Gear Up: A Man’s Guide to Camping

by Brett on June 2, 2009 · 39 comments

in Manly Skills, Outdoors

Editor’s Note: On Tuesdays, we’ll be featuring an excellent article or video that was originally posted in the Art of Manliness Community by a community member. Today we’ve selected a post from Michael Halbrook.

Summer is finally upon us, and that means a few solid months of baseball, BBQ, swimming, and camping trips. Nothing says “summer” quite like sitting around a campfire with friends, heading back to the tent and finishing a good book, and cooking your own meals over a camp stove.

This year, I plan to take my oldest son camping for his first time, and I knew that my usual suitcase of rations for my business travel wasn’t going to cut it. So I pulled out the old Boy Scout Handbook and jotted notes from the “What to take Camping” page. Luckily, some friends had made me proud with wedding gifts from the “camping and outdoor” section of our wedding registry, so I didn’t have to look far to load up the bags.

Before you head out for the summer nights under the stars, consider the gear and be certain to “Be Prepared.” What should you ensure is in the trunk?

No list is going to be perfect or complete for every situation. Your needs will vary, depending on how many days you’ll be away, who’s going with you, or where you’re heading. Assuming that it’s just you and one or two other people heading out for a night or two, here’s a primer to help you gear up for the excursion.

The Tent

The tent is key – it is your protection from the elements. If it rains, you’ll appreciate a good, water-proofed tent, properly erected.

Tents are almost always sold with a suggestion of the number of persons they’ll hold. If you’re buying a tent for comfort, or for your family, aim high. If it’s just you and a friend or one or two of your kids, you can look at smaller models.

Although it’s not necessary, I always like to take a light tarp to put down on the ground under my tent. It protects it from the oddities of the ground that you might not notice and clear up first (sticks, rocks, mud, etc.) It also helps keep it protected from rainwater running underneath in the event of a heavy rain and from condensation and dew seeping up underneath in the mornings.

You might also consider packing a hammer or mallet for staking your tent, and for other use around the campground.

The Sleeping Bag

When it comes to sleeping bags, there’s as wide a variety to choose from as with tents. Keep in mind that if you’re just picking up a sleeping bag for use in the summer months, you don’t want the heaviest bag on the market.

Although one alternative, particularly if you think you’ll try some cold-weather camping as well, or if you need to be prepared for any weather, is to choose a heavier bag, pack a sheet or light blanket, and sleep on top of the bag, during the summer months.

In addition, you can pick up a simple closed-cell foam camp sleeping pad at your local retailer – usually for under $10 – and it, or a simple air mattress, will contribute to your comfort. They’re niceties, though. A manly camping trip can certainly be had without a sleeping pad, air mattress, or even sleeping bag, for that matter. Plenty a man has spent a perfectly happy and comfortable night under the stars wrapped snug in a wool army blanket.

The Clothes

Keep an eye on the forecast as you prepare to depart, and pack for the worst-case scenario. You don’t need much, particularly for a weekend. Some of my best weekend campouts have been the ones where I’ve only taken the clothes on my back, and a change or two of underwear, undershirt, and socks.

If the evenings will still have some cooler temperatures, you might consider packing a jacket. And if rain is the remotest possibility, be sure to take a rain jacket or poncho. You’ll be much more comfortable knowing you’re not going to be drenched if the rains move in.

A good hat is also good to have when camping – it’s your first level of protection from the elements, and from ticks, etc., depending on your region. Also, a hat with a good brim will keep your eyes protected from the daytime sun.

The Knife

There’s already been plenty written on Art of Manliness about the fact that every man should carry a good knife. But if you don’t usually do so, be sure to pack one for your outing. In addition, a small axe or saw is handy if you plan to cut some firewood for an open fire.

The Food Stuff

I prefer to cook over an open fire when camping. At the camp I worked at growing up, if a staff member couldn’t start a decent fire in one try, with one match, there was a good amount of peer pressure applied to help him be able to do it right the next time. But a simple gas stove (2 burner, available at most retailers or sporting/outdoor supply stores) is also pretty easy to come by and convenient for those less confident in their ability to get a fire going steadily – and hot – enough for cooking.

