Camping Gear & Equipment Tips

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Should I carry a knife or axe with me in my camping and hiking gear?

Camping Knives and Axes

It's a good idea to carry at least one knife and axe with your camping and hiking gear. An axe can help when you're in the backcountry and on the lookout for firewood, while a folding knife with some accessories can come in handy any time. You can use it in the kitchen, for emergency repairs, and even for emergency-first aid if necessary.

The classic camping knife is the Swiss Army knife, but there are many other brands that work just as well in the woods. Many have locking handles, which the Swiss Army's don't, and many have bigger blades for hunters and fishermen. Many campers swear by a Leatherman's tool in their camping and hiking gear. Just don't get caught in the woods without a good sharp knife, you never know when you may need it.

What should I do before I store my camping equipment?

Storing Camping Equipment

Your camping is a big investment, so here's a camping equipment tip that helps you take care when you store your equipment. Never put away dirty equipment. The dirt can grate against fabric or nylon, eventually rubbing a hole in your tent, tarp, or sleeping bag.

Rinse off tents, rain flies, tarps, and other nylon items and let them dry before you pack them away. Hand wash sleeping bags, or at least shake them out and let them air before you carefully store them in their storage bags. Better yet, store it flat so the insulation inside the bag doesn't break down over time

Wash and dry all your kitchen camping equipment before you pack it away, and inspect all buckles, webbing, ropes, and stakes before they go back in storage.

If you clean and care for your camping equipment every time you use it, it will ensure your camping equipment enjoys and long and happy life.

Why should I include a trekking or walking pole in my camping and hiking gear?

Trekking and Walking Poles

If you hike a lot when you're camping, think about investing in a good trekking or walking pole. These lightweight poles help stabilize walking up and downhill, and are a necessity when hiking in rocky or rough terrain, so be sure to include them with your camping and hiking gear. They make hiking a little easier on your knees, too.

Trekking poles come in a variety of heights geared to every individual, and they are often so durable they're stronger than steel, but much more lightweight. Some of these poles also come filled with a variety of safety accessories, such as reflective blankets, rain gear, ropes, and other necessities, so you don't have to carry extra camping and hiking gear in a backpack when you hike.

Trekking and walking poles are made from a variety of materials, from wood to aluminum alloys. Pick one that will last for years and won't wear out if you use it on rough terrain.

Why do I need camping accessories like daypacks?

Always Carry a Daypack

Even if you're just going for a short walk on an easy trail, you should always carry a daypack along. You should never leave the campground without water, some food and snacks, a first-aid kit, and a flashlight. Other safety equipment like tarps and rain gear are a good idea too, and you can stash all of these in a daypack.

Daypacks are smaller and lighter weight than traditional backpacks and many are made expressly for carrying essential camping accessories for short periods. Some are big enough to use for overnight trips, while others can serve as school or sports packs when you're not camping.

Why do I need bear canisters in bear country?

Bear-Proof Your Campsite

You need to take some precautions with your camping and hiking gear if you're camping in bear country. Bears have a tremendous sense of smell, and they are so strong they can rip out a car window or tear off a car door a lot easier than you might think.

Don't store any food inside your vehicle or tent. You need to use bear canisters, which are lightweight, durable plastic canisters that are virtually indestructible and bear-proof. Bears have learned how to get to food caches suspended from tree branches, so this old backpacker trick is no longer safe, either.

Most parks recommend these bear canisters for all food, and some even require them. If you're going camping in an area with bears, don't take any chances. Carry bear canisters, bear repellent, and watch out for bears near the campsites. Report them if you see them, and keep food prep to a minimum, too. Bears can be deadly, and they like human food, so take care not to feed the bears!

Why are binoculars essential camping accessories?

Camping Binoculars

A pair of binoculars can be one of the most important and enjoyable camping accessories you carry with you. They are great for spotting birds and wildlife around your campsite, and they can help you find family members strung out along hiking trails, too.

When you buy outdoor camping accessories like binoculars, look for bright optics that give lots of detail. Outdoor binoculars should have water-resistant cases and lenses. They should be lightweight, and easy to stow in a backpack so you can carry them with you on the trail.

