Best camping gear 2024: Our tech expert's tried and tested checklist for your summer getaway

A family camping holiday is a wonderful thing, but brining along some gadgets can make it so much more funA family camping holiday is a wonderful thing, but brining along some gadgets can make it so much more fun
A family camping holiday is a wonderful thing, but brining along some gadgets can make it so much more fun

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Camping has never been more popular, but we’re a nation that likes our creature comforts so consumer technology writer and camping fanatic Gareth Butterfield has compiled a list of gadgets you might want to take with you

More of us Brits are heading out on camping holidays than ever before, according to reports. A post-covid surge of interest in spending a night under canvas, or pitching up in a caravan or motorhome, has led to a boom in sales of camping accessories, with nearly a billion pounds predicted to be spent in 2024.

And it's no surprise to see the lure of the great outdoors captivating us. Not only is camping a cheap way to indulge ourselves in a holiday, getting closer to nature is good for the body and mind, and we all crave a change of scenery from time to time.

Whether you're setting out on your first ever camping trip this year, or whether you're a seasoned pro, there are always new products coming to the market to make camping easier and more enjoyable.

Consumer technology writer and camping afficionado Gareth Butterfield has spent many happy years in tents, and he now explores the UK campsites in a motorhome - so he knows a thing or two about the products you should be taking with you - because he's personally tried and tested so many of them.

Here's his personal recommendations of the gadgets, accessories and enhancements he loves to live with when he's sleeping out under the stars - from the bargain-basement nik naks, to the luxury items we all lust after.

Best price: £299, from Go Outdoors

Eurohike Rydal 400 Air TentEurohike Rydal 400 Air Tent
Eurohike Rydal 400 Air Tent | Go Outdoors

Let's start with the basics. The most important item on any camping checklist should be a tent. And tent technology has come so far since the days I first set out on a cub camp all those years ago.

Air tents are becoming increasingly popular because they're such a doddle to set up compared to their poled counterparts, and they're far more stable and robust once they're up. Pole tents do tend to pack away smaller and lighter, and they usually cost less, but once you've had an air tent, you're unlikely to go back.

I found this fabulous Rydal 400 Air Tent by Eurohike on offer at Go Outdoors. It's usually £650, but if you've got a Members' Card you can snap one up for £299. It has a large bedroom chamber which can be divided up into two two-berth "rooms", and the all-important living space is very generous for a tent at this price.

Whichever tent you pick, my personal tip is to ensure it has a sewn-in ground sheet. This keeps the outside elements out of your canvas cocoon and ensures you're always going to stay warm, dry and toasty inside.

Best price: £12.98, from Amazon

Once you've got your tent set up, you need to be ready for the fading light, and this neat camping lantern is an absolute bargain on Amazon at the moment.

The Bulkar LanternThe Bulkar Lantern
The Bulkar Lantern | Amazon

It has a USB-rechargable 3,600mAh battery, which is good for up to 10 hours, and it just hangs off a pole or from a lantern hook. Or you could just sit it on the ground. If it's hanging, you can fold out the light bars to project the light where you want it, which is a neat touch. The light levels are also adjustable, which will come in handy in the dead of night.

Best price: £98, from Kilos Gear

The Kilos Gear chairThe Kilos Gear chair
The Kilos Gear chair | Kilos Gear

Putting up a tent and unpacking is hard work. You're going to need a sit down. Choosing a camping chair is a bit of a minefield. And it's often completely down to personal preference, but here's the one I turn to after years of testing various chairs.

The Kilos Gear High Back Armchair 2.0 is incredibly lightweight, very secure to sit on and extremely comfortable. It folds up into an amazingly small bag and even comes with the option of a detachable foot stool. At £98, it's a bit of an indulgence, and it is quite a faff to pack away compared to simple folding chairs, but I love the fact it has two cupholders, an armrest pocket and neck support. And you soon get pretty quick at dismantling it.

