The gear you take on your camping trip can really make it or break it. Naturally, there are some things that are more important than others (food, water, shelter, etc.), but if you’re planning on getting well away from the bitumen, we would argue there are a few things that can really make all the difference that we sometimes tend to forget, or just choose not to bring.
You’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t bring a decent shovel...
1. Long Handled Shovel
A shovel is one of those things you didn’t think you’d need until you get yourself into a situation where having one would of made your life much easier. That’s why we always have one of these in our boot or strapped to the roof racks.
Any veteran four-wheel driver can attest to a long handled shovel being invaluable to digging their vehicle out of a bog. Not only that, but a long handle shovel is great for digging a makeshift lavatory or fire pit if your campsite doesn’t already feature one.
A long handled shovel also has some more ‘creative uses’, such as being used as a makeshift pole to hold up your awning or shifting coals around your newly created fire pit.
If you don’t have the space to bring a full sized long handled shovel, a smaller hiking-style folding shovel is a great alternative. Keep in mind you won’t have the same blade size or handle length as a full-size shovel, which will make digging larger holes much more time consuming.
Your compass will never run out of batteries.
2. Navigation Tools
Although a handheld GPS such as the Garmin eTrex is a great way to track your location while out in the bush, depending solely on an battery powered GPS is not a good idea. If it runs out of charge or gets lost then what?
Carrying spare batteries is not enough, you need a way of finding your position without the aid of electronics. This is where a map and compass come into play. By learning how to triangulate your position, you will be able to find exactly where you are, provided you brought a detailed map of the area
No bad tastes from this water purification bottle unlike when you use chemicals...
3. Water Purification Bottle
A water bottle like the Katadyn My Bottle Water Purifier allows you to fill your bottle up from any freshwater source, such as a river, stream or lake and drink from it without having to boil or sterilise it with chemicals. This is particularly useful if you are worried you may run out of water on your trip or if you are staying near a freshwater sources.
The filtration system is able to remove everything from sediment, to viruses and bacteria in the water. Water purification bottles work great as a backup supply of drinking water or put in your car emergency kit for just in case.
If you’re camping near anybody of water, you’d be mad not to bring a dry bag.
4. Dry Bag
A dry bag is an often underrated essential piece of camping gear. Their original purpose is to keep their contents (which is often your electronics) dry in a watertight bag, which they do very well if folded up correctly.
However, they have a great many uses beyond that, including: being stuffed with clothing to be used as a pillow, dividing up your clean and dirty clothes, working as a collapsible bucket and keeping your firewood dry overnight. If you need something to stay dry, leave the thin supermarket plastic bags behind and grab a proper dry bag instead.
Comfy bed vs. hard ground – I know what I would rather sleep on.
When it comes down to it, you don’t look tough sleeping on the hard earth while your mates enjoy the luxury of a blow-up mattress; you just look forgetful. If you are planning on spending an extended period of time in the great outdoors, you’re going to want some form of bed to crash on at the end of a hard day's adventuring.
Many space-conscious adventurers opt for a compact roll-up sleeping mat, while those who have more room in their pack or car go for something a bit thicker, such as an blow up mattress. If you are really looking to live like a king in the great outdoors, a stretcher will make you feel like you're sleeping in your bed at home.
More friends means more marshmallows you can bring...
If you’ve got one of these, it’s pretty unlikely that you will forget them (or so you think). We always take a partner with us on our trips because let’s face it, you want to share those experiences with the people closest to you. Even performing simple tasks such as setting up your tent or cooking dinner can be made easier with another pair of hands or two.
From a safety point of view, it's always advisable to go away with a buddy (or your girlfriend or family or a bunch of mates). There are many documented cases of campers going off into the wilderness solo never to be heard of again. Would they have come back safely if they brought a friend? More likely, yes. Always remember there is safety in numbers.
Did we miss something important? What are your top six essentials for camping? Let us know in the comments below!
Images from Chananchida Inthasroi/Shutterstock.com and Youproduction/Shutterstock.com.