Camping or any other form of backcountry travel requires a specific set of gear and clothing designed to keep you alive, comfortable and safe. Clothing choices depend on your destination, climate and length of time spent in the field. Gear choices, however, are fairly static, and there are certain pieces you should never go camping without.
Camping and backcountry travel, regardless of climate, should be done with a standard set of gear. Never go into the field without a good knife or multi-tool, sunglasses (preferably polarized), extra food and water, hat and gloves, GPS unit or map and compass (and the knowledge of how to use them), headlamp or flashlight, fire-starter and lighter, and a small space bag or bivy. These pieces of equipment will keep you alive should the worst happen and will keep you comfortable and performing all the needed camp tasks at hand.
Tents and Backpacks
If you are traveling to camp via backpack, one essential piece of gear is the backpack itself. It is crucial you get the backpack professionally fitted at a good outfitting store and by a trained professional. Ill fitting backpacks cause back pain injuries and discomfort. Get a backpack with enough space for your trip and length of time, but do not get an overly large backpack for short trips.
Tent choices for camping depend on destination, location and climate. For tent camping, large multi-person tents are solid choices as weight and space concerns are minimal. Long backpacking trips require small, lightweight tents that pack up small and are under 4 lbs. Ski mountaineering or alpine trips require single-walled, four-season mountaineering tents.
Clothing taken into the field for camping is weather, location and duration specific. For almost all climates, cotton is a poor choice for clothing materials, as it has no thermal abilities when wet. For dry, hot desert environments, cotton is the material of choice as it breathes and keeps moisture next to your body.
A complete kit of camping clothing should include a set of long under wear (top and bottom) and be lightweight, worn next to the skin and made of wool or synthetic material. The next layer should be fleece or soft-shell vests and jackets. Over this, wear a rain-proof shell made of breathable material like Gore-Tex. A good pair of field pants made from wool or soft-shell nylon is the preferred leg wear. Wool or synthetic socks (bring two to three pairs for extended trips), wool hat or cap, hat with a brim (like a ball cap), and wool or soft-shell gloves round out the clothing list.
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.