If I head out for a night or two of solo camping I typically take just a metal pan/plate, a bowl that I can use over a fire, a cup (and a good amount of water, if I don’t think I’ll get good water where I’m heading), and some utensils. Many foods can be cooked right on a fire without even using a dish – hamburger could be cooked in a hollowed-out onion, or wrapped in foil. An egg could be cooked in a hollowed-out orange. Be creative.

I almost always take a small camping coffee pot/percolator. But that’s only because I can’t stand to go a weekend without a few good cups of coffee.

Frequently, you’ll find that you can pack this all into a larger pot that you can then use for heating dishwater or for cooking.

All of this equipment can be picked up in the camping section at a common retailer or sports/outdoor outfitter.

In addition, if I’m cooking for or entertaining anyone else on the trip, I love to take a cast-iron dutch oven and/or skillet (the inverted lid of some dutch ovens can even function as a skillet.)

If you’re taking the family, you might also consider some rags – sometimes they’re nice to have to wipe down tables that aren’t always left in the best condition in public campgrounds – or a tablecloth.

If nothing else, the rags – and a small travel bottle of dish soap – will come in handy in washing your pots and pans. Keeping your dishes properly clean and sanitary will save you a lot of uncomfortable and unpleasant time on your outings.

Consider your menu – the food you’re planning to pack and prepare – and ensure you have all that you’ll need to keep it stored safe (cooler? ice?) and to prepare and clean up properly.

Flashlight

Sure, you can get by without a flashlight, particularly when camping under a full moon. But when you need the extra artificial light to see what’s joined you and is crawling in your tent, or to safely make it out for a bathroom break, you’ll appreciate having one around. Load it up with fresh batteries before you leave home, and don’t feel you have to use it all night. Let your eyes adjust to the dark and enjoy seeing the natural world at night.

I have a small tea candle lantern that I take to sit up at night and use to read (although I never take the open flame into the tent.) Personally, I prefer it to my flashlight.

First Aid Items

“Be Prepared” really hits home here. I got lazy and lax with first aid supplies, until a couple of times when serious cuts or bites illustrated the need for a few basic first aid supplies.

Others Things to Consider

One way or another, if you’ll be building a fire or cooking on a stove, be sure to take matches, a lighter, and/or a fire starter.

I always like to take my journal and a pen or pencil, and a book or two to read. But that’s just something I typically keep with me, so I don’t consider it part of “packing.”

Here’s some other stuff I always take along… just in case:

  • Maps/directions/compass, depending on where I’m going.
  • A few squares of toilet paper, in a zip-up bag, in case my campground happens to be out or I journey further into the woods and have to dig and maintain my own latrine.
  • A couple extra zip-up bags.
  • Towel, washcloth, and toiletries, if I’m staying more than a day or two or plan to shower while away.
  • Medications or supplements.
  • Bug repellent, if the season or the area dictates it.

Leave Some Stuff Behind

To have the best time, take what you need to be comfortable and safe. Don’t underdo it – but don’t overdo it either. It’s fine to take your mobile phone if you want it for emergencies, but consider leaving it in your car when you hike out to your camp site. Enjoy a good book or just some good company instead of taking your Blackberry or Game Boy.

Have Fun.

In the end, getting out into the great outdoors is about getting away. For me, it’s a good escape from the computer, technology, and media saturation of which my career is comprised. Give it some thought, make a list of what you’ll need for your unique situation, and load it up. In the end, though, it’s all about getting out, having fun, and having a good, relaxing time in God’s country.

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Chadmo June 2, 2009 at 6:48 am

Two items to add:

1. Sunscreen is one of the most commonly forgotten items on a hike.

2. Let someone know where you are going to be and when you expect to be back. If you know your route and expected campsites, leave that information with someone as well, even if it just means checking in with the local park ranger.

3. A good checklist: http://www.backpacking-guide.com/backpacking-checklist.html

2 Shane June 2, 2009 at 6:51 am

Hot damn, I need to get my ass to a campground! Thanks for this article, I haven’t been camping in quite some time, I’m going to try and go this summer for sure.

