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10 Overrated Camping Gear Items That You Really Don’t Need

One of the biggest mistakes many campers make is packing too much camping gear and supplies. It doesn’t matter whether you’re backpacking or RVing; you don’t want to overpack. You need to evaluate every item you bring with you and whether it will be helpful or not.

Today, we’re sharing 10 overrated campaign gear items you really don’t need to take with you while camping. Let’s get started!

5 Items I DON'T Bring Camping Anymore

Let’s Be Honest, Most Campers Don’t Need Special Gear

It can be very easy to get sucked into buying special gear that promises to take your camping trips to the next level. However, most campers don’t need most of what’s advertised. In most cases, the least amount of gear you can use, the better. 

A minimalistic approach to camping gear makes it easier to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. Being able to quickly head out for a trip or pack up at the end of a trip ensures you can spend more time enjoying the great outdoors. It takes time and experience to discover what items you actually need. So the more you can get out and go camping, the faster you can learn.

Importance of Gear to Suit Your Camping Style

Your camping style will likely be unique to your personality and preferences. How much you value certain things will greatly determine the importance of specific camping gear.

If you or your fellow campers expect a certain quality of food while camping, you’ll need to pack more supplies for preparing meals. However, if you’re more adventurous, you may skip bringing as much food and rely on your survival skills to catch or hunt your meals.

Learning your unique camping style takes time. The more time you’re able to spend camping, the more you can discover what items you require to enjoy your time. If you’re only taking a single camping trip each camping season, it will take much longer than going every weekend or a couple of times each month.

Before buying unnecessary or expensive camping gear, head out for short one or two-night camping trips with only the essentials. Take notes on what gear you used and what you wished you had.

After a handful of trips, you’ll likely start to know what items you’ll use or want to make life easier when camping. Most camping gear isn’t cheap, and you don’t want to waste your hard-earned money.

Tent set up by lake with camping gear in the back of a car
Depending on your camping style, your packing list will vary. Still, try not to overpack while camping.

10 Pieces of Camping Gear That You Can Leave at Home

We have found some items constantly get recommended for campers, but they’re often completely unnecessary. While some gear might be nice to have, they’re not always worth wasting space. Let’s look at what items you might consider leaving at home or avoiding purchasing! 

1. Machete or Survival Knife

Despite what you see on survival shows on TV, 99% of the time, you don’t need a massive machete or survival knife. These items can be useful in some instances. However, a small blade will often get the job done. While shaving off half a pound may not sound like much, backpackers appreciate every ounce they can avoid carrying.

Novice campers aren’t typically bushwhacking their way through dense vegetation where a machete would be helpful. A multi-purpose survival knife can have a lot of uses, but you’re probably not going to use all of them when you’re just getting started. A simple sharp knife will likely suffice for most campers who only need to sharpen sticks to roast s’mores or hotdogs and cut a piece of rope now and then.

Axe and cooking in the camp
Unless you’re planning on chopping down trees for firewood or bushwhacking your way on a trail, you can probably leave the ax or machete at home.

2. Hanging Cupboards

Hanging cupboards allow you to keep your food up off the ground and out of reach of animals. However, they’re a bit unnecessary for the price and the job they perform. They’re expandable storage compartments that you hang from poles or a nearby tree limb. 

To use them, you’re going to need to hang them low enough that you can reach them, which would also be within reach of a bear. Squirrels and raccoons would also have very little trouble accessing anything inside. So while we give this product an A+ for keeping your items organized, it’s a sub-par solution to the problem.

Leaving your items packed in a bin in your car is probably going to be just fine, and a better use of your camping time.

Pro Tip: Adding a bit of luxury to your campsite can be a great way to encourage people who don’t enjoy camping to join your adventure! Use these 11 Ways to Make Camping Easier for People Who Don’t Like It.

3. A New (Expensive) Backpack

Camping or hiking backpacks can be insanely expensive. Unless you’re preparing for some epic cross-country trek, a standard backpack will do the job most of the time. You want to ensure it’s large enough to hold all your necessary camping gear. It’s also a good idea to inspect all zippers and pockets to ensure no signs of wear and tear. You don’t want to bust a zipper or discover a hole in your backpack in the middle of your trip.

If you’re planning to do a tremendous amount of hiking, you can always upgrade your backpack later. Many campers and hikers buy expensive ones and plan to regularly use them, but they collect dust instead. 

Friends at campsite with their backpacks on
Finding the perfect backpack that fits you well and can hold all of your stuff can take a few tries. Don’t buy an expensive backpack from the start until you know what you want and need in a pack!

4. Complete Cooking Sets

You want to keep it simple when it comes to camping, including your choices in food. It might surprise you how much you can make using only a single cooking pan. You may even find that you can grow your culinary skills and discover new meals when minimizing the number of pans you’re using.

While a complete cooking set may be handy, they often take up a tremendous amount of unnecessary space and can be heavy. Only carrying the essentials for pans and utensils can help you have a successful trip.

