10 Camping Essentials

Camping in the wild can be an exhilarating experience, though it can be made even more enjoyable if you are well prepared. Knowing what to pack will vary depending on where you're camping and for how long you plan to spend in the great outdoors. Whatever your intentions, remember that plans, including weather forecasts, can change quickly, and a casual one day camping trip could turn into an extreme survival situation. That's why it's important to pack camping essentials. According to the well-respected Seattle-based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, The Mountaineers, the following ten items are the most essential kit to pack before setting out on any camping trip. This list is a modified version of the original 10 item list that was assembled in the 1930s. The Mountaineers updated their list in 2003 by adopting a “systems” approach rather than listing individual items (for example, map and compass now fall into the Navigation). camping
1. NAVIGATION Climbers must carry the tools and possess the skills required to know where they are and how to get to their objective and back. Always carry a detailed topographic map of the area you are visiting, and place it in a protective case or plastic covering. Always carry a compass. Climbers may also choose to carry other avigational tools, such as an altimeter or global positioning system (GPS) receiver; additional aids include route markers, route descriptions, and other types of maps or photos. Know how to use map and compass and other navigation aids—refer to Chapter 5, Navigation, for more information. Route markers (such as glacier wands) should be removed after use to leave no trace. If you are separated from your party, a whistle can be a simple but reliable signaling device. camping 2. SUN PROTECTION Carry and wear sunglasses, sunscreen for the lips and skin, and clothing for sun protection. Sunglasses. In alpine country, sunglasses are critical. The eyes are particularly vulnerable to radiation, and the corneas of unprotected eyes can be easily burned before any discomfort is felt, resulting in the excruciatingly painful condition known as snow blindness. Ultraviolet rays can penetrate cloud layers, so do not let cloudy conditions fool you into leaving your eyes unprotected. It is advisable to wear sunglasses whenever you would wear sunscreen, and both are especially necessary on snow, ice, and water and at high altitudes. Sunglasses should filter 95 percent to 100 percent of the ultraviolet light. They should also be tinted so that only a fraction of the visible light is transmitted through the lens to the eyes. For glacier glasses, a lens should allow 5 percent to 10 percent visible light transmission. Look in a mirror when trying on sunglasses: If your eyes can easily be seen, the lenses are too light. Lens tints should be gray or brown for the truest color; yellow provides better contrast in overcast or foggy conditions. There is little proof that infrared rays (heat-carrying rays) harm your eyes unless you look directly at the sun, but any product that filters out a high percentage of infrared, as most sunglasses do, gives added eye protection insurance. The frames of sunglasses should have side shields that reduce the light reaching your eyes, yet allow adequate ventilation to prevent fogging. Problems with fogging can be reduced by using an antifog lens cleaning product. Groups should carry at least one pair of spare sunglasses in case a pair is lost or forgotten. If no spare is available, eye protection can be improvised by cutting small slits in an eye cover made of cardboard or cloth. Many climbers who need corrective lenses prefer using contact lenses instead of eyeglasses. Contacts may improve visual acuity, plus they do not slide down your nose, do not get water spots, and do allow the use of nonprescription sunglasses. Contacts have some problems, however. Blowing dust, sweat, and sunscreen can irritate your eyes. Backcountry conditions make it difficult to clean and maintain contacts. Eyeglasses protect your eyes better than contacts. Whether you choose contacts or eyeglasses, if you depend on corrective lenses, always carry a backup, such as a spare pair of eyeglasses or prescription sunglasses or goggles. Sunscreen. Skin products containing sunscreen are also vital to climbers’ well-being in the mountains. Although individuals vary widely in natural pigmentation and the amount of screening their skin requires, the penalty for underestimating the protection needed is so severe, including the possibility of skin cancer, that skin must always be protected. While climbing, use a sunscreen that blocks both ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. UVA rays are the primary preventable cause of skin cancer; UVB rays primarily cause sunburn. To protect skin from UV rays, use a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. The SPF number means that the sunscreen is formulated to permit you to stay in the sun that many times longer than if no protection was applied, with the same effect. For example, wearing a sunscreen rated SPF 15 allows you to stay in the sun 15 times longer than if you were not wearing any sunscreen. To protect skin from UVA rays, use a sunscreen that contains zinc oxide, titanium dioxide, or avobenzone (sometimes listed as Parsol 1789). Titanium oxide also blocks UVB and short-wave UVA rays. Manufacturers often use it in combination with zinc oxide. All sunscreens are limited by their ability to remain on the skin while you are sweating. Some sunscreens are advertised as waterproof and will protect longer than regular products, but regardless of the claims on the label, reapply the sunscreen frequently. