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Life's Pilgrims

Life is a journey, and we are all pilgrims traveling its varied paths.

Camping Gear Suggestions

By Karen Anderson
Published October 18, 2019

Chris and I were coming home from visiting William during his fall break. On the plane coming back from Atlanta we got to talking to the gentleman sitting next to us. We talked about where we were all coming from, and our involvement in Boy Scouts came up. We talked to him about our trip on the Appalachian Trail and he shared with us how his son’s troop is in the process of going to Philmont and that it had been a while since he had been camping. This whole conversation got me to thinking about when Chris and I would get our new scouting parents  ready for the first camping trip.  We would give them a list of basics items that they would need and sometimes we would arrange to go to the local stores to help them pick everything out. This list breaks down into the essential elements of shelter, food and water, and some extras that make it nice. Most of the gear I will talk about in this article we have used in the past or are currently using. Links to our Affiliates page are included.

Tents

What you want in a tent will depend on if you are hiking or camping.


When you are camping you can use a larger and heavier tent, which will provide extra room for people and gear, but for hiking you will want something lighter weight and maybe a little smaller. Or you can get a tent that is good either way. Tents are sized for different numbers of occupants, usually two, three or four people. We typically buy tents that will take more people than we have sleeping in it. For example, when the boys were younger and we were camping as a family, we used a five-person tent for the four of us. This allows us some wiggle room as we sleep and allows for some space to keep our gear inside the tent as well. Brands may vary but we have had great success with Eureka, Northface, and Kelty.

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When Chris started backpacking, he bought a two-person Northface tent. It is still a great tent but became very tight when I started hiking with him about twelve years ago, so we switched to our yellow Eureka. For the two of us it’s great because of the two doors and vestibules which allow us both access and a covered area for our gear. This is the tent that we took on the Appalachian Trail and is still my favorite, however the model has been changed since we bought ours and it is now the Eureka Midori.  

Sleeping Gear

Once you are in your tent and ready to go to sleep, you will  want to stay warm, dry, and comfortable during the night. 

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Thermarest NeoAire

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TETON Sports Tracker Scout
You will, of course, need a sleeping bag. Ours are old and not sold anymore. However, our youngest son will need a new one if he goes on a through hike on the Appalachian Trail, so I’ve been doing some research on these. The one that consistently hits the "Best Of" lists is the TETON Sports Tracker Scout.  

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Vumos Sleeping Bag Liner
A liner for your sleeping bag is a good idea.  It is easier and cheaper to clean than a sleeping bag and on those hot nights it can be used instead of your sleeping bag.  It also allows you to use your sleeping bag on nights that are colder than you bag might be rated for.  Chris and I have used silk liners for years, but purchased these for his parents who have used and thouroughly enjoy them.

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Cocoon Hyperlite 
A pillow always adds some extra comfort while sleeping and we have used the Cocoon Hyperlite pillow for many years and we have been extremely happy with the pillow and the service Cocoon provided us when the valve on Chris’ pillow failed just before we were to leave for our AT hike. We called Cocoon and explained what happened and they replaced the pillow quickly and with no hassle. What I also like about the Cocoon pillow is that it is just wide enough I can slip one of my Buffs over it and serve as a pillowcase.

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Klymit X Pillow
Another good choice for a hiking pillow is the Klymit X Pillow. It is comparable to the Cocoon in size and weight, but its X shaped indentations give more of a cradle for you head to rest in. We do have these in our gear, but they are very new to us, so I will follow up with more information on these as we use them more.

Food Cooking Systems

We have used Jet Boil for many years because it is the fastest and most efficient way to heat water for rehydrated meals.

There are two types of backpacking stoves and the one that works best for you depends on your cooking style.  I prefer to pack dehydrated meals that we can soak in boiling water for a few minutes and then eat out of the bag.  This for me is faster, easier, and less clean up.  However, some people prefer to cook pastas, stews, pancakes, or oatmeal, which requires a much different cook system.  Jetboil's system is an integrated canister stove, which is best for heating water quickly and efficiently.  Small cannister stoves, such as MSR's Pocket Rocket are better for this style of cooking.  Chris and I prefer  the Jetboil systems, but when our troop bought their patrol cook systems, we went with the pocket rocket.
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Jetboil Zip 
I recommend using the Zip for one or two people

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Jetboil Flash
if you have three to four in your group the Flash is a better model.