3 P June 2, 2009 at 7:25 am

Most modern nylon tents have waterproofed seams and placing a tarp underneath only provides a place for water to pool.

4 Tommy C June 2, 2009 at 7:51 am

This is completely unrequired, but I picked up a small hammock earlier this year, and its been my favorite camping item by far. Since I have it, I don’t bother bringing a tent, just a tarp to tie around me if it rains. This way I actually save space, but its only a one person solution. At any rate, its been great, especially on my beach hiking/camping trips.

My hammock is made by Eagles Nest Outfitters, and they can run a bit expensive. I paid $40 for the hammock, and another $20 for the straps. The straps are nice because they save time of tying knots (which makes me feel bad as an Eagle Scout), but they NEVER slip on the tree, which I’ve had happen unfortunately once with being lazy with a regular rope. I’ve seen cheaper hammocks at Army Surplus stores, maybe for $20 or so, or if you happen to be dropping by a third world country, you could get a good one for about $5 (says my Venezualen friend).

5 Emad G June 2, 2009 at 8:19 am

I tend to be more of a back-country type of person and I usually find that bringing fresh/frozen food adds a lot of unnecessary weight for a long day’s hike.

When heading out, I usually purchase freeze-dried no-cook meals. Just boil some water over a kettle and pour it into the package. These take up almost no space at all and are reasonably priced. They cover the essential nutrients you’d need for a multi-day trip, but can taste awful.

Taste is a trade-off, but you can supplement these with some candy/fruit and granola bars. After a 4-6 hour hike, your feet will thank you for it.

6 Bob June 2, 2009 at 8:40 am

@P: One KEY point when using a tarp with your tent is to keep all edges of the tarp INSIDE the edge of the tent. Otherwise you will create a nice pool. As long as your tent overlaps the tarp, then it can provide a nice extra waterproof layer.

A big blue tarp is useful in so many ways on a camping trip not to always have one with you.

7 Jazzmaster June 2, 2009 at 8:48 am

I LOVE to camp (we’re going next weekend, actually). I certainly agree with sunscreen and the tarp, but also rope. Whether it’s to keep your food (or trash) out of varmit’s reach, hanging clothes to dry or making a canopy for shade, rope is an essential.

Get outside!

8 Logan June 2, 2009 at 8:59 am

Amen to “Leave Some Stuff Behind”

That’s why we’re out there!

9 Ike June 2, 2009 at 9:19 am

Great article! I’ve been camping with my family and the Boy Scouts from a very young age, and I have to say, I’ve learned some of these lessons the hard way, either through packing too much, or leaving out a critical item. Thanks!

10 Chris B. June 2, 2009 at 9:36 am

It might be worth noting that a sleep pad is not just a comfort item… it also serves to insulate your body from the often heat-sucking earth. There’s nothing manly about hypothermia. Happy camping!

11 Jason Y June 2, 2009 at 9:48 am

I also like to bring:
-many tarps–they make a huge difference in rainy or stormy environments, where my family seems to camp often (not sure why).
-petroleum jelly–not only does it moisten skin and lips, but also it can be combined with cotton and a stick to make a highly-effective, water-resistant match–more like a torch, I hear. Speaking of which…
-…Plastic bags to keep your cotton dry. This works better than “waterproof matches”.
-multitool.
-plenty of string, nylon cord, etc. to keep the tents and tarps in place during windy weather.

12 James June 2, 2009 at 9:55 am

I hope this isn’t a dumb question, but I haven’t been camping since I was a kid-how do you wash your dishes and stuff when you’re camping?

13 Adam June 2, 2009 at 10:23 am

I’m actually going camping next weekend as well, but I think we’re going to have a trailer or pop up type thing to sleep in at night. It has a kitchen area too but we plan on cooking everything over the fire with an iron skillet or something like that. We just want the trailer for the toilet to be honest.

Depending on the type of camping you may need to bring a cooler too. Say you go fishing in the morning and want to eat it later, you probably want to put it on ice. They also work for frosty beverages of a certain variety ;)

I also usually bring a hand crank radio with weather and emergency channels.

