sleeves. 

These are, bar none, the best lightweight hoodies on the market. And I appreciate that they’re available in 11 colors; the Navy Heathered version is my favorite.

camping essentials for women - buff
My red buff came in handy! Photo credit: Kristin Shaw

3. Coolnet UV Buff

  • UPF 50+ sun protection
  • Uses 95% recycled materials
  • One size fits most

Versatile uses: as a headband, face covering, neck gaiter, and so many more. Be sure to pick up a buff (or two or three), because they are an incredibly versatile addition to your wardrobe and they’re even more useful than a plain bandana. Just a few ways I used them: around my neck to prevent sunburn, as a mask in blowing sand conditions, wrapped around my hair as a headband, and even twisted into a ponytail holder, in a pinch. 

I prefer the Coolnet UV series because it’s super-light and protects my skin from the sun’s rays. If you’re a fall and winter camper, you might be more interested in the Merino wool lineup. As for me, I prefer to camp in the summer and fall months.

camping essentials for women
Photo credit: Kristin Shaw

4. Goodr Sunglasses

  • Lightweight
  • Designed for active people, and won’t slip down your nose
  • Inexpensive
  • Multiple options for colors and shapes

I’ve been wearing Goodr sunglasses for about four years now, and can’t seem to stop buying them. At about $25 per pair, each one is a bargain, and they come in a box with clever packaging and a soft pouch that doubles as a drying cloth. Plus, Goodr offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, the sunglasses are guaranteed for a year, and they’re carbon neutral.

With cheeky model names like “Flamingos on a Booze Cruise” and “Freshly Baked Man Buns,” Goodr sunnies are fun. They come in a multitude of colors and 10 different shapes, so there’s at least one style for everyone. Try them on virtually through the Goodr site and decide which ones look and feel best.

5. Title Nine Swimsuits

  • Sporty look
  • Feels like wearing running shorts (they don’t ride up!)
  • True to size
  • Zippered pocket is handy for surfing, paddle boarding, or truly any outdoor adventure

Title Nine is a big supporter of women’s sports and women’s businesses, so the company is tuned in with what we need. This woman-owned company creates clothing you can move in and is well-made and unfussy. 

The Wahine and Nalu swim shorts are my favorite (they come with a zippered pocket, which is great for car keys) paired with any of Title Nine’s swim tops. The choices are diverse, from bikinis to tankinis, for every body shape.

SheBuysTravel Tip: Don’t forget to apply sunscreen (Neutrogena’s UltraSheer 70 SPF is the easiest to apply and isn’t sticky; buy multiples).

The Best Camping Essentials for Women

best camping essentials for women - AYAMAYA Pop up tent
Our AYAMAYA pop up tent in action. Photo credit: Kristin Shaw

6. Ayamaya Pop-Up Tent

  • Super easy setup
  • Window vents allow air to flow through
  • Sturdy in wind and rain
  • Large doors and a zip-up vestibule perfect for pets

When you’re ready to put up a tent, you can’t go wrong with a pop-up style. Instead of stringing bendy poles to different points on the tent, you basically pull the tent from its bag, shake it out, and pound the stakes into the ground. Campers will love the ease pop-up tents offer to put it up and as soon as they get used to pouncing on it just so to pack it back up, they’ll appreciate all of it.

My Rebelle Rally driving partner Jill created a hilarious video of herself learning how to pop up the tent and put it back in the sleeve. It takes a little practice, but soon you’ll be folding it like a pro. Also, it would not be a bad idea to add a multi-tool survival set to your Amazon cart that includes an axe, hammer, screwdriver, and more that will help you pound in the stakes or whatever else you need. We found that a rubber mallet was fine on soft surfaces, but we often encountered hard ground that required a steel hammer.

7. REI Co-op Camp Dreamer XL Self-Inflating Sleeping Pad

  • Self-inflates quickly and simply
  • Includes a pad pump that doubles as a camping pillow
  • Made with 100% recycled materials
  • Packs down to an 11-inch by 30-inch bundle

I picked up my sleeping pad from REI, where a lovely representative showed me the pros and cons of various styles. I settled on an REI-branded self-inflating sleeping pad that was ultralight. Plus, the XL size is wide enough for a restless sleeper like me to move around.

When you’re camping, you absolutely want to have a good night’s sleep. I mean, good sleeping habits are always important, but when you’re out in the wild you’re going to need that extra shut-eye for long days of exploring. Trust me; do not forgo the sleeping mat.

8. Coleman Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag

  • Easy for one person to roll and secure with a quick snap
  • Includes a “comfort cuff” – a plush strip of fabric near your face devoid of rough edges
  • 5-year warranty
  • Zip two of them together for a cozy bed for two

Good sleeping bags are very important for campers. As we’ve already mentioned, a good night’s sleep is essential for an excellent day. 