Binoculars make great star-gazers, too. Pack a small notebook inside your binocular case or backpack to keep track of the stars and constellations you see, along with the birds and animals you spot up in these essential camping accessories.

How do I keep a camping towel out of the way?

Camping Towel

Use a golf towel at your camp site. They have a grommet built into one corner so you can hang it or hook it to your pack. It's great to always have a small towel handy when you're outdoors. Especially when camping.

What is another "must have" camp tool?

Don't Forget Gloves When Camping

Gloves can be very useful at the campsite, especially in your camp kitchen. Get yourself a pair of heavy work gloves. You can use them as pot holders, to pick up hot cookware, food, or even the grill, when cooking.

You can use them to to move logs in your campfire (with caution). Also, use them to pick up kindling for making your campfire.

They are great for protecting your hands from heat as well as cold. Camping with gloves is smart.

What should I watch out for in used camping and hiking gear?

Used Camping Equipment

When you purchase camping and hiking gear, you may be tempted to hit garage sales and flea markets to look for used camping equipment. That can be a good idea if you know what to look for.

First, look for camping and hiking gear that has never or hardly ever been used. It should be free from wear, especially at stress points like pole sleeves or tie-downs. There should be no holes or cuts in tents and sleeping bags, and you should always hand wash sleeping bags if you buy them used. Backpacks should have all the straps, buckles, and webbing attached, and they should not be worn at the stress points.

You can find some great bargains buying your camping and hiking gear used, just look for good quality gear that still has a lot of life left in it. Some online sites specialize in used gear, including details about the condition, so shop around before you buy.

Is it a good idea to sleep directly on the ground?

Stay off the ground

Whether you are tent camping or sleeping out under the stars, using a sleeping bag or some other form of bedding, you need to put something between your torso and the cold hard ground. One solution is a sleeping pad. Another is a cot. Either way, laying in a sleeping bag without another barrier between you and the ground will not be comfortable. You'll really notice it when you try to stand in the morning.

What types of soaps and paper goods should I take camping with me?

Camping Extras

Don't forget the little incidentals you'll need when you camp, like shampoo, soap, insect repellent, sunscreen, and other items you might forget but are essential camping equipment.

All soaps and shampoos should be biodegradable, especially if you're using them while backpacking. Any paper goods should be biodegradable too, and packed out with you when you leave your campsite.

Use any soap sparingly, even biodegradable soaps can be harmful in large quantities. Other great camping equipment choices are baby wipes or other pre-moistened cloths for camp clean up and hygiene. These are easy to carry and you don't need a water source to use them.

If you don't have access to showers, concentrate on keeping your hands clean (they can transfer germs when cooking and eating), your feet clean, (to help guard against fungus and other foot troubles), and your teeth brushed, and worry about the rest when you get back home.

What about outdoor socks?

The Right Camping and Hiking Socks

It should take approximately 25 minutes to hike a mile with decent wool socks, more or less time depending on the terrain and size of pack.

It will take 35-40 minutes wearing cotton socks — you need to add on time for fixing blisters and for all the stops you'll want to make because your feet hurt!

Socks for hiking need to be made of fibers that are resilient enough to cushion the feet and are elastic enough to fit closely without wrinkling and causing blisters.

Cotton has none of these desirable characteristics. If it is mixed with other fibers to try to make it work better, you still lose out in other ways. Good quality wool processed by modern methods has the desired resilience and elasticity.

What is the one thing to always remember to take camping or hiking?

Camping Gear most frequently forgotten

Batteries. The more sophisticated your camping gear toys, the more you'll rely on the performance of your batteries. GPS units, 2 way radios, range finders, flashlights, weather radios, lanterns, etc...all are rendered useless without good batteries.

The most experienced camper and hiker will occasionally forget to bring extra batteries. Bring an extra bulb for your flashlight too.

How can I minimize the time I need to get packed for camping?

Staging Your Gear

Buy some things, such as dish towels, small dish detergent, spatula, cooking knife, etc., and reserve them only for camping. That way you don't have to pack them up each time you want to go; instead, they're waiting for you with your camp supplies.

How do I keep dirt out of my tent?

