Summer offers many opportunities to camp with friends, family, or even solo. Whether you’re pitching a tent at a campground or setting up your RV near a body of water, you’ll have the opportunity to commune with nature and enjoy the fresh air. Both activities do wonders for easing the everyday stresses of living. However, it’s important to carefully plan what you’ll bring with you due to the often-limited space you’ll have in a backpack or vehicle. Read on for some packing tips for summer camping.
Certain items are a must for your personal safety: sunscreen, insect repellant, flashlight, first-aid kit, refillable water bottle, water purification tablets, and cell phone. But don’t forget to also bring a portable charger for your phone. Consider one that can also be charged via solar power; that way, you can give the charger some extra juice while you’re taking a rest break on the trail. As a bonus, many of these chargers also double as camping lights or flashlights. However, it’s also important to remember that just because you have a phone doesn’t mean you’ll have cell service. So, be sure to bring foldable or printout maps of where you’ll be in case you get lost. And, of course, if you’re planning on pitching a tent, make sure you have all the supplies and equipment needed for that.
If you’ve mapped out your entire trip and expect to eat every meal at a restaurant, good for you! Otherwise, you’ll need to bring food supplies. Store perishables in a cooler (especially if you’re incapable of drinking your morning coffee black); use dry ice to keep things from spoiling. Be sure to follow the instructions on how to handle dry ice safely, though. You’ll also need appropriate camp cookware, place settings, and utensils.
For snacks while hiking, try fruit, string cheese, and trail mix; avoid chocolate, which can melt. If you have room in your backpack, keep your snacks in a small insulated lunch bag. And make sure you take sufficient water; it’s crucial that you stay hydrated, especially in the summer heat.
Whether you opt for shorts or pants will depend on where you’re hiking and the expected temperatures, but either way, choose bottoms made from moisture-wicking but sturdy fabric. As much as you may love your jeans, they can chafe when you’re hiking and feeling warm and sweaty. A good compromise is a pair of zip pants, which usually have a zipper circumventing the lower thigh, enabling the bottom part of the pants to be removed.
The same goes for tops. Cotton T-shirts may be great for everyday wear, but tops made of sun-protective fabrics, such as rash guards, will do double duty because they will also wick away moisture and dry quickly when you sweat. Rash guards can be found in different sleeve lengths, so you’re sure to find one you’re comfortable in. It should fit snugly to prevent chafing.
Moreover, layers are key. Being able to add or subtract clothing items as the temperature changes and you feel warmer or cooler throughout the day is necessary to prevent chilling or overheating. Flannel shirts work well as an outer layer because the fabric helps trap the warm air generated by your body, making them a good option for early morning and late afternoon activities. When you’re not wearing your flannel, just throw it in your backpack or camper, or simply tie it around your waist.
Unless you’re camping in the desert (and even then), don’t assume that rain is not in your forecast. A packable jacket is a great option just in case. It won’t take up much space in your backpack. In addition, the jacket itself will be much less unwieldy than a rain poncho, which can get blown about when the rain is accompanied by wind.
Layers are also a necessity at night, even while sleeping. Summer days can give way to evenings (and then mornings) that are quite cool. So, in addition to investing in terrain- and temperature-appropriate sleeping bags, you’ll want to layer sweats or flannels over your sleep shorts and top. A sweatshirt can do double duty as outerwear while you’re hanging out at your campsite after a long day outside. If you’re somewhere that gets downright cold at night, you may want to consider a hat and gloves, as well as a fleece vest or sweater, for extra warmth. Another option for bedtime is to bring a set of long underwear along. Nothing ruins a good night’s sleep like waking up because you’re too cold.
There’s a good chance that during your camping trip, you’ll come across a lake, stream, or other body of water and want to go swimming, so don’t forget to pack a swimsuit. If you’re planning on initially wearing your swimwear under your regular clothing, opt for a two-piece suit to make quick changes or restroom stops easier. Also, remember a packable towel so you can quickly dry off before changing back into your clothing, plus a plastic bag for the wet items. Water shoes that protect your feet from rocks and sticks (not to mention broken glass) are a good idea as well. Depending on your level of camping activity, some styles of water shoes can double as hiking shoes.
Water shoes can double as shower shoes, but you may also want to bring along a pair of flip-flops if you’re camping somewhere with bathing facilities. Remember to bring a wide-brim hat. While they are good for keeping the sun out of your eyes, baseball caps don’t do much to protect the back of your neck. Another useful item to bring is a bandana—the clothing equivalent of a multi-tool. A bandana can protect your scalp from sunburn if you’ve lost or forgotten your hat; be tied around your head or neck to mop up sweat; and, in an emergency, be used to create a sling, bandage, or tourniquet.
Summer camping is what you make of it. But no matter how you define it, with the right supplies, you’ll have a safe and enjoyable time.