Backyard camping may not feel as immersive as heading into the wilderness, but there’s solace in the ease of it. No permits, no reservations, no need to make long packing checklists. In fact, when it comes to supplies, almost anything goes: Pillows and comforters from inside are fair game, and the menu options are wide open—all you have to do is open your fridge.
Need ideas on what to bring? You can start with a partial car-camping setup, then adjust as you like. Here, we’ve rounded up some of our favorite camping essentials, including a spacious tent and a cozy, water-resistant blanket. Each of these items is great for backyard overnights, and they’ll also serve you well if you decide to venture farther from home.
When you’re hauling your shelter only a few steps from your home to your yard (or your deck, patio or balcony), you can carry the extra weight that equates to a roomier tent. This one by Big Agnes comfortably sleeps six—enough room for a group of friends or a family of four with room to sprawl. (And enough space to tip toe around sleepers for nighttime bathroom breaks.). The tent’s two doors allow for cross-breeze ventilation and make it easy to exit and enter even when the tent’s full of campers. Two large vestibules are great for storing extra gear and providing shade or rain cover, should you eventually decide to take this shelter car camping. $699.95 (four-person version, $599.95)
You don’t need to forgo comfort when camping in the backyard—or anywhere you’re willing to take this plush, self-inflating mattress from NEMO. The 4-inch-thick double Roamer sleeping pad provides a cozy space to snooze. And while its stored size of 11 by 26 inches may seem a little bulky, it’s more compact than other similarly sized double sleeping pads. Patented Nemo Flow Core™ technology makes it easy to inflate the Roamer quickly and allows for adjustable firmness. Plus, its fabrics are made with 100% post–consumer recycled materials. $399.95 (Single version:, $249.95)
Blankets are extremely versatile while camping. You can spread the NanoLoft Puffy from Rumpl out on the tent floor for a little cushion; layer it over your sleeping bag at night for extra insulation; and wear it first thing in the morning to preserve that cozy sleeping-bag warmth. This blanket even has a clip that allows you to fasten it around your shoulders for hands-free comfort. And unlike the blankets you curl up with indoors, this one will hold up to outdoor play thanks to its durable, water-resistant ripstop polyester shell. $85
Adventure, even in the backyard, begins with packing a bag. If you have little ones joining you outside, get them excited for camping by letting them choose what comes along with them, whether it’s their favorite game or a well-loved stuffie. This bag from Deuter has a roomy compartment, side pockets and a zippered front pocket that provide ample space for your kids to stow items they love. If there’s still room in the pack after they add all their favorite “lovies” (as my kids call them), consider setting your little one up with the Cub Scout Six Essentials: flashlight, sunblock, first-aid kit, snacks, water bottle and a whistle. $50
True to its name, this love seat from Kelty makes camping cozier by providing space for easy snuggling and blanket sharing. And because it’s low to the ground, most littles can crawl up on their own. This chair is stable thanks to a durable steel frame, and its drink holders have a divider to accommodate a range of cup sizes. Folded up, it’s not much bigger than most other single camp chairs (though at 15-plus pounds, it’s better suited for backyard than backcountry camping), and the storage case unfolds to act as a small blanket or ground cover. $139.95
Get everyone kitted out with this mess collection from Sea to Summit. The set is made from BPA-free, glass-reinforced polypropylene that resists smells and stains. It’s a solid option for outside dining, even when your mealtime is only steps from the kitchen. (No need to worry about breaking or chipping your dinnerware.) The kit includes a plate, bowl, mug and cutlery. It also comes with a mesh drying bag for when your camping trips take you beyond the backyard. $29.95
New this spring, the redesigned Roadie hard cooler from YETI easily fits taller items (like a bottle of wine) and has a soft carry strap. The two-step latching system makes it possible to open with one hand, and YETI claims it has 30% more insulating power than previous models. Fill it with fresh food and bevies for convenient treats and midnight snacks during your backyard overnights. It’ll also come in handy if you have plans for road tripping, tailgating and general adventuring. $250
Save glass for inside the house. This stainless-steel cup from Hydro Flask is durable and designed to keep cold drinks cold (or hot drinks hot) for hours. Its clever soft boot provides traction and coaster
–like protection on surfaces—and you can remove it and place it on top of the cup to turn it into a can or bottle cooler. $24.95
Lighting is key no matter where you’re camping, and this lantern by BioLite offers both fun and function. It has a cool, bright white light to show true tones if the kids are coloring, a warm glow to create a cozy ambience and a disco mode with changing hues for that last-minute dance party to wear out the littles before bed. A built-in hook makes it easy to hang in the tent, or you can set it on a table to illuminate games after dark. $79.95
Ready to really make your backyard feel like the remote wilderness? Campfires are great for roasting marshmallows and providing a little warmth on chilly evenings. This pop-up fire pit from FIRESIDE OUTDOOR keeps the flames off the ground to help avoid scorching the earth. Stoke it to kick the night off and set the mood, then let it simmer down into a bed of glowing coals for s’mores—the ultimate camp treat. $119.95
Break from routine and leave the coffee maker in the kitchen. Instead, embrace your backyard adventure and brew your morning caffeine with this portable French press from Stanley. The vacuum-insulated vessel (including the lid) has a built-in stainless-steel plunger and will keep the morning joe hot long enough for late risers. $70
Interested in more staff picks and kits? Find more collections here.