A Forest Ranger’s Top 9 Camping Essentials, 2021

You may believe you know what camping basics you require, but are you sure? As summer draws to a close and cooler weather approaches, beach days may become scarce. Your odds of camping, on the other hand, are better than ever. The end of summer/early fall is the ideal time to camp in most parts of the United States, thanks to cooler temperatures and picturesque autumn trails.

But, before you head out into the wide outdoors, double-check that you have everything you need. Whether you’re going on a weekend trek or a week-long off-the-grid vacation, camping securely necessitates advance planning and research to ensure your safety in the backcountry. That’s why we turned to Lieutenant Kevin Burns, a forest ranger with the New York Department of Conservation in Upstate New York, for advice on where to go hiking.

For some more than 20 years, Burns has kept visitors safe in the Adirondack Park. Burns understands the ins and outs of camping comfortably and, more crucially, safely as a ranger in the park’s High Peaks region—a mountain range that attracts hikers, bush whackers, and campers alike. While he has recommendations for fun items like sleeping bags and hiking boots, he believes that knowledge is the most important thing you can bring to your camping trip. It may sound corny, but being prepared before going camping is the most important thing you can do.

“People need to spend some time researching where they’re going and what they’re going to accomplish,” he says. “You may consult some guidebooks, read some blogs, or call your local forest ranger and ask questions over the phone. However, study is critical—starting with research will make your journey so much more enjoyable.”

Do your homework if you’re going primitive camping (i.e., camping in a tent or beneath the stars). Scout the region ahead of time and familiarise yourself with the restrictions, particularly those pertaining to fire safety, food storage, and conservation. This will keep you and your campsite safe for the duration of your stay as well as in the long run.

Lt. Burns has a lot of suggestions for your gear. The best camping items he never leaves home who can are listed below.

According to a forest ranger, here’s what you really bring on your next camping trip.

1. Hiking boots that are supportive

A good pair of hiking boots is the first camping item Burns recommends for backpacking in the backcountry. “It’s fairly easy to roll your ankles when you’re wearing a 30-40 pound pack,” Burns adds. “Sandals and sneakers aren’t going to cut it. It doesn’t have to be pricey, but it should provide adequate ankle support.”

For stability over uneven terrain or down narrow inclines, look for a boot that comes up and around your ankle bones. The, for example, are a safe and cheap solution for walking on uneven terrain or climbing steep, tight inclines. The Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof ($135), which offers fantastic support and keeps feet dry in the water and mud, and the Salomon Outline Mid Goretex ($150), which has the flexibility of a running shoe and the sturdiness of a boot, are two solid, reasonable options.

2. A well-fitting, long-lasting backpack

Burns recommends investing in a tough backpack whether you’re going out for a weekend getaway or a week-long trip into the wilderness. Don’t skimp on your gear—look for something that’s light but tough enough to endure the elements, has adequate storage for all of your belongings, and, most importantly, feels comfortable on even the longest hikes.

“The greatest thing you can do is go to a store and get fitted for a backpack,” he advises. “They’ll spend a lot of time fitting you for a well fitting backpack, which is crucial because if you get one that doesn’t fit correctly, it’ll tug on your shoulders and make you uncomfortable.”

3. A comfortable sleeping bag

According to Burns, you should choose your sleeping bag based on the season. A lightweight sleeping bag certified for sleeping in 20-30 degrees Fahrenheit should suffice in the summer and mid-fall. However, if you’re going out in the winter, you’ll need something warmer, maybe in the 0-10 degree range.

Consider the fill when it comes to the materials. Before you buy, examine the benefits and drawbacks of both down and synthetic fills. “The downside to down is that it doesn’t dry out as rapidly as a synthetic,” Burns explains. “However, even when wet, it retains its insulating properties; it simply becomes clumpy.” While synthetic material dries faster when wet, it is a little heavier to carry on long hikes.

It’s a matter of personal style, but anything you choose should be able to wrap up into a small, portable bag, according to Burns. “You don’t want your sleeping back to sag out both sides of your backpack,” he advises. “You want it to fit into your pack as small as possible.” Look for a model with a compression sack included, or purchase one separately, such as this one from Sea to Summit.

