Everyone has to start camping somewhere, well, I know that’s not completely true, some people may not ever start camping, even I feel sad for them but that’s how it is.
The rest of you will camp and for those of you that are new to camping it’s good to remember a few basics to start off with. There’s an old saying “Take only photographs, leave only footprints”. This is a great place to start your planning for trips out.
It’s very easy to fill your car with just the “essentials”, but before you pack the make-up bag and the foot spa here is a short list of what you will actually be of use:
Not a butter knife – you need something solid and sharp. You can use a good knife in many ways. For example, you can filet that fish you caught or make bandages from a t-shirt if you get injured. Even a pocket knife is useful.
The bottom line on a knife is that one you have with you is the best knife you’ve got, make sure you’ve got a knife. It doesn’t have to be big or heavy; it doesn’t need serrations or gimmicks, it just needs to be a solid knife with a good sharp edge.
First Aid Kit
If you carry a knife you carry First Aid Kit – Pack this at the top of your pack so you can get to it quickly. It should contain the basic gear you need in the wilderness to treat minor injuries which are going to be, cuts, grazes, burns, blisters, insect bites, twisted ankles and things like that, if you’re careful none of these will be a big deal.
It’s absolutely fine to buy a First Aid Kit from the store, one of mine is a store bought kit with bits added and taken out based on my needs. Make sure your kit has bandaids, wound pads, tape, cloth bandages, antiseptic cream, and tweezers. Kits come in various sizes and prices and you can make up your own.
Keep your kit in a waterproof bag or container, this will obviously keep it dry but also keep it clean and the contents in good condition.
Lighters and Matches
Often when you camp you will want a fire. Pack a lighter or matches in a waterproof bag. All-weather matches are available, but as long as you keep your matches dry the ordinary ones should be fine. Lighters are good in all weather conditions except extreme cold, although the wind can make it hard to light something if you don’t block it out.
I pack both as well as a modern flint and steel. Make sure you have some good tinder prepared, something that will catch light easily and not burn through too fast.
Water is the elixir of life and we die if we do not have enough water.
Plan ahead so you know where you are going to get your water when camping. Some parks have places where you can collect water and others don’t. Bladder type water containers are great for carrying enough water for a few days and these can fit inside backpacks.
Think about how you are going to purify water if collecting it yourself – do you need sterilization tablets or are you going to filter and boil the water? Remember, every plastic bottle you carry in you will need to carry back out again, Although it might be lighter!
Clothing is hugely important, the weather when you go outdoors will often surprise you. Plan for everything but don’t go overboard by weighing yourself down with too much. Layer your clothing to make it easy to remove or add layers when the weather changes.
Take extra socks; these often get wet, and wet socks will cause you problems in cold weather. Wear cotton in summer to stay cool and wear base layers in winter with moisture-wicking properties. Both are light, and it takes very little room to pack one of each just in case and a protective top layer that doesn’t let any bad weather in.
If you’re going to spend the night out you need a sleeping bag, pick one that has an appropriate rating and if you’re unsure go with a sleeping bag that might be too warm, it’s easier to vent that to be cool than it is to get warm in a bag that does not have enough insulation.
Buy the best bag you can afford, this is not an area to skimp and be tight with your money, a good warm nights sleep is a must for your well being.
Sleeping bags on bare ground or even on the tent floor are uncomfortable and because your body compresses the insulation in the sleeping bag, it doesn’t work very well and you will be cold from being so close to the ground. A thin nylon tent floor is no protection from the cold and wet that seeps up from the ground.
Ground mats are generally light; they roll up and can be tied easily onto the outside of your backpack. They are also great for sitting on beside the fire. There are a few different types of mat, some inflate and some are solid foam, the latter are usually cheaper, they insulate ok but are not as comfortable as the inflatable camping mats.
It’s good to be able to see what you’re doing or where you’re going so pack a small but powerful flashlight, or two! Go for something that uses normal batteries like AA’s so that they’re easy to get hold of and store.
You can get some flashlights that are solar-powered and others that get their power from your squeezing a handle or winding it up. It’s up to you, but the battery powered torch is going to be the most reliable and probably powerful as well as being more compact. The darkness in the wilderness can be completely different from urban areas, it can be really really dark out there, take some spare batteries!
Map & Compass
Knowing how to navigate is an essential skill for anyone that’s going into the wilderness. Take a map of where you are going. Highlight the trails you are going to hike. Maps are light and will fold up out of the way; once you know how to read one the skill becomes very useful in the search for water as well as getting yourself out of a sticky situation.
It’s good to learn how to use a compass as well, a compass along with a map and some skill in using them will be invaluable on your journeys. There’s a tendency to use phone based GPS for walking and adventuring now, which is fine till it stops working, then you’ll wish you had a map and compass.
Mess kits come in all sorts of sizes and shapes, many people use military issue types of mess kit but there are lots of others as well.
You want your mess kit to be as light as possible and appropriate in size for what you need, if there’s three of you a larger kit will be needed than if you’re on your own.
A stove to cook on can save you from needing a fire, they’re versatile and reliable. Choose one that will accommodate the mess kit you have.
Garbage bags are light weight and extremely useful for all sorts of things. You can line your backpack with one, use them to store soiled clothing, create wet weather clothing out of them, and make them into an emergency shelter, floatation, and even carrying out your garbage! They are a very versatile piece of kit to take with you and well worth the little space they take up.
So, when you plan your trip out into the wilderness have a look at this list and use it to help you get the basics sorted out. We would always advise you to buy from a competent person, any good outdoor store will let you try things on and get into things like sleeping bags. They will offer advice based on what you’re doing and where you’re going.
Good luck on your adventures, please let us know how they’ve gone, we love a good adventure!
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We live in a beautiful world, get out there and enjoy it.
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