It seems like just about every activity requires some sort of essentials list – hiking, running, mountain biking. Camping is no different. While you might not use every single item on this list, you’ll appreciate their value when you really need them. The following are the top five items that need to be on your camping packing list:
1. Navigation – The top item on any camping essentials list is the proper navigation, and your best bet is to bring a variety. First and foremost, a topographic map will be helpful for those campsites that are off the beaten path, such as that one waterfall next to that fallen tree by the weirdly shaped rock.
While high-tech GPS receivers are a popular choice, a simple compass is a good tool should you become lost or disoriented. In addition, a compass is lightweight, doesn’t require batteries, and has a sighting mirror to reflect sunlight and attract the attention of a passing helicopter or plane in the event of an emergency.
2. Skin Protection – An often forgotten form of protection is skin protection. The sun feels nice on your skin after a dip in the icy cold lake, but too much sun exposure could result in a painful sunburn, quickly ruining the fun. Anytime you are outdoors, even on a cloudy day, it is recommended that you cover all areas of exposed skin with SPF 30 or higher. Reapply within the listed time frame, and sooner should you participate in activities in which you are sweating a lot or getting wet.
The sun isn’t the only potential skin culprit. Bug bites from mosquitoes, gnats, ticks, and chiggers can result in an itchy retreat to the tent. Put on insect repellant after your sunscreen, and bring itch relief for those bites that always inevitably appear. Repellent should be just one of the many items in your first-aid kit.
3. Extra Clothes – The weatherman called for clear, sunny skies but suddenly you find yourself in the middle of a bone-chilling rainstorm. Pack extra clothes including a rain jacket, quick-drying pants, hiking socks, and warm layers for those cool nights spent by the fire with s’mores.
Make it a fun and memorable experience by designing a custom camping t-shirt that everyone can wear for years to come. Make it a yearly tradition, and assign a different member of the camping group to come up with a design and slogan each year. The shirts will also come in handy should you decide to go on a nature hike, as bright shirts make everyone easy to spot.
4. Water – While the water flowing in the stream or creek looks safe to drink, it can be contaminated with bacteria, viruses, and other pollutants. Other than bringing along bottled water, nature’s water can be purified via boiling or filtering. Boiling water is the surest way to effectively treat water. Run the water through a coffee filter to remove large particles before boiling it for three minutes. Water filters are also available for purchase, and a common item used by both campers and hikers.
5. Fire – A survival mechanism dating back thousands of years ago, a fire is used for warmth, cooking, and exchanging laughs and a ghost story or two. In order to start a fire you’ll need tinder, kindling, firewood, and a lighter or waterproof matches.
Putting out the fire takes as much effort as starting it, but taking the time to adequately extinguish your campfire will help in the prevention of wildfires. Pour water on the fire until all hissing stops. If water isn’t readily available, bury the fire with dirt or sand. Check for remaining embers and continue adding water or dirt until all material is cool. A good rule of thumb is if it’s too hot to touch, it’s too hot to leave.
Camping is fun, but without the right tools and supplies you’ll find yourself unprepared for a night in the wilderness. Create a checklist of everything you could possibly need – you’ll thank yourself later.