Also, trash bags. Leave it nicer than when you came.

14 Nick June 2, 2009 at 11:26 am

Duct Tape wrapped around a pencil. Doesn’t take much space and it’s DUCT TAPE! And you have a pencil!

This is the single most useful thing I carry with me when traveling or camping. I’ve used it to repair tents, sleeping bags, hold a cut together till medical assistance was available….too many uses to list. And, you’ve always got a pencil!

15 Chris June 2, 2009 at 12:00 pm

As an Eagle Scout, I’ve spent many nights camping. Some trips were with the trunk of the car nearby, others were more “roughing it.” Either way, I’ve found the best way to go is to sleep under a tarp, tied at an angle close to the ground, and on top of a piece of plastic. With the tarp low enough, rain can’t get in. There’s plenty of room for airflow, eliminating the stuffiness I’ve always found with a tent.

The only other tips I have are:

1. Always have toilet paper in a ziploc bag.
2. Always carry some extra rope or, at least, some twine.
3. Always have a poncho or other rain gear.
4. Keep your feet as dry and warm as possible, regardless of the season.
5. KEEP FOOD OUT OF YOUR TENT!

16 Christopher June 2, 2009 at 12:45 pm

I can’t believe nothing was mentioned about picking up your campsite when you’re through! No camping trip is complete without walking the area you’ve camped in after you’re packed up. The Scouts have a saying, and that is to leave the area you stayed in better than how it was when you came – even if it means picking up the trash other campers have left behind. Taking some time to make sure your campsite is picked up will leave you with a sense of pride.

cc

17 Joel Corriveau June 2, 2009 at 1:52 pm

Rather than a tarp on the outside of the tent, I prefer a clear plastic sheet, cut to size inside the tent. This keeps it clean (if your fellow campers respectfully remove footwear upon entering), and avoids any water pooling.

To wash dishes: you can get biodegradable soap. BUT, neat trick: before you apply the soap, you can use some pine needles and/or dirt to act as an abrasive to scrub out your dishes and pots. It acts as a sort of pre-clean cleaning. Then the soap just has to remove a bit of dirt.

When you said “Leave Some Stuff Behind,” I thought you meant at the camp site! And I thought, indeed! How manly! I’ve stayed at some really awesome sites in Algonquin where previous campers have built and left all sorts of wooden furniture: benches, tables, shelves, etc, using fallen or dead wood from around the area. What a blessing these things are for all campers that come after.

18 Jeff June 2, 2009 at 3:22 pm

I think the last thing you’d ever want to leave behind is your cellphone. Even if the reception is horrible, there’s always a slight chance it may work or that there’s some way for someone to determine your position using its signal. And if you do have a signal, a cellphone’s probably the only “first aid kit” you truly need.

Heck, if worse comes to worse, maybe you can MacGyver a fire with the battery. Don’t ask me how, but I’d sure as heck try.

19 Rob June 2, 2009 at 5:10 pm

A few thoughts:

* Leave only footprints, take only memories is usually a good slogan to follow.
* In some National Parks – look for restrictions on fires, (especially in the peak of summer)
* Those sleeping mats are vital in colder conditions. (And air-beds won’t do the job – take this as a personal recommendation)

@jeff – see this vid for the use of a cell phone http://www.backpacker.com/start_a_fire_with_your_cellphone/videos/82

20 AcmeNews June 2, 2009 at 6:52 pm

I usually bring a gun on a camping trip. I prefer to camp in remote areas, so a gun is as good for protection for critters (although an attack carries just a remote chance) and is good fun for back-woods plinking.

If I have the room, I bring lots of guns.

21 AcmeNews June 2, 2009 at 6:56 pm

@ Jeff:

People camped for hundreds of years before cell phones. They are not necessary in the wilderness, but people have been tricked into thinking that cell phones are essentials. They just give an excuse to venture beyond one’s skills.

If you don’t want to get lost or hurt, don’t go places you shouldn’t be going or do stuff you shouldn’t be doing.

22 Nolan Bryan Lynch June 2, 2009 at 7:02 pm

I’d like to emphasize the importance of taking extra pairs of socks if you’ll be hiking. You have to take care of your feet, and clean socks are one of the best ways to do that.

