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What’s with all this gear?!?

May 10, 2013

Getting ready to head out for the weekend into the forest. Going to shed the shingled roof above and adopt a home of nylon. The floor at dinner will be a dirt one, and the days activities will be lit by the sun. So what do I need to bring?

DSCF1001When I was a younger man, all I really needed was a sleeping bag, a flashlight, a pack of hot dogs, something to start a fire, and something to drink. Not so anymore. I have learned that there are luxuries worth bringing. I know there is a lot of essential gear, but I thought that I would point out some of the stuff that may not be so essential, but is very welcome. This is some of the stuff that I bring with me these days. Still roughin’ it, but with a level of comfortability.

The handful of things that have changed the way I camp (for the better as far as I’m concerned.) are as follows. Don’t be afraid to call me “Old”, I’m happier having this stuff with me.

DSCF1159First of all, get a couple of big plastic totes. And then get a few medium sized ones. I have two that I always bring, one of which contains all my kitchen stuff (plates, plasticwear, cooking implements, etc.), and the other which has most of my other possibly-needed gear and items (bug spray, sunblock, a hammer, etc.). Plus, the lid of a tote is awesome for fanning a stubborn fire. The smaller ones are for when you need a place to put extra stuff you’re bringing, or for taking up less room in your vehicle when you realize you can’t fill the one of the big ones, on occasion. The amount of gear I bring varies widely between backpacking trips and campground trips. Thaaaat, and when we are bringing the kids, or it’s just her, me, and the dog.

Secondly, introduce yourself to an air mattress and an electric air pump. I don’t know how I did it when I was younger…all I would usually have was a cheap sleeping bag with a jacket for a pillow. Maybe it’s climate change…the ground is more dense than it used to be somehow? I don’t know, I just know that I can’t sleep right on the ground anymore. I guess that’s kinda snooty of me? Who cares, I want to get some rest!

DSCF1153Thirdly, my big water jug with a faucet. Some people say that I am a bit of a germ-a-phobe, but I have no problem getting gritty and dirty out at a camp site. The thing I like is that after I’ve put that raw chicken on the grate over the coals, I can step over to the picnic table and wash my hands. Plus when you go to wash your dishes and pans, you don’t have to hunch over at some water spout next to some other guy’s site. That other guy doesn’t really like the looks of you anyway, so avoid conflict and use your own water source, you tattooed weirdo!

And a chair. It should take only one experience of sitting on a log or a rock or the ground to convince you of this. Nothing beats having a place to sit that isn’t jagged or moist, including when backpacking. You don’t have to buy the most expensive one…just buy one. And find yourself a light little backpacking chair too, if you do that sort of thing. It is a luxury worth carrying.

Another item is a decent propane stove. Now in the past, I used to eat a bag of melted chocolate donuts for breakfast, or maybe a box of Pop Tarts. “But Gabe, that stuff is quick!” I used to try to tell myself. Yeah, sure…but it’s crap too. I like to make some bacon and eggs and wrap it in a tortilla with some cheese for breakfast nowadays. It just makes for a better day overall. The problem with cooking a decent breakfast is waiting on the fire in the pit to be ready. A propane stove will change your life and get your day started two hours earlier, I promise. Get one. And always have a propane canister, plus a spare. Nothing ruins the saliva inducing bacon sizzle than it not being cooked properly. And everyone waiting on it will be mad at you. Don’t put yourself through that.

DSCF1152So beyond that stuff, these are the lists that I made up a few years ago. I would print one of each of these out and then check them off as I packed up so that I wouldn’t forget anything. I stopped using the lists the past year and you know what? I always forget at least one thing every time now. And don’t be afraid to store some of this stuff in ziploc bags. I had a can of bug spray leak once and when I arrived at the site, the inside of the tote was in rough shape, albeit bug repellent.

My personal exhaustive lists are as follows, but are not limited to:

Main Gear:

Air Mattress

-Air Mattress Pump (Charged? Fresh Batteries?)


-Sleeping Bag




Camp Chairs



Dog Stake

Dog Ties

Fishing Equipment

-Cleaning Tools


-Tackle Boxes


DSCF1140Grocery Store Bags (you never know when you will need them, but they come in handy)

Hand Broom (for sweeping the dirt out of the tent and the wood chips and bark out of your vehicle)






Lighter Fluid


Missouri Atlas (Or the atlas for wherever you are)


Newspaper (Bring a book for reading. This is for kindling)

Radio (And try to like country music…because you will most likely only be able to pick up a country station)


Tarp(s) (They can come in really handy for other things, but I always have one to put under the tent. It’s a lot easier to spray off a tarp with the hose than it is to spray off the bottom of a tent)


Toilet Paper (‘Cause you never know…)

Trash Bags


Water Jug

Ziploc Bags





Body Wash

Bug Deterrent (Incense, Candles)

Bug Spray

Contact Lens Case (If you are blind like me and wear contacts)

Contact Lens Solution


First Aid Kit (Do some research and either put one together or buy one. I have a couple for different purposes.)

Glasses (In case you lose a contact. That is my reoccurring nightmare…losing a contact and then having to drive two hours home through a blur of movement.)

Hand Soap (Two words: Raw Chicken.)

Hand Wipes (Crap, I forgot the hand soap!)

Ibuprofen (The cure-all for us older people.)

Laundry Bag (By the end of a trip I will usually have one empty cooler. That’s where my stinky clothes ride on the voyage home.)







DSCF1136Cooking Supplies:

Camp Stove

-Fuel (Propane Canister, White Gas, Etc.)

Can Holder (They are referred to sometimes as pan or pot handles. They also work great for cans of beans, stew, whatever you are cooking in a can over the fire.)

Can Opener (Heh heh heh…don’t bring any canned food without one.)

Coffee Cups

Coffee Pot (I have an aluminum percolator that goes on the stove first thing every morning. Best coffee in the world!)


Dish Soap

-Sponge (Buy a multi-pack. These can get gross after a few trips)

Foil (Heavy duty, unless you want to get yelled at again!)



Paper Plates (And get the sturdy kind…I can’t stand a flimsy plate of beans.)

Paper Towels

Pot Holders

Sharp Knife (Or knives. I like to keep a couple steak knives in the tote, beyond just my pocket knife.)




Table Cloth



Wet Wipes

DSCF1160There are a million other things that can be needed, some of them trip specific, and I encourage you to let me know what you would add. For the most part, anytime I am camping at a campground, I will have all this stuff with me. I don’t always need everything, but it’s better to have it just in case. But don’t worry, you WILL forget something. Sometimes it can be a lot of fun playing the “What did I forget this time?” game as you drive down the road to the woods. But it’s all part of the adventure. Have a great weekend, everybody!

  1. I could never list what I bring with me, I don’t really know. I’ve been camping for so long that all my stuff is stored ready to go, all I have to do is throw it in my vehicle, and when I get to the campground, I have what I need.

    • Yeah, I don’t really use the lists anymore because everything is in the totes. They were a good way though for me to create that inventory in my head. I usually go through the totes before a trip just in case I need to replenish something. It can take what seems like a lot of stuff to be comfortable, but I am willing to bring it all in case I need it. This past weekend, I forgot tongs for cooking. Wonder what it’s gonna be next time…

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  1. Not all adventures will follow your Expected Path, Part One. Berryman and Brazil Creek Recreation Areas, Mark Twain National Forest 2/21-22/2014 | Camping Missouri

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