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin, including the undersides of your chin and nose and the insides of nostrils and ears. Even if you are wearing a hat, apply sunscreen to all exposed parts of your face and neck to protect against reflection from snow or water. Apply sunscreens half an hour before exposure to sun, because they usually take time to start working. Clothing offers more sun protection than sunscreen. Long underwear or wind garments are frequently worn on sunny glacier climbs. The discomfort of long underwear, even under blazing conditions, is often considered a minor nuisance compared to the hassle of regularly smearing on sunscreen. Some UPF-rated garments (see “Putting the Clothing System Together,” above) designed to maximize ventilation are meant for use in hot weather. Lips burn, too, and require protection to prevent peeling and blisters. Sunblocks that resist washing, sweating, and licking are available. Reapply lip protection frequently, especially after eating or drinking. camping 3. INSULATION (EXTRA CLOTHING) How much extra clothing is necessary for an emergency? The basic climbing outfit (garments used during the active portion of a climb) includes inner and outer socks, boots, underwear, pants, shirt, sweater or fleece jacket, hat, mittens or gloves, and raingear. The term “extra clothing” refers to additional layers that would be needed to survive the long, inactive hours of an unplanned bivouac. Extra clothing should be selected according to the season. Ask this question: What is needed to survive the worst onditions that could realistically be encountered on this trip? An extra layer of long underwear can add much warmth while adding little weight to a pack. It is also wise to pack an extra hat or balaclava, because they provide more warmth for their weight than any other article of clothing. For your feet, bring an extra pair of heavy socks; for your hands, an extra pair of polyester or fleece mitts. For winter and expedition climbing in severe conditions, bring more insulation for your torso as well as insulated overpants for your legs. head torch 4. ILLUMINATION Even if the climbing party plans to return to their cars before dark, it is essential to carry a headlamp or flashlight, just in case. Batteries and bulbs do not last forever, so carry spares. Lights vary greatly in their brightness. In general, brighter illumination consumes more battery power. The highest-powered lights require more weight in batteries to last long enough for several hours of use. Technological improvements continue to make lights and batteries more efficient—xenon or halogen bulbs, brighter light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and better rechargeable batteries are examples. LEDs in particular have become very popular for their light weight, efficiency, and durability. Some lights combine LEDs with xenon or other high-powered illumination for versatility. Headlamps. Few climbers carry anything besides headlamps, which allow freedom of both hands and, thus, are so much more convenient than flashlights. Lights are important enough and temperamental enough to make it worthwhile to invest only in quality equipment. At a minimum, get a light that is at least moisture-proof (designed to keep out rain). Waterproof lights often merit their extra expense, because they function reliably in any weather and the contacts or batteries are less likely to corrode in storage. All lights need durable switches that cannot turn on accidentally in the pack, a common and serious problem. Switches tucked away in a recessed cavity are excellent. So are rotating switches in which the body of the light must be twisted a half turn. If it looks as though a light switch could be tripped accidentally, guard against this danger by taping the switch closed, removing the bulb, or reversing the batteries. Adjustable beam is an excellent feature available on some lights. Wide floodlighting is good for chores close at hand; concentrated spotlighting assists in viewing objects far away, making it possible to see farther than with a brighter light lacking this feature. Make sure the spare bulbs and batteries you carry still work and fit the light. Alkaline batteries. The most commonly available general-purpose batteries, alkaline batteries pack more energy than cheaper lead-zinc batteries. The major problems with alkalines are that voltage (hence, brightness) drops significantly as they discharge, and their life is drastically shortened by cold temperatures: They operate at only 10 percent to 20 percent efficiency at 0 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 18 degrees Celsius). Also, they tend to be heavy and are difficult to recycle or dispose of properly. Lithium batteries. For longer life and lighter weight, lithium batteries are available, though at a higher price. Voltage remains almost constant over their charge, and efficiency at 0 degrees Fahrenheit is nearly the same as at room temperature. Lithium batteries may have twice the voltage of their same-sized counterparts, so make sure they are compatible with the light you are using. Again, recycling or disposal of spent batteries is a concern. Rechargeable batteries. Today’s rechargeable batteries are better than ever. The once-common nickel-cadmium types function well in cold conditions but do not store as much energy as alkaline or lithium batteries and are difficult to dispose of properly. Much “greener” and more efficient alternatives are available in nickel-metal hydride (Ni-MH) and lithium-ion technologies, which pack more energy and hold their charges longer in storage. Some (not all) perform better in cold temperatures, others less so—check specifications carefully. A popular option is to use suitable rechargeables for the main batteries and lithium or alkaline batteries as spares. first-aid-kit 