Camping is the basis of awesome family legends, cherished memories, and deep personal growth. It’s also healthy, adventurous fun for all ages. That said, it’s also a daunting prospect for new campers. What do you need to set up camp? Where should you go? What do you do besides hike? The answers start here.
What Should I Bring?
Packing for any trip can become a game of Tetris in a blink, especially when you like to be prepared. However, the more you bring when you go camping, the sweatier your trip will be. On the other hand, no one wants to find themselves unprepared and missing essentials in the middle of the wilderness. At best, that means an embarrassing hike back to the closest general store, and at worst failure to pack necessary gear can put your life in danger.
So, what do you really need? When in doubt, remember the three essentials of survival: shelter, food, and water. Ask yourself, if you get stuck somewhere and have to wait for rescue, will you be okay for a couple days?
Shelter needs include your tent, season-appropriate clothing, fire-starting materials, sleeping bags, etc. These will shift a lot depending on the time of year. Camping in the winter requires different tools than summer adventures.
You will not be able to take all your water with you. Invest in tablets, filters, and bottles to make potable water in the wild. Water is second to shelter in the survival hierarchy, and without adequate hydration, you won’t make it far.
Food ranges depending on taste, the size of your party, health needs, and the length of your trip. While it’s always a good idea to stow some long-lasting, shelf-safe foods like MREs for emergencies, they will not inspire anyone to relax and enjoy the sunset after a long day on the trail. You will need not only food, but also cooking utensils. These should include some kind of grill or griddle for cooking over a fire in addition to a pot, tongs, and spoons that are long enough to reach safely over the flames, and a coffee or tea pot. It’s worth taking a foraging guide along, too. If disaster strikes, you’ll want to know which weeds make a salad and which make you sick.
Outdoor adventures make life better in nearly every way. Still, nature surprises everyone, and not all those surprises are good. Also, if you spend most of your time enjoying modern conveniences, you may be less prepared for rough terrain than you think you are. Safety precautions, plans, and tools can save lives and ensure everyone has a fun trip they remember fondly. This goes beyond prepping a first aid kit, though that should always be the first thing in your pack.
Before you pick your sleeping bag or choose your cooking gear, make emergency plans. First, make sure people know where you are going, how long you plan to be there, and what to do if they don’t hear from you by a certain date. Friends and family back home can sound the alarm when you’re unable to. They don’t have to be close to save your life. Next, make plans with the rest of your camping party. What will you do if you hit bad weather? Are there children with you? If so, who is responsible for each child on the trail, when you set camp, etc.?
Even if you’re camping close to a lodge, with a large group, or along a popular trail, you still need to prepare for the worst-case scenario. You can also avoid a lot of trouble through good communication habits. Before you hit the trail, consult with local rangers and visitor center employees for safety tips.
Know where you will go if someone gets food poisoning, gets an infected bug bite, or gets heat sick. Use tools like GPS trackers to mark local ranger stations, businesses, lodges, etc. Keep emergency back-ups, like a waterproof map and compass, in every backpacker’s bag. When you pack, include extra batteries for emergency tools like walkie-talkies and flashlights.
Being well-equipped and safely prepped is only the beginning. It’s time to polish up your campfire stories, learn some trail games, and discover the ins and outs of renting watersports equipment like kayaks and canoes. The resources below include everything from delicious meals to cook over a fire, tips on brewing camp coffee, and suggestions to help kids enjoy themselves.