If you read the NY Times Bestseller Wild by Cheryl Strayed, then you will learn how not to pack as she did for her hike on the Pacific Coast Trail. If you haven’t read it, I would highly recommend this true story of her over 1,000 miles hike by herself to escape the loss of her mother and a broken marriage, all with no wilderness experience whatsoever. I don’t profess to be a wilderness expert although I have done a fair number of wilderness trips of at least one night, and usually more. The trick with overnight backcountry camping is not to take too much while making sure you have what you will need so you don’t get in trouble.
If you are interested in camping on the road, have a look at Shelley’s postas I am all about the backcountry camping gear – although, this gear could serve a dual purpose of road camping too. There are no definitive right or wrong answers on what to take overnight hiking, but you do need to make wise choices. Here are my thoughts, most I hope are blatantly obvious.
1. Tent – I realize putting a tent on the list is really stating the obvious, although I guess you could sleep under the stars assuming you have starry as opposed to rainy nights. For overnight hiking you should plan on a tent that will protect you from the elements and that is small and light so it is easy to carry. Something like the Napier X-Treme Pac Camping Package is a great tent for that and comes as a package deal that is very good value. I wouldn’t necessarily pack the stools that come with it on a backcountry trip, but they certainly can be used for regular campground camping
2. Sleeping bag & pad – Again an obvious necessity that you need to consider two things: weight and temperature rating. Keep it light in weight so you can easily carry it reasonable distances, and make sure the rating will keep you warm depending on the possible overnight temperatures where-ever you are going. For instance, my daughter and I took an overnight hike up into the alpine in mid August, and the weather was beautiful with temperatures around 25-30 degrees at the start but in the alpine it got below freezing over night. The Napier Package above comes with a couple of mummy bags, which are relatively light and rated to -2 degrees, so are pretty good.
For alpine hiking the Rockwater Designs Tundra 2 is a better choice as it is rated to -7 degrees. Unless you are a truly hearty sole, having a pad under your sleeping bag will make your sleep a lot more comfortable. I light thin foam pad is a good choice as is a simple air mattress like the Rockwater Airlift Comfort Mattress – no pump required.
3. Camp stove – A hot meal while camping is heavenly, not to mention the necessary coffee or tea. Depending on where you get your water, you should also really boil it. There are a lot of great very small stoves that pack a lot of heat. I have a SVEA stove (made in Sweden) that is at least 40 years old and it cooks faster than new Coleman road camping stoves that I bought since then.
4. Pots & utensils – You want to minimize these but plates, knife and fork, and cups are essential; but only one of each for each person. I usually take a swiss army knife as well, as they are small and have a lot of optional tools. The Victorinox Camper Swiss Army Knife is a good choice as it has a saw, a couple of blades, screwdrivers, can opener, and the ever-useful cork screw.
5. Stormproof matches – If you’ve watched any episodes of survivor you’ll know fire is an essential comfort in the wild, not to mention handy for cooking. Anything can happen out in the woods, so taking a chance that your matches won’t get wet is not a good idea, so take the time to get stormproof matches. A BIC lighter will work too, but I prefer the UCO Stormproof Matches. To see how amazingly well these work in wind, water, and other conditions have a look at this video.
6. Water – Staying hydrated is more important than staying fed, but carrying enough water can be painfully heavy, especially with all your other gear. When mapping out where you are going figure out some natural water supplies, and take some water purification tablets along. You can always also boil the water, but that means taking more fuel along, whereas each small tablet can purify a full liter of water.
7. Dried Food – There are lots of dried foods that are not disgusting to eat. Everything from dried fruits and nuts, to pasta and eggs. Water is so heavy, that it is easier to pack light and add the water at your destination, after you purify it of course. Dried foods like rice, pasta, soups, eggs can all be spruced up (no pun intended) by adding smoked salmon, sundried tomatoes, jerky, and other simple dried foods that are easy to carry.
8. Bear spray – In the unlikely event you may run into a bear, it is best to be prepared. The thing with the bear spray is to make sure that you don’t bury it in the bottom of your pack. It needs to be quickly accessible if and when you need it. A whistle is a good idea so the bear can hear you coming, as most bears tend are just as afraid of you as you are of them.
9. First aid– Having a kit with some of the basics in it is very wise: bandages, antihistamines, pain killers, mole skin, antibacterial ointment, etc. Don’t be a hypochondriac, but being sensible will keep you prepared while not being overly laden down.
10. Bug dope – At some point in time those nasty insects will likely attempt to make your life miserable so fight back with some repellent. Again, a small item like J.R. Watkins Great Outdoors Insect Repellant Lotion can make a big difference in your comfort level. I like this product because it has a clip you can just attach to the outside of your pack.
So those are my top 10. Of course there are other things you should pack like clothes, a cell phone with GPS is a good idea, and maybe even some small speakers like the iHome Rechargeable Mini Speaker for some entertainment that you can plug into your Smartphone. My advice on clothes is use layers, prepare for being colder than you think, and no cotton – use only synthetics. They are lighter and will dry faster if they get wet.
Summer is around the corner so get ready to enjoy the great outdoors in this fantastic country of ours!