How to Beat the Heat While Camping This Summer

How to Beat the Heat While Camping This Summer

Warm weather is finally on the way, and you probably can’t wait to get out to the mountains for that summer camping trip you’ve been planning. However, planning for the weather is important when camping in any season, and summer is no different. You might not have sub-zero temperatures to contend with this time around, but how can you stay cool if the weather turns too hot?

We love to camp in all conditions, so we’re here to help you plan a no-sweat summer camping trip. With our advice, you’ll be able to chill out and stay cool no matter how drastically things heat up.

9 Quick Tricks to Cool Off On Your Next Summer Camping Trip

1. Bring a Hammock

We don’t necessarily suggest replacing your tent with a hammock—after all, you’ll be left out in the cold (literally) if the temperature suddenly drops overnight. However, bringing a hammock in addition to your tent can give you a cool and comfy way to rest on hot summer nights when the tent just feels too confined.

2. Remove Your Tent’s Rain Fly

You’ll want to check the weather report for your area before you do this—but if no rain is in the forecast, consider removing the rain fly from the top of your tent. The fly normally traps rising body heat while you sleep to keep it inside the tent, so taking it off lets this heat escape and keeps you cool as a cucumber (if cucumbers went camping).

3. Set Up Your Tent in the Shade

Tents can absorb a lot of heat from direct sunlight, turning your sleeping space into a veritable sauna as soon as the sun comes up. Avoid accidentally cooking yourself by setting up your tent in a shady space. Just remember, the sun changes position in the sky throughout the day—so either find a big patch of shade, or try to predict where the shade will be when you’ll most likely be using your tent and set it up accordingly.

4. Take Your Tent Down During the Day

This might require a bit of extra work on your part, but it’s an excellent way to prevent your tent from soaking up sunlight and storing heat all day. If you’re camping in a particularly warm area, it’s best to store your tent in a cool place throughout the day and set it up fresh each night before you go to sleep.

5. Bring a Battery-Powered Fan

This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but we’re putting it on the list anyway because—well, it’s just a good idea! Few things can cool you off on a hot day as quickly as a refreshing breeze, and when the weather won’t provide one, why not use a device that can make it for you?

6. Drink Plenty of Water

Hydration is essential for regulating body temperature in hot weather, and can also improve your athletic performance. If you’re planning any warm-weather activities during your trip, make sure you have lots of fresh, potable water on hand. We recommend investing in an insulated water bottle that can keep your water cool, too—after all, room-temperature water can kind of make it feel like you’re just drinking sweat, and that’s… gross.

7. Wear Light-Coloured Clothing

You might not remember this from elementary school science classes, but light colours reflect heat from the sun while dark colours absorb it. That means you’re going to be much cooler camping in white garments than black ones (even if black is mysterious and slimming). Maybe leave your band t-shirts and little black dresses at home, no matter how much fun you think it might be to wear them in the woods.

8. Go Soak Your Head (Before Sleeping)

Immersing yourself in cold water is an easy way to lower your internal body temperature before going to bed, which means it will take longer for you to heat up during sleep. Additionally, a soak in cold water may improve your circulation and promote deeper sleep, so consider pitching your tent next to a lake or river if you can find one in your area.

9. Relax Under a Moist Towel

Laying a damp cloth or towel across the back of your neck allows it to suck heat out of your body, cooling you off in the process. If you don’t have a towel (for some reason), you can pull this same trick by wetting your hat—or even your t-shirt!

Make Summer Camping Cool Again

Summer is the most popular camping season for many good reasons—the warm weather encourages plants and animals to thrive, opens up areas that aren’t accessible throughout the rest of the year, and lets you run around without needing to wear a bunch of heavy layers all the time. Just make sure you don’t overheat, and use the suggestions above to find relief from the heat when you need it!

Foraged Food? Learning More About “Living Off the Land”

Foraged Food? Learning More About “Living Off the Land”

With so many public places and businesses closing down or changing hours this year, this summer seems as good a time as any to learn to live off the land. Those of you who really want to rough it might even be interested in foraging for food on your next camping trip. The question is, can you do it safely?

Foraging is something of a lost art these days, but it’s still entirely possible to find food in the wild as long as you have the proper knowledge and a few essential tools. Below, we’ll tell you more about foraging and give you the knowledge you’ll need to get started next time you head out to the woods.

