The Essential Wild Camping Kit - Top Must Have Items
There is nothing more relaxing than escaping the rush of everyday life and exploring the most isolated areas of the globe. Wild camping has grown astronomically in popularity over the past few years, so we’ve compiled a guide for anyone starting out. So prepare yourself by checking out our list of vital camping equipment, and “do’s” and “don’t’s” below.
What is Wild Camping?
In essence, wild camping involves pitching your tent in the great outdoors, away from an official campsite. Wild camping allows for location flexibility. If you pick the right spot, you can potentially experience beautiful views and a feeling of freedom and serenity that is usually absent from your standard campsite. However, as you’ll usually be looking for remote spots, leaving your gear at a camp site isn’t an option, so all of your kit will need to come with you, so investing in a quality backpack is essential.
1. Selecting a Backpack
Backpacks are easily one of the most important parts of your kit. A poor quality backpack can cause back and neck pain, or just split and throw all of your kit in the mud; potentially nightmarish trip ending circumstances. There are a huge range of bags available to suit all price ranges and even some of the cheaper options will still do a job, just without some of the fancy fabrics and special pockets. Going with a name brand is always a good idea as you are more likely to ensure quality. Vango make great budget bags but look at Osprey if you a top-quality bag built to last, their lifetime warranty is a nice touch as well.
Things to look for in a multiday bag:
- Size – Make sure that you have enough space in your back pack to fit all of your equipment with a bit of room left over, 50L – 70L is ideal.
- Thickly padded hip straps – most of the weight from your bag should rest on your hips not your shoulders, so thick waist straps will make that heavy load much more comfortable during long walks and hikes.
- Chest strap – nearly all big bags have one of these nowadays, the purpose is to relieve strain on the shoulders. Make sure that the lock up on it is secure and vertically sliding straps allow you to position it perfectly.
- Rain Cover – Either built in or aftermarket these are an essential for keeping your bag dry.
- Pockets – having multiple pockets on the outside of your bag makes life much easier as you don’t have to rummage through the main compartment looking for things. Pockets on the hip straps are perfect for snacks or frequent use items.
- Pole/ ice axe attachment points – a quick and easy way to attach your gear to your pack is useful for when they aren’t in use.
- Ventilation – Back ventilation is a great way to keep your back sweat free but more extreme systems will add some weight.
- Rubble sack – Although not something to look for when purchasing your bag, lining your bag with a heavy duty rubble sack will keep all of your gear dry even if your bag takes a quick dip
Oh man, this could be an entire article in itself, but I’ll give you the short version with the key things to look out for when buying a backpacking tent:
- Size – make sure that you buy a tent big enough for however many people you intend to fit in… seem obvious? Well don’t forget that you’ll have your backpack and all of your gear with you so make sure that those will fit in as well. From personal experience, a 2 man backpacking tent gets pretty cozy with two people and 2 bags. Usually, a general rule of thumb is get a tent that’s big enough for your party + 1 (e.g. if there’s two of you opt for a three man tent). Also, consider that if it’s tipping it down then you might be in there for a while, how much do you value personal space?
- Weight – you do not want to be lugging around a 10kg family tent out on the trail. Anything from 1.5kg to 2kg should do you well for a 2 man tent. If you want a bigger tent, don’t forget to split the tent with your mate.
- Packed Size– make sure that it packs down to a reasonable size for attaching to your bag.
- Ease of Erection – this is a camping article, behave yourself… We’re of course, talking about erecting tents. Having a tent with 1000 steps to put it up is a nightmare, make sure yours is simple and practice before you have to put it up in the middle of a storm.
- Price – backpacking tents can be pretty pricey; you know your budget but is the brand new $800 tent with the fancy new material really worth it? There are great options out that you can get without breaking the bank. Vango make some great backpacking tents, such as the Blade 200 or Banshee 300, for a reasonable price (100-150 GBP). If you want to go a bit more upmarket then MSR make a few great models, Hubba Hubba nx and Elixir 2, for around 200-300 GBP.
- Double walling – most tents nowadays come in two parts, the liner and the outer. The liner stops you from rubbing up against the condensation ridden outer (a typically encountered issue when camping in a tent) as well as keeping the interior environment more stable. Unless you want to go crazy lightweight, get a double walled tent.
3. Sleep System – Keep it simple
Sleeping Bag – ensure that is it rated for the temperatures that you will be sleeping in. Ignore the extreme temperature number and instead focus on the lower limit of the ‘comfort rating’, make sure that it is at least a few degrees lower than the lowest temperature that you will be expecting.
Sleeping Mat – a necessity for keeping you insulated and off the ground. Air mats will provide the best comfort and insulation but come at more of a price. Foam mats work well but are not even close when it comes to comfort.
Pillow – if you are feeling fancy then there are a variety of inflatable pillows available to ensure a good night’s rest. If you don’t fancy this, then put your clean clothes in your sleeping bag stuff sack and use that instead.
Boots are a very personal choice and should definitely be tried on before buying. Many people are turning more towards a lightweight hiking shoe rather than the traditional boot. These do have some benefits but do not offer anywhere near the same level of stability or protection. I would recommend a low to mid flex sole, unless you frequently use crampons, as these are more comfortable and natural for long walks. Make sure that your boot has a protective layer over the toe as this region will take a beating and deep cuts will go through. Boot maintenance is key to increasing their longevity. Frequently clean and waterproof them and never dry them near a heat source as this can cause them to crack.
