One of my New Years Resolutions is to go camping in 2018. It’s been years since I’ve camped. I spend a lot of time sleeping outside because of the Army, but that doesn’t count. With Spring quickly approaching, some of the prime camping time will be upon us. Cool weather and sunshine will bring the weekend warriors out of hibernation. Here is what you need to get started, and some tips to make your 2018 camping trip more comfortable.

Camping Essentials

Unless you want to be the camping minimalist, the essentials can be quite extensive. Don’t worry about making your camp the Taj Mahal of campsites, though. There are just a few simple things you’ll want on your shopping list.

Shelter

If you’re going camping you need to get a tent. A tent will add a little extra comfort to your camp by protecting you from the elements. A couple of things to look for in a tent: durability, size, and weight.

one person tent in a camping environment
Camping, party of one?

For durability, make sure check out the reviews of the tent you are looking at. Companies such as Ozark Trails and Coleman will be cheaper, but some models don’t hold up well to the elements. Other companies such as Cabela’s and Ascend may be more expensive but have numerous features to protect you from the elements. It all depends on how much you want to spend, but when it comes to the outdoors, you get what you pay for.

Size just depends on how much room you want your tent to take up in your pack, and the number of people sleeping in it. If you are camping solo, a single person tent is probably the best choice. If you are camping with your friends or significant other, you may want to consider tents that fit 3+ people. Just know that the larger the capacity of the tent, the more hands you may need to get it to your location and to set it up.

These days some tents fold up small enough to fit in your pocket. Lightweight is great to have if you are packing everything for your camp in with you. I don’t recommend sacrificing weight for comfort. If you aren’t hiking the entire Appalachian Trail by yourself, get a lightweight tent that provides comfort and you’re trip will be more enjoyable.

Food Storage and Preparation

As confident as I am in my ability to provide for myself what nature may offer, there is always that chance that fishing or hunting will not yield enough to sustain me through the trip. Bringing food, even if just a backup, is a safe way to prepare for the woods. You’ll need a cooler to bring in your steaks and hot dogs and keep them fresh, and you’ll probably need at least a small prepping station.

Tan Bison Cooler with a dead duck on it
A nice Bison Cooler with a shoutout to MING, Readyman, and Bison Cooler on it…and a dead bird

Coolers come in all shapes and sizes and manufacturers. Of course, you can go cheap with Ozark Trails and Coleman, or you can shovel out the money for brands like Yeti and Orca. If you have followed my articles, or my outdoor page Cold Water Outdoors, you know I love my cooler from Bison Coolers. I will always recommend Bison Coolers. They are durable and can keep ice for longer than five days as well as the numerous sizes they have. They have just released the new Gen 2 series of hard coolers too. It all depends on how long you need to keep ice in the cooler.

For food preparation, you don’t NEED a prepping station. For sanitary reasons I recommend bringing at least a fold out table, although you can buy prepping stations from places like Walmart, Amazon, and Bass Pro Shops. If you decide to go this route, companies make some cool ones that come with sinks, and some even include storage areas for utensils, pots, and pans. This is mostly dependent on what YOU, the camper, wants to do. After all, you can get primitive and prep/cook on a plank of wood chopped off a tree with your handmade stone knife.

Pack it in

Ozark Trail camping bag
Nice Ozark Trail bag

You’re going to need a backpack if you are going camping. Now, these come in just as many designs and sizes as anything else on this list. Basic things to look for in a pack are size and comfort. If you are going out for longer than a couple of days you may need something more like a hikers pack, that offers plenty of storage space. These types of packs typically have a frame, that is either in the pack or attached to it somehow, which adds comfort if you are hiking a pretty good distance to your site.

If you are only going out for the weekend, a 3-day pack may suit your needs better. 3-day packs, or day packs in general, offer enough space for you to hold enough clothes and extra goodies for the number of days specified. These packs can also come with frames for added comfort. In all cases you can also find packs with MOLL-E webbing, this extra feature offers straps on the pack to attach accessories like storage pouches for added space.

Make sure you get the appropriate size bag for your trip, but also make sure you are packing smart to stay as light as possible.  Some companies make multi-purpose items like this pocket stove to help save space.  PACK SMART.

Extra! Extra!

Of course, listed above are just basic necessities for camping. There are thousands of lists out there to give you even more stuff to buy. The most important of those items to consider are medical supplies and cutting tools.

Medkits

medical kit contents needed for campingBetter to have it and not need it right? Although you may never open one of these kits, and let’s pray you never need to, it’s an excellent item to have. You can get a Medical Kit or First Aid Kit from just about anywhere. I recommend looking at some survivalist sites such as readyman.com. Readyman provides multiple options, from the bare basic bug-out kit up to a full emergency trauma kit.  Medkits are another item that you get what you pay for.  Make sure you buy something that includes the tools and supplies to cover your possible emergencies.

Everyone Needs a Good Knife

Opinel brand knife for camping
Opinel camping knife

Especially out in the woods. A knife is always good to have. It has a use for basically anything you do while camping. From preparing food to fighting off a pack of wolves, everyone needs a good knife. An average 3-inch blade will work for most all your outdoorsy activities, but you can go full Crocodile Dundee if you’d like. Look for durable makers such as Buck, Outdoor Edge, and Benchmade.  Again, buy what you need.  Your knife doesn’t need to look fancy or be crazy expensive.

Keep in Mind

Know the area you are camping in. This can increase or decrease the items on your list. For example, if you know you are camping in an area with predators such as bears, coyotes, or mountain lions, you may want to consider buying game bags or food bags to put up off the ground and away from your campsite. You’ll also always want to pack sunscreen and bug sprays, and even a cooking grate for your fire if you plan on cooking something you can’t toss on a stake over a fire. Get out this new year and enjoy the great outdoors. Just don’t forget the basics.

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