4. Sleeping bag and tent

For life on the path, your tent should compress down into something lightweight and packable, similar to sleeping bags. “You want something that will keep you dry in a downpour and has a solid fly on it,” Burns explains. If you don’t want to set up a tent, he recommends a portable hammock with a built-in fly, which keeps you off the ground while protecting you from the weather.

Bring a sleeping mat to go underneath your sleeping bag for cushioning and insulation if you plan on doing traditional tent camping. Burns says, “I’ll usually pack one Thinsulate pad and an air mattress.” “They now sell a lot of backpack air mattresses that compress into a little bag and self-inflate when you open the valve… It’s an extra piece of gear I carry, but I’m completely at ease with it.”

Are you looking for some recommendations? The Sleepingo Camping Sleeping Pad ($40) is a low-cost, long-lasting inflatable mat that won’t take up too much room in your backpack. Alternatively, the Therm-a-Rest Prolite Apex Sleeping Pad ($120) is a lovely night’s sleep that employs self-inflating foam to pack light while providing insulation.

5. Water that is safe to drink

It’s a frequent myth that flowing freshwater can be drunk directly from the stream. “If you’re going into the bush, you should know that water must be cleaned for girardia bacteria,” Burns says. “There are water filters on the market that you should bring with you so that you can drink water directly from streams or ponds without becoming sick.”

Rather than lugging gallons of water to your campground, invest in a water bottle with a built-in water filter, such as the Grayl Geopress Water Purifier ($95) or the Larq Bottle PureVis ($95), which both purify water on-the-go and protect it from bacteria, pollutants, and contaminants. The LifeStraw ($17), which filters water in standard water bottles simply by drinking through the straw, and potable water tablets ($8), which clear filthy water in just 35 minutes, are both more economical solutions.

6. An emergency first-aid kit

A First-Aid kit should be carried with you whenever you go into the woods. On the path, ankle sprains, cuts, and allergic responses are all possible. It’s best to be prepared, according to Burns.

“You may put together your own First-Aid kit by doing research and imagining what might happen,” he explains. Pack an Ace bandage or a small splint to account for joint rolls and sprains if you’re going up and down difficult terrain. Bring cleaning agents and bandages to deal with cuts and scrapes if you’re hiking through brush and thorns. In addition, pain relievers, gloves, and alcohol wipes are all safe bets.

7. GPS satellites

Burns recommends taking an SOS beacon or GPS satellite device for keeping safe on long, off-the-grid backcountry expeditions. Satellite technology is used in tools like the SPOT Gen4 GPS Satellite Messenger ($100) to offer life-saving communication in life-threatening situations. If you’re deep in the woods and require assistance from a ranger, SPOT broadcasts your GPS coordinates to first responders with the click of a button.

“At this point, they’re becoming a more usable instrument,” Burns adds. “You can press the emergency button if you fall and injure yourself and require assistance.” The infrastructure is in place for the rangers to get the phone call. Then we have your coordinates, we know where you are, and we arrive at your place to help you with anything you require.”

8. Getting Around

Proper navigation is another criterion on Burns’ list. You can’t rely on your phone to keep you oriented while you’re out in the woods or on a mountain because batteries die, signals get lost, and technology fails. For packing in and packing out, a traditional compass and map are required.

“Technology is fantastic—AllTrails and all of the current apps are fantastic—but people should keep [their phones] in their backpacks. Turn on their phone when they want to know where they are. However, using a map is the greatest option “he declares

Purchase a map from a local outfitter or a lodge (if one is available) before heading out. Also, get yourself an orienteering compass, such as this $10 lanyard compass or this $35 compass watch.

9. Canister for bears

Depending on where you go, protecting your food from bears and other predators is critical. Some regions, such as the Adirondacks’ Eastern High Peaks, even require you to have a bear canister while camping. “The majority of state lands don’t require it,” Burns says, “but as a ranger, I recommend it because why not?” “Your food is safe, and you can sleep soundly at night knowing that a bear won’t pull your bag apart.”

Bring a bear canister, such as the Bear Vault BV500 ($80), if you’re going anywhere where you might come across a bear. “When you’re done cooking,” adds Burns, “you’re going to put everything back in that canister and walk it 100 yards away where you’ll anchor it in a log or something so it won’t roll away.” “They’re an excellent idea to have even if they’re not essential.”

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