I just got back from my 4th weekend camping in a row and while I was out this weekend I was thinking about my essential gear. Every trip I play with the gear I take, dialing in the system a little bit more each time. Every time, however, there are those few pieces of gear that are absolutely essential. So here are mine:
Etekcity Ultralight Backpacking Stove- I bought this for $10 last year and it's the best $10 I've every spent. lt has a built in ignition, packs up smaller than my cell phone, and has been super reliable. (I have it packed up next to a 2oz bottle of Dr. Bronner's for comparison.)
Revelate Mountain Feed Bag- This is my all time favorite accessory on my bicycle. I use it ALL the time to store all sorts of things- keys, cell phone, camera, trash, beer, food, chapstick. It's so stinking handy. Mesh pockets for little things that you need to access right away, and a drawstring main compartment for keeping stuff in tight. For my longer trips I'll actually put snacks in here to grab while riding and my phone to pull out for photos on the go. When I'm riding around the neighborhood, this is where I keep my keys and cell phone. Love this bag.
Black Diamond Head Lamp- Nothing fancy about it, but I regretted the first time I left home without it. Absolutely essential for camping.
REI Ditty Sacks- Such a simple concept but I hadn't ever practiced it before: keep yourself organized when you're camping and life is way easier! I use this little ditty sacks and it totally works. The tiny one is for my tools and gadgets (matches, stove, electronics), clothes go in the medium one, and food stuff goes in the big one. All of those then get packed into my bike bags. You look like an REI ad when it's all laid out, but, whatever.
Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad- This is 3rd sleeping pad I've tried and I love it! Extremely small (while packed it's smaller than a nalgene bottle), quiet when sleeping, and pretty comfortable. It also blows up quickly- about 10 breaths and deflates quickly. My only complaint is that it's kind of slippery, but I think I can remedy that with a bit of silicone- just need a weekend off of camping to make that adjustment. At $54 (I got mine cheaper on ebay) it's also not very expensive, although with an R-value of 1.3, it's also not super insulated. Seems to be a pretty good summer sleeping pad so far. I also really appreciate that the stuff sack has a patch kit sewn into it for on-the-go repairs.
Paradox Merino Wool Base Layers - I bought two pairs of these a few years ago at Costco for $8 each and have never regretted it. Light, warm, breathable, and perfect for camping in every season. In the summer, I wear them with nothing else, in the winter, I throw on a few more layers and I stay toasty warm. They're absolutely essential. Plus, you can wear them as base layers when riding and they don't smell! Wool is the best!
In compiling all of this, I realized that technically, there's nothing "bike" about any of this gear, except for the Revelate Feedbag. The rest is just camping gear that's easily packable. Really hits home the point that anybody can bike camp- you just need a bike!