You never know how simple items make life easier until you don’t have them. Nowhere will you find out how reliant you are on creature comforts than when you are in the woods, on a mountain or in a desert without toilet paper, a knife, a flashlight or a chair. Make sure you have the basic items you will need to survive and thrive during your camping by planning well in advance.
Don’t wait until the day before your camping trip to start packing
Your Shelter Options
Whether you will be sleeping in a camper, car, tent or under the stars, you’ll want to analyze your shelter situation. Inclement weather and bugs are two key considerations. Make sure all vehicles and tents have proper ventilation. Set up tents and tarps prior to your trip and spend time in them to gauge ventilation. Run a hose over them to check for leaks. Make sure you consider flooring to minimize pest issues. Bring extra rope, stakes, poles or other items needed to keep your structure standing in the event you break or lose items.
You’ll want to be prepared to treat injuries and conditions, as well as evacuate injured or ill campers. In addition to a comprehensive first-aid kit, you’ll want some form of redundant communication with the outside world, via a cell phone or phones, short-wave radio or walkie-talkies. If you are visiting a managed campsite, make sure you have 24-hour emergency numbers for the ranger shack, lodge or other help, as well as phone numbers and driving directions to nearby hospitals and clinics.
The Right Types of Food
Plan your meals in advance, remembering that outdoor activities may increase appetites. Depending on how long you will be staying, bringing fresh food may not be an option, based on storage and refrigeration limitations. Consider freeze-dried and powdered foods and drinks to save on space and provide the nutrients you need. Use food containers such as metal and plastic coolers that, when closed, will prevent aromas from escaping that will attract hungry predators and scavengers. Consider how and where you will dispose of food wrappers, bones and scraps, since your garbage bag is a raccoon or bear’s tempting pinata.
Appropriate Cooking Equipment
Create a list of items you will need to prepare each meal, including a can opener, pots and pans, serving plates and utensils and dishwashing supplies. If you are using a grill, make sure it works and is clean prior to your trip. Make sure you have plenty of charcoal or a full propane tank. If you will be cooking with fire, make sure you have multiple fire-starting implements and keep them separate. Consider how you will place pots and pans on a fire and how you will remove them.
Personal Care Needs
Check your bathroom prior to leaving and make sure you bring the basics on your trip. If you are going with friends, consider that they may not prepare as well as you and might ask to borrow shampoo, toilet paper, deodorant, toothpaste or other items.
The Right Bedding
Your bedding needs will depend on where you are sleeping. Tent campers may want an air mattress to deal with hard ground. Sleeping bags that have been rolled up and stored in the basement or garage for months may be musty and have leaves, dirt, dead bugs or other debris from their previous use. Unroll them, inspect them and air them out or wash them before your trip. Avoid having to sleep with fewer pillows or blankets than you like by bringing extras for others who may forget theirs.