Chris is absolutely right about keeping the food out of the tent. If I’m backpacking, I usually cram my food into my sleeping bag stuff sack and use some rope to hoist up off the ground, maybe hanging from a tree limb.

@James: Wash? :P You CAN wash your dishes, but it’s always kind of fun to find some of last night’s chili-mac or a pine needle in tomorrow morning’s eggs. I prefer not to waste the water, I guess.

23 Adam June 2, 2009 at 7:57 pm

I’m a Boy Scout and I can definitely agree that you should have a tarp under your tent. While I’ve camped without a tarp under my tent and been perfectly dry, it is still a good idea to put a tarp under your tent. II think it’s wise to be cautious about protecting your gear from getting wet, especially if you have a book or a camera.

If you’re not careful though, rainwater can fall on the tarp and pool under your tent. All you have to do to prevent this is to make sure that your tarp is neatly tucked under your tent and rain can’t get between your tent and your tarp. Sleeping in a pool of water makes your camp out miserable.

If you’re camping in an area with bears, you’ll want to keep food and anything that smells out of your tent and where bears can’t get to it. Usually you put everything in a Bear Bag and hoist it up into a tree. For more detailed instructions: http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/bear_bag_hanging_technique.html
If you’re just in an area where the only creatures that might take your food are raccoons or chipmunks (trust me, chipmunks are pretty devious food thieves), you can just pack your food in a cooler and place it under a picnic table or to prevent it from being opened.

@Chris: When I went to Philmont, NM, my friend and I slept under a rain fly from an old tent supported by our hiking poles on top of a tarp. It was just as effective as the tents everyone else rented and ended up being a lot lighter too!

@Nolan: It’s true you can not wash your dishes and still be okay, but if you were on a camp out any longer than a weekend, bacteria would probably start to grow on your dishes and you could easily get sick. Finding bits of your last meal in your current one sounds interesting though *laughs*

@Christopher: Usually when we go on a camp out, our troop definitely cleans up all the garbage they can find. Leave No Trace camping (that includes constructed furniture) is definitely the way to go.

Have fun camping everybody :)

24 Bob June 2, 2009 at 10:32 pm

A campsite with out a campfire is one without a soul
My friend has one of these
http://www.occuk.co.uk/outdoor
It has help us keep warm on many a cold night.
you could say it save our bacon and cook it:)

25 Lee June 3, 2009 at 5:28 am

A couple of tips from a long-time outdoorsman, who has spent many nights camping, in all types of weather and camping environments.

Consider the environment you are going to be camping in, when planning your trip. If camping down a river (i.e. on a multi-day canoe trek down a river or through a lake system; which I recommend to all men before they die) make sure to pack your things tightly in several layers of bagging; a good method is to pack individual day’s worth of clothing (with extra socks and underwear!) into gallon sized zip-top baggies. This keeps moisture out of each day’s clothing, and saves a lot of packing and un-packing as you trek. Another tip for canoeing is to get your hands on a shipping pallet to put in the middle of your canoe, which you then can lash your gear on top of. This keeps your gear up and out of the inevitable small amount of water that will accumulate in the bottom of your canoe as you get in and out with wet feet from the edges of the river.

If you are going to be camping in one spot for a long time, with or without other campers around (my personal experiences with this have been such things as the Pennsic Wars, every August in western PA, thrown by the SCA) changing your tactics on food preparedness can be considered. I’ve heard of people who do all their shopping/foraging on site, and others who make individual meals that are easily frozen (such as stews and chilis) which then keep better in a good cooler over a longer period of time, and can be readily heated up for mealtimes over a gas cookstove, or even a pot hung over a fire.

A final tip, from personal experiences, regarding a tent’s groundsheet. Taking and utilizing a groundsheet under the floor of your tent is important. But most people do not realize that for a groundsheet to do its intended job properly (i.e. keeping moisture from seeping up into the floor of your tent) the groundsheet *must* be of a smaller size than the floor of your tent. Ideally, it should be 1-2 inches *smaller* in each direction than your tent’s floorplan. This prevents moisture (usually rain) from landing on TOP of the groundsheet and puddling between the groundsheet and the tent floor, thus defeating the entire purpose of a groundsheet!

