There are a lot of camping supplies
If you are car camping at a campground like a KOA, then it is less important to have every little thing.
You will notice a lot of bear defensive items on this list. Bears are a major problem when camping in western North Carolina and they are flourishing in small towns and cities. I advise anyone that lives in an area with a known wildlife population to consider what they need for protection. For example, in the North Cascades of Washington state, where I grew up, mountain lions were a bigger problem than bears. In fact, they put up barriers and fencing at the schools to protect kids at recess.
People do not hunt as much as they used to and wildlife in many areas is experiencing a surge in population
- Bear Proof Canister and Bear Bag
- Water & Water Filter
- Mess Kit
- Emergency Whistle
- Medical Kit
- Quality Pack
- Rain Gear
- Extra Clothing based on the seasons and climate
- Fire Starter
- Flashlight or Lanterns. Every camper should have their own small light
- Multi-tool and/or Everyday Carry Knife
- Tent or
- Sleeping Bag
- Camp Mattress such as a Thermo-Rest
- Bear protection (Bear Spray, .44 Magnum, etc.)
- Map and Compass (GPS is only good if you can keep the batteries going)
- Radio to communicate to others in your group or call for help if needed
- Insect repellent
- Water bottle
- Hatchet or saw for firewood
- Stuff sacks for packing clothing and sleeping bags
- Dry bags for camping under wet conditions or getting to a location in a boat or similar
- Water shoes for fording or swimming safely
- Camp Stove
Nice To Have But Not Required
- Notebook and Pen, waterproof write in the rain paper and pencil can be nice in some cases.
- Entertainment items such as a radio or deck of cards
- Camera for capturing memories and recording interesting things
Good gear may cost a bit but it will stand the test of time and be there for you when all the cheap stuff has long been thrown in the trash.
Matt and I went fishing the other day and camped out overnight. We started talking about how long we had been using some of the gear that we had. Here are some of the stand out examples of how good gear will be with you for a long time.
My stuff sack-14 years old
Matt bought me a stuff sack for my clothes and sleeping bag my senior year of college and it still looks new even though I have used it a lot. This bag went to Alaska with me and came back and there is still not a stitch that is out of place. I remember thinking when he got it for me that he paid too much for it and that it seemed thin. Appearances can be deceiving. Good thin fabric that is waterproof and tough costs and that is something I just did not know at the time.
Matt’s stuff sack -20 years old
The common looking black stuff sack that Matt has is 20 years old. It is a little faded, but it still has no major signs of wear that would make us consider replacing it. He got it when he was 16 for camping.
Matt’s Therm-O-Rest- 18 years old
This camping mattress was bought by Matt in the UK when he went on a trip in 2001. He was tired of not having some padding when sleeping in places like hostels. It has since developed a leak and we plan on replacing it but 18 years and a lot of extended trips is a lot of use to get out of a single camp mattress. The surface looks fine. The leak may be patchable too but we have not checked it out.
Sam’s REI Sleeping Bag- 25-30 years old
I got my goose down sleeping bag at a flea market or garage sale for $10 when I was 19. It might have been on a trip out to Washington between semesters of college. It has been so long I forgot. I know that it looked vintage when I bought it. It was probably made in late 70s or sometime in the 80s. I would say the 80s is likely. I am still using it. If I replaced it I would need to spend quite a bit to get similar quality and weight.
Start with a basic car camping trip if you are a camping beginner or trying to get your family involved that has little or no experience.
It is easy to get discouraged if you try to start out with a major expedition or a hiking trip that requires major endurance. You will have a better time and it is more likely that others in your family will
Plan trips based on age and abilities of everyone that is joining in.
Just getting outdoors and camping and learning whatever you can is a positive thing. If you have older members or the family or if anyone has a disability, there are things that you can do to make it more comfortable. Car camping with inflatable mattresses or purchasing a small camper can make it possible for everyone to get in on the fun and spend time together as a family. Even if it is just something small that accommodates those that need it and everyone else is in tents, it is a way to include every one. Campers can be purchased for less during the winter or off season.
Buy local maps of wilderness areas, national forests, parks, etc, and plan out fun and interesting trips.
National Geographic has an excellent map series that
Increase length of trips as your skill level goes up
Camping or hiking with at least one other person can make it more enjoyable because you can share some gear and supplies so that each person doesn’t have to carry as much weight.
