Camping Tips

Day Hiking Backpack Checklist

If you plan on day hiking on your next camping trip, having the right gear is important. Today, we are going to go over what items you want to make sure to have with you, even if only out for a few hours. You don’t want to get caught in the middle of nowhere not being prepared. So let’s get started!

Backpack

If you will be hiking for the day, you will need the right type of backpack. I mean, you need to have a place to store everything we will be going over below. Taking the right kind of backpack is important as well. You want something that is laid out in a way that everything has a place to be.

Hiking backpack with plenty of room for all your gear. Bright colors help people find you if lost.

Backpack tips

A bright colored backpack can help you be seen if you are in trouble and people are searching for you. Using a dark colored or camouflage backpack will work if you also use it for hunting but if not, go with a bright color. If you do go dark, make sure to pack a bright (hunter orange) color rag just in case.

You want to get a backpack that has a lot of room but comfortable to carry around all day. Pictured above is a large outdoor hiking backpack that has plenty of room and pockets for everything you may need.

Things to think about when buying a hiking backpack are: will you even hike camp (do you need room for a tent like above)? Does it have room for everything you need? Is it too big (how much can you carry)?

Navigation

Heading out in unfamiliar land without anything to help you get around is just kinda dumb. How many news reports have you seen about hikers getting lost with search parties being sent out to find them? You cannot depend on having phone service when in the woods or underpopulated areas. It is important to know where you are and how to get back.

Map

Taking a map that has local landmarks is a good idea. You can usually find these at local tourist stations. Make a note of landmarks on the map as you head out so you can look for them if lost on your way back.

Compass

Compass to help you read a map if you get lost.

Compasses are not used nearly as much as they should be. Having a compass will help when trying to read a map. Knowing which way is what can help you confirm landmarks in a specific direction. A compass app can be found on most (if not all) smart phones. One thing to remember is that if your phone dies, you will not have a compass. A small pocket compass is cheap and well worth the little space it will take in your backpack.

GPS

A real GPS is always a smart idea and can replace your map and compass. You can not rely on your phone GPS, you would want a dedicated device strictly for this. Just make sure it has a personal GPS locator function built into it.

Sun Protection

Even if you plan on hiking in the woods, sun lotion is a smart thing to pack. Have you ever got sun burned on a cloudy day? Being hidden under trees will protect you but if you will be in open areas, you will wish you had it. It is smart to pack a small tube of sun lotion that doesn’t take much room and will not add unneeded weight to your pack.

It is recommended not to use spray lotion for a couple reasons. One, you will be taking arousal into nature. Second, more and more people are having chemical reactions to them. You do not want to be too far out if you have one. This happened to me nephew and it was BAD!

Extra Clothes

You may not think of something like an extra pair of clothes as something you will need, but it is. Weather changes, it could be cool when you leave but become very hot. Or, it could be a nice day and the sun goes down quicker than you thought. Preparing for the weather can ave you from suffering weather changes.

What if you run into the perfect swimming creek or pond? I bet you will be kicking yourself that you didn’t bring an extra pair of your skimmies (bra/undies)!

What if it rains? Do you have a poncho? They are light and easy to pack.

Lastly, pack a pair of work gloves. You can thank me later.

Emergency/Survivor Gear

Starting a fire with flint as part of your emergency survival gear while hiking.

Even if you are going out for a few hours, having some basic survivor gear can save your life. Just a few simple things can be the difference between life and death in case of an emergency. Here is what I carry:

  • Knife (both pocket and larger K-Bar type for cutting wood)
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries
  • Flint or small box of waterproof matches
  • Small radio with crank power (for weather if you get stuck)
  • Multi-tool like a Leatherman or Gerber
  • First-aid kit with extra tape that can be used in making a splent
  • Whistle
  • A few MRE’s (meals ready to eat) in case you are stuck overnight or two
  • Water sanitize tablets
  • Small tarp to make shelter if needed
  • Rappelling rope
  • Pistol (if laws allow and you have your CCW) since you never know what you will run into

Water and Protein

Getting water out of a creek to drink using a filtered water bottle or using sanitize tablets.

You will of course take water on your hike, but make sure to take enough to last. You need plenty of water to stay hydrated but water is heavy! A gallon of water weighs over 8 pounds, and that’s a lot of weight to add to your pack.

Using a water bottle that has a built in filter not only make hiking fun by refilling from lakes and streams, it also cuts real pounds from your back. The technology of today is awesome! Here is one from Amazon that gets great reviews.

Besides water, protein is just as important. Staying hydrated and fueled will keep you energetic and keep you feeling good. packing things like jerky, protein bars or a jar of peanut butter will make sure you will have the power throughout the day.

Overview

So, above we covered a checklist of things to take on a day hike. You may think of your hike as harmless fun but all you have to do is watch the news to see what type of things that can happen while out. The above may sound like overkill but being prepared is being responsible. Your friends and family want you to come back!

So a quick overview of things you need:

  • good backpack with plenty of room
  • map and compass
  • sun protection
  • extra clothes or at least socks
  • poncho
  • emergency and survival gear including: knife, flashlight, fire starter, radio, multi-tool, whistle, MRE, water tablets, small tarp, rope and firearm (if allowed, have CCW and in a area with predators)
  • water bottle with filter
  • protein snacks like jerky

Stay safe and enjoy Mother Nature!