5. FIRST-AID SUPPLIES Carry and know how to use a first-aid kit, but do not let a first-aid kit give you a false sense of security. The best course of action is to always take the steps necessary to avoid injury or sickness in the first place. Getting mountaineering-oriented first aid (MOFA) training or wilderness first responder (WFR) training is very worthwhile. Most first-aid training is aimed at situations in urban or industrial settings where trained personnel will respond quickly. In the mountains, trainedresponse may be hours—even days—away. The first-aid kit should be compact and sturdy, with the contents wrapped in waterproof packaging. Commercial first-aid kits are widely available, though most are inadequate. At a minimum, a first-aid kit should include gauze pads in various sizes, roller gauze, small adhesive bandages, butterfly bandages, triangular bandages, battle dressing (or Carlisle bandage), adhesive tape, scissors, cleansers or soap, latex gloves, and paper and pencil. Carry enough bandages and gauze to absorb a significant quantity of blood. Consider the length and nature of a particular trip in deciding whether to add to the basics of the first aid kit. If the party will be traveling on a glacier, for example, tree branches will not be available for improvised splints, so a wire ladder splint would be extremely valuable in the event of a fracture. For a climbing expedition, consider bringing appropriate prescription medicines. See Chapter 23, First Aid, for details on a basic first-aid kit for one person. matches 6. FIRE Carry the means to start and sustain an emergency fire. Most climbers carry a butane lighter or two instead of matches in a waterproof container. Either must be absolutely reliable. Firestarters are indispensable for igniting wet wood quickly to make an emergency campfire. Common firestarters include candles, chemical heat tabs, and canned heat. On a high-altitude snow or glacier climb, where firewood is nonexistent, it is advisable to carry a stove as an additional emergency heat and water source (see Chapter 3, Camping and Food, for information concerning stoves). camping 7. REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS (INCLUDING KNIFE) Knives are so useful in first aid, food preparation, repairs, and climbing that every party member needs to carry one. Leashes to prevent loss are common. Other tools (pliers, screwdriver, awl, scissors) can be part of a knife or pocket tool or can be carried separately—perhaps even as part of a group kit. Other useful repair items are shoelaces, safety pins, needle and thread, wire, duct tape, nylon fabric repair tape, cable ties, plastic buckles, cordage, webbing, and replacement parts for equipment such as tent, tent poles, stove, crampons, snowshoes, and skis. food 8. NUTRITION (EXTRA FOOD) For shorter trips, a one-day supply of extra food is a reasonable emergency stockpile in case foul weather, faulty navigation, injury, or other reasons delay the planned return. An expedition or long trek may require more. The food should require no cooking, be easily digestible, and store well for long periods. A combination of jerky, nuts, candy, granola, and dried fruit works well. If a stove is carried, cocoa, dried soup, and tea can be added. There are many possibilities. Some climbers only half jokingly point out that pemmican bars and U.S. Army meals ready to eat (MRE) packs serve well as emergency rations because no one is tempted to eat them except in an emergency. logo on filter 4 9. HYDRATION (EXTRA WATER) Carry sufficient water and have the skills and tools required for obtaining and purifying additional water. Always carry at least one water bottle or collapsible water sack. Widemouthed containers are easier to refill. An accessory pocket makes it possible to carry a water bottle on a pack hip-belt for easy access. Some water sacks (hydration bladders) designed to be stored in the pack feature a plastic hose and valve that allow drinking without slowing your pace. Before starting on the trail, fill water containers from a reliable source, such as from a tap at home. In most environments you need to have the ability to treat—by filtering, using purification chemicals, or boiling—additional water that is encountered. In cold environments, a stove, fuel, pot, and lighter are needed to melt snow for additional water. Daily water consumption varies greatly. Two quarts(liters) daily is a reasonable minimum; in hot weather or at high altitudes, 6 quarts may not be enough. In dry environments, carry even more water. Plan for enough water to accommodate additional requirements due to heat, cold, altitude, exertion, or emergency. (See “Water” in Chapter 3, Camping and Food, for more information.) SHTF survival shelter 10. EMERGENCY SHELTER If the climbing party is not carrying a tent (see Chapter 3, Camping and Food), carry some sort of extra shelter (in addition to a rain shell) from rain and wind, such as a plastic tube tent or a jumbo plastic trash bag. Another possibility is a reflective emergency blanket, which can also be used in administering first aid to an injured or hypothermic person. Carry an insulated sleeping pad (see Chapter 3, Camping and Food) to reduce heat loss while sitting or lying on snow. Even on day trips, some climbers carry a bivy sack as part of their survival gear, and they partially compensate for the extra weight by going a little lighter on their insulating clothing layers. Others rely on their regular gear. A bivy sack protects insulating clothing layers from the weather, minimizes the effects of wind, and traps much of the heat escaping from your body inside its cocoon. (See “Shelter” in Chapter 3, Camping and Food, for details on bivy sacks).

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