Ah, spring. Birds chirp happily, everything is colorful as trees get their leaves back and flowers bloom, waterfalls roar, and frigid winter weather slowly gives way to warmer, sunnier days.
For many people, these signs of new life also signify the unofficial start of camping season (and for the record, here at The Wander Club, we fall into the "many people" category — we can't wait to get back out there!).
Spring camping has a few unique caveats, however. For one thing, the weather is more unpredictable than other times of year, bringing frequent "April showers." This increase in moisture also means trails are muddy, conditions can be a bit buggy, and it's tricky to know exactly how to dress.
The good news is that with the right spring camping gear, you'll be comfortable and well-prepared for just about anything Mother Nature has in store.
10 Spring Camping Gear Must-Haves
From small items you're likely to overlook to having a literal roof over your head, here are our top spring camping gear picks.
1. High-quality Tent
The most important things while camping in the spring are to stay warm and dry. Getting a high-quality 3- or 4-season tent, preferably with a rain fly, is one of the best ways to do both.
One of our team members (who's also an avid camper) is a huge fan of the Coleman Carlsbad Dark Room Tent, which comes in 4- and 6-person models. It sets up quickly, holds up exceptionally well to both rain and wind, and has a rain fly.
As added bonuses, the Coleman Carlsbad also has a separate front screen room for storing wet or muddy gear and it has unique dark room technology. This is a nice feature for non-morning people, who don't necessarily want to wake up with the sun.
Pro tip: Even if it's not windy when you set up camp, stake your tent down. You don't want to risk a storm rolling in unexpectedly and blowing your tent around!
2. Winter Sleeping Bag
When it comes to choosing a sleeping bag for cold, wet weather, you may be tempted to opt for a down-filled bag like the popular Nemo Disco. But not so fast.
Down is an incredible insulator, to be sure...when it's dry. If it gets wet or even damp, however, it loses nearly all of its insulation. Plus, down takes a long time to dry out.
For spring camping, look for a synthetic sleeping bag. The general rule on temperature ratings is to choose one at least 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperatures you expect.
For example, if you frequently camp in an area that gets into the 30s overnight, look for a sleeping bag with a 20-degree rating. If your preferred spot rarely dips below 40, you don't need a 10-degree bag.
The North Face Wasatch and Kelty Mistral are both excellent synthetic options.
3. Sleeping Pad
A warm sleeping bag is undoubtedly important, but so is a sleeping pad. If you've never used one, you'll want to add one (or two — more on that in a minute) to your arsenal of spring camping gear, stat.
Sleeping pads make the ground more comfortable, but most importantly, they act as an additional layer of insulation.
Without a sleeping pad, the ground conducts your body heat away from you, leaving you cold. With a sleeping pad, you're protected from this process, staying nice and warm.
Look for a closed-cell foam sleeping pad like the Nemo Switchback for warmth and a bit of cushion. If comfort is just as much of a priority as warmth, consider getting a closed-cell foam pad and an inflatable one, like the Klymit Static V2.
Stack the inflatable on top of the foam, then get in your sleeping bag on top of both. We can assure you, you'll never go back to sleeping without a pad.
4. Rain Jacket
If you're going to spend time outdoors in the spring, it's a good idea to be prepared for rain at any given moment. Having a packable rain jacket on hand is a great way to do exactly that (just make sure you keep it with you!).
Our go-to is the Columbia Switchback III, a super affordable, no-frills rain jacket. It has a surprising number of features for its low price point, including a stowaway hood, zippered hand pockets, and a drawcord-adjustable bottom hem. Best of all, it packs into one of its own pockets!
5. Waterproof Hiking Boots
Campgrounds and trails are typically very muddy during springtime, so you'll want to have a sturdy, rugged, and ideally, waterproof pair of hiking boots in your spring camping gear stash.
Even if you're not much of a hiker, good-quality boots are useful for walking around your campsite (not to mention squashing tiny pests!).
Hiking boots are difficult to make a recommendation for because there are so many variables and opinions, but we've always had excellent luck with Salomon X Ultra 3's and Merrell Moabs.
6. Fire Starters
A unique problem you may face with spring camping is having trouble finding dry firewood. Have you ever tried to start a fire with wet wood? We don't recommend it.
If you have fire starters in your spring camping gear supplies, you'll save yourself a ton of time and frustration. These genius little cubes light your fire almost immediately, providing instant warmth (and a cooking source!) while allowing the wood to dry out and catch.
7. Camp Stove
Even if you're a diehard fan of legit campfires (believe us, we get it...s'mores just aren't the same unless it's a "real" fire), it may be a good idea to add a camp stove to your spring camping gear supplies.
Going back to that whole wet wood thing, it would be a serious bummer to not be able to have a hot cup of camp coffee on a cold morning or make a proper dinner. And honestly, sometimes you just want a slightly easier option. There's no shame in that!
You can't go wrong with a classic Coleman 2-burner propane stove. As long as you remember to pack a few cans of propane, that is.
8. Rainy Day Activities
This is one of those spring camping gear items that's extremely easy to overlook. It's fairly likely that you'll experience a bit of rain or other unexpected weather, so it's smart to have a few activities you can do inside (whether that's inside your tent, RV, or campervan!).
Puzzles from The Wander Club are an excellent portable option, as are books, coloring books (not just for kids anymore, folks!), and classic games like Uno and Yahtzee.
Pro tip: These items will get completely ruined if they get wet, so be careful of where you store them. Put games, books, puzzles, and cards inside ziplock bags, then keep everything together in a tote bag.
Have you noticed there's a theme of spring camping? There's a very, very good chance you'll experience at least some rain.
Another excellent and often overlooked item to add to your camping gear is a simple tarp. Tarps can be used to cover up gear when rain comes in unexpectedly and also work well as shelters.
Using basic guy lines, you can set a tarp up over your tent or cooking/dining areas. If you've never done this while camping, this simple tip will likely change your entire campsite game!
10. Folding Table
We're all about roughing it while camping — most of the time. In the spring, though, when the ground is often muddy and the chance of rain really never goes away, you're going to appreciate a dry place to set things or even cook.
This 4-foot, height-adjustable Lifetime table is absolutely genius for spring camping. If storage space is a big concern, this smaller folding table is another great option.
Well, there you have it — The Wander Club's top picks for spring camping gear. Do you have any can't-live-without items you'd recommend?
While they're not necessarily camping gear per se, our Wander Chains and Shop Travel Tokens also make excellent gear stash additions. Collecting the tokens is similar to covering your water bottle with stickers, serving as an awesome reminder of all your fun adventures!
So, where are you camping this spring? Wherever it is, have fun and be safe!