Yearly Camp Sites: What I Have Learned and What You Need To Know

Having a yearly camping spot has been our choice fr the past couple of years. We picked this for a couple reasons. 1. We have three kids in activities, full time jobs and endless extended family birthday parties. It was becoming impossible to plan camping trips and if we did get a last minute trip scheduled, it seemed like we were spending way to much time setting up. The weekend would fly by and it didn’t seem like we would have any down time to enjoy the weekend. I actually just posted on permanent sites vs travel camping.

So, we decided to go with a permanent camping spot. Since then, I have learned many things that I never thought of when having your own little spot. Today, I want to go over some of the more important things that someone might not think of. It defendant has it’s pros and cons.

You Get More Time To Relax

The first thing is the one biggest reason that we went with a yearly camping spot. More time to relax and enjoy being together. You show up, get your chairs out, lay your rug and turn on water/electric. The rest of the time is yours. When its time to go, do a quick clean up and your off. No unhooking/hooking up the camper, trying to level the camper, etc.

You Have to Cut The Grass

One thing I never though of is the lot grass. We have a pretty large lot and there is a lot of grass. We have to keep it cut. Not only that, we need to cut it regularly. Just like at home, your neighbors are not too happy if you let it go and only cut it every couple of weeks. Luckily our camp site is on the way to where I work a lot. I can swing by and knock it out on my way through.

You Gather A LOT of Stuff

Another thing I never really think would happen but does, is all the stuff you end up at your site. Besides having a lawn mower sitting behind the camper, we also have a full size grill to make cooking easy, more kid toys, scooters, etc than I would have though and of course my wife’s lawn decorations!

This takes many people to the next level and end up with a small shed on the site. We are unable to have one since we have to pull out at the end of the year due to flooding in the off season but some people on higher ground has them. A shed can keep your camping site a little cleaner looking but it also starts the process of the next topic…

Is It Still Camping?

So, we have to cut the grass, have a full size grill, some people have sheds, TV, video game system for the kids and more. The question is, is this our camp site or a vacation home? It’s easy to over supply your yearly camping spot thinking of new things that you “need”. You can go overboard easier than one might think and it can start to feel like not camping or easier to not spend time together. Because of this, we do a few things to try and help with this.

Take a tent

We have a small tent that we keep at camp. We try to use it every other trip at least one night. We make that night no electronic night and spend it all together sleeping in the tent. You can do a little research and find some family sized tents for pretty cheap prices.

I suggest the following rules for tent night:

  1. No electronics
  2. Cook on the fire pit (no grill/oven)
  3. No camper access. Well, maybe for the girls to go potty but make the boys go outside. All boys love to pee outside!
  4. Catch up and let your kids tell stories at the fire or when laying down for the night. Take time to listen to them.

Credit: David Mulder

No TV or games when it’s nice out

Probably the biggest mistake I have made in regards to out yearly camping spot was adding an Xbox in the camper. My teenager can get lost in games and we had to make a rule. You can only play video games if it is raining or on extra hot days (for an hour while you cool down). I recommend leaving the games at home, but if you do take a system, make sure there are rules of when and how much they can be played.

You Save Money

Another pro to having your own camping spots, is that you save money on some things that you have to regularly keep buying. Here are a few:

Firewood

I can’t tell you how many bundles of wood I have purchased from a camp ground or local store. If you haven’t noticed, those prices keep rising and people keep paying. I believe the last time we purchased firewood from one of these places it cost us over $1 per piece of wood… It would cost us $20 to have a fire per night!

So having your own campsite means you can stack as much as you like. You can bring in a rick from someone local who sells wood, but better yet, why not buy a log splitter for firewood? It’s a little expense but it will pay for itself within a short couple years. Even faster if you can get your hands on enough to sell to other campers as well!

These cost about $7 each! Credit: Joyful Honda

Ice

If you camp, you buy tons of ice. No matter if you camp in a camper or in a tent, we all have the need for ice. Having a yearly camping spot diminishes the need for so much of it. Imagine if when you showed up to your camping spot, the fridge was already cold and maybe even already stocked! This is one pro that I love.

I can either stop by the site a few days ahead of our weekend and turn the electric on, start getting the fridge cold. That way when we show up, its all ready to go. No need to keep things on ice the first night.

If we will be camping the following weekend, we will leave our electric on and keep everything as is. Just hit the AC unit on our way out. This has saved me probably over $100 in ice this year which is about 8% of our yearly site fee.

You Pay Electric

With a yearly camping spot comes the need to pay for your own electric. Unlike weekend camping sites, it is not included. This is a pro and con. for one, your electric is more stable than sharing with the rest of the camp ground. You should have less surges and power loss.

The down side is:

  • you have to have turned on
  • there is usually a monthly minimum from the electric company (ours is $20)
  • you may need to turn off at the end of season and turn back on in the beginning, there is a fee for this.

Last year which was our first yearly stay, we left our electric turned on through the electric company but turned the breaker off at the meter when we left for the season. It was half forgetfulness and half not wanting to pay the re-connection fee the following year but we never did call can have them turn it off. We learned a hard lesson from this.

We knew we were in a flood zone on the off season but it usually doesn’t make it up to our meters. Well, last year it did. So our meter was “hot” sitting under water for about two months. The water/electric combo ate away our meter hard hardware and needed to be replaced. We were not the only campers that did this, I heard it happen to about 10 of us. So, we learned that lesson and will not mistake that mistake again.

My Final Thougts

If your family loves to camp but can never find time to make it happen, you may want to think about getting a yearly camping site. Just remember that though it is great to quick last minutes trips that will allow you to spend more time having fun, it might not be as good as it sounds.

It works great for my family and it may for yours as well, just know what to expect!

Sources: Some images are being used under the Creative Commons License. These images are marked as so.