The Top 10 Best Camping Gifts that They’ll Actually Use

Camper on chair by tent and river

You’re shopping for someone you care about who’d rather spend a weekend in the mountains than in a hotel. But with a bazillion gift ideas for campers circulating the interwebs, you find yourself overwhelmed and wondering if they already have all the gear you’re looking at.

Never fear. You are not alone.

I’m a big fan of camping and a gear nut as well, but I hate kitschy gifts and gimmicky gadgets that will never actually get used.

To avoid getting your loved one a piece of junk, I’ve compiled this short list of camping gifts that they will use and love. And they likely don’t already have any of these.

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Looking for something quick? Here are our top picks.

Top Pick
Most Unique
Budget Pick
Why We Like It:
Everyone hates mosquito bites and this device helps keep them away without smelly bug spray.
Why We Like It:
You can use it cook, heat a tent, or live large outdoors and it's a super light and clever design.
Why We Like It:
We were surprised at how easy it is to start a fire with this, even if you're lazy or have damp kindling.
Top Pick
Why We Like It:
Everyone hates mosquito bites and this device helps keep them away without smelly bug spray.
Most Unique
Why We Like It:
You can use it cook, heat a tent, or live large outdoors and it's a super light and clever design.
Budget Pick
Why We Like It:
We were surprised at how easy it is to start a fire with this, even if you're lazy or have damp kindling.
08/14/2023 11:15 pm GMT

Best Gift Ideas for Campers

Most of these camping gift ideas are items I own and love myself or that I wish I had for real. They may not all be well suited for all types of camping (e.g. car camping vs backpacking), but there is something useful, cool, or fun in here for everyone.

1. Rocking Camp Chair

After a painstaking search for the perfect camp chair during the spring and summer of 2022, this is the one! The GCI Comfort Pro Rocker is not a cheap camp chair, but it’s also not a cheap camp chair.

I literally sat on dozens of camp chairs at every sporting goods retailer and big box store I could find. My requirements were:

  • ability to slouch and rest my head when desired
  • ability to sprawl out and not have my thighs compressed like you get with those cheap camp chairs
  • cup holder that can hold my big steel tumbler, not just a baby pop can.

This chair does all that and more.

The rocking feature is a real delight for incessant chair leaners like myself. But something I did not expect to appreciate so much was the fact that there is no bag. Those bags are always a pain anyway, and the shoulder strap on this does the trick just fine.

If you want a rocking camping gift for someone, this is a goodie.

2. LED String Light

This little gadget surprised me with how useful it is. It is a string of LED lights encased in a silicone sleeve that is powered by any basic USB battery bank. While it was originally designed for use with a hammock (Haven Tents’ primary business is making hammock tents), I don’t have a hammock and I find it tremendously useful for both car camping and backpacking.

This string light consumes very little power and is just bright enough to illuminate your tent, truck bed, or cook site at night. It’s great because it:

  • is rather water resistant
  • has silicone ties that make it easy to hang anywhere
  • can be used as a little lantern when left inside the included bag

Most campers have a headlamp and/or a flashlight, but the Haven RidgeLight is a unique camping gift that will be used and appreciated. It also doesn’t hurt to have more than one.

3. Hatchet

Every camper needs a hatchet whether for routine campfire building or emergency purposes. Of all the hatchets and axes out there, the Estwing Sportsman’s Axe is perhaps the most practical of all.

This is a gift that will last a lifetime. It’s made of a single piece of steel that runs down through the handle and it can be sharpened as needed. The end opposite the blade can be used as a hammer for tent stakes or driving a wedge to split wood. At only 12″ long it’s nice and compact which makes it convenient to transport and easy to handle by campers of every stature. The handle is ergonomic and durable while the included nylon sheath is simple and durable.

After trying many different hatchets, I keep going back to my 10 year old and counting Estwing at camp. I highly recommend this camping tool as a gift.

4. Mosquito Repeller

Mosquito bites suck, but they are inevitable when you’re camping. Thermacell mosquito repellers can and do change that.

The Thermacell EX90 is a rechargeable electronic device that emits a scentless and silent mosquito repelling vapor which creates a 20-foot wide mosquito-free bubble. It lasts up to 9 hours before needing to be recharged and the repellent cartridge lasts 12 hours.

I was skeptical at first, but after using one extensively myself, I’m a believer. They really keep the skeeters off you without having to douse yourself in oily bug spray.

While it’s sort of a pain to have to buy their special refill canisters, it’s not that different than buying piles of citronella candles or multiple bottles of bug spray.

The EX90 is built pretty tough and makes a great gift for family or car campers. If the one you’re shopping for is more of a backpacker, the Thermacell Backpacker would be a better gift because it weighs almost nothing and it uses the same fuel canisters they’ll use for cooking.

5. Portable Wood Stove

If you want to give a present that will really stand out, the Winnerwell Woodlander portable wood stove will do just that. This is a premium camping gift that they likely don’t already have and may never buy for themselves.

This compact, lightweight stainless steel wood stove can be carried in one hand and easily fits in the trunk of a car or back of an SUV with the rest of the camping gear.

What is it for?

  • Cooking outside with wood instead of petrol
  • Heating a stove compatible hot tent
  • Using in place of a campfire where fire restrictions exist (check your local regs)
  • Glamping

I got one of these and it has opened up the envelope of when and where we camp. During fire season in August on a National Forest in Idaho where fire restrictions were in place, we could not have a regular campfire, but we could use a “contained wood stove with at least a 5 ft chimney and spark arrestor.” The Woodlander fit the bill and we had a great tie roasting mallows and hanging out by the fire at night. Then we took it into our Springbar hot tent for a toasty night’s sleep.

