For a summer camping experience with minimal camp gear, trim your regular gear list to include only the items you must have for survival. Get back to the basics with food, clothing and shelter, and think about only what you absolutely need. With hiking and other activities filling your time, you won’t miss the luxuries you left at home. Plan your trip so it will be about the simplicity of your back-to-nature adventure, not about the “stuff” you take with you or leave behind.
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Packaged food manufactured just for camping and backpacking is convenient but expensive. Prepare your own favorites, portioned in ziplock bags. Take enough for three square meals a day plus energy snacks. If you will be camping in back country, include an extra day’s food. Pack cooking pans and utensils that suit your camping style.
Carry refillable water bottles and refill them at every opportunity. Purification supplies are necessary in back country.
One change of clothing per day, plus extra socks and underwear, should be plenty. To minimize clothing further, take fewer clothes, and wash and rotate them. Pack lightweight rain wear and a light jacket and wear a hat to protect yourself from the sun.
Toilet paper works for its intended purpose as well as for nose-blowing. It also works as emergency fire tinder. One towel per person will serve for showers and swimming. Pack personal items, keeping soap and water basics in mind. Include sunscreen and lip balm.
Shelter and Comfort
A tent provides protection from the elements, and it keeps wildlife from buzzing or sniffing you while you sleep. Match your sleeping bag with the weather to stay comfortable. An air mattress or foam pad makes sleeping more comfortable, with a layer of insulation between your sleeping bag and the ground. Sleep-related aches and grumpiness can ruin the fun the next day.
Safety and First Aid
Pack a flashlight, extra batteries, a multi-purpose knife, a compass or GPS device, matches in a stay-dry container and moleskin for blisters. Include a basic first-aid kit that contains packets of antiseptic, clean wipes, sterile gauze, medical tape and bandages. The American Red Cross has a list of recommended first-aid supplies for a kit, and it also sells kits specifically designed for camping. Take a space blanket for emergency warmth, or use it as a shiny signal flag in case of emergency. Carry a completely charged cellphone for an emergency, but remember that in back country there might not be a signal.
You might need to fill a few empty moments, and a deck of cards, a pocket chess set or other pocket games are easy to pack. Take pencils, paper, puzzle books and a camera.