In closing, NOTHING makes you feel more alive than getting out into nature and enjoying the great outdoors. I pray that mankind recognizes the beauty and value of maintaining and sustaining our world’s wilderness areas for future generations to enjoy the benefits of reconnecting with their Mother Earth.

26 Davis June 3, 2009 at 6:21 am

Wow I was just talking to some friends the other day about this website and if you guys had put together anything on camping and the BOY SCOUTS.

I have a great story that happened about a month ago. My oldest son is part of the Cub Scouts and they had a camping event going on over that weekend. Now heres the fun part, it rained. When I say it rained I mean it RAINED. It poured two and a half inches the first night and over three and a half for the weekend. Luckily I packed for the event, although my sleeping bag was render useless. The great part is that my son had an awesome time. He and his friends played hard all weekend. The built dams, climbed rocks, and just ran around wet. No video games, no fast food, no sun and they had not just the best camping trip they’d ever had, but one of the best weekends they’d ever had.

Guys support your Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts. Its a dwindling organization that really needs an injection of manliness because the downside to this story is that most of the kids only got to stay one night. I going to assume its because of their parents. Most of these people cant go on a simple two night camping trip without half a dozen giants bins of stuff. Heaters, generators, CPAP machines, and five changes of clothing for a two night camping trip. Sad.

If they only knew how to take comfort in a moment that has no comforts.

27 Justin June 3, 2009 at 8:30 am

Best advice on buy camping gear. Buy great equipment.
It may cost more in that initial investment, buy you’ll save many times that in replacement costs.

28 Michael H. June 3, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Wow, thanks for the comments and feedback everyone. Since I’ll be taking my young son on his first campout with me, this list was certainly designed to be car-camping based.

I loved all of the feedback on the tarp. I should’ve pointed out the importance of keeping it folded within the edges of the tent (fully under the tent.) I had honestly never heard of the alternative of putting it in the tent instead, but another reason I like to put mine under the tent is to help protect the tent floor.

@Nolan – True… SO true… on having plenty of socks.

@Rob – True also on leaving no trace. Thanks for that addition.

One of my old scout leaders emailed me after reading this and pointed out that I only forgot one thing: a woman’s hose to use as a coffee filter. He obviously doesn’t like grounds in his coffee as much as I do.

@Adam – Good catch on the bear bag. Where I am, though, the concern isn’t even bears – it’s simple raccoons. A lot of animals will be more than happy to get to your food if you allow them to.

@Nick – I loved the idea about the duct tape on a pencil. Takes no space, and two great tools in one. I’m wrapping duct tape around a pencil right now to toss into my bag.

Thanks, guys. It’s been awesome to track through the comments… agree, disagree, and learn some along the way.

29 paul June 5, 2009 at 7:42 am

I’m glad there were some extra posts on this topic, like on carrying extra rope and/or twine and duct tape.

I’m also a(n) (former?) eagle scout, become an adventure backpacker when i’m not “car camping” with the kids. anywhoo…

No one else seems to have addressed the knife comment, so, skip the bowie knife and carry a “pocket knife” just like in the BSA, the swiss-army style, with the can opener and corkscrew. Axes/hatchets are helpful in base camps, as are saws. I have a “wire saw” in my hiking emergency / first aid kit (along with 200 yds of 250 pound test monofiliment).

As to tarps, you can use them inside or out, there are times of done both, or even over my tent. I carry two types, (three if we include the big blue or green ones when car camping). There are very usable nylon re-enforced tarps (sheets?) that weigh a few ounces and can be used under/inside/over “true” tents, for all the arguments given above; or as the tent itself with a walking pole. Personally, i don’t like to be inside a zipped tent, especially in bear country. (bugs can be dealt with by assorted netting and deet. The second “tarp” i bring are what we called “space blankets” — or “emergency” blankets. You know the flimsy mylar sheets that they hand out at marathons? There are various sizes, thicknesses, and some are reinforced. All weigh a couple of ounces, but can save a life, or just be darned useful. and, there are hiking mats, which blow up quickly and are comfy, but also keep body heat from the ground.