Best price: £48.99, from Amazon

The Outsunny Picnic TableThe Outsunny Picnic Table
The Outsunny Picnic Table | Amazon

I bought one of these last year, and it's been so incredibly useful when we're on campsites. It gives you a dining, socialising and even working space outside or inside your tent, and it folds away to such a small size quickly and easily.

Cards on the table, it is pretty heavy once tucked away. And the seats are small once it's folded out, with only a limited weight capacity of 80kg. But my wife and I are quite small so it suits us well.

I love the fact it has a parasol hole, and I've also found it really easy to clean with its robust plastic and aluminium surfaces. For the sake of £50, this is a really nice thing to have with you on a family camping trip.

Best price: £16.99, from Amazon

Portable FirepitPortable Firepit
Portable Firepit | Amazon

I just love these little folding fire pits. They're such a nice thing to sit around after a long day exploring the countryside, and they're a great way to keep warm if you're sitting out under the stars in the evening.

Setting it up initially is a bit of a fiddly process, but once it's up it's remarkably stable, and it can hold some surprisingly heavy logs.

Remember to take all the obvious safety precautions when dealing with an open fire, and bear in mind not all campsites like firepits being used, so check with wardens first. And do be considerate - your neighbours might not appreciate the smoke. But if you've got the space and you're being sensible, what a wonderful little gadget for £16.

Best price: £20, from Go Outdoors

The Campingaz Bistro Elite stoveThe Campingaz Bistro Elite stove
The Campingaz Bistro Elite stove | Go Outdoors

Cooking up a tasty treat while you're camping is so much easier than it was when I was setting up my first tents as a teenager. These compact stoves are easy to come by in any camping shop, and the designs are all broadly the same, but the one I've found most reliable and robust is the Campingaz Camp Bistro Elite.

Simply pop in a gas bottle - they're very ubiquitous, and even some supermarkets sell them - flick the switch over to light the gas, set it to your desired heat level and cook away. Perfect for boiling water, frying up some bacon, or just baking a tin of beans.

Remember, it's very dangerous to use gas-fired appliances inside a tent, and always make sure you put it out properly before leaving it unattended.

Best price: £108, from Go Outdoors

The Cadac Safari ChefThe Cadac Safari Chef
The Cadac Safari Chef | Go Outdoors

This is honestly one of the best camping products I've ever bought. And what camping trip is complete without a barbecue? I'm not going to wade into the debate over gas vs coal, but let's just say I'm not going back to a charcoal barbecue after using this wonderful device.

Cadac's build quality is superb, and the way the Safari Chef folds away into a storage bag is just a delight. It's a bit of a pain to clean, but that's the case for all barbecues, especially if you're cooking something like sausages.

There are two versions of the Safari Chef, a high-pressure version which uses handy disposable gas bottles, or a low-pressure one which uses a large canister - or the supply from your caravan or motorhome. Make sure you choose the right one, but you won't regret investing in a Cadac. I certainly don't.

Best price: £75, from Argos

An Intex inflatable sofaAn Intex inflatable sofa
An Intex inflatable sofa | Argos

Confession time: I like a bit of luxury when I'm on a campsite. And it doesn't get much more luxurious than bringing your own sofa with you. This wonderful piece of inflatable furniture is split into sections, which means it can be adjusted a bit, to the point at which it actually becomes a sofa bed. Now, that's handy for big tents and awnings.

But as just a sofa, it's wonderfully comfortable, especially after my wife's peppered it with some scatter cushions and her favourite throw. It definitely draws some admiring glances from fellow campers.

I love the cup holders in the armrests, and we've had ours for several years without puncturing it, so it's very well made.

Just keep in mind it is quite heavy when put away. You'll ideally need an electric pump to blow it up and, if you can fathom out how to fold it up to fit in its original box after you've used it, you're a better man than me.

