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Camping checklist

What kind of camper are you?

Planning a trip to the backcountry? Before you head out to that campsite, consider making a camping checklist that you can use every time you're getting ready for your next adventure. A little advanced planning will make your camping trip safer, more comfortable and more enjoyable. You can use the list over and over, so you'll never forget to take important camping supplies. But how much and exactly what should you include? That's a tough question. Part of the answer lies in figuring out what kind of camper you are, what your comfort level is and what style of camp you want to have. This is the first step to making a comprehensive camping checklist. There are several categories of gear you'll need: basics, fire building, dining and cooking, lighting and miscellaneous extras you might not think of. We'll cover all these categories in this article.

The minimalist style of camping.

Are you a minimalist who can do without creature comforts and a lot of extra (and to you, extraneous) equipment? The minimalist is willing to take the wilderness as it comes, adapting as needed to weather conditions and terrain. Minimalists disdain all the extras favored by other many campers, preferring to sleep on the ground, rather than on camping cots. The minimalist's camp is sparse, with a fire rather than a stove and small candles rather than lanterns. These campers try their best to experience the outdoors on its own terms. Their camping checklist is short and sparse by choice.

The gear-oriented style of camping.

Gear-oriented campers are the people who like to be comfortable and prepared for anything. Their campsites are fully 'furnished with tables, chairs, stoves, cots and other conveniences. While enjoying and respecting the outdoors, gear-oriented campers also prefer the little amenities that make a backcountry trip safe and secure - a home away from home. Their camping checklist will be much more extensive than the minimalist's. In this article, we'll focus on the gear-oriented camping list. It's always easier to remove items from a list than it is to realize you've forgotten some crucial piece of camping equipment on a cold rainy night.

Gather the basics first.

It goes without saying that you'll need some basic items: a tent (preferably with a rain fly and at least one window), a good-quality sleeping bag, camping stove, camping food and water. Here's a list of some other gear that can make your campsite more accommodating:

Plastic sheeting for tent floor
Air mattress or pad for under sleeping bag
Large plastic boxes or buckets for food and equipment storage
Emergency blanket; also called space blanket
Tent seam sealer
Folding tables
Folding chairs
Outdoor furniture - lightweight aluminum lawn chairs are a good choice
Stools
Pillows
Binoculars
First aid kit with blister treatment products
Tarp(s) with grommets - can be rigged for shade or used to keep firewood dry
Rope and twine or string
Cots
Small shovel
Sunscreen
Portable toilet
Toilet paper
Moist towelette or baby wipes
Personal care items: soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.
Insect repellent
Tool (such as a hammer or axe) to pound in tent stakes
Backpack, daypack, or fanny pack
Towels and washcloths

Next, get ready to build a homey, welcoming fire.

Sounds easy doesn't it? Gather some wood and build a fire. If you've ever arrived at your campsite on a dreary, rain-soaked day, you know how hard it can be to get a fire going. Even though the outside of the wood may be wet, the inside of larger pieces is probably dry. So bring a small axe and be prepared to split some logs. Also, store your matches in a waterproof container, or better, carry a butane lighter. Dry kindling is harder to find than dry wood. The easiest solution is to bring a supply of kindling from home to get that first fire started without a hitch. Some campers bring a few dry logs as well. A small bow saw can also be very helpful. All these items should be included on your camping checklist.

Dining al fresco in style.

While the minimalist is content to rehydrate a pouch of dried field rations, the gear-oriented camper enjoys hearty, camp-cooked meals. There is a variety of easy-to-prepare camping foods available, but many people like cooking from scratch in the outdoors. So, a more elaborate camping stove is required - something with more than one burner and adjustable flame. Or bring some iron bars to rig a pot hanger right over the fire for slow-simmering that 3-alarm chili. You'll also need a cooler and ice or ice packs for your fresh food. Other equipment for the cooking portion of your camping checklist includes:

Can opener
Bottle opener
Cutlery for food preparation and serving - sharp knife, large spoon, large fork, ladle
Cookware - cast iron works well
Messkits or other eating vessels and implements - forks and spoons
Extra camping stove fuel
Camping recipes
Small charcoal or propane grill - a cast-iron hibachi is small and efficient
Appropriate fuel for grill
Dishrack and dishwashing detergent
Pot lifter or pot holders
Coffee maker
Cutting board
Colander
Tongs
Thermos
Tablecloth
Storage containers
Plastic cutlery, paper plates, plastic or paper cups
Paper towels
Napkins
Trash bags
Aluminum foil

Light up the night.

Be sure to bring several flashlights and plenty of extra batteries. A lantern or two will cast some welcome light in camp. Your lamps can run on a battery, liquid fuel or propane. Be sure to have some extra mantles on hand if any of your lights use them. Lighting is important - don't underestimate its value, especially if there are children in your party. Children should have their own water-resistant flashlights. What child doesn't remember playing camping games in their tent late at night by the glow of a lantern or flashlight? Kids also enjoy glow sticks.

More essential equipment.

If you're planning on hiking, you'll need a backpack, compass, travel guide, map, suitable shoes, extra socks and a hat. Another indispensable piece of camping gear is the multifunction pocket knife. These handy little tools often include:

Screwdriver - flathead and phillips
Bottle opener
Can opener
Corkscrew
Scissors
Tweezers
Awl
One or two super-sharp blades.

One model pocket knife even comes with a reusable plastic toothpick, something you might never think of including on your camping checklist. All backpacks should contain such a knife. If you're going to swimming or bathing in a lake or stream, which often have rock bottoms, some type of waterproof footgear, like the popular "jellies," is essential.Other miscellaneous items to bring:

Duct tape
Safety pins
Sewing kit
Small battery-operated radio
Camera or camcorder with extra film and batteries
Reading material
Playing cards, checkers, chess set, etc.
Paper and pen
Battery-operated clock
Basic tools: pliers, screwdriver, hammer

Camping is great recreation.

From campgrounds that are more like resorts to the challenge of true wilderness camping, you're bound to find some "level" of camping that's just right for you. Bringing the right outdoor equipment is the best way to ensure your trip will be a memorable one. A camping checklist will streamline your packing and preparation. Although experience is the best teacher, a good, comprehensive checklist can help make the difference between an enjoyable camping trip and a disastrous one. Your checklist will be dynamic - you'll add items and remove items with every trip. Just be sure to keep it up to date. Whether you're a minimalist or a gear-oriented camper, camping provides many challenges. A thoughtfully-devised checklist will enable you to sleep dry and warm, build a welcoming fire, enjoy a great camp-cooked dinner, light your camp effectively and handle any miscellaneous small emergencies that might occur.

Rita Liotta is a successful freelance writer offering guidance and suggestions for consumers regarding camping stoves, pocket knives compass, and topographical maps. Her many articles give information and tips to help people save money and make smarter decisions.

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