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1st Time Campers- Camping Equipment checklist and some helpful Tips & Tricks


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Michael aka Mac

Whether you are new to camping or just coming back to the great outdoors after a long hiatus, this thread will assist you on what to bring on your adventure.

You are probably wondering where does one even begin when 1st buying camping gear.  Well, I always start with the clothes on my back.  Camping clothing is unique when compared to ones daily wardrobe.  The materials one chooses for outdoor clothing is extremely important.  An experienced outdoorsman will not have any articles of clothing that is made out of cotton for example. What one is looking for in outdoor clothing is a moisture wicking breathable fabric.  This is so ones own sweat does not stay near the skin, but rather wicks away from layer to layer to keep you dry.

We use layering of clothing,   Base layer,  Insulating layer, and an outer shell:  

Base Layer:  This layer is against your skin. The wicking material is breathable and comes in 3 different weights/warmth  Lightweight, Midweight and Heavyweight.

Insulating Layer: This is your main insulation to keep you warm.  This layer should be able to wick moisture and be breathable and should have ventilation zippers to prevent you from overheating and sweating.  Examples of insulating layers are wool, fleece, synthetic, & down jackets and sweaters.

Outer shell: The last layer of your system which should be waterproof & windproof with a hoodie, ventilation zippers and yet a breathable material.

Why start with clothing?   Well, since all of your gear will be either in or connected to your backpack, and since your backpack is going to be over your jacket and strapped around your waist, you want to make sure that backpack straps will fit around you fully clothed with all your layers on. So having the actual layering setup prior to getting your backpack is essential.

So you are now probably thinking that your backpack is the next gear piece to get right?  Actually  no, that will be the last gear piece that you buy  as you wont know what size pack to get until after you have all your gear purchased.  Tents, stoves, sleeping bags, and mattress pads come in a variety of different sizes and weights. The lighter and more compact these are the more expensive they are.

  Although it is most recommended  to get the lightest and most compact gear at the get go, ( over the years I have replaced my gear with more compact and lighter versions until I reached ultralight gear, but in doing so I have spent a fortune which could have been avoided if I bought the ultralight compact gear in the very beginning),  the fact that we are still in a pandemic and the fast rise of inflation, and with money being tight for so many, buying the top end ultralightweight gear is beyond the means of so many individuals.

Before we begin  a look at your backpacks  Base Weight:  The Base Weight of your backpack is the weight of your pack fully loaded without food, water and fuel. It is suggested that one carry no more then 10% of a persons body weight for the Base Weight of your pack. This may be confusing as this 10% of body weight is based upon the average persons weight. In the USA the average male weighs approximately 197 lbs. So a person that weighs 197 lbs. should have a backpack just shy of 20 lbs.  For those that weigh more then 197 lbs. I suggest to still use the average persons weight for your pack and not your actual weight. For those that weigh less then 197 lbs. use your actual weight multiplied by 10 %.

Tents:  there are countless tents out there in the market so I am going to give a brief explanation of the different types of tents.

Tents come in a variety of different sizes and weights and person capacities. There are 1, 2, 3 & 4 season tents to accommodate all of the 4 seasons. There are solo tents . 2 person tents, 3-4 persons, and so forth.  Some tents are made for backpacking, these are lighter and more compact to allow you to fit them in or on your backpack. There are tents for campsite camping which tend to be significantly more heavy and bulkier.

Which ever tent you decide to buy the first thing you should do prior to going out on your adventure is to setup the tent in your backyard.  There is nothing worse then being at your campsite and to have bad weather fall upon you as you're painfully trying to put up your tent for the past hour while your instruction manual says it takes only 5-10 minutes to setup. That setup time refers to the time it takes a person that has setup the tent before, and not the setup time it takes a beginner or 1st time owner of said tent.

Stoves: Stoves tend to be a personal purchase for us.  Which stove to get depends on many factors: How many people you are cooking for, are you backpacking or campsite camping, are you going to be cooking fresh meals or just boiling water for dehydrated premade meals, are you going to be in extreme cold or windy locations, and lets not forget to mention the cost of fuel.

There are many types of stoves out there using an array of fuel sources. For campsite camping there are propane stoves, and liquid fuel multi-burner stoves, folding/collapsible wood burning stoves, and even solar cookers.  Campsite stoves tend to be much bulkier and heavier then backpacking stoves are. The advantage of these stoves is that one can cook an entire meal much quicker and for more people, and often much cheaper then some backpacking stoves fuel wise.

There are stoves that are primarily used to boil water like the Jetboil, and the Ezbit solid fuel stoves. These stoves are generally lightweight but are not intended to cook fresh meals due to a combination of either fuel burning length of time, heat distribution, and size.

Last there are the backpacking stoves  which are designed to be used to cook actual fresh meals that are liquid fuel based .  Let me stop and say that some backpacking stoves like the  Ezbit and Jetboil, though meant for backpacking, but are not meant for anything but boiling water, so make sure you get the right type of backpacking stove, one to boil water or to cook fresh meals from scratch.

Sleeping Bags:  I know what most of you are thinking right now,  get bag that can handle the coldest of environments so all you need to buy is a single sleeping bag. OMG  I wish that was the case, but in reality, a sleeping bag rated for a much lower temperature is not only going to make you miserable but you are going to wake up drenched in sweat.  On the flip side, one can put a fleece sleeping bag liner inside a 45 degree sleeping bag and change the rating form 45 degrees to 35-40 degrees rating, and for even colder nights  add a sleeping bag cover or bivy for even more insulation.