Is it Possible to Forage for Food While Camping?

If you’re reading this article, chances are you’ve seen at least one episode of Survivor or Man vs. Wild. But don’t worry; you won’t have to eat bugs or drink your own urine to survive for a few days in the Canadian wilderness. Camping can be rugged without being… well, gross.

That said, foraging isn’t as easy as just walking into the bushes to pick berries off the nearest tree. You’ll need to know what foods are safe, how to test them, and where to find them.

Finally, remember that while foraging is legal on public land in Canada, you can’t forage on private property without the owner’s permission. You also can’t forage on traditional territories without first obtaining consent from the appropriate First Nations communities.

Eat This, Not That: Safe Foods to Forage for While Camping

Here’s a quick list of safe foods you can commonly find growing in the Canadian wilderness. We can’t guarantee that they’ll all be tasty, but remember: this is what you chose instead of bringing canned food!

Dandelions:

That’s right; these common lawn weeds are actually safe to consume—as long as you prepare them properly and avoid those that have been sprayed with pesticides (shoot for the wild dandelions growing in a remote clearing, not the ones sprouting up next to the campground manager’s office).

Dandelion roots can easily be brewed into a tea, and you can even eat them raw. They’re pretty nutritious, too! Just be aware that dandelions can be risky for people with specific health conditions (such as kidney or gall bladder problems).

Mushrooms:

Morel mushrooms are common throughout most of Canada, and while they might look kind of scary, they’re also quite delicious. However, they’re also elusive, rarely growing in the same spot year after year.

Morels are often used as garnishes in restaurant dishes, but they’re perfectly fine to eat on their own as well. Just sautee them in your campfire skillet with a bit of oil, and enjoy!

Leeks:

Leeks are similar to onions and tend to grow in clusters from late April to mid-May. They tend to grow mostly in forested areas, so you might have to trek a little to find them—but since the entire plant is edible, you’ll be handsomely rewarded if you do.

There’s no great secret to preparing leeks, either—like any leafy green vegetable, they’re pretty versatile. Put them together with those sauteed mushrooms we mentioned and make yourself a nice salad!

Rhubarb:

You won’t have to venture too far off the beaten path to find rhubarb—in fact, you might not even have to leave your vehicle, since it often grows right by the side of the road! Of course, as with dandelions, you’ll want to avoid picking rhubarb from anywhere that’s likely been sprayed with chemicals.

This naturally sweet vegetable is delicious on its own and can be eaten just like celery once you chop the ends off the stalks. But remember not to eat the leaves—they’re actually quite toxic!

How Should You Test Foraged Food?

We have to offer a disclaimer here: there is no universal rule for making sure foraged food is safe, and we’re not legally responsible if you eat something that makes you sick. However, we can offer a few general guidelines for testing your foraged food:

  • Whenever you find a plant you might want to eat, separate it into different parts. Test each piece at a time so that you don’t accidentally eat something you’ve overlooked.
  • Smell each part of the plant. Your sense of smell is a strong indicator of whether food is safe—if it’s too funky, err on the side of caution and stay away!
  • Place a small part of the plant on your exposed skin for a few minutes. If it stings, itches, burns, or causes numbness or a rash, don’t eat it. As my uncle used to say: what ain’t good for your outsides won’t be no better for your insides, neither!
  • Next, prepare the plant the way you’re going to eat it. We often recommend boiling, as this can help sanitize whatever you’ve picked.
  • Before putting the plant in your mouth, touch a small part of it to your lips and wait for 15 minutes. Assuming there are no unpleasant sensations, put it in your mouth and chew it. Then hold it in your mouth for 15 more minutes—but if you experience a bitter or soapy taste, spit it out.
  • After a part of the plant has successfully passed all of the above tests, you can swallow a small piece of it. If a few hours go by and you experience no adverse effects, it’s usually safe to assume that part of the plant is edible.

Signs that Foraged Food is Safe (or Unsafe!)

