by Positive Adventures Sat Jun 23 2018

Camping is fun and allows us to connect with nature while creating lasting memories with friends and family. These adventures help us learn more about our planet, and outdoor education is especially important for today’s youth.

Whether you’ve been camping your whole life or it’s your first time, it’s important to know what you need… and what you don’t. For remote backpacking, it’s important to travel light, while drive-in camping allows you to bring a few more comforts. No matter where your adventure takes you, you’ll need to make sure you have the camping essentials.

In addition to the 10 essentials below, we’ve put together a list of things you should bring camping, as well as some things you may just want to leave at home. Remember that these lists are not exhaustive, and that you should always research any items you may need specific to your trip.

The 10 Essentials… And Why They’re So Important

The National Parks Service has a list of 10 things you should always bring with you on your outdoor adventures. While you’ll likely bring more, these are the items you should always bring with you.

Essential #1: Navigation

No matter how familiar you are with the area, you should always have a source of navigation so that you can find your way home. This may include a compass, map, or GPS.

woman applying sunscreenEssential #2: Sun Protection

Even in cold weather, sun exposure can be harmful to your skin and eyes. UV rays can cause painful sunburn and even cancer. Sunscreen and sunglasses are a great way to protect yourself. You may also want to bring a hat or other clothing that protects your skin.

Essential #3: Insulation

Nature is unpredictable, and even the warmest climates can have a sudden drop in temperature once the sun goes down. Pack an extra layer to be prepared for any cold weather you may encounter.

Essential #4: Illumination

Most campsites have little to no light source, and even a full moon can be rendered useless in thick vegetation. Make sure you bring a reliable light source (NPS recommends headlamps), and extra batteries to keep them running.

Essential #5: First Aid Supplies

While we hope you’ll never have to use them, you should always bring a basic first aid kit. Bandages, antiseptic, and cold compresses are among the fundamentals when putting together a kit. Be sure to tailor yours for any specific medical needs and check expiration dates before you leave.

Essential #6: Fire

Fire is one of the most useful resources you can bring, providing heat for cooking and warmth. Fire can also be used for signaling in an emergency. Even if there are fire restrictions where you’re headed, make sure you have a reliable source of flame with you.

Essential #7: Repair Kit and Tools

Your repair kit should be specific to the gear your bringing, and might include duct tape, a can opener, or a good multi-tool.

Essential #8: Nutrition

It’s important to be prepared for unplanned changes in your trip. Best practice is to pack an extra day’s supply of food. Choose food that has high nutritional value and doesn’t need to be cooked.

Essential #9: Hydration

hydration pack

This is the most important item of all. Humans can’t live long without water, and dehydration lowers your energy and makes it harder to think clearly and rationally.

Make sure you bring plenty of water and identify sources of potable water near your campsite. For longer trips without access to clean water, consider packing a water purifier.

Essential #10: Shelter

Even if you don’t plan on staying the night, you should have some type of emergency shelter. This could be a tent, tarp, or emergency blanket.

14 Things to Pack When Camping

With the 10 essentials above, you’ll be prepared in case of an emergency, but most of us will want to bring more to make the most of our adventure. Camping is a great way to enjoy nature whether we travel alone or with friends. To make the most of your trip, here are 14 things you should bring along:

#1: Cooking Supplies

While there are plenty of nutritious options that don’t require cooking, camping just doesn’t outdoor cookingfeel the same without some hot food (many of our PA staff members are BIG fans of morning coffee!) Fires can be great for cooking, but various factors could result in a fire ban in your area. If you do use a fire, make sure you have a grate and pots or pans so that you can safely heat your food.

In case you can’t use fire, you may want to bring a camp stove, which uses fuel canisters and should serve all your cooking needs. Whatever you use, don’t forget to bring some plates, cups, and utensils. Many people use disposables, but we recommend reusable kitchenware. It’s better for the environment and will mean less trash to pack up when you leave!

#2: Hygiene and Sanitation

Camping gets dirty, and that can be half the fun. That said, it’s important to keep a safe and sanitary campsite, especially when it comes to food. Be sure to bring sanitizer and wipes to keep your cookware clean. Many front country campsites provide shower facilities, but no matter where you set up, you’ll want to make sure you can keep your hands and face clean to avoid harmful germs and bacteria.

#3: Activity “Grab Bag”

No matter where you plan your trip, make sure you bring all the gear you’ll need for fun activities! Whether you plan to go rock climbing, play frisbee, or just read and play card games, make sure you bring all the necessary equipment. For ideas on fun group activities, check out our blog on ridiculously fun and easy team building activities.

#4: Solar Charger

Camping is the perfect opportunity to unplug and reconnect with nature. However, in today’s high-tech world, gadgets are almost inevitable. Cell phones offer GPS, cameras, and a way to reach help in an emergency. Radios and even lamps are now wireless and portable. But they all need power. A portable solar charger is a great way to harness the sun’s energy to keep your gear juiced and ready to go.

#5: Wireless Speaker

Camping just isn’t the same without music. If you aren’t musically inclined (or don’t want to pack your guitar, banjo, or accordion), a portable speaker can be just the thing to liven up your trip. That said, keep in mind that many people are outside to enjoy the beauty and solitude of nature, and may not be as excited to listen to the new Taylor Swift single as you are. Don’t bring anything too excessive and keep the volume at a neighborly level. Be sure to respect your site’s quiet hours. Your fellow campers will thank you!

#6: Bug Repellent

Camping happens outside. Bugs live outside. You don’t want bugs biting you or buzzing in your ears. If you don’t want to lather up with harsh chemicals launched from aerosol dispensers, consider a more natural repellent, like these 10 natural ingredients that repel mosquitoes.

