Our top 9 items to pack for one night camping

It’s almost camping time again! That means we’re looking to make sure our kit is ready for the new season, re-waterproofing, checking lines, cleaning pegs, all that good stuff. I like to keep an “overnight” camping kit you know, in case the mood takes me and I want to head off for one night camping in the woods!

Keeping a one night bag stocked is a good idea for two reasons, firstly it means you can literally just pick up and go whenever you like, but it also means you’re already halfway packed. Think of it as your “grab and go” bag. It’s easier if you know that you’re mostly packed and all you need to do is add a few more bits for a longer trip.

We now no longer camp as for a night, but have settled down on earth and forgotten heaven – Henry David Thoreau

The main things to pack in a one-night camping kit are:

1. Tent – something to sleep under

2. Sleeping mat/pad – something to sleep on

3. Sleeping bag – something to seep in

4. Torch – for lighting your way

5. Cooking stove & fuel – for dinner and breakfast

6. A pot/pan – to cook in

7. A cup – for that all-important morning tea

8. Spork/Camping cutlery – to eat your dinner and stir your tea

9. Pyjamas or sleeping clothes – for warm snuggly sleep

Food-wise, it’s very individual, but in a one-night camping pack we like to keep a supply that includes

  1. Teabags (we’re British!)
  2. Dried milk/frozen milk
  3. Sugar
  4. A dried or tinned dinner or an MRE

Your one night camping kit in detail

Tent

The tent is important – it will keep you dry and give you privacy. It will prevent animal access (foxes, squirrels etc.) and give you somewhere dark and cosy to sleep. Your tent can be as basic or as involved as you feel necessary. For your first trip or night under the stars, have a look at somewhere like Decathlon for an affordable tent. 

Generally, go for a tent with one more ‘man’ than people sleeping in it. Remember that your gear will take up the place of one man.

Sleeping pad/mat

We’ve discussed different sleeping mats/pads before. Which one you choose really depends on your space requirements, comfort levels, and activity plans. Fee prefers a thinner, self-inflating mat. But she can sleep anywhere on anything! Niki prefers a 10cm comfort sleeping mat with memory foam. She likes comfort! 

You might be constrained by your method of travel. A 10cm comfort sleeping mat is really comfy but far too big and heavy for hiking or backpacking. So as well as comfort levels have a look at how your gear is going to be carried and keep it in mind.

Sleeping bag

Sleeping bags are a personal preference. The type you want can also change depending on the time of the year and space requirements. We both have gigantic fishing sleeping bags that have removable blankets. These are great for colder temperatures and when we’re car camping but are too bulky for backpacking. 

In the summer, Fee prefers a lighter weight sleeping bag. She likes to be cool to sleep rather than hot (crazy woman has the window open year-round…). Niki has been known to forego the sleeping bag completely and take a feather duvet (you’d be surprised at how small you can make a feather duvet!). That’s camping luxury!

The shape of your sleeping bag is also personal preference: do you like being wrapped up? The mummy sounds like your sleeping bag. Do you like your feet to have freedom? Get an envelope style. Do you like to sleep starfish style? Look at the sleep pods.

Here’s a little table comparing different sleeping bags with a few pros and cons.

Shape and FillingProsCons
Mummy Style– Smaller space to heat up and keep warm
– Wide range of styles and sizes available
– Wide range of prices
– Can pack up ultralight
– Traditionally take up less space than rectangular or semi-rectangular
– Restricted movement 
– Not usually available as a double
– Some ultralights can be very cold
Rectangle or Envelope– Room to move around
– Wide range of sizes and styles available
– Wide range of prices
– Different internal material usually available (polyester or cotton)
– Available in very warm versions (like the Fishtec range)
– Can be heavy and bulky
– Many will not pack down very small
– Some cheaper bags are very cold and not worth the money at all
– May not be as warm as their mummy counterparts
Semi-Rectangle or Pods – Strikes a good balance between mummy and rectangle
– Available in many designs (especially for kids)
– Quite a wide array of price points
– Good for those who want to stay warm but moe around
– Can be a bit gimmicky
– Some of the prices don’t reflect the quality
– Not usually available with down filling
– Most are big and bulky to pack or carry.
Down-filled – Excellent insulating properties
– Warm yet light
– Can be packed down very small
– Loses insulation if wet
– Can be very expensive
– Not all “ultralight” down bags are very warm!
Synthetic filled – Retains insulating properties even when wet
– A HUGE range to choose from
– Something for every budget and packing option
– Not as warm as down
– Cannot pack down as well as down

