Use a sleeping pad in a tent, backcountry cabin or lean-to (on trails such as the Appalachian Trail) to prevent heat loss to the ground or air. Sleeping pads range from simple closed-cell foam pads to more comfortable, inflatable open-cell foam pads. Use a sleeping bag rated to the season, typically 20 degrees F for three-season use and 0 or -20 degrees F for winter and four-season use.
If you are spending an unplanned night out in the mountains and don't have a tent and sleeping bag, use your backpack as a sleeping pad. If you are below the treeline, supplement it with pine tree branches, if possible. Some backpacks can double as a bivy sack by extending the collar out from the main pack sack.
Staying hydrated is crucial when camping and hiking, as dehydration can cause confusion and cognition problems. However, a stream is not an instant water source. All water in the backcountry should be considered contaminated with waterborne pathogens, such as giardia. Carry a water filter anytime you go camping and filter all water sources.
For cooking, don't count on being able to build a fire. Carry a small backpacking stove with you and plan for high-calorie, simple meals, such as pasta. Many companies make tasty dried meals that require nothing more than adding hot water.
Pack a hat whenever you go camping. Up to 80 percent of body heat is lost through the head, hence the saying, "If your feet are cold, put on a hat." You will sleep warmer if you wear a hat at night.
Carry a fleece jacket to put on at night when the sun goes down. Even in the milder Appalachians, night-time temperatures can dip down to 50 degrees F.
Bring adequate rain gear, such as a lightweight Gore-Tex jacket and pants. Once you get wet, you are much more susceptible to hypothermia. Put on the shells before it rains, instead of after it starts.
Carry a map and compass or a GPS unit with you when camping in the backcountry and know how to use them. If you get lost and don't have a map and compass, it is best to stay put to maximize your chances of being found, instead of wandering and getting more lost.
Always consider wildlife as potentially dangerous. Read up on the area you are camping in to see what wildlife is common. In bear country, hang food bags 30 feet off the ground and 4 feet from a tree trunk, and hang food away from the camp so bears don't wander in.