5. Camping Pillow

You’re not typically expecting a luxury hotel-like experience when you go camping. However, just because you’re camping doesn’t mean you have to wake up with a stiff neck. Camping pillows can be nice, but they’re not always necessary.

We’ve found that a rolled-up sweatshirt or even a backpack can do the job for a pillow in a pinch. However, nothing is stopping you from bringing just a standard pillow either. You may risk getting it dirty, but you may be able to bring a normal one with you instead of purchasing a specific camping pillow. A standard pillow is going to be WAY comfier than an inflatable one designed for lightweightness and durability over comfort.

6. Straw Water Filters

Depending on where you’re camping, a straw water filter may not be necessary as gear. Most established campgrounds offer guests potable water. It may not be available directly at your campsite, but it often is at a campground. If not, water is relatively inexpensive by the gallon, and gallon jugs are easy to transport.

Straw water filters are typically only necessary when heading out for a multi-day backcountry camping excursion. A gallon of water typically weighs 8 lbs, so it may be very challenging to carry enough water during these adventures. 

7. Adventure GPS

Why buy or carry another device when you likely already have an incredibly powerful and capable GPS on your phone? Using your phone’s GPS allows you to get 99% of the same functionality as the expensive GPS units.

Apps like GAIA GPS and All Trails make it easy to avoid getting lost and know exactly where you are at all times. Unless you’re planning to camp or hike in extremely remote locations, you’re likely wasting your money and storage space by purchasing a dedicated GPS unit for your adventures.

Woman using binoculars to bird watch while camping
Unless you’re an avid bird watcher, leave the binoculars behind!

8. Binoculars

If you search packing lists for camping, you’ll see many suggesting binoculars. However, unless you’re an avid birdwatcher, you’re probably not going to be using these enough to warrant carrying them. A quality set of binoculars can be very heavy and take up a lot of space for how often you will likely use them. 

We highly recommend you avoid packing binoculars when you’re first camping. You can always add them to your packing list later if you miss out on opportunities to view birds or other wildlife from a distance.

Additionally, a zoom lens for a camera is more likely to be used. If you’re bringing a camera, just use it as your substitute binoculars. We bet they’ll meet your needs 99% of the time.

9. Women’s Urination Funnel

When it comes to urinating while camping in the wild, women are at a massive biological disadvantage compared to their male counterparts. “Pee funnels” can be helpful, but they can also be very challenging to use correctly without making a mess. If you’re a woman camping in the wilderness, it may be easier to find a comfortable place to go naturally.

If you’re primarily camping in established campgrounds, they’re also very likely to have restroom facilities. You may have portapotties or a vault toilet, which may not be ideal, but they’re better than nothing…and probably better than dealing with a used urine funnel. So carrying a urination funnel in these instances could be inconvenient and a waste of space.

Woman charging devices with solar panel while cmaping.
Reconnect with nature by going technology free while camping.

10. Small Solar Panel Chargers

Many make the mistake of overestimating how much power their small solar panel chargers will produce. They quickly discover that most small solar panel chargers aren’t big enough to power anything of substance. You may be able to keep your phone or other small electronics charged, but don’t plan on using anything that requires a substantial amount of power.

These chargers don’t produce much power and are very dependent on the weather and positioning of the sun. You may haul your solar panel charger to your campsite and discover it’s too shady or that the cloud coverage renders it useless.

If hiking, you’ll have to figure out how to strap it to the outside of your bag and hope you walk through enough sunlight. A portable battery pack will serve you much better.

Pro Tip: Not all camping gear is necessary, but we love these 10 Motorhome Accessories We Couldn’t Camp Without.

10 Things We Don't Bring Anymore (Learn From Our Mistakes)

Know What Camping Gear You Do and Don’t Need

As we’ve repeatedly said, knowing what camping gear you do and don’t need is a matter of preference. What you value when camping significantly determines the necessity of packing specific items.

If you or a fellow camper requires a certain comfort level while camping, you’ll need to pack certain things to keep them comfortable. However, getting out and camping as often as possible is really the only way to know what you need.

What is a piece of camping gear you thought was necessary at first but you don’t really need? Tell us in the comments!

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About Cait Morton

Co-Founder, Logistics Queen, Business & Content Manager, and Animal Lover

An Upper Peninsula of Michigan native (aka a Yooper), Caitlin is the organization, big-picture, and content strategy queen of our operation. She keeps everything orderly and on track.

With a background in Business Management, she supports and helps channel Tom’s technical prowess into the helpful content our readers and viewers expect. That’s not to say you won’t find her turning wrenches and talking shop – RV life is a team effort. She keeps the business and the blog moving forward with a variety of topics and resources for our audience.

Believe it or not, she is rather camera shy, though she co-hosts the Mortons’ personal videos and The RVers TV show.

Caitlin’s passion lies in outdoor recreation and with animals. Some of her favorite things to do are hiking, biking, and getting out on the water via kayak, SUP, or boat.

She also loves the RV life due to the fact that you can bring your pets along. Sharing information about safely recreating outdoors with your whole family – pets included! – is very important to her. Because of this, Caitlin spearheaded the launch of HypePets in 2023.

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