Here are a few things to keep your eye out for when foraging for edible vegetables:

  • Look for brown or tan gills on mushrooms. Some mushrooms with white gills are incredibly poisonous, including the notorious death cap.
  • Don’t eat mushrooms with scaled caps or spots, as these are more common amongst poisonous varieties.
  • Check under the cap for a second, smaller ring of tissue. If you see one, don’t eat the mushroom. Many toxic mushrooms can be easily identified this way.
  • When foraging for other plants, avoid anything with yellow or white berries.
  • Be cautious of plants with particularly shiny leaves, as these are a feature of many unsafe plants.
  • When looking for wild fruits or berries, it’s best to bring a field guide along. There are so many varieties that you won’t be able to use a simple rule of thumb in every case.

Never Go Hungry in the Woods Again!

Foraging for food in the wild might not make for the most decadent meals, but you can certainly sustain yourself for a few days or more with the right skills and knowledge. Use what you’ve learned here to get started, and remember: if you’re not sure something is safe to eat, it’s best to assume that it isn’t.

The Ultimate Guide to Weathering Spring Camping… Weather

The Ultimate Guide to Weathering Spring Camping… Weather

Spring camping offers incredible experiences—the fresh scent of new flowers blooming, more baby animals to admire (at a safe distance), and way fewer insects to worry about than your typical summer trip. However, spring camping isn’t always guaranteed to be a walk in the park, so you’ll still need to pack and prepare for your trip responsibly.

Below, we’ll cover the environmental conditions you should expect to face when camping in the spring and how to be ready for them. We’ll also include details about the best gear to take on a spring camping trip (and a few tips for setting up your campsite). Read on—adventure awaits!

Spring Camping Weather: What Should You Expect?

It’s tempting to pack for warm conditions when planning a spring camping excursion—after all, spring is when the snow starts melting, right? While that may be true in a general sense, it’s vital to remember that inclement weather still occurs in spring and pack accordingly.

Furthermore, spring is the least predictable season in Canada when it comes to weather, offering much more variety than the others. Our winters are typically harsh, our summers tend to be short and relatively hot, and even autumn is easier to prepare for since people tend to anticipate the gradual onset of cold conditions once summer ends.

What you don’t want to do is anticipate summer conditions while packing for a spring camping trip—or you can easily find yourself at the mercy of unexpected wind, rain, snow, and hail. All it takes is one look at Trip Advisor to find horror stories of underprepared spring campers who were forced to find motels when things got too cold and wet for their light clothing and thin sleeping bags.

See also: 12 Ways to Stay Warm While Camping.

Hot (But Not Too Hot) Weather Tips for Spring Campers

  • The days might be getting warmer, but the nights can still get cold. Stay cozy by packing warm layers and a suitable sleeping bag (more on this later).
  • Many mountain lakes will likely still be frozen until late April, so don’t plan on canoeing. However, you also shouldn’t plan on walking across the ice because it will be in the process of thawing and more likely to break.
  • Canadian springs have more rain, wind, and temperature fluctuations than any other season (unless you happen to be camping in BC’s Lower Mainland during the winter, in which case we’ll just assume freezing rain is something you enjoy). You might be tempted to leave behind your windbreaker, raingear, or waterproof bags, but don’t.

What to Pack for Successful Spring Camping

While we’re on the subject, let’s talk about what to take if you want to make the most of your spring camping experience. The following is a list of items we consider essential for staying safe and comfortable throughout the season:

  • A 3-season sleeping bag is designed to keep the average person warm in temperatures ranging from -15°C to -1°C. Don’t just look for this rating, though—you’ll want to consider other factors as well, including the bag’s fit, features, and insulation type.

Also, make sure to check the forecast for the area where you’ll be camping ahead of time so you can tell whether a 3-season sleeping bag will actually offer enough warmth. Certain regions can drop below -15°C even in the springtime, and it’s best to use a bag rated for a few degrees colder than the conditions in which you plan to sleep. If you’re camping in elevated or remote northern regions, you’ll probably want something warmer.

  • Tents have similar ratings to sleeping bags. A 3-season tent will likely be adequate for spring camping in most regions, but it never hurts to take a 4-season tent just in case. For best results, take the 4-season tent as a backup (you should have a backup tent anyway, just in case the one you’re using becomes damaged during your trip).
  • Appropriate layers are a must for springtime campers since the weather can be so mercurial. Pack moisture-wicking base layers with long sleeves and pant legs, an insulated hoodie or jacket for your mid-layer, and an outer shell that provides high resistance to both wind and rain. If you’re going somewhere colder, put an insulation layer made of down or synthetic material between the mid-layer and the shell as well.

