Whether you are planning your next outdoor adventure to a National Park, National Monument, heading to one of our beautiful National Forests, staying local to enjoy one of your State Parks, or any other park, it's wise to be prepared with the right gear.
If you are planning a camping trip, are you going to be car camping or backpacking? When is the last time you have checked your gear to make sure it's still intact? Unfortunate things can happen to your tents, backpacks, stoves and sleeping bags while they are being stored or even when you have packed them back up from your last vacation. Before any trip, plan ahead by checking all your gear long before you take your trip just in case anything needs to be replaced. It's not fun getting out in the middle of nowhere and you realize your tent is now your sleeping bag because of the gigantic tear you didn't notice because you hadn't inspected it before packing the car.
Car camping and backpacking are two very different experiences. Naturally you can use a lot of your backpacking gear in a standard campground but think twice if you are going to try your hand at backpacking but only have car camping equipment that you somehow managed to stuff in any ole' backpack you found in the basement. Your back and your feet will never forgive you. You need to plan to be much lighter to travel longer distances so backpacking equipment is essential to making your first experience an enjoyable one. If you are car camping, you have a lot more flexibility with what you bring. Some might think you are limited only by your car space, while others still like to keep a light and simple car camping vacation. Sometimes I keep it simple just for the sake of quick and easier clean up. Sometimes, I aim more for comfort with items like cots rather than sleeping pads. I've even been known to shove an old mattress in the car but that's a whole other story. I was really not in the mood for roughing it on that trip. The other nearby campers were entertained at least watching me unpack my car. That was a day I forgot something slightly more important which I mention later in this article.
Camping Tent choices are aplenty! From 3 Season Tents, 4 Season Tents, Family Camping Tents to Solo Tents and Bivy's. Major brands from The North Face, Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, MSR, Black Diamond, Sierra Designs just to name a few. Tents come with different features. Maybe you don't want to leave your shoes outside but they aren't quite welcome in your cozy space, choose a tent with a cover that extends for your smelly shoes. Or maybe get a Vestibule as an accessory! You might also want to consider lofts to keep those little items out of your way when you are trying to crawl out in the wee hours of the morning. Nothing more frustrating than stepping on your toothpaste when you haven't had your coffee yet. Whatever your planning, these major brands have thought of just about anything to help make your camping or backpacking adventure just right.
Another thing you might want to consider if you are going somewhere that can be buggy, like Arches National Park, would be a screen room/house. Might sound a little excessive but I assure you, it can make for a much more pleasant evening hanging out chatting with your friends about the days hiking adventure without being eaten alive. I've done it, and I'll do it again when I go to Arches for camping.
You can make your life even more cozy by bringing along camping furniture. For backpacking, roughing it all the way (as long as it's light) is the way to go for me. However, when car camping, why not have a chair you can actually sit on for longer than 10 minutes. Those picnic benches just don't cut it after a while and getting sore before you even climb into your sleeping bag just isn't fun or worth it.
Without a sleeping bag, you might as well just go home. For those of you saying, "well duh, who'd forget THAT", keep in mind that when packing for your trip, it IS possible to forget the silliest of things. One year I brought canned food to heat up on the stove for dinner. I was relying on that food after a long day hike. No, I didn't forget the stove, I forgot the can opener. I remembered the mattress though! Luckily one of the neighboring campers was amused enough about my mattress but lack of can opener that he let me borrow one. Hey, it happens. Someone out there has forgot their sleeping bag. They might not admit it, but it's happened.
Sleeping bags, like tents come in different shapes, sizes and even different degrees of warmth. If you never plan on camping in very cold temperatures, then don't over do it with a 0 to -40 degree bag. You will be just miserable at night when it's plus 40. Many of the major brands mention that make tents also make the sleeping bags. Make the logical choice according what you are planning on doing as regards to your camping style. If you are going to pack it up into a backpack sometimes but plan on car camping as well from time to time, keep the price down by buying one good lightweight sleeping bag and use it for both. There really isn't any need to purchase more than one unless you think you will be dipping into some very cold temperatures.
While we all know I have managed to forget that can opener, cookware is a real handy piece of equipment to have with you. Spoons, forks, knives that can be more easily stored for when you are not camping or even when you need to carry it along in your backpack. The same goes for those pots and pans, plates, bowls and whatever else you feel you will need to carry or use at your campground. When backpacking, rule of thumb, keep it light. So again, if you plan on doing both types of camping, plan for the backpacking adventure more and then use that for car camping. You can always add other items like chairs and whatnot if need be for the car camping.
Ahh, food. This is the one thing you really don't want to forget. If you forget your sleeping bag or your tent, you'll be sad. If you forget your food, you'll be weak. Weak and tired is not good. Makes for a sloppy hiker.
While I don't think most camping food that is packages is terribly tasty, it does the job. I might just not have found the right one for me, but having food with the nutrients you need is what is most important. You can get anything from beef entrees, chicken entrees, breakfast foods, side dishes and desserts, soups and vegetarian entrees and more! There are plenty of choices but one thing I do suggest, buy a few different types ahead of time, try them at home to test them out. While I realize that when out hiking, often ANYTHING tastes good when you are hungry, but knowing ahead of time is much better. It's also better to find out if your tummy might not agree with that flavor at home rather than out hiking.
Although I have left this one to last, it's not any less important than any other topic. In fact, this one is incredibly important to protect your health. Water filters... If you plan on spending time in the great outdoors, away from water sources, a water filter is an absolute must. Don't drink untreated water! You can get very sick. You need to make sure you drink plenty of water during a hike so be prepared on this one.
So whatever you are planning, there are so many choices of products that can help make any camping or backpacking experience an enjoyable one. One thing I do know, I like to be prepared for any type of camping experience I am aiming for. Check out our Outdoor Gear Store so you can explore what items you might need to carry with you on your next camping or backpacking adventure. There are many items I have not even mentioned that should be considered so take a peek around!