The Sunshine State of Florida is home to Everglades National Park, The Gulf Islands National Seashore (which is shared with neighboring Mississippi,) and a myriad of state parks and national forests. With all this public land, Florida is a popular destination for backcountry camping. Having the proper gear when heading into the Florida backcountry can sometimes mean the difference between a fun expedition or a terrifying experiment in survival.
The 10 Essentials
There are 10 essentials for backcountry travel, regardless of destination or location. Sources as diverse as REI, The Survival Center and the American Avalanche Association agree on approximately 10 items as being crucial to safety and success in the backcountry. Always have a map and compass, flashlight, sunglasses, extra food and water, extra clothing (even in tropical and sub-tropical environments,) waterproofed matches, fire-starters such as paraffin candles, pocket knife or multi-tool and a first aid kit.
Expanded Items for First Aid Kit
The fist aid kit is an essential item for any backcountry trip. Florida backcountry travel requires a few specialty items in the first aid kit. A snake-bite kit with anti-histamines, sting kit for insects or jelly-fish should you be traveling through saltwater areas or brackish inshore waters, sunscreen, aloe lotion to treat sunburns, moleskin for blisters, and an epinephrine pen if allergic reactions to bee or insect stings develop in the backcountry should all be included in any first aid kit when going into the Florida backcountry.
Be prepared for mosquitoes in the Everglades and pack lots of insect repellant. Deet, while strong and effective, should not be used for prolonged periods of time due to the nerve damage it can cause. For week long trips, Deet is appropriate. Long-sleeved shirts with UV rated protection (available at Trails.com or other specialty retailers) are needed for sun protection. Bring one pair of old nylon pantyhose for each person on the trip. Use these to cover the openings of hiking boots and shoes at night. You leave the shoes outside to breathe and not stink up the tent, and the nylon prevents insects, reptiles, snakes and scorpions from getting into the shoes. A hammock with mosquito netting is a pleasant way to sleep and is lighter to pack than a tent.
Article Written By Eric Cedric
A former Alaskan of 20 years, Eric Cedric now resides in California. He's published in "Outside" and "Backpacker" and has written a book on life in small-town Alaska, "North by Southeast." Cedric was a professional mountain guide and backcountry expedition leader for 18 years. He worked in Russia, Iceland, Greece, Turkey and Belize. Cedric attended Syracuse University and is a private pilot.