Stoves, water filters, bear canisters, and
Even a small camp stove is fine for 2 people. Consider what you can share when planning a trip with anyone else. Just remember to double check each other to make sure that someone didn’t forget to pack something
The Beauty of Boat Camping
A canoe or small John boat can make camping a lot nicer because you can pack more gear regardless of how strong you are and how far you can walk with a 40 lb pack on your back. Matt and I used to have a canoe, but we found it was just too slow to be safe on many of the lakes that
You can fit a lot in a canoe though and they are inexpensive to own. A small flat bottom John boat with a 10 hp or larger motor can make it
If you are near a lake created by a dam, then you may find some very interesting history and places you can explore.
A boat allows you to take a power center so you can have electricity and blow up air mattresses for luxury camping. For those that are not into a big hiking trip and that want to still get a bit off the beaten path, a boat is worth considering.
Camping In Winter Vs. Summer or Spring
Camping during different seasons can be fun but you are probably going to want to start out with a trip during the warmer months of the year. Winter camping requires thicker and heavier gear and some people simply don’t like to do it.
It is very important to realize that hypothermia is a concern year round in many places.
It will sneak up on you.
It is always a good idea to dress in layers and to avoid cotton as a base layer. If you get
Here is a link to my post on avoiding hypothermia that details what to look out for. The signs of hypothermia can be hard to see if you don’t know the subtle signs of the first stage.
Remember that kids have a smaller mass and get cold faster. They also burn calories fast and that can make it harder for them to stay warm. Always pack extra food and ready to eat snacks to encourage a good caloric intake.
Consider group camping trips with other families or friends. If you know others that have more experience than you then you may
be able to learn a lot and have a good time.
A lot of avid campers and hikers like to show others how to do things and it is a good way to gain skills. If you are a bit cautious about getting out into the woods for the first time, it can be reassuring to have a friend with you that can offer support and guidance.
There may be outdoor groups that meet in your area if you
Set reasonable goals for your trip and realize that tv can make things look a lot easier than they are. Don’t be too hard on yourself or others in your group.
There are so many prepper tv shows and books out there that make it seem like you need to always be hardcore when getting out into the woods or that skills and endurance are easy.
Remember that all those shows you see on tv are heavily edited and that people have massive behind the scenes support teams. It is easier to be confident in the bush when you know that you have a full medical team and a helicopter evacuation at your fingertips the minute things get bad.
Some of you may already know that I
Just getting out and camping is an accomplishment in itself. Try to learn something new or do something that makes you think on each trip. That is a reasonable goal.
Budgeting for good camping supplies
I know that I listed a lot of things in this post. I want to clarify that some can be shared so everyone in the family doesn’t have to have all these things for a simple overnight trip or car camping. It is possible to go to a campsite that you can drive to and never cook over a fire or even sleep in a tent if you have a camper cover on a truck or a vehicle large enough to sleep in.
For those just starting out and on a budget I advise just picking up a single item at a time as you can afford it. Watch out for items on eBay or at flea markets and yard sales. As I said before, my sleeping bag was used and it is still going strong. Just make sure to clean items well. Lysol or similar will kill germs and any bugs that are lurking. Personally I have never found second hand items to be that nasty but it could happen.
Shopping for gear out of season is another great way to save money. I get really nice outdoor clothing for 70% off or more by shopping out of season and sometimes settling for last years color or style. LL Bean, Cabelas, and more have clearance sections that are worth browsing when you have a little extra cash to throw at preps and camping supplies.
Ways to Reduce Weight In Your Pack
Some of the ways you can reduce the weight in your pack involved spending more or sacrificing some comfort or luxury. Here are a few methods that come to mind.
Use a hammock style bivy instead of a tent and sleeping pad
You can save a lot of weight and space in a bag and possibly reduce your cost a lot
The Flying Tent shown below gets a lot of good feedback from customers but it costs $250. With tents, it seems like you get what you pay for
Take freeze dried foods
I know that freeze dried foods are expensive but they definitely reduce weight and many of them taste very good. If you add up the cost, it is really not that much more than what a lot of people pay for convenience food they eat all the time at home and it is far cheaper than eating out.
Buy lightweight synthetic clothing that keeps you warm and dry and doesn’t get smelly or gross as fast
While you don’t want to
Consider a goose down sleeping bag
For maximum warmth and weight, I have found it hard to beat goose down. It is not inexpensive, but it sure lasts and doesn’t weigh down your bag.
Think about how much your water filter weighs
Water filters vary a lot in weight. I know that a difference of half a pound doesn’t sound like a lot to some but 8 oz here and there can really add up when packing a bag. My Hydro Blu gravity fed water filter holds 10 Liters of water and weighs just over 8 oz while my
Do you have anything you would like to add? Did I miss any essential gear? Please share in the comments below!