Best price: £229.99, from Nebula (limited time deal)

The Nebula Capsule ProjectorThe Nebula Capsule Projector
The Nebula Capsule Projector | Nebula

While on the subject of luxury, one of the things my wife and I love to do in an evening on a campsite is sit back and watch a film. And there's no better gadget for that than a projector.

I've tested dozens of them over the years, but when I'm out in the great outdoors, I don't like anything too bulky. And the Nebula Capsule is the best compact projector I've found. It's literally the size of a can of Coke.

It has a built-in battery that I've found lasts more than long enough for the average film, and beefy speakers to project sound all around itself.

The image quality is pretty good in low light, especially considering the price, although if you want HD, look at some of Nebula's bigger, more expensive models. However, its Android operating system means you can download your favourite apps on to it, which makes it a doddle to use.

Best price: £30, from Go Outdoors

Rab camping slippersRab camping slippers
Rab camping slippers | Go Outdoors

You've got the sofa out, you've got Neftlix on the projector, all you need now is some slippers. I wear these Rab slippers not only for camping, but also around the house, every day. My first pair have lasted me over two years, and they're still going strong.

Camping slippers are wonderfully comfortable, but they're also incredibly durable. The soles aren't exactly grippy, but they're a fairly solid rubber, so you can walk on most surfaces you'd find at a campsite without any discomfort or worries about tearing them. They're also very warm, thanks to their synthetic insulation.

I don't think £30 is a lot to pay for a decent pair of slippers, but given these last so long, it makes them an absolute bargain.

Best price: £279, from Jackery

Jackery power stationJackery power station
Jackery power station | Jackery

You'll find most UK campsites will have electric hook-ups these days, and it can be very useful to have a proper power supply in a tent. But if you're out for a week on the wild side, and you don't have any power sources, why not bring your own? Solar generators and portable power stations have become hugely popular in the UK, and it's clear to see why. They're a great source of outdoor power, capable of charging your phones or tablets many times over, or even running small appliances.

One of my favourite brands is Jackery, and they have the perfect solution for tent holidays - the Explorer 300 Plus. It's on sale at the moment, bringing the price down to £279, which is such a bargain. I'd definitely recommend investing in a set of solar panels for it though, especially if you're running a cool box, or any 240v appliances. Adding an 80w SolarSaga panel would cost £155, creating a solar generator which, with enough sunshine, could keep you powered for days.

Best price: £299, from Amazon

The Nighthawk M1 RouterThe Nighthawk M1 Router
The Nighthawk M1 Router | Amazon

If, like me, you've filled your tent with smart gadgets, you might realise you need fairly decent internet signal to keep them all ticking over happily. While it's quite simple to create a WiFi hotspot from your phone, a much better solution is to invest in a mobile broadband router.

You can pick a basic Chinese one up for around £80, and they do a pretty good job, but I've been testing Netgear routers for years, and they're absolutely brilliant devices. Spend enough money and you can get cutting-edge 5G-enabled routers, but the basic Nighthawk M1 is remarkably good at pulling in even weak data signals and turning them in to your own broadband supply.

It's worth carefully researching the costs of having a dedicated sim card for data - which you'll need for a mobile router, and I'd recommend speaking to whoever provides your mobile phone service first - as they may have a decent deal they can offer you.

Best price: £329, from Daan Tech

Bob the dishwasherBob the dishwasher
Bob the dishwasher | Daan Tech

This one's going on my Christmas list and, I haven't actually tested it yet, but I've heard great things from fellow campers. One of the few camping chores I can't abide is washing up, so I've always lusted after a dishwasher that can sit on the counter in my motorhome. And "Bob" looks absolutely perfect.

A few caveats though. Obviously, it's a dishwasher, it's a bulky thing to have with you, however compact it's supposed to be. It's going to need a 240v power supply, and you'll need to have somewhere to drain the water.

But it claims to use very little water to wash with, and that makes it a more environmentally-friendly option. And, honestly, the joy of not having to wash up dishes after every meal makes me so excited. Dear Santa...