Springtime Campsite Setup Tips

Finally, here are a few key considerations for setting up your campsite during a springtime trip to the woods or mountains:

  • Bring a pad to go between your sleeping bag and the tent floor. The ground is still thawing during springtime, so it will be colder and harder than it would be during the summer.
  • Take along a tarp to shield your tent from rain and provide a covered space for activities such as cooking. It can be hard enough to start a fire outdoors without rain falling on top of it.
  • Consider bringing a portable propane or electric range as a backup cooking solution.
  • Be extra careful when disposing of leftover food and garbage. Baby animals are more likely to be out and about in spring than any other season—and while they can be adorable, you probably don’t want them (or their parents) digging through your campsite for scraps while you sleep.

Master Your Next Spring Camping Trip

Spring can be fantastic for camping—as long as you prepare accordingly. Use what you’ve learned above to pack the right gear, plan for appropriate activities, and optimize your campsite so that you can enjoy all that nature has to offer on your camping trip this season.

The Best Ways to Cook While Camping

The Best Ways to Cook While Camping

When you think about making food on a camping trip, you probably imagine cooking over a roaring fire. While the image of good friends eating hearty food around a firepit is iconic, there are also other ways to cook in the great outdoors — and it pays to know them, in case you can’t build a fire on your next adventure.

For your convenience, we’ve assembled a list of the best ways to cook while camping. This guide will tell you when to use each of these methods and give you helpful advice on how to master them.

Campfires: the Tried & True Method

Campfires are the most popular way to cook in the wilderness, and they’re one of humanity’s oldest methods of meal prep — short of just tearing raw meat off the bone like an animal. We’re guessing you don’t want salmonella, though, so let’s assume that’s not an option.

It’s also important to realize that there are numerous ways to cook with a campfire. You’re not limited to just skewering things and roasting them on the open flames! Moreover, cooking directly over fire can burn your food or cook it unevenly, making some meals unsafe.

Here are a few of our favourite ways to make use of the firepit at your next campground:

  • Bring cast-iron cookware: cast iron is denser than other common metals used in kitchenware. As a result, cast iron pots and pans are better at retaining heat and more likely to distribute it evenly.
  • Use a grill grate: these metal grids can be placed on top of a firepit and used for several purposes. It’s usually possible to cook meat by placing it directly on top since the metal will conduct heat and cook the food more evenly than an open flame. Grates can also support cookware — allowing you to do things like boil water without holding the pot yourself. They are typically made from stainless steel or cast-iron and have an enamel coating.
  • Wrap with aluminum foil: wrapping protein and veggies with foil allows you to place them directly in the coals, resulting in evenly cooked food that you can eat right out of the package. There’s no short supply of recipes that use this method, and foil can be used to line cookware as well.

When Can’t You Use a Campfire to Cook?

There are a few different situations where using a campfire for cooking just isn’t possible. Be aware of them so you can have a few backup plans ready.

Campfire Bans

Most areas don’t allow campfires under certain environmental conditions. Restrictions tend to be most common during dry and windy conditions when forest fire risk is highest. Before setting off on your adventure, it’s always smart to check the list of fire bans for the province where you’ll be camping.

Too Rainy

Even when fires are allowed, sometimes it’s impossible to start one. Rain may extinguish a flame before it can spread from the kindling to the tinder. Damp wood may not even light with fire all around it, so starting a fire in clear conditions can still be difficult if it has rained recently.

The Fire Won’t Grow

Cooking over a bonfire is much easier than cooking over a weak flame. It’s like the difference between a kitchen element set to “high” and one set to “minimum”. If your campfire keeps going out or isn’t getting large enough to cook efficiently, it’s best to explore alternatives — that is, unless you feel like waiting an hour to boil water.

Other Ways to Prepare Meals While Camping

If you can’t use a campfire for cooking, try using some of these methods instead:

Portable Stoves & Grills

Travel-friendly kitchen appliances make it easy to cook without an open flame — just make sure you have enough fuel or a power source nearby. Most portable grills and ranges are either electric or gas-powered, so you may want to pack spare cylinders or a small generator if you plan on using them.

