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The 10 Essentials: A Camping Checklist

The 10 Essentials of camping, sounds a little overbearing and unnecessary. I don’t need someone telling me how to camp or hike, and neither do you.

The fact of the matter is that whether you are embarking on a day hike, or plan on spending a week wandering the backcountry the 10 camping essentials is a must have. It is a list that was created to keep you safe, warm, hydrated, and fed in an unforeseen situation.

It is a general set of rules that promote conservation of the environment that we are all lucky enough to own a part of.

10 Camping Essential’s

When you’re packing for a camping trip it’s easy to forget something at home. Here are 10 essential camping items that should always be included in every camping list. Make a list and check it twice.

1. Hydration

Hydration is king, we all strive to be the water champion, unfortunately, Tom Segura owns that moniker.

You can survive 2-3 days without water, and they’re not that many freshwater sources around that you can walk straight up to and drink straight from. It’s nearly impossible to determine what’s upstream from your water source without testing it.

Clean water or a means to clean your water is something part and parcel to any successful outing. It’s not always practical to pack around 7 large bottles, as water weighs around 8 pounds a gallon, no bueno.

Backpackers are commonly exposed to wilderness acquired diarrhea. The source is commonly contaminated drinking water, a food source, or hand to hand transmission.

2. Navigation

Don’t get lost, practice reading a map and using a compass. Not the one on your phone, an old-school magnetic compass that won’t run out of batteries.

Plan ahead and familiarize yourself with the area you are visiting and keep paper maps of where you’re traveling. It’s also nice to have a waterproof tube or container to give you peace of mind that the maps are going to stay dry.

Carry a magnetic compass with you and take a little time to familiarize with how it works if you have never used one before. This may sound trivial, but it isn’t something that you are born knowing how to do so it’s good practice.

GPS should complement, not replace your standard magnetic compass. It visually displays your location, so if you are in inclement weather or take a shortcut and get off track, GPS can be a quick and easy visual solution.

Tools for navigation:

  • Compass
  • Paper maps
  • GPS

3. Nutrition

Running out of food sucks, period.

An injury, getting lost, long detour, or maybe you find an awesome alpine lake and decide to kick back for the day and stay an extra night. There’s a plenty of reasons to pack a little extra.

A good rule of thumb is to always have at least one extra day worth of food on hand. Nothing fancy, just a freeze-dried dinner, nuts, snack bars, a jar of sunflower seed butter, anything to hold you over.

Ideas for quick nutrition:

  • Peanut butter
  • Freeze dried meals
  • Snack bars
  • Rice and lentils

4. First Aid Kit

Don’t break a leg, kid.

You can get pre-packaged first aid kits everywhere. You want to have a way to treat any open wounds that may occur.

Accidents such as cuts, scrapes, and bruises can lead to infection, and an Infection in the backcountry will have severe consequences if left untreated.

Carrying a first aid kit will give you one layer of defense.

Verify that your first aid kit has everything it should and add any necessary medications. The most common accidents are abrasions and sprained ankles.

There are wilderness first-aid courses available in some locations and they are a great way to familiarize yourself with situations you may need first aid in the wilderness. They have classes for the beginner and the intermediate outdoor explorer.

5. Insulation

Layers, layers, layers.

Weather changes rapidly, and you need to be prepared for the worst situation possible. You don’t need to bring a parka in summer, pack your bag with the climate in mind.

In colder climates layers are the jam, as long as you are layered up it’s easier to stay warm unless exposed to extremely severe weather which can lead to the loss of fingers and toes, staying warm is paramount.

Frostbite can lead to losing fingers and toes, staying warm is paramount.

Items to prevent frostbite:

  • Hat
  • Gloves
  • Long underwear
  • Good pair of boots

6. Fire

Fire is primal, and there is something magnetic about a fire that draws people into and stories out.

A fire while camping, hiking or backpacking is something to look forward to, a light at the end of the tunnel. Have a plan, a backup plan and bring a couple different methods to start a fire.

Starting a fire takes a little bit of practice, having a general understanding of the different methods that are possible exponentially increases your chances in a survival situation.

A popular combination on the trail is a mechanical lighter as well as waterproof matches.

Bring a backup to the backup. A means to start a fire saves lives in the backcountry and boosts morale, so it’s critical that you have a couple different ways of starting a fire.

Fire starting essentials:

  • Waterproof matches
  • Bic lighter
  • Fire starter rod

7. Tools

Proper tool for the proper job.

The basic tools can be covered with a decent multi-tool, duct tape, and good twine. These can be used to open cans, help in a first aid situation, repair gear, and dry clothes.

No need to get crazy and start packing ten pounds worth of tools, just a few tools will get you out of most situations. Certain gear sets and sleeping bags come with a repair kit, grab that too.

Essential tools to carry:

  • Multi tool
  • Twine
  • Repair kit
  • Tape

8. Illumination

A little light goes a long way, never run out of batteries.

Take a look at your headlamp and see how long it lasts, this is an easy way to gauge the number of batteries that you will need, and carry extra.

The most convenient type of light is the headlamp. They are hands-free and with LED technology today they last forever and have variety in the range of intensities of light.

When it’s late at night and you have to find something at the bottom of your pack, having the ability to keep your hands free and a light attached to your head is a lifesaver. Fumbling with a flashlight is so 2010.

Lighting essentials:

  • Headlight
  • Lantern
  • Flashlight
  • Spare batteries

9. Sun protection

The sunburn, so enjoyable to get yet so painful to get rid of.

It’s easy to get a sunburn when you’re outside all day long, and a sunburn and backpacking are as complimentary as vodka and milk.

The sunburn, so quick to get, yet so painful to get rid of.

It’s easy to get a sunburn when you’re outside all day long, and a sunburn and backpacking are as complimentary as vodka and milk.

Take measures to avoid sunburns at all costs, applying sunscreen to your entire body a few times a day when you are backpacking is not practical and does get annoying. Light long sleeves and light long pants are a standard attire.

UV protection essentials

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Long sleeves

10. Whistle

Have a whistle to help people find you if you get lost or hurt. This is an essential piece of gear in an emergency situation where you become lost or stumble upon danger.

A whistle is often overlooked, they are small, can be worn around the neck, and are loud and easy to hear.

What Did We Learn?

The 10 camping essentials is a list that was created in the 1930’s with the outdoor adventurer in mind to promote conservation and stewardship of the outdoors.

This list (doesn’t have to be this particular list) has been more or less the same for nearly 100 years and has grown technologically more advanced over time but at its core, the message has remained the same.

The ultimate goal of The Ten Essentials is to cover the basic human need, food, water, and shelter. So be sure to make it a habit of packing each item on this list and always be safe.

Get lost and keep wandering.

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