It’s definitely worth investing in a quality set of waterproofs to protect you from the elements and trousers are just as important as a jacket. Quality waterproofs will keep the worst of the weather off no matter the conditions without the waterproofing washing out. If you see bubbles on your jacket in the rain, then it’s time to waterproof. Maintenance is key, keep them clean and waterproofed to extend the item’s life. Gore-Tex is a high-quality material which is highly recommended. Other companies such as Montane are alternatively using their own fabrics that are also of a high standard.
Even on hot summer days the nights can get cool at base camp and an ethical down jacket or thick jumper can stop you from getting cold. If using down then it’s critical to keep it dry, as the feathers will clump when wet and lose all of their insulating properties.
Nothing ruins a cold weather backpacking trip than succumbing to the elements. Quality cold weather products are a must. The same is for summer, make sure that you have the appropriate clothing for the weather that you will be facing.
- Wooly hat or beanie – rawpeaks explore beanies are perfect for camping trips. Lightweight and easily packable.
- Base layer – dressing in layers is the key to keeping warm in Winter and it starts with a good base layer top and trousers, often overlooked by those not in the know, these are not to be overlooked.
- Cap – baseball style cap or sun hats can not only help shield your eyes from bright light but also offer sun protection. Rawpeaks caps offer unique designs which you can fold in your bag without having to worry about the fabric tearing.
- High collar shirt
In all but the most extreme heats you will find me hiking in a pair of trousers. They are obviously the best choice for winter but are also great in summer as well. The majority of my hikes lead me off the main track and normally scrambling up the side of a mountain or through some very dense brush, here the trousers offer great protection against the scrapes, scratches and stings, and also are able to fend off ticks.
Comfortable hiking socks are a must, they can pad your feet, wick away sweat and help prevent blisters, making for a much more comfortable day.
A legendary piece of kit that no one should be without. Apart from acting as a simple hat, it has a multitude of uses, such as: sweat band, tying down gear, makeshift arm sling, towel, knee support etc. Not one to leave behind.
Not all T shirts are created equal and many will have you sweltering in the summer sun and shivering throughout the winter. The reason for this, cotton. Although it is incredibly comfortable, cotton becomes horrible when it is sweaty. In winter the material will hold the sweat causing you to become cold and and occasionally unpleasant in the summer. Pick up a technical material or bamboo T shirt that will help insulate and help your skin breathe during the right season.
An entire change of clothes will come in use if you get completely soaked through or want to feel fresh in the morning.
5. Food and Drink
When out for overnight trips I always take two 1L clear Nalgene bottles. Taking two is pretty useful, as when one is empty, you can fill it up from a stream and drink from the other while it purifies. Many people are big advocates of hydration bladders; they make it very easy to hydrate when out on the trail and are tucked out of the way inside of your backpack. However, they are not without fault. They are prone to leaking, and make it difficult to monitor your water intake and how much water is remaining. I have been on countless trips where people have had their hydration bladder leak all over the inside of your bag, not ideal when all your dry clothes are in there. Traditional Nalgene style bottles are much easier to monitor your remaining water levels, can have boiling water poured in for a makeshift hot water bottle and will not crack if dropped in cold temperatures like soda bottles or cheap water bottles will.
Make sure that you know how to purify your own water. On multiday trips you will not be able to carry enough water. There are many options out there, such as pumps and filters or tablets. The benefit with tablets is that they are light, small and more reliable that the filters on the market. Make sure that you fill up from a fast flowing clear stream and strictly follow the instructions from the manufacturer for purifying.
Hot food is a must after long treks and in the middle of nowhere a stove is the easiest way to get your food hot. Personally I prefer a gas stove over a meths burner such as a trangia, the gas burners have considerably more control and are much lighter.
There are two types of food that you could bring, either ‘real food’ that you cook up such as pasta or rice, or boil in the bag. The boil in the bag option is much easier and simpler as there is no washing up and it is normally much lighter, most taste pretty good as well.
Getting lost can be exciting and fun, and in poor weather conditions it can be very dangerous, especially in boggy or mountainous terrain. A map and compass is the traditional and most reliable way to navigate. With practice it can be much more effective than GPS and is much more dependable. A compass is a case of ‘two is one and one is none’. Always carry a spare in case you leave it behind at your lunch spot and have no way to find your way home. To prevent this, make sure that your compass is attached to you or your bag. The Silva Expedition is my personal favorite and is backed up by a Silva Field Compass.
- Compass – quality is important when it comes to a compass, I’ve come across cheap models before that don’t even point north. I always use a Silva compass, they are more reliable and will last a lifetime if properly looked after.
Make sure that your compass has the following features:
- Rotating bezel with degrees
- Romer Scale
- Silicon feet on the underside
Watches have a multitude of uses out in the field: time checking legs on a route, finding north with an analogue watch and setting an alarm so that you don’t miss that beautiful sunrise. Just make sure its waterproof and you don’t mind it getting beaten up a bit.
Other useful kit that I carry on multiday hikes:
- Battery back up
- Tent Repair Kit
- Duck Tape
- Zip Ties
- First aid kit – size is important here, just take the basics and make sure that you have any personal Meds
- Emergency blanket
- Whistle – and knowledge of international distress signals
- Head Torch and spare batteries
- Lighter/ matches
- Water purification kit
- Toilet paper