Packing for a hiking and camping trip in the country can prove tricky for someone who isn’t a seasoned outdoors man. You start by putting the basics like sleeping bag and tent into the car and before you know it, you have packed more than you need. The key to avoiding overloading lies in knowing what you need and what you don’t. Before loading up on your favorite books, pricey gear and snacks, here are 10 essentials you simply can’t leave out.
Getting lost in the woods will certainly spoil your camping trip. The two main components of navigation you will need are a map and compass. You can also toss in a wrist altimeter or GPS to replace either of the above.
If your trip involves a long, frequently visited nature trail or impossible-to-miss footpath, carrying a topographical map is a must. Combine your knowledge of reading maps with a compass and you never have to worry about getting lost. Consider purchasing a compass with a sighting mirror as it will help you flash sunlight to a rescuer or helicopter during an emergency.
It is always good to pack an extra layer of clothing to protect yourself from the elements. This is particularly true because the conditions can turn chilly, wet or windy abruptly. You want to be protected in case something expected prolongs your exposure to the elements.
The extra clothing you pack should be dictated by the time of the year. Ask yourself what you would need to survive the worst conditions that could occur during your trip. Common sense dictates that you pack extra socks, an insulating hat, a layer of underwear as well as a synthetic vest or jacket.
You will need to cook or keep warm during the night. With that in mind, ensure that your pack a box of matches and a firestarter. The matches should be of the waterproof variety or at least stored in a waterproof container. Rather than convenient store matchbooks that are poorly constructed and flimsy, consider mechanical lighters.
As for the firestarter, you need something that ignites quickly and sustains the heat for at least half a minute. Suitable options include dry tinder, chipped wood clusters dipped in resin, priming waste, and candles. Lint trappings from a household rack are also a good idea.
4. Sun protection
A pair of sunglasses will be indispensable. A key function of quality lenses is blocking 100% of ultraviolet light. This offers additional protection against cataracts. If you will be walking on ice or snow, go for a pair of glasses extra-dark glacier glasses.
Don’t forget t pack sunscreen, preferably a formula that offers sun protection factor of at least 30. It should also be able to block UVB and UVA sunrays. Reapply your sunscreen every 2-3 hours depending sweat, time of day and other factors. If you can get a SPF-rated lip balm, carry it with you.
The average man can survive up to three days without water. Always carry at least one bottle of water and a collapsible water reservoir. Don’t forget a means of treating water for when you refill the bottle at a stream or lake. A chemical treatment or filter should suffice. Before you embark on your trip, consult your map and identify any possible water sources. Refill your water reservoir before beginning a long stretch of unpredictable availability of water.
6. First-aid supplies
While pre-assembled first-aid kits take the guesswork out of putting together your own kit, personalizing your own first-aid kid is an effective way of ensuring that it suits your needs. The ideal camping first aid kit should have adhesive bandages of different sizes, blister treatments, adhesive tape, over-the-counter medication, gauze pads, disinfecting ointment, pen and paper. Don’t underestimate the importance of nitrile gloves.
The main factors that will determine what contents and how much of each you park include the number of people as well as length of the trip. Carrying a compact guide is a good idea as it will help a great deal when dealing with emergencies.
It is always a good idea to pack an extra day’s worth of food. Many people usually opt for freeze-dried meals but no-cook items with long a long shelf life like dried fruits, energy bars and jerky are just as good. The type and amount of food you pack will depend on how long the trip as well as how many people are coming with you. You may want to munch something before going to bed on a cold night since the process of digestion will keep the body warm.
While a fire may provide plenty of lighting at night, having some kind of backup is recommended. Many backpackers opt for headlamps as they allow for hands-free operation and have a long battery life. They are also lightweight. Consider a headlamp that offers a strobe mode since it prolongs battery life, hence invaluable during emergencies.
Other alternatives worth considering include packable lanterns and flashlights. Modern LED Lanterns & flashlights cast very powerful beams that you can use to signal rescuers or a helicopter during emergencies. Make sure that you pack an extra set of batteries for your headlamp or flashlight. If hiking in a group, everyone should have their own light.
9. Shelter and Air Mattress
This is an absolute necessity for any overnight hiking trip. The thinking is that something is better than nothing if you’re stranded and have to deal with the rain. There are many options when it comes to camping shelters such include an ultra-light tarp, hammock or bivy sack. Some manufacturers offer tents that accommodate as many as 6 people. A tent that accommodates several people may be a better option if you are hiking in a group and need to reduce load. On the other hand, a hammock makes more sense if you are hiking in rugged countryside where finding a clearing to pitch a tent is nearly impossible.
While a tent will protect you from the rain, it won’t offer much comfort. You will need a quality queen air mattress for a comfortable night’s sleep. It will provide additional protection from the elements.
You never know what happens in the country and in case of an injury or emergency, you need to be able to communicate with the outside world. Carry your fully charged cell phone in a waterproof case to save batteries. A whistle will carry the sound further as compared to your bare voice. Consider packing a personal locator beacon if you will be hiking into extremely remote terrain.
While this list is far from exhaustive, it’s important to note that these are the bare essentials you can’t leave behind. You should also consider carrying some form of protection, perhaps a survival knife. Now that you know what to pack for your camping trip, we hope that you have the best experience out there.