When you’re headed out on a trip into the wilderness, packing light is essential. The last thing you want is to be weighed down with extra, unnecessary gear, especially if you plan on doing any extensive hiking. At the same time, anyone who’s been camping before knows the feeling of leaving a necessary piece of gear at home — it sucks.
The goal when camping is somewhere between these two: Pack light, but don’t forget the essentials. Here are a some items to make sure you bring with you, but that won’t weigh you down.
While cast iron is normally considered the gold standard for camping cookware — and it is a great, durable, and long-lasting addition to any camping box — it is also extremely heavy. If you are planning an expedition in the woods, you need to consider this.
Hiking trips with cast iron skillets in your pack are miserable experiences. It is often a better idea to trade these out for lightweight mess kits and a few choice cooking utensils. A tremendous amount of cooking can be done with tin foil, which weighs virtually nothing. You will need something to cook with, and for solo trips a single mess kit can do the trick, along with a fair amount of tin foil – use as needed, and pack it out to where it can be disposed of properly. One can always improvise as well.
Everyone should have a first aid kit. Most items are lightweight, and, while hopefully not necessary, worth their weight in gold when you need them. However, taking a step further and adding some more lightweight and helpful items can further increase your chances of survival if and when things go awry.
In addition to the regular bandages, gauze, tweezers and antiseptic, you should also consider a small cable saw, a roll of duct tape for general shelter repair and emergency first aid, and a lightweight rain poncho. All of these items are great for when things don’t go according to plan. Make room also for a Mylar blanket, a couple in fact as they weigh almost nothing, sort of like tin foil, only they can be used over and over, as well as things intended to help you survive off the grid.
For the majority of novice campers and hikers, their tent is by far the heaviest item. Even smaller backpacking tents can weigh you down, and a few alternatives are always worth considering. The first step any camper, hiker or aspiring survivalist should take is choosing a tent that works for them. If you are going out on your own, and plan on doing so again, pick out a single-person tent. There’s no point lugging around your family’s four-person one, especially when you can use the space for more important and valuable items.
In some cases, a tent is not even necessary. For the true survivalists, a light hammock with some rain gear can work just as well, if not better. It is lighter, easier to set up in dense wilderness, and more comfortable than sleeping on sticks and rocks all night.
Another option — reserved for the true survivalists — is making your own shelter. The woods can provide everything a seasoned outdoorsman needs for shelter, and there are plenty of online resources for creating survival shelters from sticks and indigenous plants. Definitely do a trial run in your backyard or with a spare tent first.
Sleeping outdoors in your own shelter can take some getting used to and no matter the weather a layer or two between you and the ground is important as the cooling earth can lower your core temperature and your don’t really have that many degrees to give up before it can be a problem. 98.6 degrees is the averaged normal, 95 degrees is the onset of hypothermia. If you don’t have a sleeping pad or air mattress then leaves, evergreen branches and other ground cover can be employed.
Knives are a necessity almost everywhere you go, and they will be your best friend in any situation from boredom to all-out survival. It’s a well-known trope that survivalists carry huge Bowie knives, machetes and other over sized and menacing implements of destruction. However, knives, like everything else, add to the weight and awkwardness of your pack. In most cases — unless you’re fighting a bear — a more modest knife can work just as well as the huge machetes.
When it comes down to it, the most significant weight a knife should have is on your wallet. Spend a few extra dollars and shell out for good maintenance items like whetstones and a sheath, and you’ll be using the same knife for years to come. A modest, quality blade won’t fail you when it matters, and it won’t get in your way while you’re hiking, and a back-up knife for this most critical of survival tools is worth it’s minor extra weight.
Freedom of movement is huge when you’re hiking for miles through woods and mountains. Overburdening can be a pain, and fatigue increases your chances of making poor decisions and hurting yourself. Cutting down your weight in these four areas will help you stay sharp, stay light and stay safe.
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