Camping is great. In fact, some would say it’s one of the best ways a person can spend their weekend, or week, or maybe even a month. After all, what’s not to like? There’s fresh air, good exercise, and Mother Nature at her finest. Okay, maybe the bugs can be a bit much for some people, but that’s a small price to pay for such a fun activity.

But like almost everything, in order to get the most out of your camping experience, you need the right camping equipment. There are essential tools of the camping trade which any ardent ourdoorsman knows you simply must have. From basic survival tools to creature comforts, these six pieces of essential equipment will make your next camping trip the best of your life!

1. A Sturdy Tent: Note the word “sturdy” in there. Sure, you could throw a little pup tent up and be done with it, but think of the problems with that; you’re exposed to the elements, creepy crawlies can have their way with you, and you’re generally pretty exposed. Modern tents are pretty remarkable. With durable, light-weight materials, even someone who doesn’t know a sheep bend knot from a granny knot can put them up without much trouble. And, if you’re looking for a good view of the night sky, plenty of tent roofs feature mesh materials so you won’t miss a minute of nature’s beauty.

2. Flint and Tinder: If you’re into the whole “survivalist” vibe when you camp, you may want to consider a small fire-starting kit. You can even make one yourself, with sedimentary stone and dry thatch or birch bark. The stones can be banged together to create a spark, and the tinder can be used as the basis for starting a comfortable (and useful) fire. Of course, a simple lighter will yield similarly productive results, but where’s the fun in that? Either way you go, make sure you can build a fire. Of course, a kerosene heater isn’t a bad idea, in case rain makes things impossible to burn!

3. Insect Repellant: Some may debate the necessity of the item. True, it may not mean the difference between life and death, but it can definitely make you camping trip more enjoyable. Ask anyone who’s ever gone hiking and has been forced to swat at bugs every other step. Guaranteed the wish they had a can of repellant or the mosquito-repelling wristbands. No one wants to spend their camping trip scratching at dozens of bites, so pack up the strong stuff before you go.

4. Animal Mace, First Aid, Fire Extinguisher: These are all pretty useful items, and unlike bug spray, they can really save your life. In the face of a bear, cougar, or even an ornery moose encounter, the animal mace can be a strong deterrent. After all, a heads-up fight with most animals isn’t a good idea, and running away generally doesn’t work too well. The mace is potent and incapacitating, so use it carefully. The fire extinguisher is pretty self-explanatory, but it’s often overlooked on camping trips. Especially in dry, windy climates, it can be life-saving. And the first aid kit should be more than the standard bandages and gauze fare. Pack an Epipen and Benadryl for allergic reactions to bee stings, burn ointments, and even some splints and crutches in case of sprained ankles and broken bones, should also be included. It may sound like a lot, but you’ll be glad for all of it.

5. Map and Compass: These tools have a two-fold purpose. One, they’re helpful when it comes to planning a hiking expedition and getting the most out of your route. And two, they’re really helpful if you find yourself lost in the woods. Finding north when the sun’s out is easy enough, but nighttime is a different ballgame. Get a compass, and learn how to use it, and definitely familiarize yourself with your map prior to heading out.

6. Clean Water and Toiletries: For an extended trip, clean drinking water is more than essential; it’s vital. If you’re surrounded by standing water, drinking it is not advisable unless you fancy a bout with dysentery, or worse. Opt for clean stuff. And toiletries? Again, the importance of soap, toothpaste, and soft toilet paper may not be a as vital as water, but people get irritable when all the people on your trip are stinky and uncomfortable. Pack the toiletries, and get the most out of your camping trip!

-Stu Moody