Camping is one of my favourite summer time adventures. With all the noise of daily life, this is the one thing you can do where you get together with friends and family to get away and back to the basics. I first started off as a complete newbie and had to borrow gear from my friends but over the past few years, I’ve accumulated more and more to make camping easier, more comfortable, and more fun.
Here is my list of ten items that I can’t live without when I hang up my frantic digitally charged life and dial down to days revolving around eating, hiking, paddling, reading, and crackling fires.
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I learned very early on that sleeping directly on the ground is not a pleasant experience. 1) The ground is hard (duh) and rocky and 2) The floor gets cold and potentially wet at night. Getting good sleep while out in the wild is absolutely key to having a good time. A groggy and sore back version of you isn’t one you want to unleash while you’re on vacation. That’s why a proper sleeping pad is a must.
The simple sleeping pad is one that is foam mat that is slightly thicker than the run-of-the-mill yoga mat. These provide decent cushioning but they take up a lot of space. There are also air inflatable mats that’s a next step up and I find that these are much more comfortable but they are equally bulky, if not more.
My current sleeping pad is the Therm-A-Rest NeoAir XLite which is probably the most compact and comfortable sleeping pad on the market. The foil used inside traps in radiant heat so the cold ground doesn’t get to you, the ridges and internal structure provide a ton of support, and only weighs 0.77 pounds.
This is more of a luxury item as I typically will just bunch together some clothes to create a make-shift pillow if I’m portaging but if you have the space, I’d recommend bringing a Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow. It rolls up into a decently small package but when open as a full pillow, the small foam chunks inside expand. I’ve never had a bad night’s sleep with this guy.
A theme should be emerging here that I love packable and compressible gear that have a small footprint when not used but expand into something highly useful. Versatile is the word I’m thinking of.
Whether for camping or not, having a solid daypack for your adventuring is key. What I like about this ultralight packable day pack is that it has it’s own built in stuff sack that turns the bag into something only slightly larger than your hand. As a full-on backpack, it’s got the two side mesh pockets for water bottles, a front zippered pocket for small items and the main compartment good for anything from your camera, jacket, snacks, and other essentials.
As much as I like the feel of paper and flipping pages, I hate being inefficient with space and lugging a bulky book around. That’s why I always pack my Kindle Paperwhite with me. I enjoy being in the calm of the wilderness and just pulling out the Kindle from my day pack and catching up on my latest book whether it’s reading The Dance of Dragons of doing a little learning with Made To Stick.
The best part about this Kindle is that it’s back-lit so I can ready at night in the tent if I want. If I’m under the blaring sun, I don’t have any issues reading either. Of course, what makes the Kindle so awesome is that it really is as close as you can get to reading a paper book because the text is easy on the eyes and you don’t get fatigue.
Guilty. I still keep my phone with me. Phone’s are hungry beasts and need energy.
As a result, I make sure I always pack with me the small Anker Astro E1 power bank so I can keep my phone fully charged in case I ever need it (you would never check emails right?) and any other devices I have like the Kindle.
I’ve written about the Keen Newport H2’s before but I have to re-iterate that these are my favourite summertime footwear to bring on any outdoor trip.
I love them because they aren’t afraid to get wet, your feet don’t get hot, the grip on them makes them hiking worthy, and their comfy as hell.
This is a bit of a no brainer but for awhile I had the biggest, and bulkiest sleeping bag ever which made it impossible to use for trips where I needed to be ultralight. Thing is, I couldn’t afford the super high-tech sleeping bags out there that cost hundreds so I perused around Amazon and found this sleeping bag which has lasted me 10 years now.
Sure, the construction could be better but considering that it’s a sleeping bag that is capable of being in 0 degrees C temperatures and compresses down to 12 x 7 x 7 inches where I can easily throw it into my 50L backpack, I call this one a winner.
I kind of geeked out on tents when I was looking to finally get one of my own. While I could’ve gotten one of the bigger tents out there, I was looking for an ultralight that I could take to the backcountry and use for The Narrows in Utah.
After researching to the n-th degree and making numerous trips to my local MEC, I ended up picking the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. The big seller for me was that it was one of the lightest tents on the market at just over 2 pounds and 1 kilo. When packed together, it is almost as light as my sleeping pad which is ridiculous. It defies logic how light it is.
Today, even though I may not need ultralight in all situations especially if it’s a weekend camping trip, I still love using this tent because I can have it set up in a fraction of the time as anyone else and I’ve never had issues with condensation in the morning or handling heavy rain. It’s reliable and rock solid.
My only knock on this tent is that while it is definitely big enough for two (UL2 model), there really isn’t a whole lot of space for anything else. I will typically end up putting my backpack outside under the rainfly and if there are two guys in the tent, you’ll be shoulder to shoulder.
This one’s easy to forget but it’s always good to have one of these to navigate at night. It could be as simple as making your way from your campsite to the comfort station or maybe you’re paddling into your island past sundown, or you’re literally just trying to get things organized at camp in the dark before you call it a night. My current headlamp is the Shining Buddy LED Headlamp.
Why headlamp over a lamp or flashlight? The key is that you can have it on your head, freeing your hands to do whatever it needs to do. With the LED technology that’s out there today, you also get either a very nice spread of light if you need it or you can switch to a very pointed beam of light if you’re looking at something far away.
Look it’s a bear…play dead!
As unusual as this may sound, the Life Straw is a personal water filter that allows you to drink straight out of any water source you find when you’re out in the middle of nowhere. You may not need to use it but if you ever did, you’d have the confidence of drinking from an unknown source and be safe from bacteria and waterborne protozoan parasites.
While this is more of something I use when I’m portaging or hiking through backcountry, it’s nevertheless an essential part of my kit because water is life and I can’t always afford to carry enough water to last a full trip.
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