Synthetic or down.  One of the huge advantages of Down bags is that they are ultralightweight and extremely warm, while a huge disadvantage is that they lose their loft and warmth when wet, not to mention they usually cost a fortune compared to a much much heavier synthetic bag. Down sleeping bags are very problematic for very humid and wet conditions, which is why synthetic bags are sought after in these conditions.

Mess Kits and cookware: This is another example of personal preference. Are you just boiling water, or are you going to be cooking a meal from scratch. Is it just cooking for 1 person, 1-2 people, or your whole family. Are you just cooking one meal or side dishes,  coffee too?  What is most important to you? Do you have to have that coffee made in a French-Press or a percolator, or are you a tea person.  

Personally I love to cook and enjoy having a variety of small side dishes to accompany the main course, while having either a hot cup of coffee or hot chocolate after I have eaten. 

For those of you that are like myself and enjoy cooking actual homemade meals in the outdoors, this may be one of those gear items  that you invest some money in.  By doing so,  you insure to get the size pots and pans that you need but at a dramatically reduced weight to insure that you hit the Base Weight of your backpack. Materials such as cast iron or stainless steel are wonderful for campsite camping but for backpacking one just cannot justify the weight of them in your pack.

For those only use dehydrated premade foods, your mess kits will be simplified and ultralight in comparison. I have used my canteen kit for situations like these accompanied with my ultralightweight Ezbit stove.  My canteen kit comes with a carrying case, canteen, canteen cup & lid. The entire setup is made from Aluminum thus lightweight and I can even Boil water in the canteen itself (unlike GI issue canteens which are made of a type of plastic) while I boil water in the canteen cup for coffee. As a reminder whether boiling water in a canteen cup or a pot, having a lid over it will boil water 25% faster, saving not only time but fuel.

Water storage / Hydration pack:  When talking about base weight you are not including the weight of water but nevertheless you got to drink. The amount of water one needs depends on elevation, temperature, and how active you are.  Under normal conditions men need about 3.7 liters a day (15.5 cups) while women need about 2.7 liters a day (11.5 cups). These numbers increase with regard to temperature and how active you are.

For a campsite there are collapsible water containers that can hold several gallons of water, and there are water containers that kind of look like a container you would put gasoline in ( caution  NEVER use a water container for holding gasoline. Not only are they not static free designed, but they can leak gas fumes  and it is the fumes of gasoline that ignite vs the gasoline itself) 

For backpacking, most people use either hydration bladders or  packs, canteens, or for those that are near rivers, streams and lakes, a combination of a water filtration device and a Nalgene  Wide Mouth Round Container.  The size of your water storage container depends on how long you are going to be away, how many people, and outside temperature. Long distance Hikers tend to use either hydration packs or a combo of that and a water filtration device. This is due to trying to reduce overall weight that they carry.

For day trips i tend to use canteens, and for longer trips a hydration pack.  For summertime, for short trips, I use a hydration pack which comes with a hydration bladder and a low volume built in backpack (one piece setup hydration system and bag)

Camping Checklist

Tent & tent stakes

Sleeping bag

Self-inflating mattress pad or just a sleeping pad (get insulated versions for winter camping)

Stove

Mess Kit & cookware

Items to bring for making fire:  Waterproof matches, Bic Lighter, Ferro Rod & striker, Magnesium Fire Starter, charred cloth, Fat wood sticks.

Knife: preferably fixed blade  ( call the police precinct in the area you are traveling to for knife restrictions of blade length, type of knife )               

 ( I personally use either my Ka-Bar BK2 , Tops Mil Spie 3, Boker Magnum lil giant, Schrade SCH57, ORELA , Condor Rodan, or my Oerla knife )

Multi-tool: Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife..  ( I personally use the Victorinox Swiss Champion Swiss Army Knife)

Compas

Map

Cordage: I prefer 550 + paracord

Headlamp

Flashlight

Extra batteries

First Aid Kit

SaS  Survival Handbook ( the one that fits in your hand/palm)

Sewing kit

1 Lawn Size garbage bag

Water filtration device

Hydration pack or canteens

Bandana : can be used to filter out dirty heavy sediment water, head cover, tourniquet, wet compress, towel, or god forbid as a handkerchief/ TP 

Duct tape ( several feet wrapped around something )

Hygiene :  TP, soap, moist towelettes, travel size toothbrush & paste, hand sanitizer, camp towel (like the Coleman camp towel)

Medications

Cell phone and or GPS

Carabiners

spare clothing ( underwear and socks too)

Tent protection mat

Pocket chain saw or wire saw

Glow sticks

Deck of cards

Waterproof paper and pen

Tent repair kit

Tea candles ( 3-4)

I even bring waterproof kayaking shoes  (lightweight, inexpensive and u can use these if you have to walk in streams to get to your destination)

Emergency whistle (smaller and loud is best)

Rain Gear

Waterproof backpack cover

Water purification tabs

Now  that you have all of this  you need to find a backpack that can hold it all.  There are  external and internal frames -external  being able to attach additional things to the frame and also slightly heavier,  while internal is less likely to have your pack getting caught on stuff while hiking through dense areas.  

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