Sunscreen is an essential. Clearly UV and sunburn are more common than when we were kids; and doubly true when backpacking in the snow.

In terms of clothes… i think it’s wholly irresponsible to go on even a day hike without an extra set of thermal clothes. The number one cause of death in the woods is exposure, and that because the hiker became lost on a day hike. So, wear and pack clothes in layers, and use synthetic fibers or wool, (read: no cotton). And, pack an extra set of clothes in case the weather is wet and the temp is half what you expect. (and boy wouldn’t one of those light nylon tarps be useful in that case?)

Cooking over an open fire? Is this 1918? Propane or butane stoves are very technological and so even more manly than burning down the forest. And, it’s just easier to manage cooking a gourmet meal over gas versus rocks, wood and grills. Heck, i love a campfire for a good story and a baked potato, but really the mainstay of your camp cooking should be done on gas. “Take nothing but pictures, leaving nothing but foot prints”. Or, were you going to hike out those ashes? Even burying them disturbs the environment, and most people don’t properly put out a fire nor carefully dispell the fire ring. (Scratch my hautiness, if there’s an approved metal fire-ring.) If you’re care-camping, take a real AB fire extinguisher or two with you, and set it near your campfire, just in case.

Most hardcore backpacking food nowadays is cooked from dehydrated remains. You can buy stuff pre-made for you, or make your own in freezer ziplock backs, with “just add water” recipes. So, you boil water in the pot that comes with your jet boil or MSR stove, pour a cupful into the ziplock and a cup into your neoprene bottle and presto, dinner and coffee. Foil cooking is also an art form — from hamburger to poached fresh caught fish.

Night lights — reading by a tea light lantern? Sounds like another massive fire hazard. No open flames unless you’ve put out at least one forest fire should be a rule. You can buy a dozen “micro lights” — you know the ones that they sell for key chains? Plenty of light for a landing strip or a distress signal. Environmentaly friendly and the better ones “lock” on and have a clip, making illumination of an entire tent easy.

Latrines. Digging and maintaining a latrine in a wilderness area, sounds manly; but isn’t conservation minded nor sanitary. As a special forces pal of mine says, “go apache” — ie, you bring it in, you pack it out. Ziplock or dog-park bags work fine. Or, get the biodegradable plastic ones. And, please pack a full roll of biodegradable TP in a zip bag, along with a small bottle of purell. dysentary in the wilderness isn’t fun and can kill you.

Please wash my dishes, too. If you’re boiling some water for dinner, set some aside to sterilze your dishes. Just like washing your hands, it takes a 20 second rinse, that’s it. You don’t even need soap. If you’re eating from a ziplock all you’re washing is your spork. If not, and you do the old BSA trick of rubbing the dishes down with sand, pine needles or whatever, expect bear and raccoon (skunks after 2 days) WILL visit in 24 hours, unless you bag and tree the remains until you can pack out.

First aid kit shouldn’t be an after thought, nor should map, compass, and hike plan or report filed with friends and a ranger. Triple-antibiotic ointment can be a life or limb saver, too.

Cell phone. Do NOT leave it in your car. Sure, absolutely, turn it off and store it in a small water-tight bag. Carry this as part of your hiking first aid kit which is supplemental to your “base” first aid kit. If you’re lost, you may get lucky and have cell reception, especially if you’re “up”. People die all the time lost, 3 miles away, on the “wrong” side of a mountain.

Enough water (or the kits to “make” water and hands-on experience using them) to have enough water for twice the time you plan on being out. Starvation, 3 weeks. Dehydration, less than 3 days.

Cameras are supplemental, but come small enough that it’s hard not taking them. Consider getting a subscription to REI’s and EMS’s catalogues.

just my thoughts.