Some people like the mummy-style bag that envelops you like a – well, like a mummy – but these make me feel too squished. Coleman makes a tried-and-true sleeping bag that’s ideal for side sleepers like me and now that I think about it, there is some nostalgia there for the kinds of sleeping bag I used as a kid. 

Coleman’s Brazos Cold-Weather Sleeping Bag is roomy and leaves space for a flannel sleeping sleeve for comfort and is rated for down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s super light and packable and does not look like the denim patchwork fabric I had when I was growing up. 

Traveling with a partner who likes to spoon? Check out the REI Co-op HunkerDown 20 Double Sleeping Bag, which is rated for 20 degrees. Get cozy!

9. Sea to Summit Aeros Premium Camping Pillow

  • Soft surface
  • Ergonomic shape cradles your head
  • Includes mini-valve for quick inflation and deflation
  • Weighs only 4 ounces

When I’m on a camping trip, I prefer a large, firm camping pillow that feels as much like home as possible. REI sells the highly-rated Sea to Summit Aeros down pillow and it’s about as luxe as you can get whether you’re sleeping in a tent, RV or car. I like the mini valve that allows for inflation, deflation and fine tuning so you can have the pillow just the way you want it.

Listen, the pillow is the key to good sleep on the trail. You can have a great sleeping mat and cozy sleeping bag, but if your pillow is uncomfortable it’s going to be a long night. I bought a different kind of pillow at first and it was a big mistake for me. Every person has their own camping pillow preference.

10. Everlit 250-Piece First Aid Kit

  • Includes everything you need for basic first aid, including scissors, an emergency blanket, and more
  • Available in 5 color themes
  • Weighs less than 2 pounds
  • Even if you don’t plan to go far off the grid, the kit offers peace of mind

Don’t leave home without a first aid kit, especially if you’re heading into remote areas. Amazon sells a 250-piece emergency and trauma kit that includes everything from adhesive bandages for small cuts to a mylar space blanket, multi-tool pocket knife, fire starter, emergency blankets, compression bandages and glow sticks. Best of all, the whole kit weighs only two pounds. If you like to be extra prepared (as I do), then pick up a tourniquet and chest seal, also from Amazon. Hopefully you’ll never need any of this gear, but you’ll want to have it in your pack or your vehicle just in case.

11. Black Diamond LED Headlamp

  • Has three brightness settings: full strength, dimming and strobe (flashing)
  • Digital lockout feature prevents accidental battery depletion
  • Water-resistant
  • Sturdy and compact for easy packing

Get a headlamp for each person in your party from REI. We really like the battery-powered Black Diamond headlamp that will cost you only about $20. For convenience, these headlamps can run on alkaline batteries (included) or a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (sold separately).

On a recent trip to Oregon, a friend introduced my family and I to a secret lava tube that was absolutely breathtaking. Luckily, she had a few headlamps with her to show us this beautiful spot, and they work much better than a phone light because a headlamp keeps your hands free.

SheBuysTravel Tip: One of the things I love most about buying from REI is the company’s membership system. Through it, you can earn coupons, free US shipping, trade-in privileges and more.

camping essentials for women - cooler
Photo credit: Kristin Shaw

12. Dometic CFX3 35 Powered Cooler

  • Well made
  • Durable for even the toughest off-road adventures
  • Refrigerates up to 50 cans and deep-freezes to -7°F

There’s nothing better than a cold beverage at the end of a long hike, whether it’s a refreshing seltzer, fizzy soda, or frosty IPA. Dometic makes the best coolers and they plug right into your 12-volt or 110-volt household outlet in your car, truck, SUV. While it’s extremely sturdy, it’s light enough for an average-strength woman to pick up and place in the vehicle when empty (don’t try to pick up a cooler when it’s full, in any case!).

This is a very quiet in-car refrigerator, which is nice when you want to enjoy the sounds of nature without an annoying artificial buzz.

13. Coleman Camp Stove and Grill

  • Weighs 7.5 pounds, which works for hiking short distances or car camping
  • Includes adjustable burners for precision cooking
  • Wind-blocking side panels prevent the loss of your flame
  • Removable drip tray helps collect grease and runoff

A camp stove is a smart idea if you’re a must-have-coffee person and/or you’re planning to eat what’s in your pack while in the backcountry. Coleman makes a terrific propane camp stove and grill combination you can order from Amazon, which makes it easy to boil coffee and make a fried egg for breakfast at the same time. Coffee, tea or oatmeal in no time! During the Rebelle Rally, we used our stove to boil water for our ready-to-eat meals designed for remote backpacking. Whether you’re vegan, gluten-free, or want a diverse diet on the trail, pick up a variety of meal packs at REI and all you have to do is add water.