Keep Debris Out of Your Tent When Camping

First, never leave the fly of your tent open when camping. That's asking for debris and insects to enter. Secondly, place a scrap piece of carpet outside the tent to wipe your footwear on. This is also a good place to take your dirty boots off. You'll be amazed at how clean your tent floor will stay. Have the right camping gear when you camp.

Is a hat really needed when camping?

Camping Hat Is Important

A wide brim camping hat will keep you cool in the sun and dry in the rain.

Besides, when else do you get to wear a really cool hat.

Any other versatile tools we should be taking camping with us?

Rubber Bands

Rubber bands really come in handy. Here are a couple of ideas:

If we have a water spigot at our site I'll use the rubber bands to attach a pump soap bottle to the spigot post. Then it keeps the soap off the ground and easy to access for hand- or dish-washing.

Rubber bands always come in handy - pull up your hair, keep utensils together, etc.

What's a lightstick?

Camping Lightsticks

Camping lights are some of the coolest outdoor camping accessories to hit the market. You simply bend or break the light-stick to activate it, and it glows with a green light that can even be seen underwater. It works in any temperature, but cold temperatures may alter the light's color.

These are a great alternative to candles and lanterns in enclosed spaces, because they are inflammable, non-toxic, and don't give off heat. They are inexpensive too, so you can keep them on had for other uses besides camping lights, such as in the car in case of emergency. Besides, the kids will love playing Darth Vader with them after dark!

Will old stove fuel be effective?

Stove Fuel

Empty the fuel of your stove at the end of each season; old fuel is the most common cause of long-term stove failure.

How do I care for my sleeping bag?

Sleeping Bag Care

A down filled bag should never be rolled. It should be stuffed into a transport bag. Once, the trip is over, it is time to store your bag for weeks or even months. We suggest you store your bag loosely, allowing it to breathe We store our sleeping bags on heavy duty clothing hangers in a closet. Every few weeks we fluff them up an rehang them.


Staying Warm

To add extra warmth, a tent or bivy sack adds 10 degrees, and a sleeping pad prevents heat loss between you and the ground.


Keep Your Sleeping Bag Dry

To keep your bag dry on the trail, put it in a trash bag, and also hang it outside your tent in the morning to dry.

Can I rent camping accessories and equipment?


If you don't camp out that often, it doesn't make sense to spend a lot of money on camping accessories and gear. An alternative is renting camping equipment when you need it. Many large camping retailers offer camping equipment rentals by the day, week, or more, and carry a variety of gear for every camping situation.

Renting also makes sense if you've never camped before, and you aren't sure you'll enjoy it. You don't have to spend a lot of money on equipment you'll never use again, and it won't end up sitting in a box in the attic gathering dust, either.

Once you rent equipment a time or two, you'll also get a better idea what camping accessories you really need, and which ones you can do without, so renting camping equipment can save you money on camping accessories more than once.

Should I put everything I need in my backpack?

Camping Gear to keep on You

Your most important camping gear should always be on your body. Not in your pack, not in your tent or in your vehicle. If you are separated from your pack, you'll want your compass (or GPS) watch, whistle, flashlight and knife on your person. Have the proper camping gear on you at all times.

What do I sit on when I camp?

Camp site Chairs

Make sure you take a comfortable chair (with a back) for each camper when you go car camping. The more you time you spend relaxing, the more important this becomes. You need a good camping chair for sitting around the fire or just hanging out. The right camping gear is very important.

How do I make room for a roll of duct tape?

Duct Tape

What a universal tool! But what is the best way to carry it? Wrap it around your other pieces of gear, like your flashlight, shovel, medicine bottle, etc. Most packs don't have room for a roll of duct tape, so improvise and place just about anywhere. How about the inside of your pack itself?

What is the best way to wash dishes in a camp?

Washing dishes

Start by heating some water in your largest cooking pan--this will be your "sink". You should have some dishwashing liquid and a scrubber sponge. When the water is warm, add a little dishwashing liquid and start washing. We have a 5-gallon water container that sits on a campstool, and has a little water spigot on the side of it, pointing downward. After washing a dish, I rinse it under the spigot and hand it to my helper for drying. I also use a brown paper bag as a dish drain in case I get ahead of him and need to set something down. Try to do all this activity on the perimeter of your campsite, and not right next to your table or tent, as it tends to leave a pretty good puddle by the time you're finished.

