Any time you go multiday hiking or camping, you want to be conscious of the weight and bulk of your pack. Nearly everything in your pack should have as many uses as possible to avoid unnecessary weight or used space. These 11 essentials will get you started on the right track to your perfect camp pack.
Tent: This one is a no-brainer, right? A tent is the most essential item when camping or hiking. It provides shelter, protection from the elements, and a certain level of comfort. Depending on the conditions you’ll be roughing it in, perhaps you’ll want to sleep under the stars for a more natural experience. Even if that’s your plan, it isn’t a bad idea to bring a tent just in case of a thunderstorm or other unforeseen game changer.
Fire: Maybe you’re a seasoned professional planning to go for broke rubbing two sticks together, or—so help you—you’ll cuddle for warmth. Perhaps it’s your first time camping, and a fire-starter log and lighter are more your speed. Either way, you’ll want to bring something to help get the fire going.
Basic fire-starter kits include a flint and striker and some kindling. (Cotton balls and Vaseline usually do the trick.) Lighters that are waterproof or windproof can help prevent a lot of frustration. If you’ll be traveling near a lake, river, or ocean, a waterproof lighter is especially essential. If you’re planning on scavenging for your fire supplies, you’ll want to research the area you’ll be traveling in so you have basic knowledge of the types of wood on hand.
Multipurpose tool: The complexity of your needs will determine the sophistication of the multipurpose tool you purchase, but a basic tool should have at least one fold-out blade, a screwdriver, a can opener, and fold-out scissors. It’ll come in handy when you need to prepare food, make kindling, perform on-the-spot repairs on your gear, or in emergency situations. A good rule of thumb is that the less experienced you—and your group—are with the great outdoors, the more tools you’ll need on your multitool.
Water reservoir/filtration: On average, a person can survive 3 to 4 days without water, but it won’t be pleasant. It’s a good idea to avoid putting that statistic to the test. The adult human body is made up of roughly 60 percent water. That means it’s crucial to have ample water, whether that means bringing it with you or finding a supply on-site and filtering it to make it safe to drink. Bringing water along can save a lot of time and headache, though it adds weight to your pack. A compact water-filtration tool or pack of purification tablets will lend some peace of mind just in case you need more water than expected.
Food supply: Think high protein and lightweight—trail mix, protein bars, beef jerky. Nobody said the menu was glamorous, but it’ll keep your stomach full and your body energized for hiking and other activities. If you are in an area where catch-and-keep fishing is available, bring some supplies for catching and cleaning fish. With some luck, you’ll enjoy a nice, hot meal.
You’ll need to account for between 1.5 and 1.75 pounds of food a day for each person in your group.
In addition to food, you’ll also need a way to prepare and serve your meals. Part comfort, part practicality—a basic mess kit makes it easy to cook any food you brought with you or acquire along the way. It also doesn’t hurt to have extra containers. A mess kit doesn’t have to be fancy; it just needs to be functional.
Paracord: Typically available in 50- and 100-foot lengths or as a woven bracelet for compact carrying, paracord may be an adventurer’s best friend. It’s a lightweight nylon cord rope with almost infinite uses. Well, maybe not infinite, but one YouTuber cataloged 550 benefits, ranging from securing a tent to making a tourniquet.
First-aid/safety supplies: You’ll want to bring any personal medications, a basic first-aid kit (adhesive bandages, antiseptic, tweezers), bug repellent, sunscreen, and a space blanket. This is one item you absolutely don’t want to be without when you need it.
Illumination: Whether it’s a flashlight, headlamp, or lantern, you’ll need some form of light. It gets dark in the wilderness, and we all know nobody is going to sleep as soon as the sun sets. The hands-free option of a headlamp is nice for midnight potty runs.
Toilet paper: This must-pack essential is a necessary luxury. Forget it on a trip once, and it’s unlikely you will again.
Navigation: Depending on your situation (whether there is a defined trail, whether you’re a novice or a star survivalist), your navigation needs will vary. A topographical map is never a bad idea. A compass is nice to have, but there are other ways of determining direction—the old needle-in-water trick or simple observation of the sun.
Of course, you will want to customize this list to your specific needs (i.e. location, skill level, group size), but the most important tool you can bring with you is your mind. Spend some time researching the conditions you will be subject to, and pack accordingly.