Things to Bring Camping

Choosing what things to bring camping leads to some tough choices.

No one wants to get out in the backcountry and find that they are missing that one key piece of equipment that would make the difference between life and death. The reality is that for the average backpacker there is no such “silver bullet” that you absolutely must have and cannot be replaced. And at the opposite end of the spectrum there are a lot of things that would be nice to have but there really isn’t anything that you really need to bring.

So we all have to make some tough choices. Though, admittedly, some choices are easier than others.

There are some conveniences that make things easy. For example, a tent or a hammock simplifies setting up for the night. On the other hand, either a tent or a hammock is going to add some real weight to your backpack. And the truth is: they are conveniences.

A couple of years ago I was out with some friends in the mountains. Our first night we slept out in the open in a car campground. It was so pleasant and the weather was supposed to be nice for the next few days. As a result I decided to leave my tent in the car and bring just the groundcloth and my backpack poncho. One of my buddies agreed that I could squeeze into his 1.5 man tent with him if things got ugly.

As it turned out, on our second night in the backcountry it clouded up and started to rain lightly. It was kind of obvious from the darkening clouds that there was going to be more and heavier rain. I decided it was time to try some MacGyver moves.

I found a fallen tree that had some space underneath it. I took the groundcloth and used it to make a lean-to with the tree. I pushed some broken branches through the groundcloth to anchor it on top of the tree and then made it into an “L” shape. I tucked my poncho up and under the groundcloth on top of the tree. The poncho ended up serving as a sort of doorway into my makeshift tree-tent. It rained until about 2am but I stayed dry and warm in my down bag (I was very worried about it getting wet and me freezing).

In the morning I had a sense of pride and accomplishment. All those years of outdoors activities and I had an authentic “experience.” Plus a kinda cool story to tell!

It turns out that even things that seem so very necessary are not absolutely required. You might try going lighter and leaving some stuff behind. Who knows, you might have a real adventure!

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