If it feels like summer where you live, you may have already pulled out your camping gear and started dreaming about the spots you’re going to visit this year. I know I have. I pulled out most of my must have camping gear for a kayaking trip in the Gulf Islands that went south at the last minute. But it’s a good reminder to go through the gear you have to see what needs fixing or replacing. So what is the cool, useful and must have gear for this coming summer?

Yeti Coolers

Called virtually indestructible (should one fall out of the back of your truck or a bear has designs on the contents) Yeti coolers are the Porsche of the coolers on the market. Planning a multi-day canoeing trip and looking forward to steak on the fourth day out? This cooler will keep your meat cold for that length of time. And the beer.

Click here to compare sizes.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

The Yeti Cooler is on my wish list

Comfy camp chair

I’ve had enough of sitting on the ground or a hard as nails picnic table. I want cushy and comfortable when I’m out camping because who says you have to suffer. What do you get for $124.99? A padded Kuma outdoor chair that your friends will want to call their own. It includes an insulated drink holder and is available in grey too.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

Super comfortable camp chair by

Sunscreen and lip balm

Sunscreen is a necessity if you’re planning to spend any amount of time outdoors in Canada – especially when you consider that over 80,000 cases of skin cancer are diagnosed in Canada each year. I’ve been using Sun Bum (with SPF 30 though it’s also available as SPF 50) for the last few years and love it because it doesn’t feel greasy and it gets rubbed in well without making you look like a ghost. Don’t forget the SPF 30 lip balm either.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

Don’t forget the sunscreen and lip balm

Bear Spray

If you’re a hiker, kayaker, cyclist or anyone who spends time in the wilderness don’t leave home without a can of bear spray that is AT MOST 3 years old. The repellent loses its effectiveness over time – not something you want to have happen if you’re confronted with a bear. Keep it latched – unless you’ve seen a bear or seen signs of a bear. And it’s worth an extra $6 investment to get a bear spray holder that attaches to your waist strap on your pack – so you have FAST access to it. You must be 18 years of age to buy bear spray.

Bear spray is kept under lock and key and cannot be shipped online. Sporting Life carries it and the cannister holders but you’ll need to ask a sales associate for help. It retails for $39.99.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

A can of bear spray for everyone over 18 years of age is a must have ite

Personal Flotation Device (PFD) – aka Life Jacket

If you’re planning on participating in any water sports this summer you should wear a personal flotation device. Under some circumstances it’s the law. When I’m kayaking – even on a hot summer day, I never take it off and I consider myself a good swimmer. I didn’t even know Sporting Life sold them until I happened by a rack with products specific to summer. The one pictured below is made by Stohlquist. It ergonomically fits your body like a charm.  I also love the zippered pockets, a must have in my experience in any PFD so you have easy access to your ID (put in a plastic bag), a knife (for cutting rope or weeds), an energy bar and sunscreen.

When you’re camping you never know when an opportunity might present itself to go for a ride in a motor boat or paddle a canoe. Stash a PFD in the car so you never have to say no to an on the water boating experience.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

Don’t forget a PFD – preferably one with pockets for a Swiss Army style knife, sunscreen & energy bar

Camp blanket

Made of 100% polar fleece, the North Bay blanket by KUMA is perfect for camping, especially when it comes to snuggling around a campfire. It’s also got a water-resistant bottom – should you want to throw an impromptu picnic on the ground.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

Cozy up with a blanket beside the bonfire


You’ve made a pot of cowboy coffee but your other half hasn’t so much as moved from their sleeping bag. Pour it into a YETI  tumbler(20 or 30 ounce) so even if they sleep till noon the coffee will stay hot.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

Don’t forget your YETI tumbler – for coffee and beer

Nike Elite ball pump

Don’t forget the football or soccer ball when you go camping. Nothing beats an impromptu game especially when parents join the kids. Avoid the disappointment of an under-inflated ball and stash the Nike elite ball pump in the car permanently so you can have a pick-up game whenever the mood hits.

Cool, Useful & Must Have Camping Gear

The elite ball pump for those impromptu soccer games

What else is classified as must have camping gear?

There’s a lot more camping gear you’re going to need with a good tent and a proper fly high on the list. Just don’t make my mistake and leave the poles at home – a three hour drive away on a long weekend. Based on that experience I would also recommend a couple of cheap tarps of various sizes and a large amount of rope. Also don’t forget the fuel for your stove (take more than you think you need), a grill, ice, the food, the drinks and if you’re car camping include a pillow so you can truly sleep comfortably at night. Buy a good sleeping bag. It will last for decades if you take care of it. (Beware of mummy bags if you want your feet to be able to move.) Add in a deck of cards, several good books, matches, lighters and a headlamp for everyone.

And don’t forget to reserve a camping spot so all this cool gear can be put to good use.

Thank you to Sporting Life for making this post possible.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta
Follow me on FacebookTwitterInstagram and Pinterest

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 57,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada. Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

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