Give this gift to your camping loved ones and they’ll be delighted. The size medium is best for most applications.

6. Dishwashing Station

If you’re looking for a camping gift that’s inexpensive, but useful, a dishwashing station is a grand idea. This may not be the sexiest gift to give, but it’s practical and often overlooked.

When we were stocking our grab-and-go camping gear box this summer, we thought we had everything. Then on our first trip out we realized we didn’t have a good way to wash dishes without wasting a ton of water. Enter Coghlan’s collapsible sink.

Now that we have one of these, we fill it with hot water and wash all the dishes from a meal in one go. It conserves water and means we don’t rely on paper goods, so we reduce waste. We tried a couple other buckets and bowls first, but this one is the ideal size because you can even fit a frying pan in it. When done, it collapses flat so it’s easy to store.

If you want to put together a complete camp dishwashing kit, throw in the following:

That’s a gift for campers that will last a long time and be used in the woods daily.

7. Thick, Comfortable Camp Mattress

Not every camper will treat themselves to a luxurious, cushy, comfy sleeping pad, which can make it a fantastic gift for an outdoor lover. This 4-inch thick foam and air mattress may be a generic Amazon brand name, but I can attest to its comfort and quality first hand.

Most of the camping I do is car camping in a tent with my family. I like to be comfortable and this mattress lets me sleep about as well as I do at home. Plus the bag it comes in can also be used to blow it up.

After sleeping on one of the popular Exped air mattresses at my sister’s house, I knew that’s what I wanted for my camping kit. But the high price tag was hard to swallow and I found several inexpensive alternatives on Amazon. This Heytrip pad is the one I picked up and I find it to be on par with the Exped in terms of comfort and functionality, but at a third the price.

This isn’t the kind of sleeping pad you take backpacking, but even ultralight backpackers camp from (or in) the back of their SUV or pickup on occasion. And this will let them do so in comfort. Plus, it makes a great guest bed for when you have friends and family stay overnight.

8. Folding Camp Table

A camp table is often necessary, especially for those who do a lot of dispersed camping where there are no established facilities. This camp table from Lifetime is simple and compact, but thoughtfully designed.

A big problem with many low cost or lightweight camp tables is that you run a big risk cooking on a plastic surface. This table solves that problem by offering a metal half where you can use your cook stove without worry. A couple other clever features like the paper towel and garbage bag holders make it a highly functional cook table. Plus it can easily be placed in the trunk of a passenger car or the bed of a pickup.

I’ve got some other Lifetime products and they do tend to last, ahem, a lifetime. After researching roll-up tables and other options, I decided I’ll be adding this table to my car camping kit.

Even if your people stay in developed campgrounds with picnic tables, this is a camping gift that will get used for years to come.

9. Comfy Camp Shoes

I believe I am the last person in my family that does not have these cozy, comfy Teva Moc shoes. While they certainly can (and will) be used in regular everyday life, they are most excellent for evenings at camp. They’re comfortable and warm like a slipper, but have enough of a sole to be functional while you mill about the campsite.

These aren’t shoes you’ll likely wear on your day hikes, but they’re lightweight and pack down enough that you’ll be happy to throw them in your duffel bag anyway. They’re even light enough that a lot of backpackers will pack these on their backs all day just so they can feel the cushion under foot at night.

A camp shoe gives your feet a break from the boots or sandals you’ve worn all day. These Tevas are available in a wide range of sizes and colors that will make any man, woman, or child real happy.

10. Flannel Shirt

When in doubt, get a flannel shirt. Even the least enthusiastic campers will be happy to look the part. While there are many great (and expensive) options for flannel, Legendary Whitetails makes a well-fitting, reasonably-priced flannel shirt that thousands of internet shoppers love.

This flannel shirt is 100% cotton, which is common for flannel. If you want to gift a flannel shirt that has a heavier weight fabric, will wear better, last longer, or wick moisture, you’ll want one made of wool or synthetic materials.

My favorite flannel shirt is made by Kavu and I also have a couple very nice ones from Faherty. But those can run you as much as $100 for a shirt. Pendleton, Smartwool, and Patagonia also make some high-end flannel shirts that will keep your camper cozy for years.

Bonus: Camping Stocking Stuffer Ideas

If you’re still not sure what to get, or your just looking for something cheap or small, here are a couple handy camping gift items. My kids gifted these to me for Father’s Day and they’re super handy.

Black Beard Fire Starter Rope

Unfurl a bit of this fire starting rope, light it up, and get your campfire started with one match every time. 😉 You can use it in emergencies or skip gathering tender when you're feeling lazy. I especially love using this with my Winnerwell stove mentioned above.

View on Amazon View at Scheels
08/15/2023 03:30 am GMT
Black Beard Waterproof Arc Lighter

This arc lighter doesn't use fuel, it uses electricity. Charge it with a USB cable and light dozens of fires on a single charge with the cool purple baby lightning it produces. For campfires, it works best with a firestarter (like the Black Beard Rope) or really dry tender.

View on Amazon View at Scheels
08/15/2023 03:56 am GMT

There are a million camping gifts you could get that could be a huge hit. But at some point you have to limit your options and choose something. Hopefully my short list of unique camping gift ideas along with my thorough explanations of each helps you pick a nice gift, even for a camper who already seems to have everything.

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