If your idea of camping is the Holiday Inn, go make reservations. If you enjoy nature, the outdoors, and just want to relax around an open campfire before settling into your tent (or fifth wheel), this was written just for you. Compare merchandise and features, and decide what camping gear will be most helpful in your next experience with the Great Outdoors.
Camping over an open fire is sometimes challenging, but tasty and rewarding. Going into town to eat now and then won't hurt, either. But serious campers know that camping stoves are a must for a rainy day. Throw a tarp over some trees, and avoid the potential hazard of a tent fire.
Manufacturers of Coleman camping stoves and Primus camping stoves know that their brands spell quality to experienced campers. Other, lesser known manufacturers also market good camping stoves; these are probably less expensive, but be sure to do some homework and find a reliable model.
The type of stove depends mainly on the camper and the style of camping. For car camping, regular camping stoves usually work best. These are large, have several burners, and can be used to feed larger numbers of people.
In contrast, backcountry campers usually opt for a backpacking stove, which is lightweight and very portable. It features one or at most two burners. Stoves that are not permanently connected to the fuel source are best, so that they can be packed more easily to the camp site. Additionally, one person can carry the stove and the other can carry the fuel source, so the load will be lighter.
Most camping stoves use one of three primary fuel sources for camping stoves: white gas, kerosene, or propane. Propane is by far the most popular, burns cleanly, and is widely available in the U.S. White gas can also be used; the containers are refillable, and this fuel burns cleanly as well.
When traveling in areas other than Canada or the U.S., many campers opt for kerosene. This fuel is quite hot and is not costly. It does not, however, burn as cleanly as propane or white gas.
Camping cookware is another important consideration. Some campers choose very simple outfits, preferring to work with a camping knife, a camping spoon, and a camping pot. Others go all out with gourmet camping cookware and even a portable espresso machine.
Selecting the right cookware involves more than personal food preferences. Cookware is manufactured from different materials, and this can affect food preparation. For example, aluminum camping cookware is inexpensive, very lightweight, and cooks food evenly, but it is not very durable. Stainless steel camping cookware is also very affordable, and quite durable, but food doesn't cook as well or heat as evenly.
The best choice, for those who are planning to camp often and want quality equipment that won't have to be replaced regularly, is titanium camping cookware. Titanium cookware is very durable, but very lightweight; it's also more expensive than aluminum or stainless steel.
Pack it in, Pack it out
This environmentally friendly phrase is used to describe backcountry or wilderness camping. Campers bring in everything they need (sometimes including their own potable (drinkable) water). They also bring everything, including non-biodegradable trash, back out with them. Sturdy camping backpacks are critical for these strenuous camping experiences.
Beginners often prefer external-frame packs. These are usually fairly easy to pack. In addition, these won't punish the wearer as much while he or she is learning to pack a load properly. External frame camping backpacks made of aluminum tubing are cooler for carrying as well. This is because of extra space between the wearer and his or her pack. These are also less expensive than internal-frame packs. Opt for quality with Kelty backpacks or North Face backpacks.
Internal-frame camping backpacks contain flat bars, called stays, which are made from plastic or aluminum, for weight distribution. These frames are flexible, and work well for skiing, mountain climbing, and other adventures. Because of the form-fitting design, these are also less likely to catch on tree branches or rocks while hiking. Choose solidly constructed designs made by reputable manufacturers, like Moutainsmith backpacks or Alpine backpacks.
For day campers or overnight hikers, rucksacks, or day packs, are usually the best choice. These are frameless, and allow the weight of the pack to rest primarily on the wearer's shoulders. Some also use a hip belt to distribute the load more evenly. They are also usually much more affordable than external-frame camping backpacks.
Don't forget to consider size. Smaller camping bags, like those with 4,000 or less cubic inches, work perfectly for a single night or weekend camping excursion. Backpacks that offer from 5,000 to 6,000 cubic inches work well for camping trips lasting up to a week. Don't buy a bag that's too large or smaller for your camping needs.
A number of larger camping backpacks feature an oversized, detachable pocket that can be used for a day pack. Some contain a water bottle holster, while other backpacks feature a hydration compartment, which is a specially designed compartment that can be filled with water. The compartment connects to a drinking tube, making water easy to access during a hike. For heavy loads or long trips, use backpacks with padded hip belts to distribute load weight.
Clean Water Supply
Usually, state parks and other recreational areas have safe drinking water. Campers who are planning on backcountry or wilderness camping, however, should plan to take along water filtration and water purification filters. Water filtration devices use mechanical filters to remove bacteria or other particles from drinking water.
Only mechanical filters that contain iodine cores, however, will purify the water and remove viruses. Therefore, campers using ceramic or fiberglass filters will also have to use an iodine treatment to purify the water after it is filtered. (Don't drink the water for at least an hour after the iodine treatment is applied.)
