Good Sam RV Travel Guide & Campground Directory

What to Bring on Your Tenting Trip

By Anne Peterson



"Oh no, I forgot it!" A familiar cry heard from campers throughout the world, striking fear into the hearts of their camp mates. We've all been there at one time or another: the eating utensils have not shown up, the tent poles are unaccounted for, and someone is definitely going to go barefoot on this trip. You suddenly get an ache in the pit of your stomach and the sweats are setting in; definitely not a good start to a camping trip.

How can those awful feelings be avoided? By sitting down about one month beforehand and compiling a long list of necessities. If you start thinking about what you're going to need early, you're giving yourself enough time for things to jump into your mind "at the last minute" before that actual last minute arrives, and you are less likely to forget the forgettable things. The following is a list of a few of the important things that you can't do without, perhaps it will help you when you are taking inventory.

• Tent. This seems obvious, but, believe me, it has been known to get lost in the packing shuffle. Think about what the weather conditions will be like at your campsite; some styles are more suitable for wet weather, and others are better for low temperatures. Talk to the sales associates at your local camping equipment store and tell them your destination, and they can recommend the right tent for your trip.

• Sleeping Bag. Again, bags vary and should be matched to your weather conditions. Anticipate the lowest temperatures you might encounter and go from there. Definitely employ the help of a sales associate with this one; there is nothing worse than being cold at night.

• Sleeping Mat. These come in many different forms, from foam material to air-filled. When it comes to my sleeping hours, I don't fool around; I go straight for the air mattress. There are ones especially made for camping that you simply unroll and they inflate by themselves, which gives you time for other tasks. You don't realize how great these things are until you sleep on one. Just spend a night on rocky terrain and you'll be the first in line at the camping store to get one. And they're great to have around for sunbathing and picnicking.

• Layers, Layers, Layers. This cannot be emphasized enough, especially if you are backpacking. My favorite material for camping is pile synthetic material which "wicks" away moisture from your body, allowing you to stay warm and dry instead of cold and wet. Wool will also do. I always bring one big pile pullover and a vest to allow for varying temperatures. Then I top it off with a thin windbreaker. A couple of pairs of long underwear are invaluable. I prefer Thinsulate, which is also a synthetic material that has the same warming effect as pile. They come in various weights and take up very little room in your backpack. Over those I wear a pair of wind pants, and I'm set to go.

Note: Avoid cotton! This includes jeans, sweaters and socks. Bring along a couple of tee-shirts and shorts, but leave it at that. Cotton retains moisture, and wet or even damp clothes mean cold bodies. And once cotton gets wet, it usually stays that way for a few days. Nothing saps the fun out of camping like wet clothes.

• Foot Gear. Have along a pair of camp shoes, usually sneakers, that are comfortable to just wear around. If you're doing any serious hiking or backpacking, outfit yourself with a good pair of boots. Don't skimp on quality here, especially if you're going to be logging in a lot of miles in them. Again, your sales person is invaluable here. Make sure they are comfortable and fit you correctly. Wear them around the house to be sure of their fit, and if you are unsure at all of their feel, take them back. The tiniest little tight place will probably end up as a huge, painful blister after a few miles, so don't fool around. Thick wool socks are the best for camping and hiking; they keep your feet dry and give some cushion to your boots. If the wool is too itchy, there are sock liners that work great. Again, no cotton socks! Good luck getting them dry if it rains or you have to cross a stream.


• Head Gear. You’ll want a wool cap for those cold nights and a sun hat for hot days. A day's worth of sun really can take its toll, so it's best to have some head protection

• Rain Gear. Get something that is light weight, covers you completely and fits over you when you are wearing all your layers.Get something that is light weight, covers you completely and fits over you when you are wearing all your layers.

• Cooking Tarp. This is especially important if you are camping in bear country, but also comes in handy if you generally want to keep critters out of your sleeping quarters. Cooking under a separate tarp keeps all food scraps and smells away from your main tent so you won't be bothered in the night by hungry friends (besides your tent mates). It also gives shelter to prepare dinner under when it's nasty out, while, at the same time, allowing for ventilation. And if you are camping with a bigger group of people, it gives you a great meeting place even when it's raining.

• Camp Stove. These are surprisingly easy to use and take up very little room. And believe me, they come in very handy when it has rained for two days straight and all the wood in the forest is soaked through, and the troops are clamoring for dinner. You may doubt that anything yummy can be cooked on these tiny stoves, but I have produced pizza, fresh baked bread and blueberry-banana pancakes without too much of a struggle.

• Cooking Gear. You can either bring old pots that you don't care much about anymore, or purchase lightweight ones designed for camping specifically. You don't need very many, I usually bring three pots that nest within each other. You'd be surprised how many one-dish meals you can think of when the pressure is on. Also, include a frying pan and lids for all the pots. Two cooking spoons and a spatula are really all you need for utensils.

• Eating gear. The perfect place setting is a spoon, an insulated mug with a top and a medium-sized Tupperware. That way, your leftovers can be stored in the Tupperware and enjoyed later on the hiking trail without fear of spilling. Note: The cooking and eating gear may seem sparse, and if you plan to barbecue on a grill you will obviously need more equipment. But remember, backpackers, the more you bring, the more you carry, and cooking gear can get very heavy.

• Long Length of Rope. If you're camping in bear country, you'll need to hang your food in dufflebags up a tree. It can also be used for river crossings and hairy ascents or descents, especially when backpacking.

• Pharmaceuticals. This includes band-aids, antiseptic ointment, bun repellent sun screen, hand soap, toothpaste and brushes, gauze, cotton balls, toilet paper, lip balm, ace bandage, aspirin, etc. and any medications normally taken.

• Sun Glasses. Make sure to bring ones that block out UVA and UVB rays, which are very damaging to your eyes. The rule of thumb is: if you are squinting, then your eyes are trying to tell you something. And besides, squinting against the sun all day usually ends up in a pesky headache, and no one wants that. Also, get some croakies to attach to your glasses so they can hang from your neck, and you won't always be fishing for them.

• Extras. Swiss Army knife, bandanna, lighter, pliers, small hatchet, twine, deck of cards and other small games, etc.
This list is just the tip of the iceberg, but maybe it will help you get organized for your next trip. Remember, less is more; you really don't need a teapot, you can boil water in a cooking pot. When you're packing up, think about whether or not you actually need that thing you think you can't do without, and then consider carrying it on your back for several miles a day. That is a sure-fire way to lighten your load. Good luck!

Anne Peterson is a freelance writer from Evanston, Illinois.
Reprinted from Woodall's Monthly Regional RV/Camping Publications.