Camping Gear : A Beginner's Guide
With Spring coming fast, that camping trip you've been itching to take is just around the corner too. You've also been meaning to buy the required gear too. What you should take on your camping trip depends on what type of trip you have in mind. The distinction between the two is usually labelled as "camping" or "backpacking".
The gear best suited for each usually has to do with weight and packability, so make sure you consider which you'll spend more time doing when you shop for gear. Backpacking gear tends to be pricier because it focuses on weight, but it's great for both camping and backpacking. You should consider your specific needs instead of relying on a generic checklist, but the list of essential items for most trips remains the same.
The Basics: Essential Camping and Hiking Equipment
Tents, Tarps, Poles, Tie Downs and Stakes:
You'll need something to sleep in, so a tent should be at the top of your priority list. Tents come in a variety of sizes and in a variety of types. To confuse matters more, most tents come in two varieties: Three-season and four-season.
Three-season tents are good for just about anything but the deep of winter, while four-season tents have more durable fabric that can handle snowdrifts. You'll also usually want a footprint to place beneath your tent to block out water.
Sleeping Bags and Sleeping Pads:
You will probably spend around $200-275 for a decent sleeping bag. On top of that, most people will also want a sleeping pad with an air-filled pad that sits between the sleeping bag and the ground to be more comfortable.
Backpacks are an area where the distinction between camping and backpacking matters.
If you're camping, you arguably don't need a backpack at all (though you want a good day pack if you're planning on small hikes). In the backpack world, there are three main distinctions for sizes: Day packs, overnight and long haul.
Headlamps, Lanterns and Torches:
Any cheap, sturdy, reliable torch will work (LED is best and will do the job for most people), but having some extra gear is helpful too.
Water Filtration Systems and/or Treatment Tablets:
If you're camping, you can (and should) bring along as much water as you'd possibly need in your car, so it's easily accessible. Some campsites even have fresh water available, but you should bring some anyway, so you'll need a water filtration system.
Hiking Boots or Shoes:
Depending on the type of trip you're taking, you'll want to grab some hiking boots or shoes. Your selection breaks down to boots, trail runners, approach shoes and hiking shoes. Boots are clunkier but sturdier, so they're good for people who like a lot of grip in their shoes and who like to jump into mud piles. Trail runners are light but have no real traction or ankle support, so they're best for the nimble-footed who prefer to jump around.
Approach shoes are meant mostly for climbing but sit somewhere in-between boots and runners. For most people, they land on approach shoes as a suggestion, but more general all-around hiking shoes like any of these will do the job too.
Get a map of wherever you're going before you get out there, then learn how to read it and not to rely on GPS, even if you bring a stand-alone satellite GPS unit.
First Aid Kit:
It shouldn't be a surprise that you need a first aid kit for camping. Include the usual aspirins, bandages and gauze here, but also toss in some hiking-specific stuff like moleskin for blisters, bug sprays and aloe vera for burns.
Everything You'll Need to Cook Outdoors
Stove, Fuel and Fire Starter:
Sure, you've seen cartoons where campers cook right over a campfire, but most normal people are going to want a real stove. For backpacking, you want to grab something more portable.
Pots and Pans:
Spoiler alert: If you're camping and have access to the storage of a vehicle, just use the pots and pans you already own. You don't need special camping cookware unless you need to separate your household cookware from your camping stuff. For backpacking you want special cookware that's effective and lightweight.
Cups, Bowls and Utensils:
Camping cups, bowls and utensils are the same as what you have at home, except they tend to be lightweight, plastic or stainless steel, and often have clever designs that make them easier to pack.
Everyone's coffee needs are different, but if you drink coffee, you want something to make coffee with in the morning. Just make sure you grind your coffee ahead of time.
If you don't care about anything other than the caffeine, instant coffee is easy to pack.
Scrubber, Dishcloths, Garbage Bags and Other Cleaning Gear:
Just because you're out in the bush doesn't mean you won't have to do the dishes or tidy up.
Bring along some dishcloths, some type of scrub brush and garbage bags.
Whatever you buy and pack, just make sure to consider your climate, needs and environment. If you're heading off to the desert for a long weekend in December, you can skip the rain jacket, but doing so would be foolish if you're heading into the rainforest.
Perhaps you want to get some fishing in, in which case you'll need a pole, licence and some bait. Welcome to the active lifestyle club!