The importance of sleeping clothes/pyjamas for camping overnight

Whilst it may not seem important to take pyjamas or separate clothes for camping overnight -after all, you’ll only be there one night- we’d suggest that it’s actually vital to have something to change into. Throughout the day, on any given day be it how or cold, your body will sweat. This leaves your day clothes slightly damp, probably not damp enough for you to notice, until the temperature drops. The dampness in your clothes also pushes out the trapped air in the fibres, meaning they lose heat a lot quicker than dry clothes. 

Opt for some nice breathable cotton pyjamas or a onesie to keep you snug as a bug in a rug. If it’s going to be particularly chilly, throw on a light synthetic fleece jumper and don’t forget the hat and socks!

Onesies are great! We both have onesies for camping. They keep you warm and keep out draughts. We have fishing onesies from TF Gear rather than novelty onesies. We’d suggest keeping away from onesies or tops with hoods and strings, they can get wrapped around you and your neck overnight. This is especially a concern when camping with young children.

If you get onesies for men, they have a double-ended zip. The double-ended zip is amazingly useful when paired with a shewee for a nighttime pee!

Make sure everyone has a sleeping bag or blanket -or they might just steal yours!

Our Other One Night Camping Essentials

  • A decent pillow – Currently, Fee uses an inflatable pillow inside a pillowcase with added foam. This stops the inflatable pillow becoming sticky as she sweats in the night.
  • Sacred socks – pure merino wool socks for toasty feet. The ones Niki has at the moment are Smart Wool socks. They’re a bit pricy but they’ve lasted many many years of camping. Sacred socks are something we always put on the vital list!
  • Head-torch – For searching through your bag for those elusive sacred socks, or wandering to the loo. Also prevents trips on guy ropes in the dark. A torch attached to your head leaves your hands free for searching, cooking, poking the fire, and opening the loo door.
  • Crocs/flip flops/shower shoes – For showering and wandering around camp. There’s nothing like a badly placed thistle or rock to ruin your walking trip. Shower shoes also prevent that lasting souvenir – athlete’s foot or verrucas from the campsite showers.
  • Toilet roll – We always take one roll per day per person. There’s nothing worse than trudging to the toilet only to find that there’s no toilet roll. Take it with you to make sure you definitely have some! Small packs of tissues will work nicely for short trips.
  • Wet wipes – For washing, have a quick, dry bath, wiping up spills, cleaning mud off boots/legs, instead of toilet roll etc. We always have a pack of wet wipes with us.
  • LED lights – Ok, this is a proper luxury item but they are useful! We have some of those battery-powered LED lights that we string just inside the tent. When we leave the tents in the evening, we put them on. It makes it so much easier to find our tents in the dark. Especially at things like festivals. Niki has green leaf lights and Fee has orange pumpkins. So we can see our tents from a distance. Especially useful if it’s foggy. We got ours from the pound shop a few years ago. They’ve surprisingly survived many many nights camping – even in the rain and damp!

A quick note on food

Food! We’ve done an entire article on what food to take with you for a three day camping trip, that’s a great post to give you some ideas about what to take, so check it out!

That being said, you’re going to want to eat at some point. You can either look for a local takeaway, pre-prep food, or cook it at camp. We do a mixture of pre-prep and cooking. 

If you’re cooking, you’ll need to wash up. Always wash up before bed – unless you’d like to meet the local fox population or the local ant population! Take a box with washing up liquid (we have a sample-sized bottle that we refill), a tea towel and a sponge. There are a number of fold-up buckets on the market. We have one for washing up – it just makes it easier than trying to wash up without a bowl.

For eating, you’ll need something to eat off/with. We take one cup, one bowl, one plate and one set of cutlery. That’s all you really need for one night camping.

There are a lot of camping cutlery sets out there. A spork will do you well. Or there are fold up sets available. We’ll do an article on camping cutlery and crockery soon!

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Niki Younie

Camping lover since birth particularly enjoys chilly sunsets in the grounds of historic castles and fresh sunrises at sacred places.

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