Thursday, August 7, 2014

Five Camping Must-Have's

Camping with friends at Hickory Run State Park, PA

City living is energizing and dynamic, but nothing compares to the refreshing liberation of being in the great outdoors. Being in nature, freed from the hustle and noise of modern life, you are allowed to slowed down, be in the moment, and take in the beauty that is the world around you. That's one of many reasons I enjoy camping.

Summer is a great season for camping and we try to do it every year. Aside from the fresh air and the beauty of nature, when you're camping, you're stripped of mundane everyday demands and forced to live simpler. Starting a fire, assembling a shelter, cooking a meal--camping necessitates being ever present in the moment to, essentially, ensure your own survival. In our modern times where we have dominated and mastered the world around us, camping humbles us to the basics and reminds us of our humanity.

"That's romantic and all," my more camping-averse friends would say, "but there's a reason why camping is called 'roughing it'--it's not much of a vacation!" That's only partly true. If you're simply miserable without modern luxuries (in the ways of wireless connection and frappuccinos), then you likely won't be able to find any enjoyment in camping. But contrary to what it may seem, camping can be quite comfortable, as long as you have the right gear.

Morning at our campsite in Arches National Park, UT

Last year, we went on a three-week road trip in the Northwest/West Coast touring the National Parks. We camped for almost the entire time (we stayed in hotels when it got too cold; even I have my limits!) I loved every minute of it. Having the right tools and gear made all the difference and a few have become my must-have's that I know I could never live without.

Here are my top five favorite camping gear (along with some of my own camping photo memories!) Whether you are new to the game or a seasoned camper, these are my tried and true tools in making any camping experience comfortable.

Our campsite at Yosemite National Park, CA

 #1: Headlamp

Black Diamond Spot Headlamp, $39.95
Leave the flashlight at home! A headlamp is an essential tool for convenience. You only have two hands and you will need them both to do things efficiently when it's dark. They range from $20 and up and a good one will last you forever. I highly recommend getting one with a red light mode, it gives you enough visibility in the dark and doesn't compromise your night vision.

#2: Sleeping Pad

ALPS Mountaineering Lightweight Self-Inflating Air Pad, $29.96

Many people use full-size inflatable air mattresses for camping, but they are heavy and bulky. One of the things you learn when you camp a lot is that it's always good to reduce the size and weight of your gear, cuz ain't nobody got time for that! Travel light, camp efficiently. After all, why do I need to sleep six inches off the floor when I can sleep 2 inches off the floor? As long as I'm off the floor, I'm happy! A sleeping pad is the way to go, they're light weight (the one above weighs 2 lbs 5oz) and roll up to be smaller than a yoga mat. Expensive ones range up to $100+, but they pack up even smaller and weigh even less (1lb).

#3: Waist Pack

Yens 2-Zipper Fanny Pack, $8.50

Ok, let's just call it what it is--it's a fanny pack, and in my opinion, highly underrated! Less bulky than a backpack, a waist pack is perfect for cell phones, wallets, and all the little tools and things you may need to access at your convenience. Better than a backpack, you carry the weight more easily on your waist, it stays out of the way and doesn't make you sweat. And for that reason, it's also perfect for hiking and other outdoor activities. What's more, just add a carabiner and you can bring along your water bottle. You can find waist/hip packs of all different sizes with all different compartments and functions, but I like to keep it small and simple.

#4: Spork

Snow Peak Titanium Spork, $9.95

Camping can generate a lot of waste. If you use disposable eating utensils, you can go through a lot of them after just one weekend trip, and they all end up in the landfill. Having a dedicated, non-disposable eating utensil is not only more environmentally responsible but also reduces the amount of stuff you have to bring, a win-win! A good ol' spork takes care of all your dining needs. Durable plastic ones are just a dollar or two. A titanium one is more expensive, but it's super light, super strong, and will likely last you a lifetime.

Dusk at our campsite in Zion National Park, UT

#5: Cookware

Similar to the reason for using a spork, having durable cookware is more sustainable and allows you to camp more efficiently. We have a set of titanium cookware (similar) that we use over and over again. You can cook with it, eat/drink from it, boil water, make ramen, you name it.  You can find less expensive ones made in other materials, but I chose to invest in a titanium set for its lasting durability and light weight.

There are plenty of other gear out there that provide comfort and utility for campers, so just find what takes care of your needs. The season is still young, so get out there and enjoy the great outdoors!

Our campsite at Mesa Verde National Park, CO.

1 comment:

  1. I hope I can go out there with you guys next year! Want to experience it all - and having the sleeping mat will be life changing, I think. :)