By: Justin Hunold
I will fully admit that I am a gear nut. If it’s a gadget that isn’t needed but looks cool and serves a very particular purpose I probably own it. What’s funny when you do a gear dump of some very experienced outdoors folks the similarities become apparent. Some stuff is techy and a cool piece of kit and some not glamorous at all but makes the cut because it just works. What items do you need to go camping? Let’s take a look at some of these items.
When I started with the idea for this article I texted some friends and asked them what they always bring camping. Some lists were very basic and some were very gadget heavy but they all came from a place of experience. Anyone I reached out to spends at least two to three weeks camping a year. I cherry picked the items with general tent life in mind. You can have these items whether car camping at a campsite, picking your way through a boulder field in the Brooks Range, taking your favorite pack animal into the backcountry or through hiking the Appalachian Trail. There may be some overkill items but to me they are worth the weight.
Let’s start simple, ziplock bags. Yes, you read that right. Gallon size ziploc bags can help you ration food, keep injuries dry in a pinch, keep funky clothes isolated, contain anything you might forage from nature, the list goes on. These buggers are very useful. Along the same lines I would venture to say fill one of them with some zip ties, batteries and leukotape(blows the door off duct tape). This is all simple and very useful stuff. A note on the batteries, try and get gadgets that all take the same batteries when possible.
On the top of the list for everyone was a knife, some of us preferred a folding pocket knife and others a fixed blade, the Kershaw Ken Onion series knives were a popular choice. I personally carry a Ontario Knife Company RAT2, it has a liner lock and the clip can be moved to carry how the owner prefers rather than being fixed from the factory. This is a nice feature for a lefty. I also carry a Morakniv which is a vaunted all purpose, full tang, impact resin handled knife from Sweden. Morakniv are basically indestructible and can be made exceedingly sharp. I will also be found with some sort of multitool more often than not when camping, when I’m in the back country I will replace my folder with a multitool like a Leatherman Wingman.
So, one of the problems people have when camping is lack of good sleep. Tylenol PM will help that and I keep it in my first aid kit, but so will a good inflatable pillow like any of the offerings from Klymit or even the under $20 jobbers on Amazon. Skip the stuff sack full of clothes or those tiny crushable pillows, spend a couple bucks and get an inflatable pillow.
Food is essential, so it is a good way to cook it. For basic cooking there are three routes I will send you down. Car camping calls for a Coleman Camp Stove like their Duel Fuel stoves. The option I prefer for car camping or pack animals is a Camp Chef Explorer two burner stove. I like the optional griddle top because breakfast is my favorite meal and that option facilitates pancakes. Next would be a Jetboil style stove, these are self contained canister fueled cookpots. They are great if you are trying to find space in your pack or if you are meticulous about cleaning or using it. I can’t seem to keep my Ramen out of the coffee so I don’t use these. I run a MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and have since it was a Pocket Rocket 1. You will need a pot or mess kit to use these but they are exceedingly light and reliable.
Coffee goes with camping, no analogy needed. Some dudes will go with an enamel percolator, like in the western movies of yesteryear. Can I be honest with you? Percolator coffee isn’t good, it looks cool on the fire but yuck! I bring a Lexan French Press. My buddy runs instant coffee, the Starbuck Via isn’t bad but I prefer the Black Rifle Coffee Company Instant coffee. Leave that Folgers instant at the supermarket, I’m a coffee snob not a coffee drinker.
A more and more common situation in the field is keeping your electronics charged and ready to go. Between general phone use, mapping, taking pictures and taking videos of your adventures getting that phone back to 100% is important to most folks. We have had some suggestions ranging from Goal Zero battery banks, charging from a JBL Charge or Flip to a basic power banks from Amazon. They all work. I prefer the basic banks from amazon. I can store a few of them in different places rather than having a big heavy unit with zero redundancy. Plus you can get two of these with 10000 MHz each for about $25. This is plenty for quick pick me ups during a day in the field.
This list is not complete or comprehensive. It’s a simple “Hey don’t forget this stuff ” list. Most of the things on this list I keep in my vehicle in some form or fashion at all times. With Good sleep, a good blade and good coffee I can make a go of anything else that Mother Nature throws at me, isn’t that the fun?!