Best price: £749, from Amazon

The EcoFlow Wave 2The EcoFlow Wave 2
The EcoFlow Wave 2 | EcoFlow

How's this for the ultimate in camping luxury? Your very own air conditioning. Fair enough, we don't get many heatwaves in the UK, but when we do, air conditioning is such a godsend. I've tested the EcoFlow Wave 2 in very hot weather and it's pretty impressive. It's also pretty expensive though. Just the unit alone will cost £749. Add a battery, which is worth having if you don't plan on accessing a power source, and it's around £1,800.

It's also bulky, heavy, and awkward because, to get it working effectively, you'll need two external hoses attached. And potentially something to drain water into.

However, if you have enough space, and deep enough pockets, it's a sort-of-portable air conditioner that can chill down the inside of your caravan, tent, or motorhome by several degrees. And it's so nice to have a cool space to escape to when the weather gets fierce.

Best price: £3,205, from Brompton

The Brompton Electric C-LineThe Brompton Electric C-Line
The Brompton Electric C-Line | Brompton

Exploring the local area is a joyous activity while you're out camping. Finding nearby shops, looking up local landmarks, or just retreating to the nearest pub is one of the joys of a holiday in the countryside. And one of my favourite ways of getting out in the open is on two wheels.

Because I'm quite unfit and lazy, I've been saved from my sedentary lifestyle by e-bikes. And the best one I've tested, especially for camping, is the Brompton C-Line Electric. I won't beat about the bush here, it's expensive. As in, over £3,000 expensive. But Bromptons are legendary in the cycling world for good reason, they're designed and built like nothing else on the market.

You simply won't find a bike that folds up so small, let alone an electric bike. And, although it might look a bit old-fashioned, it's bursting with technology. Not to mention the fact it's an absolute joy to ride.

To be honest, you can get a folding e-bike for less than £1,000 and, that's probably what I'd suggest you do in the long run. But if you want the absolute best, and you can afford it, buy a Brompton. It's just such a lovely thing.

Best price: £99.95, from Minirig

The Minirig Mini 2The Minirig Mini 2
The Minirig Mini 2 | Minirig

If you haven't experienced a Minirig speaker yet, you're in for a bit of a shock. It's phenomenal. You simply won't believe how much sound can be emitted from such a small device. This makes it perfect for camping, even before you consider the fact the batteries on some versions can last up to 100 hours, and they can act as a power bank to charge other devices.

They're rock solid, can be paired up with other Minirigs to create even more sound, and they even come in a variety of colours. Prices might start at £100, but you simply won't find a better Bluetooth speaker for the money.

Just make sure you have some pre-written apology letters ready for your neighbours.

Best price: £395 (bundle deal), from Amazon

The Hoverair X1 droneThe Hoverair X1 drone
The Hoverair X1 drone | Amazon

I bought one of these last year, and it's genuinely one of my very favourite gadgets. Unlike the sorts of drones you see flown by professionals, this doesn't need any skills, or even a mobile phone to get it up in the air. It's designed to be a simple "selfie drone", and once it's set up, you just tap a button and it takes off, captures an image of you, then lands on your hand again.

It has a clever "follow" mode, which literally makes the drone automatically follow and film you up to speeds of 15mph, or you can just send it skyward for a top-down view of your campsite. And it's all done automatically. You only need to control it manually if you load up the app and go to that part of the menu. Otherwise, it's all controlled intelligently by customisable presets.

The batteries only last about 15 minutes, and there's no collision avoidance, so trees can be a bit of a stumbling block, but it's small enough to fit in a pocket, incredibly lightweight, and it's pretty much impossible to break the propellors - because they're enclosed in a cage.

My personal tip is to spend a bit more on a bundle deal, including two batteries and a charging station.

I use mine all the time, and I absolutely love documenting my camping trips with it.

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