Date Published: 2015-08-31

What To Pack When You Camp


By Adelia Ladson

I have to laugh when I hear the word “glamping” because, for me, the whole point is to be out in nature and to focus on the simple things in life. I go hiking and camping to get away from the complexities of my day-to-day grind and remind myself that joy can be found in simplicity. I find it hard to believe that you can fully appreciate an outdoor experience if you are working so hard to make sure you have all the amenities of home. You might as well just stay in a nice hotel and skip camping altogether.

There are basic necessities that you must have when you’re camping and, then, there are the items that you want to bring but don’t actually need. When I’m planning a weekend camping trip, I make two lists – necessity and luxury. And, yes, I admit that I do have to move an item from the necessity list to the luxury list when I take a second and third look. My wants and needs get confused sometimes. Do I really need my iPad? Do I really need my battery-powered coffee mug? No and no!

M48 Backpack Get everything you need in an M48 Backpack.
M48 BackpackGet everything you need in an M48 Backpack.
I like to hike a little ways in to my campsite, and leave my car completely behind. Personally, I just don’t feel like I’m camping if I can see my car. I want to at least feel like I’m totally alone in the wilderness and not at a designated camping ground. So, that being said, it’s whatever I can carry on my back without passing out before I get to my campsite. It’s said by experts that a person should be able to carry about 25% of their weight comfortably while hiking. So, with this in mind, since everything on my necessity list has to be packed, each luxury item get judged by whether I want to carry its weight or not. Sometimes, depending on my physical fitness level, it’s whether I feel that I can carry its weight.

So here are my list of items for a three-day camping excursion. They all get packed into one backpack or attached to it. I try to keep it simple and easy to manage. I use the M48 Ops Gear Backpack because it’s comfortable to wear with padded shoulder straps and back panel. It also has a waist strap for extra support, which can really make a difference to me after my first three miles because I’m not really a hardcore hiker at all. The other thing I like is that it has three detachable pockets and MOLLE webbing.

The first thing I pack is an 8 x 10 tarp and that goes at the very bottom of my pack. I just like the idea of having an extra layer of waterproof material between the stuff on the inside and the outside for when I sit my pack on the ground. Having a tarp is important just in case it rains because it will provide that extra cover over your tent. Then, in goes my sleeping bag, which is a Snugpak Elite. It’s compact and doesn’t take up a lot of space but is still rated at 45 to 36 F. I’m just not planning on camping in the dead of winter so that’ good enough for me. After careful consideration and experience without it, I did deem my Compact Trekker Mat as a necessity, so that goes next. Then, I drop in a First Aid Kit and mines is the Elite Platoon because it’s compact and does have MOLLE straps so that I have the option of attaching it to my pack if I want.

Stove and Cookset This self-contained stove fits neatly in a backpack.
Stove and CooksetThis self-contained stove fits neatly in a backpack.
Food and water are the next things to go into my backpack. I usually camp at a campground where there is a water spigot at the campsite but I still like to filter and purify it coming out of the spigot. So, I take two Sawyer Water Filtration Bottles with me. When both of them are full, they provide two liters of safe, clean drinking water. One of them will be attached to the outside of my pack for when I’m getting to my campsite. As far as food goes, since it’s just me, I’m not planning on cooking anything spectacular. I just want a simple, easy to fix meal with the least amount of clean-up. And the best that I’ve found are the Mountain House food pouches. They come in a variety of entrees for breakfast, lunch and supper and you just add boiling water. One pouch actually has two servings, so, it’s good for when you’re camping with someone, too. You can eat out of the pouch but I do bring along my Camp Dining Set because I find it more appealing to eat out of. But it can be left at home if it has to be. To heat up my water for my meals or coffee (As good of instant coffee as I can find in the grocery store.) in the morning, I bring along my little Esbit Solid Fuel Stove and Cook Set. It’s a compact, self-contained cooking system that will heat about 2 ½ cups of water, plus, it has a wind deflector. I bring two 12-packs of the Esbit Solid Fuel Cube to go with. I like to make sure I’m not going to run out.Another thing I do pack is an Inflatable Sink. It's super compact so it will fit in any of your pack's pockets and it just makes clean-up so much easier. By the way, I'm talking about cleaning up me. I put it with my wash cloth and bar of soap and a very small container of dish soap, which is supposed to be good for poison ivy.

The tools that I bring with me can be packed wherever they will fit in the many pockets of my pack. I always bring my Zippo Lighter (Hello, windproof flame!) and a just in case Magnesium Fire Starter because you never know … Having a way to make fire when you’re camping is a necessity and I never leave anything to chance. The next important tools, after my fires starters, is my Gerber Multi-tool and my Jungle Survival Knife. My knife has a sawback blade and a leather sheath, which I can attach to the outside of my backpack with no problem. I also like to bring the Multi-Purpose Folding Shovel because it has a shovel head, axe head, wood saw and knife blade in one, compact tool. It only weighs about two pounds and is worth every ounce of it. The last important tool that I pack is a bundle of 50 feet of Paracord because it’s pretty handy stuff to have.

Now, I want to have plenty of light at night, so, I bring two One Watt LED Light Bulbs with carabineers to hang up in my tent or wherever I need them to hang. Plus, I have an LED Headlamp for when I have to go in the middle of the night. You want plenty of light and you want it to be hands-free at that moment. Both of these run on AAA batteries, so, I make sure that I bring plenty of them.

Of course, depending on the time of year and my planned activities, what I clothes I bring changes. But I stick to three pairs of underwear, three pairs of socks, three t-shirts, a Rain Poncho and a long-sleeved flannel shirt (Fall and Spring) as my base. Then, I either bring another pair of jeans or two pairs of shorts, depending on the season. If it warrants, I may also throw in a bathing suit. This, along with what I’m wearing on the first day, should be quite enough. It’s not a fashion show.

Snugpak Tent The Snugpak One Man Tent is compact but roomy.
Snugpak TentThe Snugpak One Man Tent is compact but roomy.
I pack a few other items pertaining to toiletries (wash cloth, towel, toothbrush, etc.) and some snacks in the form of granola-like bars and dried fruit or nuts. I also, if I feel that I have room, pack my Camp Pillow but it, also, can stay at home if it has to. I usually pack a book to read and a deck of playing cards (I find Solitaire relaxing) and I always pack my journal to write in. I try to keep thing simple, so, my phone is the only electronic item I will bring and I turn it off to save the battery. I want to be off-the-grid for a couple of days.

Last of all, I have my Snugpak One Man Tent and that attaches to the bottom of my pack. It’s designed for extreme conditions and inclement weather, so, I feel pretty good in it. I don’t really need a lot of room and what I like most is that it’s compact, and comfortable to carry.

Oh, one more thing. I also bring my pair of Humvee Compact Binoculars and I sling them around my neck when I’m hiking to my campsite because it’s all about the journey and what I might see on the way. Granted, sometimes it’s just other campers schlepping their stuff to their campsites but … you never know.



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