Pre-Cook & Pack Food Before Leaving

Some meals taste better cold, especially if you go camping in warm weather. Try cooking rice or quinoa at home before leaving for your trip, and use it as the base for a filling and nutritious salad.

Eat No-Cook Foods

Some foods don’t need to be cooked at all! Sandwiches, cereal, cold cuts, and canned food are all easy to bring on a camping trip and can be enjoyed with practically no preparation beforehand. However, make sure you store them in a cooler so that their scent won’t attract wild animals.

Many Ways to Cook While Camping

Your campsite may not have all the conveniences of a modern kitchen, but it still offers plenty of ways for you to cook creatively. Campfires are much more versatile than most people think — and when you can’t build one, smart packing and a portable stove will ensure that you have other options.

12 Ways to Stay Warm While Camping

12 Ways to Stay Warm While Camping

When you get cold at home, the solution is normally pretty easy. Just crank up the thermostat, run a warm bath, or throw on one of your many cozy sweaters! But what are you supposed to do when you’re on a camping trip far away from luxuries like central heating, hot water, and a full wardrobe — run laps around the tent? Look, we support exercise as part of a healthy lifestyle, but trust us: there are better ways.

Chilling in the woods shouldn’t mean feeling chilly in the woods. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best tips and tools for keeping warm when you go camping.

See also: The ultimate guide on what to bring camping.

Keeping the Heat On (Yourself)

Before we dive into the list, it’s important to note that not all of these strategies involve creating warmth. Your body does a fair amount of that all by itself — the problems start when this thermal energy is needlessly lost. Some of our suggestions involve making heat with specific tools, but many of them are about helping you trap the heat you naturally produce and keep it in the spaces where it will be most useful to you during cold weather.

It can help to think about insulating yourself in much the same way you would insulate your house. The materials in question may be different, but the end goal is the same: prevent the heat from escaping into the outside air where it can disperse and leave you cold.

And Now: The Top 12 Ways to Keep Warm On Your Next Camping Trip

Without any further ado, here’s our list! Most of these can be accomplished with minimal financial strain, so incorporate as many as you can on your next journey and bask in the feeling of a job well done.

Layer Up Early

If you’re waiting until it gets cold before putting on extra layers, you’re doing it wrong. Layering up keeps heat close to your body, but there’s not much it can do if that heat is already gone. As soon as you notice the weather starting to cool down in the evening, it’s best to throw on a sweater or jacket.

Pack Long Undies

Outerwear will only get you so far without underwear. The layers on the bottom are just as important as those on top, so consider long-johns or leggings made from merino wool or high-quality synthetics. They might look a little goofy, but who cares? They go under the rest of your clothes!

Oh, and one more thing: don’t forget wool socks. Cold feet can be a significant source of heat loss, so keep those toes toasty!

Bring Blankets

We’re going to level with you — we love blankets. Think of them like an extra layer, only more versatile; in addition to covering your body, they can be used to help insulate a tent or provide warmth for a small group of people.

Use the Right Size Tent

We tend to think bigger is better when we’re picking out tents — but that’s not always the case, especially when it comes to staying warm. The extra space inside a giant tent can indeed feel luxurious but remember: that’s also more air in which thermal energy can disperse. A tent with less room will keep any heat in the space more concentrated.

Consider a Tent Carpet

While we’re on the subject of tents, a fitted tent carpet can prevent you from losing heat through your tent’s floor. Don’t feel like buying one? No problem — just bring a throw rug or two from home and put them on top of the groundsheet. You can also spread out styrofoam mats beneath your sleeping bag for a bit of extra insulation (not to mention comfort).

Choose the Right Sleeping Bag

Speaking of sleeping bags, make sure you pack a good one. In general, you’ll want a sleeping bag that fits snugly and can zip up all the way to cover your head (also known as a mummy bag). A cheap sleeping bag or a thin one made only for summer camping will breathe too much, whereas a loose sleeping bag will let too much heat escape from the spaces between your body and the material from which it’s made.

Add a Sleeping Bag Liner

If you only have a summer sleeping bag available, you can improve its heat-retention capabilities by adding a liner to the interior. Silk liners are soft and good at trapping heat, but they can also be fragile. We recommend fleece if you toss and turn a great deal in your sleep.

