Camping Checklist: 5 Camping Essentials

Are you ready to tackle the great outdoors? Getting away from the concrete jungle offers a world of benefits for your mind and body. Camping, and all the rustic charm and beauty that comes with it, can lower your stress improve your mood and reconnect you with nature. On top of that, the hauling and hiking will get your muscles moving in ways that a sedentary office job never has. Camping is a way to unplug from our technology addictions and live joyfully in the simplicity of nature.

With all that said, you can’t just throw a tent in the back of your car and go. Camping takes planning, problem solving and critical thinking. You have to ask yourself some important questions and do your research before you lace up those hiking boots and hit the trail.

You’ve circled the long weekend on your calendar weeks ago and the countdown is nearly at an end. When you chose this time of year, the weather could have been hot, mild, warm or cool — but that doesn’t mean nature kept up with the status quo. Check for rain, sun or other weather patterns just around the bend. If you’ve been planning to camp near a river or a stream, or your campsite requires you to hike across it, be sure to take a look at water levels. Most importantly, be sure to learn the weather forecast for morning, noon and night. Some of the best camping in the country, like Yosemite or the Grand Canyon, are known for having 20-30 degree fluctuations in a single day.

When packing for a camping trip you have to think about a lot of contingencies. First, consider food. Will you be cooking over a campfire, grilling or surviving off granolas and apples? Once you decide how you’ll cook your food, you’ll know what you need to do ahead of time to make cooking a breeze.

(Speaking of cooking and breezes, you’ll need to consider how you can prevent wildfires on your camping trip. Wildfires are surprisingly easy to start and extremely dangerous. If you plan to cook over a campfire, you need have an effective way to put it out, like with sand or water, and don’t ever leave a campfire unattended or walk away from a stove or lantern that’s still hot.)

You’ve been looking forward to hiking that Colorado peak to a crystal clear alpine lake for months. You’ve read blogs, flipped through books and talked with the experts at your local camping gear retailer. But if you think that your iPhone GPS will get you there, you’re in for a big shock. The more remote your trip, the more you’ll need to rely on other forms of orienteering, like maps and compasses.

Be sure to also research your intended campsite. Some sites will have potable water, grills and toilets, while others are more primitive. By reviewing the campsite, the drive and the hike, you can be ready for anything nature throws your way.

No matter where you’re camping, whether it’s in an RV near civilization or at the top of your state’s highest peak, safety should always be a concern. The first thing you should pack, and the quickest to get to, should be a well-stocked first-aid kit. Be sure to have an updated kit with bandages, antiseptic and ointment for the uncomfortably itchy plants that can irritate the skin.

It’s also important to know which kinds of wildlife live in the areas where you’ll be camping and how to make sure your campsite won’t attract them. Consider coolers that lock, heavy duty garbage bags hung high in the trees and clearing food from your site before turning in for the night.

Camping is a great experience. By It’s an escape from the craziness of our busy lives, with an opportunity to experience life in a simple, and incredible, way.

By James Strand