14. Cotopaxi Allpa Duo 70-Liter Duffel Bag

  • Includes removable backpack harness for convenient transport from site to site
  • Two exterior pockets are great places for headlamps, snacks and toiletries
  • Dirty laundry compartment keeps smelly post-hiking clothes from clean clothes
  • Daisy chains on both sides of the bag offer handy loops for carabiners, pocket knives, flashlights and more

My favorite travel bags are from Cotopaxi, specifically the Allpa Duo 70 L duffel bag that you can pick up from Cotopaxi directly or from REI. What I like about these is that they’re very durable, they can be converted from a duffel to a backpack, and the company represents the kind of thoughtfulness and sustainability practices I admire.

When you’re packing, put the heavy stuff on the bottom, like shoes and toiletries. Then fill Ziploc bags with an outfit in each one or use compression sacks to squeeze it into a compact little package. The removable backpack harness is very helpful for moving your gear from a vehicle to a tent and vice versa.

15. Yeti Water Bottle

  • Built-in handle allows for easy carrying or attaching to a pack
  • Available in two dozen colors
  • Dishwasher safe, which means it can be disinfected and ready for your next outdoor adventure
  • It’s shatter resistant and durable for rock climbing and accidental drops

Hydration is everything, and you’ll want water bottles that fit the activity. Stanley IceFlow water bottles fit even small cup holders, and that’s handy. REI sells a number of hydration systems like those from CamelBak and Osprey if you’re going to be doing a fair amount of hiking.

Yeti is our favorite as a terrific lightweight, durable water bottle that’s suitable for backpacking. Drink lots of water! My driving partner and I would remind each other frequently to stay hydrated. The last thing you want is to shed too much liquid from sweating and not recover it. Toss a packet of Propel powder or Liquid IV for extra electrolytes. They taste good, too.

SheBuysTravel Tip: As you’re planning your trip, be sure to know exactly where you can find potable water sources to fill up.

Best Camping Toiletries

16. REI Co-Op Multi-Towel Deluxe

  • Soft material is gentle on your skin
  • Absorbs 6.5 times its weight in water
  • Dries fast when using its attached loop or hanging over a tree branch
  • Comes in medium, large, and XL sizes

Whether you’re planning to swim or catch a quick shower when you can, a quick-dry towel is absolutely a camping essential. They pack into a compact space and dry fast so you’re not saddled with a smelly, mildew-y towel on the go. REI makes an affordable quick-dry towel and it comes in a gorgeous Azurite Blue that makes it easy to find in my pack.

Every time I’d use the shower (which, to be honest, was about every three days during the Rebelle Rally) I’d dry off with my REI towel, get dressed, and then wrap my hair in the towel. After I was finished, I’d hang it on the side of my tent over the screen window and it would be dry by morning.

17. Campsuds Biodegradable Soap

  • A little goes a long way, preventing waste
  • Follows the “Leave No Trace” philosophy to protect the Earth from pollutants
  • For use on hands, dishes and full-body washing
  • Can last for several camping adventures in its concentrated form

Biodegradable soap is a smart move to stay within the “leave no trace” philosophy. Campsuds biodegradable soap comes in a small bottle, which is more convenient than carrying a bar. (Afterward, dry off with your quick-dry towel then set it in the sun to dry.)

Campsuds is packaged in a small 4-ounce bottle with a dispenser cap for controlled output. At that size, it slides right into the side of your pack or even your pocket.

18. Surviveware Wet Wipes

  • They’re unscented and biodegradable
  • Alcohol free and hypoallergenic
  • Suitable for sensitive skin
  • Perfect for refreshing after a long day on the trail

There are two kinds of wet wipes you’ll want to pack, along with some toilet paper for primitive campsites and porta potties. One is a pack of biodegradable all-purpose wipes like these from Surviveware, available on Amazon. The other is a no-rinse body wipe for the days you don’t have a shower nearby; Luna makes an excellent large version of these.

If you like your campmates, don’t forget to wipe your armpits. They’ll thank you.

Kristin Shaw is a freelance writer, adventurer, and motorsports competitor with bylines at Popular Science, Edmunds, The Drive, Motor1, Road & Track, Car and Driver, Forbes Wheels, U.S. News and World Report, GearJunkie, and more. Her work on parenting and relationships has been featured often at The Washington Post and the TODAY show site. Follow Kristin on these channels: Instagram Facebook LinkedIn TikTok
Read full bio

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *