Choosing what gear to get for long term camping is vitally important. This is because long term camping completely differs from staying short term. The former requires greater resiliency, attention to detail, perseverance, and innovation. Taking the right gear is essential for your success and survival.
Choosing the Right Gear
Whether or not you are camping in one spot the whole time or backpacking to multiple locations, you will want to keep your gear to a minimum by selecting quality items that can stand up to the elements. This is especially true if you plan on routinely packing up and changing locations.
Of course, the terrain and weather will affect what must-have items you will bring with you. Even so, just preparing for every possible contingency in advance will ultimately maximize your comfort and enjoyment of the experience.
In this article, I will address the essential needs every long term expedition will want. Then, you can tweak the individual items to fit the environment you will be settling in.
1. A Quality Living Space
The first thing you will need to stay safe from the elements is a robust waterproof tent. You will be dealing with varying temperatures and wind conditions. Precipitation can wreak havoc on a campsite.
Rain can drench your tent, sleeping bags, and clothes. Depending on the weather, your equipment can take a long time to dry out completely. This can lead to a few miserable days at the campsite.
It is vital that you choose a tent which can live up to the elements. If you are camping in winter, you can even purchase a tent with a smokestack to keep your toasty while the wind and snow rage outside. Tents do not usually have insulating properties.
A tent’s primary goal is to keep your dry, not warm. I recommend getting a reliable 3 season tent, like the one I recommend on Amazon.
2. Appropriate Attire
The clothing you choose to bring on your trip with you can keep you comfortable or leave you freezing. You want to choose clothing that drys fast if it gets wet. Avoid cotton for this reason. To stay warm, you want to make sure to select synthetic materials and Merino wool.
Camping outdoors requires you to wear layers. You can then remove and add layers as the weather dictates. This prevents you from overheating and sweating. Sweat leads to wet clothing that makes you sick.
Consider packing clothing that reflects these three layers: base, insulating, and protective outer layer.
- Base Layer- The base layer consists of clothing that directly touches your body. Its job is to move moisture or sweat away from the body. A great choice is Merino wool thermal underwear.
- Insulating Layer- This layer keeps you warm. Fleece and wool are good fabric choices because they are breathable. This layer needs to be easily removable so that when you get hot, you do not overheat and soak your other clothing layers. Here is a nice camo fleece jacket found on Amazon.
- Outer Layer- The protective layer needs to be windproof and waterproof. Its job is to keep you warm and dry and stop you from getting wet when trapped in a downpour or snowstorm. Here is the one I recommend.
Pro Tip: Stay away from protective layers that try to combine insulating layers. These are not as effective as following a three-layer system as they can cause your under layers to be less breathable.
3. Water Supply
You will need access to clean water, and you obviously can’t bring enough on you for long term camping. I mean, you could bring water tanks or bricks with you, but these can be heavy to carry if your backpacking to remote locations.
To that end, locating a water source near your camp is essential to enjoying your stay and efficiently performing tasks like cooking and staying hydrated. Many long-term camping sites provide access to a water source, but you may be on your own in finding one if you wander into the wilderness.
If you are unsure of your water source, you will need to purify it before drinking. Boiling water is the best way to kill illness-causing organisms, but there are multiple other options available. Therefore, I definitely recommend packing three essential backup purification items to make sure you are covered and have enough redundancies to ensure your survival if a worst-case scenario happens.
If you plan on exploring or hiking during your camping adventure, you will want to make sure you have a navigation system you can use.
Your bedding plays a crucial role in your survival and overall comfort level. Get this wrong, and you will ensure misery. At worst, the ground can cause you to freeze and, at best, produce a crick in your neck if your site is unlevel and your bedding choice inadequate.
Here are the four layers you will want to have between you and the ground:
- Vapor Layer- To protect yourself from the ground, you will need to create a vapor layer. A plastic sheet between the ground and your bedding is the most important thing you can put down. The floor of a tent will suffice for this.
- Reflective Layer- This goes on top of the vapor barrier and will reflect heat back to your body. A “tube” tent or survival blanket works great for this layer. This layer isn’t 100% necessary but does wonders in cold environments.
- Insulating Layer- Follow the reflective layer with an insulating layer such as an air mattress/pad or foam. Once again, this layer is optional but will make your life so much more comfortable in the long term camping situation.
- Blankets/Sleeping Bag- Finally, lay down your sleeping bag or blankets. I highly recommend getting a 4-season sleeping bag, like this one found on Amazon.
Ideally, you will have all four layers between you and the ground. But you at least need #1 and #4 with #2 and #3 enhancing your comfort.
6. A Heating and Cooking Source
A heat source is necessary to cook food. If you are staying at a campsite, you will likely have access to a fire pit where you can cook food. Even so, you will need to start the fire. The most reliable way to do this by using kindling (I recommend fire tabs) and a fire starter.
You will want to keep both matches and a lighter in a watertight location. You definitely do not want your matches to become waterlogged. But, to mitigate that eventuality, I recommend just picking up some waterproof matches.
If you are out in the wild, you may not want to start a fire. Instead, you can use a portable camping stove for cooking your meals.
7. A Cooking Vessel
You will need cooking equipment to cook your food. A versatile pot that can be easily cleaned and carried makes packing up your campsite easier.
A metal boiling pot with a lid, like this one, can be very versatile since the lid can act as a plate in a pinch.
Some inexpensive camping cookware “mess” sets come with a stove, pans, and utensils like my recommended one.
Pro Tip: If you purchase an all-in-one kit, you will want to take note of the stove that comes with the container. A canister stove will be unable to work at extremely low temperatures.
Survival tools like an all-purpose knife need to be in your camping arsenal because you never know you might need to cut something (like firewood), clear brush, or open something.
A hatchet is my recommended tool of choice as it is the best tool if you plan on chopping up your own firewood for a fire pit. A survival knife is another reliable option if you plan to focus on deadfall or a camping stove.
9. A Light Source
You will likely need to purchase a lantern so that you can see inside your shelter at night. With a lantern, you can read at night, play games, or do any number of other activities.
A lantern is also a good item to have with you if you have to walk in the dark from your tent to go to the bathroom. Just make sure you take extra batteries with you in case your lantern runs out of power. You do not want to be left without a light source.
I recommend getting an LED camping lantern, like this one. It even has a USB charger and collapses to make a flashlight. It’s like the Swiss army knife of lighting. You can also buy more than one in different colors, so you don’t have to fight over who’s is who’s with your companions.
10. Emergency Contact Equipment
If you plan to be off the grid for a while, you will want a way to contact people in case of an emergency. A cell phone would work well as long as you are near cell service. Use a satellite phone if you don’t.
Pro Tip: If people are nearby and you don’t have a phone, you can always set off flares to notify rescue crews about your predicament.
11. A Medical kit
Make sure that you are ready for medical emergencies that may develop. Having a kit packed with bandages, gauze, and antibiotic cream is a priority. You want to make sure you have one close, especially if you are camping alone in a remote location.
12. Airtight Storage
If you do not have access to grocery stores, you may need to bring along your own food. Just make sure you store food in airtight containers to detract wildlife from investigating your camp.
There’s no reason to get fancy here; you don’t need a bulky food storage trunk. Just bring a supply of ziplock bags, and you are all set. I recommend getting bags sturdier than your usual grocery store baggies. You may even want to prep and vacuum seal some food ahead of time. If that’s the case, go with these mylar/ziplock bags.
I have information on how to heat seal bags in this article if you want to go that route. I recommend bringing a lot of dried foods with you since they are easy to prepare in an outdoor environment. Make sure you pack food that you will actually need. Nutrition is essential even when camping—more on this in a bit.
13. Personal Hygiene Supplies
When camping, you may not have access to a functioning shower all the time. You may go days or weeks without a proper shower. While you definitely want to lower your standards for how clean you keep yourself, you still need to maintain a moderate amount of general cleanliness. Besides packing soap to keep yourself clean, you may want to invest in body wipes.
Body wipes keep you passably clean and are easy to use. There are many different types to choose from that can satisfy your needs. Just make sure you get biodegradable wipes, in case some end up lost in the woods.
This seems like a no-brainer, but bringing the wrong types of consumables along with you can be a costly mistake. You need food that provides the maximum number of calories while taking up the least space. It would help if you also considered the shelf life of anything perishable that you need. Any food should:
- Hold up well in extremely hot, cold, and wet weather
- Be resistant to infestation by insects and rodents
- Not be overly cumbersome
Forget bringing bags of hot dogs, bags of potato chips, or a loaf of bread. This stuff will likely get gnawed through, squashed, spilled, or spoiled by the end of the third day. Stick to jerkies, nuts, grains, dried fruits, and a few canned goods. You will also want to bring along some cooking oil, salt, and a few other spices to help with the blandness of many long-term foods.
I think everyone should take a supply of “just add water and heat” rations that are sold in bulk by numerous companies out there. My favorite company that does this is My Patriot Supply. You can get a week’s supply of food for a ridiculously small amount of money, in my opinion. I recommend checking them out. It’ll make your long-term camping experience much more enjoyable.
Other Items to Consider Taking
Here are some small ticket items that will enhance your long term camping experience:
- Carabiners- These clip items to the outside of your backpack. Awesome for water bottles and a number of other supplies.
- Walkie Talkies- Separating from the group for a bit? These are great for getting quick help if something goes wrong.
- Hand Crank Power Charger- Very useful and you don’t have to bring a billion batteries.
If you address nothing but the items in this list, you will be able to survive long term in a reasonable amount of comfort and not want for much. Once you have this stuff packed, then it’s time to look for a few “luxury” items to take along as well. Just don’t overdo it; that pack can get heavy quick. Be sure to let me know how it goes in the comments below, and enjoy your trip!
Thanks for reading.
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