Camping tents: A home away from home
While some campers still prefer their RVs or motor homes, camping tents are perfect for a casual weekend, a large family, or overnight hiking trips. Invest the money in a camping tent that will stay rain-proof, be large enough, and meet weather requirements.
Don't under-spend; buy a tent that will meet the group or family's needs. Quality brands like Coleman camping tents or Kelty camping tents are worth the investment; better to spend a little extra money than spend the weekend drying out a wet sleeping bag. After all, what's worse than waking up in a soggy bag with wet clothing on a cool morning?
Manufacturers offer different types of camping tents; these are advertised and sold based on weather durability and tent size. For example, three-season camping tents work well for summer, spring, or fall camping. They are not designed for winter camping. Some people camp only during the summer season. A warm-weather camping tent may be a better choice. These are designed with mesh sides to offer extra ventilation.
In comparison, four-season camping tents are manufactured with resistance to heavy rain or large snow in mind. These feature greater structural support than a three-season tent does. As a result, they are usually heavier to carry and handle as well. Often, campers planning to camp in various weather conditions opt for convertible camping tents. These can be used as either four-season tents or three-season camping tents, based on the camper's needs.
A bivy camping tent isn't really a tent. In fact, it's more like a sleeping tube or a sleeping bag than a tent. These are typically used by mountain climbers or campers spending the night on a mountain face. Bivy camping tents offer single campers protection from wind, rain, and snow.
Stay warm at night in camping sleeping bags
A good tent will go a long way to keeping everyone warm at night, provided they are snuggled into their camping sleeping bags. While a tent will keep out moisture, rain, snow, and offer some shelter from the wind, temperatures can still drop at night. Marmot sleeping bags and North Face sleeping bags are popular choices with experienced campers.
Sleeping bags are rated to different minimum temperatures based on design as well as fill material. For example, campers who are planning to sleep outdoors in snowy weather should purchase a sleeping bag rated to a minimum of ten degrees below 0 (Fahrenheit scale). For camping trips in severe weather conditions, a sleeping bag that is rated considerably lower is a must. For most casual or sport camping weather, though, a bag that is rated from ten to 35 degrees Fahrenheit will ensure comfort and warmth.
Camping sleeping bags are manufactured with either down fill or synthetic fill materials. Down sleeping bags, manufactured with duck or goose down, provide excellent warmth. They are lighter weight, can be folded much more compactly, and are more durable than synthetic sleeping bags.
Synthetic sleeping bags are made of hollow plastic fibers that hold air in to provide warmth. They dry much more quickly than down sleeping bags. They also cost considerably less.
Other camping essentials
In addition to water filtration, sleeping bags, tents, and backpacks, a few other accessories are necessary to make a camping trip a successful adventure. Even with modern campsites, a good camping lantern is a must-have. Experienced campers carry two or more flashlights, extra sets of batteries, and usually a lantern powered with propane, gas, or batteries.
Many also pack along headlamps, which can be useful for working in the dark. Headlamps provide lighting while allowing a person to use his or her hands for work rather than holding a light. These are especially useful for setting up camp after dark or for gathering extra wood.
Camping knives are also essential. Use a straight-edged camping knife for preparing food, simple first aid tasks, or cutting tasks that require accuracy. Camping knives with a serrated blade are idealfor cutting plastic or canvas. Some manufacturers make knives with several blades that can be used for different camping chores.
For added comfort and convenience, some campers prefer camping sleeping pads. These offer additional comfort as well as warmth. Climate and terrain are important factors in choosing whether or not to use sleeping pads.
Some campers opt for inflatable air mattresses. These offer comfort and insulation, but are difficult to carry when backpacking because of the size and bulkiness. Another option is closed-cell foam pads, which are very durable and offer excellent insulation. These are also more expensive than inflatable mattresses.
Open-cell foam pads are an affordable compromise. These are relatively inexpensive, offer good insulation, and weigh little. Specialized self-inflating pads, made with an open-cell foam design, are sold in waterproof, airtight packaging. The firmness of the pad can be adjusted by regulating the quantity of air in the user's pad.
Last but not least, stay safe while camping. Take along all prescription medicines, as well as basic first aid items. Choose a first aid kit that contains bandaging supplies, tape, antibiotic ointments, and scissors. If anyone in the camping parties is allergic to insects or bees, be sure to take along an epi pen or bee-sting kit as well. Don't forget to pack basics like Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and Benadryl as well.
A weekend or weeklong camping vacation can be a fun and memorable occasion, as long as you take your time, plan carefully, and pack all the essentials. Sleeping a few feet from the pounding surf or Level 4 rapids, or hiking the Appalachian Trail will offer plenty of memories. Don't include a misplaced tent or faulty gear to the list of adventures; take everything along that you will need. Someone's well-being may depend on it!