Sleep with a Hot Water Bottle

Hot water already warms many of our homes, so why shouldn’t you use it to stay warm during a camping trip? As long as you have a hot water bottle that won’t leak and a way to heat water, this is a fantastic way to keep a sleeping bag cozy at night. We recommend warming the water up with a saucepan and portable stove, but you can even use the campfire!

Buy Disposable Heat Packs

Air-activated disposable heat packs are available from many grocery and home improvement stores. Leading brands last for hours and can raise temperatures between 38 and 55 degrees celsius when appropriately used. Many disposable heat packs are meant to be slipped inside gloves while working outside in cold weather, but variations exist for boots and socks.

Sleep Near Other People

You’ve all seen penguins huddle for warmth in nature documentaries, so this suggestion should come as no surprise. Heat naturally flows from hotter objects to cooler ones, so you’ll keep each other warm if you sleep in groups.

Be Active Before Bedtime

A little exercise before tucking in for the night will raise your body temperature, allowing more heat to be captured by your sleeping bag and clothing — as well as any other people who happen to be sleeping near you. Just… try not to sweat too much.

Eat Well & Sleep Full

They don’t call it “burning calories” for nothing, you know. When we eat, our body converts food into energy — and some of that energy gets released as heat while we sleep. The harder our body has to work to metabolize food, the more heat is produced, so fats, carbs, and sugar are your friends here. Who doesn’t need an excuse to eat chocolate before bedtime?

Stay Warm by Staying Smart

You don’t need to break the bank on fancy gear to stay comfortable in a cool campground. We make most of the heat we need all by ourselves — it’s just a matter of ensuring that heat stays close and having easy access to a few external sources. It’s worth investing in a few essential items, but simple household objects can do a lot of the work for you if you know how to use them. Keep this guide as close to you as your favourite pair of long-johns so that you can make sure your next outdoor excursion leaves you with that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Ultimate Guide: What to Bring Camping

Ultimate Guide: What to Bring Camping

When it comes to camping, the gear you take along can make or break the experience. Pack right, and you’ll be ready for any adventure — whether you’re hitting the beach in British Columbia or alpine hiking in Alberta. Forget too many essential items, though, and you could literally find yourself up a creek without a paddle.

Of course, remembering to pack everything you’ll need for your next trip into the wild can be tricky — so we’ve come to the rescue. Behold, our ultimate guide for what to bring along whenever you go camping!

See also: What to bring when camping in the rain.

Don’t Leave Home Without These Essential Items

We’ve split this list up into two different sections. This first one deals with the stuff you absolutely can’t afford to leave behind: things that pertain to safety and physical needs (like eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom). There are some other things you’ll probably want to have on hand as well to make sure your trip stays fun, but we’ll get to that in the next part of the article. For now, consider these items your top priority:

Clothing and Shelter

Sleeping under the stars can be very romantic — but only when it’s a choice. You don’t want to be staring up at the night sky because you forgot your tent. All conscientious campers need to pack weather-appropriate clothing, too. Here’s a checklist that’ll keep you warm and dry on your next trip:

  • A tent: make sure it’s the right size for the number of people in your party, and that it can handle any weather you expect to encounter. If you’re not sure how to choose an appropriate tent, try MEC’s Find Your Tent quiz.
  • Versatile clothing: you probably can’t take your whole wardrobe on a camping trip (unless you have a really big vehicle), so it’s best to opt for clothing that can handle a wide range of temperatures. If you can afford merino wool, it’s always a smart choice for base layers — it’s a warm, lightweight material that breathes easily and insulates even when wet, which makes it perfect for both physical activities and staying cozy in the cold.
  • Rain-proof outerwear: into every life, a little rain must fall… and if it happens while you’re camping, you’d best be prepared! Bring a lightweight waterproof (not water “resistant”) jacket on every camping trip, and consider waterproof bags for any items you want to keep dry.
  • Proper footwear: don’t take those brand new Nike kicks on a muddy mountain trail — you’ll regret it, we promise. When it comes to footwear, remember: function always comes before form. Look for durable, weatherproof shoes with excellent traction and good support so that you can scamper up slopes and abscond from animals if you need to beat a hasty retreat.

