The great outdoors offers many exciting possibilities to the experienced hiker, bush crafter or even just the average camper looking to reconnect with nature. The fresh air, lovely sights, the exposure to the elements and the physical exertion really make you feel alive, and give you a deeper appreciation for nature. You quickly learn just how fragile our bodies can be when you go out into the wild, and you realize how important it is to be well-prepared, even if it is just a short camping trip. So, what items do you need to have with you to make sure that you have a fun and safe camping trip?

A Sturdy, Durable and Spacious Backpack

Before we go into the different type of equipment you’ll need to pack, let’s say a few words about choosing the right backpack. You want something that is fairly large, with a lot of room and options for strapping on a portable tent and sleeping bag, and it needs to be strong and able to take a bit of a beating. Military style backpacks are ideal for hiking and camping trips, as they were originally designed to be used in harsh conditions and last long enough to be useful to numerous users, year after year.

A good hiking backpack should also be waterproof and have additional straps across the stomach and between the shoulder straps, which help hold everything in place tightly and distribute the weight more evenly, so that it is more comfortable to carry.

The Bare Essentials for Surviving in the Wild

Even if it is just for a day, you need to make sure that these essentials are covered if you want to be safe and comfortable in the wild:

  • Warmth
  • Hydration
  • Plenty of food
  • An effective shelter

With these basic necessities in mind let’s look at all the things that you will need to bring, but remember: you can only bring so much, and the weight will quickly add up, so it is important to look for lightweight options.

Portable tent – a quality small-to-medium-sized tent that is relatively lightweight yet sturdy enough to survive exposure to harsh weather.

Sleeping bag – a good sleeping bag will provide ample insulation and keep you warm and dry. There are plenty of fairly compact options you can go for.

Water – you cannot survive long without water, and you will be losing a lot of it to perspiration during a long hike, so make sure that everyone has a large enough reserve. If you are driving to a camping site, it’s not that big of a deal, as you can have plenty of it in the trunk.

High calorie food – going uphill with plenty of extra weight strapped to your back is very taxing on the body, and you will burn a whole lot of calories. This is why you should pack plenty of high calorie food to cook once you reach your desired destination, but you should also have a lot of quick snacks to fuel you along the way, e.g. protein bars.

At least two different fire-starting options – your biggest priority once you find an adequate camping spot should be to start a fire. You will need it to keep warm and to cook food, and since gathering firewood and preparing everything will take plenty of time and effort it’s best to get on it as soon as possible.

A bush-craft knife and a small pocket knife – a sturdy and simple knife, about 4-5 inches in length will be your most versatile tool to be used for everything from food preparation to splitting up firewood by batoning, i.e. hitting the knife through the wood with a stick. A small pocket knife should be kept as a backup, to be used for finer cutting tasks.

Decent first aid kit – you can get one of these for a reasonable price online, or you can go to a drug store and buy the materials to make your own. Along with the usual gauze pads, bandages and antiseptics, be sure to throw in any medications you may need, like pain killers, antibiotics, anti-diarrhea drugs, indigestion drugs and so on. 

Wet wipes and hand sanitizer – you’ll get fairly sweaty during a hike, and these little guys will be your best friends. They help make you feel fresh and comfortable, and the sanitizer will ensure that your hands stay clean so that you avoid getting an infection while handling food and upsetting your stomach.

Multitool – any outdoors oriented model from Leatherman or Victorinox will have you covered. They feature a wide variety of tried and true tools that you will need, and in a very lightweight and compact package.

Strong flashlight – don’t expect to go into the wild with just the flash on your smartphone to help you see in the dark. Invest in a good flashlight that can go up to 300 lumens, and make sure each member of your team has one. Pack spare batteries just in case.

Lightweight cooking utensils and cutlery – a thin sheet metal pot, pan and cup will handle most of your cooking and drinking needs, and are light enough not to weigh you down. If starting a fire is a problem, then you should consider a portable gas stove as well.

Emergency kit – just in case something goes wrong, you want to have some form of signalization with you. A flare gun is a good option to have, but you should also throw in a GPS device and a whistle. You may also want to consider carrying a gun in woodland areas populated with predators. When in bear country, go for a high caliber revolver like a .44 magnum with a powerful load or load up a 12 gauge shotgun with slugs.

Spare socks – your feet will get sweaty and you may risk developing a bad case of athlete’s foot, so having an extra pair or two of socks to slip into once you make camp is a good idea.

These are the basic things you should have in your bag, or strapped onto it, when heading out into the wild for an adventure. Remember these two things: safety first and you can never be too prepared.