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MSR Pocket Rocket 2
As stated above, this is an excellent choice for those who prefer to cook thier meals on the trail as opposed to rehydrating them.  This is the system our boy scout troop went with for their patrol gear.

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Sea to Summit Alpha Light
Chris and I usually just heat some water and rehydrate our meals in bags and eat them with the Sea to Summit Alpha Light.  This line is made from aircraft grade aluminium and also offers sporks, knives, and forks in addition to the long handled spoon

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Primus LiTech Frying Pan
If you have something you want to cook, then a small set of cookware is also good to have with you. Jetboil does make cookware designed to work with their stove system, but I like something that I can set on a grate over the campfire, so I pack my Primus cookware with my cook gear.

Water Systems

Cleaning water on the trail and what we use to drink from

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Sawyer MINI Water Filtration System
To make sure you have clean water to drink and cook with, the Sawyer MINI Water Filtration system is hard to beat. Chris and I used this on the AT; it is quick and easy to use and very lightweight.  

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Nalgene Triton Widemouth 1 Quart Bottle
We use Nalgene bottles to store our water and I really prefer these because I can measure for cooking and using drink mixes is very easy in these bottles. We assign a color for each person in our family so our bottles don't get mixed up and Nalgene offers a wide variety of colors to choose from.

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USGI Canteen Cup
When in camp, we use a USGI Canteen Cup. These are stainless steel and can be used for both cooking right over the fire and drinking your beverage of choice. .

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TOAKS Titanium Cup
If the canteen cup is not your style a titanium cup is also a great choice.  We have not used this cup, but if I ever have to replace my canteen cup, this is what I would go with.  It can also be placed over the campfire and the titanium is lighter in weight.

Extras

These are the things that help make life a little nicer

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Campsuds
Once you have finished your meal, you need to get your dishes clean and we have always used Campsuds. This soap is good for pretty much everything- dishes, clothes, your hair and body.  

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Packtowl Original Quick Dry 
I recommend the Packtowl Original because I have used it for years. Mine was originally bought at a Rand McNally store that was in our local mall and I still use it today.  My towel is the Hand size and it is abosrbent enough to get everything dry after swimming or showering.

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PETZL Taktikka Headlamp
A headlamp is more of an essential item when you are camping and backpacking. It allows you to see where you are going and what you are doing, and your hands are free. We have always used Petzl and this is the model Chris went with when he had to replace his headlamp about two years ago. Petzl headlamps have never let us down. 

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Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 
It’s amazing how just having a dry, comfortable spot to sit can make a huge difference while you are in camp. The Crazy Creek Hex 2.0 allows you to have a place to sit in relative comfort. It folds down and compresses nicely to fit in your backpack and can even unsnaps to lie flat for use as a pad. It is a great go anywhere item.  

Backpack

Your going to need to put your gear into something to get it to camp - a backpack is the easiest whether your camping or backpacking.

Your backpack is a very personalized item, and there are many different styles, so I recommend that you find a store with a good selection and try them on for size.  Find what works best for you whether it's an internal or external frame, weight, color, and size.  Then shop for the best price.  We have three different styles in our family.  Chris decided to go with a Kifaru military style internal frame.  It is heavier when empty, but he has the ability to customize his layout by attaching different MOLLE style external bags.  I have a Jansport Women's internal frame pack that I bought on clearance before the internal hydration bladders were common.  William chose the Kelty Coyote 80 to take on the Appalachian Trail and he loves it.  So when it comes to a backpack, shop and look around carefully because this is undoubtedly the one thing that can make or break a backpacking trip.

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Kelty Coyote 80
This has been a good, flexible backpack for our youngest son.  It is lightweight, has a good range for size adjustments, and a well padded hip belt for added comfort.

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Sea To Summit Event Compression Dry Sacks
Getting the tent and sleeping gear in your pack can be a bit tricky and compression sacks are the best solution. Chris and I have used the Sea to Summit Event Compression Dry Sacks to store our gear and help keep it dry. Usually we will have one for our tent, one for our sleeping gear, and one for our clothes. By using the dry bags, everything stays dry if it rains or if we must pack the tent before it has a chance to dry out.

In addition to these basic necessities for camping, I have a list of what I call non-essential needs.  These are items that are exremely useful and nice to have with you, but your trip will be successful without them.  Keep an eye on my blog for an updated post about these items that also make great gift ideas.

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