Food and Cooking Supplies

Food is just as important as shelter, so be sure to consider your consumable goods when planning your journey and save room for the following:

  • Firestarters and tools: you’ll probably want to start a fire at some point during the trip, so make sure you bring a means to do so. Matches are the most basic tool for this task, but you can also bring flint and steel or a cigarette lighter. Magnesium firestarters exist too — but make sure that if your firestarter needs fuel you check it before leaving. It’s also a good idea to bring a backup, just in case your first one gets ruined or fails. Don’t forget to bring a sturdy and good quality axe for your wood cutting needs.
  • Cooking appliances: building a fire isn’t the only way to prepare food in the wilderness. Portable ranges and hot plates are an option too — as long as you have extra propane tanks or a source of electricity nearby.
  • Dry and/or canned goods: as a general rule, you don’t want to bring delicate things camping. When it comes to food, that’s especially true — if it can easily be crushed or spilled, leave it at home. Dry goods like jerky, granola, and nuts are your best friends here, along with canned protein and vegetables. Oh, and if you’re building a fire, don’t forget the ingredients for s’mores!
  • Canteens and water filters: eating is important, but so is drinking — and your body can go longer without food than it can without water. The best move is to fill your canteens with fresh water before you leave so that you won’t have to purify it in the wild, but if you run out it’s good to have filters or purification tablets at the ready.
  • Garbage bags: whatever you pack in, you must pack out. Respecting the environment you’re in means it’ll be waiting for you when you come back!

Personal Hygiene Products

We’re not saying you should be scared of a little grime, but there’s also no point in getting filthier than necessary. How do you use the bathroom when there’s no bathroom in sight? Start by bringing these:

  • Toilet paper: no, you can’t just use leaves. Don’t believe us? Try it at home first, and let us know how it goes — we’ll wait. You can also purchase AMAZING biodegradable wipes that are good for a mini-bath and TP. Great for your bottom and the environment.
  • Soap: germs travel the same way in nature as they do in towns and cities. Soap and hand sanitizer will prevent you from contaminating your food, spreading illness, and smelling bad.
  • Toothbrushes and toothpaste: bad breath can ruin anything, even the unparalleled majesty of nature. Why risk it?

Emergency Equipment

Expect the unexpected when you venture into nature. Taking these items along will help protect you from the scary stuff:

  • A pocket knife: need to make kindling from a branch? Sharpen a stick to use as a replacement tent-peg? Open a can? Screw an appliance back together? Hunt a small animal? A good utility knife can do all that, and more. Don’t leave home without it.
  • Maps, compasses, or GPS systems: don’t count on Google Maps when you’re out in areas with patchy service. Make sure you’re taking along something that can tell you where you are if you get lost.
  • Flashlights and headlamps: fire is bright, but it sure doesn’t travel easily (especially in a forest). Taking along a portable light source will help you find your way in the dark, whether you’re making your way back to camp from a hike or going to the bathroom in the middle of the night.
  • Bear spray: better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. ‘Nuff said. While we are at it, don’t forget the bug spray.

Don’t Forget the Fun Stuff

We’ve covered the really important things, but if you want to enjoy your camping trip to the fullest possible extent then you might want to save room for a few of these creature comforts:

  • Sporting equipment: if you’re going camping in an area that lends itself to certain activities, make sure to pack the appropriate gear — inflatable rafts and swimsuits for campgrounds near water, cross-country skis and poles for winter camping in snowy woods, etc.
  • Toys and games: there’s often as much fun to be had in the tent as there is on the trail. Packing a deck of cards and some board games can be a great way to stay entertained when the weather gets rough, and a stuffed animal or two can keep a toddler from getting scared at night when you’re camping as a family.
  • Books: it’s so hard to find time to read these days. Why not take advantage of the solitude that nature offers? A thick volume or two can help pass the time when it’s raining, and it feels very rugged to sit on top of a mountain and read Hemmingway. Trust us.

Respect Nature and Nature Will Respect You

People who prepare for their camping trips normally have a blast. If you pack the right items, you’ll spend the entire experience warm, well-fed, and well-protected. Refer to this list often as you’re packing for your next excursion, so that you and your party can face the elements with confidence.