Essential Gear for Rocky Mountain Camping


By Beren Goguen, Sierra Trading Post

Planning a camping adventure in the Rocky Mountains? You’re in for a treat. Stretching from British Columbia to New Mexico, the Rockies harbor some of the most beautiful camping locales in North America. Many are easily accessed by a two-wheel-drive car, while more remote locations may require a well-equipped SUV or four-wheel-drive vehicle. Of course, a handful of the most stunning and secluded campsites are only accessible by foot. No matter what section of the Rockies you choose to visit, here are five camping essentials you don’t want to forget:


Depending on how you like to camp, your shelter could range from a fully outfitted RV to a bare-bones bug net and tarp. A tent, no surprise, is the age-old camping favorite. Tight budget? The Kelty Grand Mesa 2 (which runs just $140 at retail) is a lightweight, fast-pitching option with many glowing testimonials. Want more bells and whistles? The Marmot Limelight 3P offers a roomy sleeping area and ample headroom. It also serves up interior organizer pockets and includes a footprint. Camping solo? Check out the Sierra Designs Flashlight 1. Don’t forget tent stakes. It can get pretty windy up there.

Sierra Designs Flashlight 1

Sleeping Bag

First, narrow your selection by insulation type. Down bags offer the highest warmth-to-weight ratio and compress more than synthetic bags (great for backpacking). However, down is pricier and also loses its insulating capability when wet. If significant rain is in the forecast, a synthetic bag is a safer choice (and easier on your budget). The weather in the Rockies is often more extreme compared to lower altitudes, so choose an appropriate temperature rating for the time of year, the region and the elevation. Marmot, Sierra Designs and Big Agnes all offer great options. If you’ll be sleeping in a tent or directly on the ground, pack a good insulation pad, too.


It’s easy to become dehydrated at higher elevations, especially in hot weather, so drink plenty of H20. Most RV and car campgrounds have potable water, but not all. Research water sources ahead of time and be ready to transport water if needed. Never drink from natural water sources without purifying first.

Cooking Gear

There’s nothing like hot, tasty grub in the great outdoors, but you’ll need a good camp stove and some cookware. Although it’s possible to prepare meals over a campfire, a fire ban could put the kibosh on your dinner plans. Get a windscreen for your stove if it doesn’t have one (heavy-duty tinfoil works) and extra fuel. You can use your stove to purify water in a pinch. Don’t forget some biodegradable soap, a sponge and a dish rag for cleanup.

Map (and Some Good Planning)

Research your destination ahead of time and be aware of potential hazards, including weather and wildlife. Get a map of the area if you plan on exploring. Prepare for any possible weather scenario with the right clothing. Pack sunscreen, bug spray, a first aid kit and emergency gear. Always let someone know where you’re going. Be safe, have fun and always leave no trace.

For more tips, check out our Camping Guide at

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