30 Dave June 9, 2009 at 1:48 am

I typically take:
-enough clothes, layered also a poncho
-hat
-compass
-rope(s)
-matches (dipped in candle wax to keep them water proof; scratch the wax off when ready to use), lighters (in water proof box) and tinder
-blanket
-hunting knife, small axe, pocket knife, steak knife, fork and spoon (and sharpening stone)
-binoculars, flash light, walkie talkies, empty garbage bags, notepad, pens and pencils
-deck of cards, harmonica (also usefull to scare away curious animals)
-water canteen
-important documents (passport, driver’s license, birth certificate, etc)

In some cases: dust goggles, dust mask, helmet and BB gun.

That’s all.

31 Jeff June 13, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Okay, here’s an article on how to start a fire with a cellphone battery. Funny that lifehacker mentioned it after I stated something about it here in my earlier comment.

@ AcmeNews

Would you go on a boat with a captain who claimed to be so skilled he didn’t need a radio? You use the technology that’s available to you. A manly man returns safely home to his family, even if it means putting his one ounce cellphone on mute and hiding it in a piece of bark. I can guarantee you Magellan would have had a Magellan if it was available.

32 Jeff June 13, 2009 at 2:58 pm

@ AcmeNews

And, now just seeing your first post, I think people camped before guns as well.

33 Finnian June 22, 2009 at 8:38 pm

If you are camping in the mountains and are near a trout stream, bring a fly rod. Few things taste better for breakfast than fresh-caught trout and eggs fried in bacon grease, especially when washed down with hot coffee and accompanied by the sweet smoky smell of a campfire.

34 Michael September 1, 2009 at 11:37 am

I have camped in many places that have become unsafe, robbed in the middle of Mt Whitney a week into a 90 mile hike from a hippie with a 45 revolver. I’ve been in lake side camps with the kids and had our camp rifled through and all the food stolen. I’ve had mine or friends backpacks and cameras stolen from inside tents off the beaten paths (we thought). I’ve had a knife pulled on me in a so-called peaceful ecolodge. The point is I come prepared more often than I would like now to defend my family or guests. I avoid most weekend camping and national or state parks during regular seasons to avoid the drunks and the car campers who leave trash all over and the teenagers with loud stereos. I’ve raised my kids to enjoy going a little further in to get out by ourselves and be more independent and self reliant. Both my sons and daughters know how to take care of themselves in the woods, how to load, clean and shoot, how to start fires and do other basic skills. We try and make it safe and fun for everyone despite the slide of civility and honor that used to be present around fellow campers and hikers when I was young. I guess these folks don’t know how to be real men.

35 paulo September 1, 2009 at 3:14 pm

ya, sadly a gun is becoming a piece of equipment that i’d rather not leave at home, while having my concealed-carrying permit in my pocket. Makes traveling across state lines a bit more of a nuisance, too.

And, although i liked the other article on choosing a gun for home defense, i prefer semiauto handguns. Sure, you need to learn how to clear a jam; but the smoother action than a revolver (especially when adding a laser sight) makes it much more accurate.

36 Pop up canopies September 21, 2009 at 2:10 pm

This is a great article about the supplies needed when going camping. I agree with Paulo that a weapon is becoming a necessary item to take with you when going camping because you never know what you might come across with.

37 Johnny Utah February 10, 2010 at 7:09 am

if you have a modern waterproof tent, the purpose of the ground cloth or ‘footprint’ is to prevent tears and preserve the ‘waterproofiness’.

I too carry a handgun on camping trips. I’m often in remote areas with poor or non-existent cell service, and a ranger or cop could be hours away.

dryer lint in a ziplock bag (tinder) and one of those ‘firesteel’ tools (spark) is my preferred fire-starting method. Supplement the dryer lint with material you find on-site. I light my campstove with the firesteel as well.

take some of those ‘glowsticks’ on your next op. They glow for hours, make excellent tent nightlights, and the colors won’t burn out your night vision.

38 Bryce August 12, 2013 at 10:13 pm

Just got back from camping on an “overnighter” on the Colorado River. My buddy and I loaded the kayaks at point A, paddled 12 miles to Point B “Campsite” (just a bare sand bank on the edge of the river), and today we woke up and paddled another 11-13 miles to Point C “Pick Up”. Its summer time guys, RMEMBER YOUR SUNSCREEN.

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