#7: Hiking Boots

Sandals and sneakers are great, and super comfy, but if you plan on hiking, make sure to bring the right shoes. Especially for rough terrain, you’ll want something sturdy that protects you and offers stability. Something waterproof can go a long way when dealing with rain and streams.

#8: Lightweight Daypack

Odds are that you’ll do some exploring away from the campsite. For those trips, you’ll need a lightweight daypack. Bulky, heavy packs can be a hiker’s worst nightmare, so bring something compact so you can pack the essentials for wherever your adventure takes you.

#9: Chairs and Hammocks

Camping is meant to be restorative, but it’s hard to relax with nowhere to sit. Camping chairs are invaluable for enjoying the fire, eating, fishing, and a multitude of other things. For ultimate relaxation, we recommend bringing a hammock. Nothing will help you relax and enjoy nature more than swaying in the breeze between two trees!

#10: Camera

Most of our phones have great cameras, so you’ll likely have one available. When you’re back home, you’ll be glad to have some pictures to go with your memories. But be careful not to live life through the viewfinder. Snap a picture of that sunset or waterfall, then put the camera away and enjoy the moment.

#11: Trash Containers

At Positive Adventures, we firmly believe in the Leave No Trace principles. These are guidelines meant to help us enjoy nature in a sustainable way that avoids human impact. One of the key principles of Leave No Trace is “Pack it in, pack it out.” If you bring it into the camp, be sure to bring it out. And for the record, yes – that includes your apple cores and banana peels.

#12: Survival Knife

This could probably fall under the “repair kit” section of the 10 essentials, but we thought it deserved the extra emphasis. No matter where you go, a good knife will serve you well. You may need to cut a rope, open a package, or clean a fish. A quality knife is something every camper should have handy.

#13: Critter-Proof Containers

Part of protecting the environment is caring for the creatures that live there. While you may worry about bears or bobcats, the most common invaders are raccoons, which have a knack for finding and opening food packages. There’s nothing worse than waking up to find some raccoons walking off with what’s left of your food. Bring containers that seal and can’t be pried open by the wildlife. These containers will also trap the smell, which is what attracts wildlife in the first place.

#14: Cooler

Coolers are a great way to seal your food and drink safely away from wildlife, but can also keep your items cold. While it’s nice to have cold beer and soda on deck, it’s even more important to keep your perishable food at a safe temperature (more on that below). For longer trips and larger groups, you may want to bring a separate cooler for extra ice.

There are plenty of other things you may choose to bring with you, and that will depend on where you’re going and what you plan to do. But remember: bringing too much can be as bad as not bringing enough. Especially for backcountry camping, everything you bring requires space and energy to move and store it.

What to Leave at Home… Trust us!

In general, you’ll want to pack as lightly as you can, and that means minimizing your list and avoiding excess. As a bonus, here’s 8 things NOT to bring when you go camping:

Camping DON’T #1: Jeans

Jeans and camping just don’t mix. Denim is bulky, stiff, and doesn’t breathe well. Additionally, it can take ages to dry if it gets wet. Instead, try a poly blend that’s lightweight and dries quickly, and pack something with more insulation for colder weather. Also, avoid white clothing, for no reason other than that camping gets dirty, and in no time your clothes will, too.

Camping DON’T #2: Jewelry

Jewelry is a nice fashion accessory, but you don’t need it when you’re camping. It can become tangled in the foliage, and easily broken or lost, littering the site and costing you a pair of earrings. In fact, we recommend not bringing any valuables that you aren’t willing to lose. When it comes to camp fashion, keep it simple.

Camping DON’T #3: Perfumes

Many animals have a keen sense of smell and are attracted to strong odors. Bears in particular have been known to be attracted to strange new smells, like perfumes. You want to connect with nature on your trip, not disrupt it. Leave the CHANEL and Old Spice at home and stick with an unscented deodorant for your trip.

pile of firewoodCamping DON’T #4: Firewood

“Don’t bring firewood?!?” Yep, you heard right. It’s not that you shouldn’t burn wood, but it’s important that you only burn wood that’s indigenous to the habitat. The California Firewood Task Force says, “Our forests are threatened by non-native insects and diseases. Many of these pests can be transported long distances on firewood. Once transported to new areas, these invasive species can become established and kill large numbers of trees and shrubs.” So buy it where you burn it.


Camping DON’T #5: Video Games!!

This especially applies to children and can be hard to enforce where cell phones are abundant. Camping is about connecting with nature, not escaping it. Save the video games for a rainy day at home and find ways to enjoy the habitat you’re in.

Camping DON’T #6: Raw Meat

For many, a camping trip just isn’t the same without grilling up some meat over the fire. Unfortunately, keeping meat at safe temperatures (especially poultry) can be difficult while camping. Unsafe storage can lead to disease and illness, so try precooking your raw foods to heat up later. If you absolutely need to cook up some beef, make sure you cook the raw foods on the first day to avoid spoilage. And don’t forget – this can be a great opportunity to try fun new vegetarian recipes and explore your culinary side!

Camping DON’T #7: Glass

Glass is a big “no-no” when camping. Glass containers are sensitive to rapid temperature changes and can break easily. Broken glass can lead to injury, and is almost impossible to clean up outdoors, leaving hazardous litter behind for the next group.

Camping DON’T #8: A Bad Attitude

Camping should be peaceful, restorative, and FUN! We all have pressures at work and at home but do your best to leave those negative feelings behind and focus on the peace and beauty that our planet has to offer. You’ll enjoy the trip more, and your companions will, too!

We hope this list helps you prepare for an awesome adventure in the great outdoors. These experiences are not only fun, but they encourage teamwork and teach stewardship and responsibility. Want to bring your group on an epic team building adventure? Let us know, and we’ll help you plan the perfect trip!

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