I’m not going to cover the no-brainers. Waterproof your kit and carry it in by a means that first works and is comfortable for a long distance. You also know what your comfort items are – just be smart about them. Don’t screw the team because you packed a bunch of crap that you can’t carry.
Summer camping season is upon us and we are inundated with one terrible list after another, which often claims to be some form of, “Genius, Insane, Crazy, Brilliant, Camping Tips, Tricks, Hacks, and so on.” After reviewing some of these lists, I first wondered if any of these people had ever actually been camping beyond their backyard or designated park and camp area. Yet then, and to my most disappointing surprise some straight-up all civilian and veterans turned full-on civilian friends; who recently attempted a camping trip with me. There, for the love of all that is sacred about the woods – they packed like the idiot hipsters who made the many stupid lists that are currently circling the internet.
The fashionable wordsmiths of methamphetamine branding have sub-categorized camping. Now, the trending douche bags are calling it “Ultralight Backpacking” and “Camping” is what the out of the car and RV crowd does . . . but not in reality – the devil is in advertising. Look, I don’t name this crap, I’m stuck with the idiot names people cough-up just as well as you are.
For starters, if you can carry in half the crap these magical lists propose; you’re not camping. There is no sane reason for a city-dweller to make their way to the wilds and live out of their car, or rely on electricity to camp. Camping is about getting away from the noise of everyday life and relaxing amongst nature and sleeping under the stars – away from people. On that point, the only reason your phone should appear on a camping trip is if you can’t perform the necessary life saving first aid on a fellow camper. All of this junk and technology will be here when you get back from the trip.
On to the list:
A first-aid kit at your skill level. Don’t bring a bunch or crap you don’t know how to use. You’ll make yourself tired and most likely cause more harm to the injured person if you perform first aid incorrectly.
Baby wipes – I cannot stress this enough, baby wipes. For the calls of nature or to clean up your nasty parts.
On nature calls, do not surface lay – pack in a hatchet or small shovel, such as an entrenching tool to dig a hole and bury your poop. Do not force your fellow campers to wander through a toilet paper and crap minefield. Also, human feces attract all kinds of wild animals. Additionally, no one wants to smell your shit, no matter how good you think it smells.
The hatchet and the shovel, asides from cleaning up your mess are must have tools to clear and improve your campsite.
As you’re clearing your campsite, you’ll be preparing your fire pit.
Starting a fire is apparently a challenge for a lot of folks. First off you’ll need a means to start the fire and if you’re one of the cool kids like me, you ‘smoke with cigarettes’ and always have a means to start a fire. Even so, I still have waterproof matches, a flint and steel sparker, and a mirror that can also be used for signaling.
Kindling wise, the surface may be wet. A Ziploc bag or bag of dryer lint or steel wool is an easy way to start a fire. People also like to claim that they know how to build a fire.
Clear the area around where you intend to establish your fire, to include looking up at any overhanging branches. Do not build your fire close to tents or anything else flammable. And build a stone ring or dig out a ring around your fire to stop it from spreading . . . Also for those too proud to admit they have no idea what in the hell they’re doing, review this Cub Scout infographic.
There are many types of campfires, but I often opt for two. One is whatever works as the primary gathering fire and the other is for cooking. Pack the food you want, but make sure that you can effectively carry it, there is enough of it in the event that something happens, and that you’ve packed reusable cooking and eating utensils. A simple metal mess kit will do. A good cooking fire looks like this.
With food, there is water, and water sucks to carry. Whenever you’re camping, you typically should not set up shop too far from a source of running water. A decent gravity water filter will take pounds off of your pack and supply plenty of water in the field, or you can just boil the hell out it. Something like a Life Straw for a pinch is also great to have on hand.
On water and assorted good items – a space blanket. They’re cheap, lightweight, offer a ton of uses in an emergency from a shelter, to signal, heat retainer, wind shield, and rain catcher.
A wondrous and often overlooked item amongst people who choose to pack in solar-powered coolers are; hangers, marking, and securing straps that will make your life easy. From tent to tarp securing, a decent collection of various lengths of 550/parachute cords, bungee cords, clips, clamps, rope, auto and marine sealant, stakes, and tape.
You may need to cut the cord or an annoying camper. Always have a good knife and a multitool.
Light sources such as chem lights, a headlamp and a flashlight with extra batteries – for not falling off a cliff at night or just to end up in the right tent.
Decent strength garbage bags – Carry out your fucking trash, you nasty bastards. You should also know that glass, metal, and plastic does not go into the fire. Asides from the rank toxic fumes this waste will produce, your food will taste weird – these items are not biodegradable and your fire will not produce enough heat to completely disintegrate these items.
A lightweight smoking-jacket/hoodie and/or a wool-knit cap/skullcap goes the distance even when it is warm during the day. A woobie/poncho liner and a field jacket liner the most comfortable . . . Just don’t get too close to the fire with them The night will be cool to you, especially if you’ve had an active day. Don’t waste away because you’re a jack-ass. You can also always cuddle – cuddling is preferred.
Pack the correct sleeping bag for the weather – most sleeping bags indicate their temperature threshold on the box or tag. If it doesn’t, then it is not an outdoor bag. I still lug out my three-layer army sleeping bag and use whatever is extra as a pillow; the stuff sack for field storage, and the wet weather bag for dirty clothes. You should also bring a sleeping mat or puss-pad because it is not for comfort, but to prevent the earth from pulling away all of your body heat as your sleep. You sleeping bag will not prevent this.
If you’re bringing someone you like to sleep with, a lightweight tent is your best option in the event of inclement weather. Aim for a flat and stable piece of real estate to set up your tent. Set it up early to stage your gear and have a place to go in the event of rain or cold. Plan accordingly with a waterproofed tent or tarp system in the event of heavy rain.
On the other hand, if you’re going to be punching the clown in a solo jack-shack, a hammock is the way to go as it is too easy to set up and the right kind of hammock will go the distance. I picked up a model that has a built-in mosquito screen and matching with a rain-fly. Try to buy one like this that is complete, or play hell in a mix-and-match game.
A metal flask with relevant size to comfort for scotch.
Featured Image – Buck Clay in one of his natural habitats – near Red River Gorge.