What is a versatile piece of clothing I should have on when hiking?

Versatile Piece of Clothing

A bandanna is used to catch the morning dew for water and keep you cool on a sweltering day. It can also be used as a hotpad, sunscreen, tourniquet, cleaning cloth, to carry additional items and filter the water youll need to stay alive. Attached to a stick, that brightly-colored cloth becomes a rescue flag.

Should I care a compass if I have a GPS Unit?

GPS or Compass

The GPS unit is not a compass. Despite its excellent qualities, the GPS system can be shut down at times. In addition, the units run on batteries which can fail. Do not become enamored with your GPS; always carry a compass. I carry both.

Oh....and learn how to use everything you carry with you. Your life, and the lives of those in your care, may depend on it.

How do accessories impact the total cost of a GPS unit?

Understanding the Whole Cost

If you are going through the purchase decision process for a new GPS Unit, be sure to price the map software, cables and (if available) an external antenna before you make a decision. These items can run the purchase price up quickly after you have committed to the basic unit.

How do I choose a good sleeping bag?

Choosing a sleeping bag for Camping

To pick a good sleeping bag, consider these items:
1) Dead space is difficult to keep warm; give yourself a few inches at the bottom and top for stretching, but no more.
2) Gore-Tex shells don't allow moisture to escape, so consider Dry Loft which is breathable and resists water better than most microfibers. Ripstop is the most durable nylon/polyester shell.
3) Buy down-filled bags. Good quality bags will keep th down in place when you shake it.
4) Mummy bags are the most efficient for weight and warmth. If you're claustrophobic, the semirectangular bag is the way to go with its tapered foot, contoured hood and torso space.
Buying the right camping gear is critically important.

Why does my GPS take so long to find its position when I turn it on?

GPS Startup Delay

Most new owners of a GPS unit can easily be discouraged by the possibility that a new GPS unit may take over a half hour to come up with a position after it is first powered up.

If you power it up within 25 miles of it's last position, a fix is normally found pretty fast, under a minute or two by most units that store it after power down and run their own onboard clock, but if you take a flight cross country, and power it up, it's gonna be a while.

All of these units are going to have an initialization screen that will allow the user to reset the current approximate position when you know the unit so work with the unit and you will get the most out of this great technology.

What kind of tent should I get?

Tent Camping: Height

Tent camping takes on many different forms. If you are going to car camp (no lugging the tent around) be sure to get a tent you can stand up in. This helps immeasurably when it's time to get dressed. And while you're at it, why not have cots in the tent? That way you won't have to sit on the floor of the tent to put your boots on. This becomes more important as your mobility decreases due to injury or to old age.

How big of a tent do I need?

Car Camping Tent

If you're going to car camp (drive to a spot and set up camp) then you're going to need the proper camping tent. Be sure to get a camping tent that indicates it can handle 2 more people than you will have in the tent. For example, if there will be 2 people in the tent, get a 4 person tent. The room will come in handy for storing your camping gear, especially during inclement weather.

What is Geocaching?

Geocaching while Camping

Basically, geocaching is a high-tech version of treasure hunting. Geocachers seek out hidden treasures utilizing GPS coordinates posted on the Internet by those hiding the cache. Using a GPS unit, they then trek out into the backwoods or urban jungles to find the hiding spot of the cache. Once found, a cache may provide the visitor with a wide variety of rewards. If the visitor takes something out of the cache, they are asked to leave something in return. For some, the biggest reward is the thrill of the search and the discovery of a place that they have never been.

What should I look for in Hunting Binoculars?

Hunting Binoculars

When purchasing Hunting Binoculars, be sure to look for excellent low-light capabilities. This typically means a larger objective lens, however, modern lens coatings help with light collection such that a small objective lens, and hence, lighter hunting binoculars are possible. Most effective hunting happens in the day's first and last hours of light, so hunting binoculars which collect light efficiently are preferred.

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Guru Spotlight
Carol Sponagle