Recommended by the National Park Service and a staple for any experienced camper are the ten essentials. These 10 items are those that should be packed regardless of the season or weather conditions.
A map, compass, or GPS device are crucial when camping. Most camping locations are remote and offer little to no cell service which will not fare well in the chance you get lost on the trails. Some GPS devices even offer emergency services with the push of a button even in the most remote locations.
Whether or not you're heading into the middle of nowhere or a well-traversed trail, it's better to be safe than sorry in these situations by at the very least knowing where you are.
A no-brainer, shelter is a necessity for living in general. The type of shelter you choose will primarily depend on the weather conditions, the weight in respect to the distance of your campsite, and your personal preference. The most common forms of shelter include a tent, tarp, bivy, or hammock.
Tent -Tents offer the most shelter and can range in size and weight. Choose the tent that works best for what kind of camping you will be doing. Backpacking miles and miles into backcountry will require something lightweight and compact, whereas a car camping trip with your campsite a short distance away will allow for a more heavy duty tent.
Tarp - A tarp can be used when weather conditions are most favorable.
Pros - it's ultra lightweight and is very easy to set up.
Cons - it doesn't offer as much privacy and protection.
Bivy - A bivy is a single-person sack that is favored for it's lightweight and easily packable form. It's most often used for ultralight backpacking trips and more technical adventures as it requires less surface space to set up.
Pros - the bivy is very lightweight, compact, and efficient when sleeping in technical terrain.
Cons - offers less privacy and protection.
Hammock - For a quick and lightweight setup with protection less than a tent, but greater than the tarp and bivy, look no further than the hammock. The hammock is easily adaptable to keep you comfortable in any weather conditions. In favorable conditions use the hammock itself, or in more unfavorable weather set up the still lightweight hammock tent that combines both hammock and tarp set up.
Pros - lightweight, compact, accommodating for a variety of terrain, and easy to set up.
Cons - won't accommodate gear or pets, requires the right spot for set up, might be more difficult to sleep in for some, offers less warmth.
3. Extra food
To be prepared in the event of an emergency and also just to keep your body fueled right, be sure to pack an extra day's worth of food to be safe. Whether it's throwing in some extra snacks or another dehydrated meal, it's better to be safe than sorry in the event you end up staying out for an extra night.
Wildway granola and snack mixes are a great real food option to include in your pack. Filled with natural ingredients like wholesome nuts and dried food, it's a great option to help keep you fuller for longer as your explore outside.
4. Extra water
Just as imperative as food, if not more, is water. The last thing you want to is to run out of water with no sources nearby to fill up from. A helpful tip, identify water sources in the area where you will be staying to collect water from natural sources in case of an emergency. Bring a filter along when collecting natural water to protect yourself from any potential bacteria and debris lurking in the water as well.
The main water carriers include a water bladder, reusable bottle, or collapsible bottle. On average, hikers/backpackers should carry at least 2-liters of water and more depending on the duration of the hike, temperature, and your body's needs. Backpackers will likely fill up along the trail from springs and other natural sources, so be sure to locate those before hitting the trail!
5. Sun protection
Nobody wants to be burned on the trails, or squinting for hours because they forgot the proper sun protection. Helpful items like sunglasses, a hat, sunscreen, or long protective layers like a lightweight long sleeve and loose pants are great options. Protect your skin and eyes so you can enjoy the outdoors longer!
In colder conditions, items like an insulated jacket, beanie, gloves, rain jacket, thermals are necessities to keep you cozy and warm in even the coldest conditions. It's crucial to know the weather conditions of your destination before you start packing to prevent a poor camping or hiking trip because you're freezing!
Insulation not only includes your clothes, but also your sleeping equipment. Temperature will determine the type of shelter and even the temperature grade sleeping bag you choose to bring along. The choice to be toasty over freezing is a no-brainer.
Save yourself from shuffling around in the dark with equipment like a head lamp, flashlight, or lantern. Head lamps are ideal as they are hands-free and can be used in any situation where you would use a traditional flashlight.
8. First Aid kit
You can never be too prepared when placing yourself in the outdoor environment where anything can happen. There are all types of emergencies that can happen outdoors, so it's essential to be prepared. Whether you're car camping, backpacking, or just going for a day hike, it's important to pack a mini or full-size first-aid kit that covers most bases.
As you begin to adventure outdoors, you will have a better understanding of what you do and don't need. Create your own first-aid kit that suits your needs in the terrain you will be conquering and hike on easy knowing you're prepared.
Not only is fire important for heat and light, but can also be helpful in emergency situations as well. Items like matches, lighter, fire starter are must-haves in your camping equipment. It's important to understand your way around not only setting up and putting out a fire, but also to have an understanding of the tools nature provides that could help you create a fire in an emergency situation.
Also important to know before you go is if your campsite allows fires or not. Established campsites and some forests may have fire bans and these restrictions should be respected at all costs.
10. Repair tools
Similar to a first-aid kit, repair tools like a knife, screwdriver, duct tape, and scissors can be helpful in mending your equipment. Think of your repair tool kit as a first-aid kit, but for your precious gear. A hole, loose screw, and any other inconvenience are just a fix away with your repair tools in tow.
It would be a good idea to research what others include in their repair tool kits and customize yours according to your specific needs, activities, and the environment you're heading into.