Every trip has valuable lessons to teach about preparation. Even when I go on a car trip I always bring a backpack with bare essentials in case I have to hike to the site. Also, I like to practice packing light for when I do go backpacking.

Things I could have done differently this time around were to pack less fuel for my stove (my friend had a ton of it), pack a much lighter poncho, and to use seam sealer on my ancient pack and cover it with a water proof cover.

Also, it would have been helpful to have my sleeping bag which was tied to the frame inside of a trash bag along with my pillow which was tied to the top of the pack. The reason for this was because we got caught in the rain and pillow, pack, and sleeping bag were soaked, not cool.

To deter anything from getting wet in the pack itself, and to be able to find things better it’s a great idea to use 3 plastic bags inside. The bottom bag is for clothes, fuel, stove and other gear, the middle is for food, and the last bag on the top is for electronics like flashlights, Ipod, cell phone, wallet, or gps.

My wallet had been in my pocket when in the rain so all my cash took a week to dry. Live and learn. A pack with exterior pockets in my opinion is also great for organization. When you get to where you camp you just take all three bags out of the pack and things are dry and easy to find.

Also, to further organize and protect Ziploc bags are a huge help. I put breakfast in one, soap and cleaning kit in another, socks in another, electronic stuff DEFINITELY goes in one as well. You kind of develop your own system with it and dry is good.

A first aid kit, mess kit (dishes and pans), waterproof matchbox and bug spray is also essential to bring along and it is important to put things in easy reach that you foresee needing soon or frequently. For instance, I put my flashlight and poncho in an easy to reach outer pocket.

One night, I neglected to put the light back and couldn’t find it in the dark. As a result, I groped around for several hours rummaging in my pack and around the tent trying to find things. To prevent this, I’m going to bring a second smaller light next time, but will it tie it to the pack with a string. It will be exclusively for finding things in the pack.

I also make sure I have snacks and water available because backpacking and camping will burn a ton of calories. Snacks are something that should be carefully considered while hiking. You need to maximize the benefit of what you bring but you don’t really want to over or under pack either.

One of the best things you can have for a camping trip is trail mix. This is important because dried fruit provides much needed fiber and nutrition while the nuts provide natural fats that your body stores to use as a slow burning fuel.

Natural fats don’t make you fat, they give you a vital source of energy and are essential in sports like bodybuilding. To function properly while undergoing intense physical activity the body needs protein, the right kind of carbs, and natural fats. If done right, trail mix will provide these.

Power and granola bars are great, but if its hot don’t bother with any chocolate, this will just melt and make a huge mess.

Meals are a very important consideration but I’m not getting into those here, there is too much to write on the topic. The best advice that I can give is not to bring canned food because its too heavy. Dehydrated foods are best because you can add water later and still get vital nutrition.

For example, don’t bring a can of Spagettios, you can get something lighter and healthier from a sporting goods store that will provide far better nutrition and will be easier to haul. To cook it you’ll need a little (and probably expensive) camping stove.

Cheap stoves are heavy to pack and if you think you can cook on a fire for every meal you are sadly mistaken. To cook properly, a nice hot bed of coals needs to be achieved which can take hours. The stove will cook it all in minutes.

Another huge tip I can give is to bring NO COTTON!! Once it gets wet, it will never dry for your whole trip. Nylon shorts, socks, good tight fitting sandals with toe protection, long sleeve nylon shirts, and fleeces are all very useful as well as quick drying.

I spent one trip years ago with all wet cotton clothes and it was no fun. The water came up through the bottom of my pack when I put it down and soaked into all the clothes. This was before I put everything inside in plastic bags. As I’ve said before, this can break a vacation.

The only other tip that I can think of is that its not necessary to spend a lot of money to go camping!! Sporting goods stores will get more expensive every year and lead you to believe that good camping gear will cost you an arm and a leg. The truth is that many things can be bought other places for far less.

If you’re not going somewhere where your going to need the ultimate in cold weather gear then its acceptable to shop around.

For example, hiking packs, (what used to be a frame pack) have gotten ridiculously expensive. Most are well over a hundred dollars and that’s being cheap. Many I’ve seen don’t even have outer pockets or places to tie your sleeping bag. In essence they are expensive crap.

The army surplus store has great ones for 30 bucks!!! Brand new and never used. In fact, next camping trip I’m finally buying one. My old boy scout frame pack has seen better days.

Also, when buying a tent I have one word……Coleman. Don’t believe it??? Shop around, read the reviews and you’ll have your answer.

Big camping stores will push some expensive stuff but if you read the reviews online, Coleman tents are rarely complained about. I wouldn’t trust one in Antartica, but for a weekend get away I would. The key is the water proofing, many other brands look nicer and don’t have it.

You can get a decent Coleman tent at Walmart for fifty bucks. Don’t be afraid to shop around and read reviews online!! You’ll save a lot.

Well, that’s all I’ve got on the topic for now. There is a lot to consider so I’d urge you to look at other informational sites as well before going backpacking. Just sit down with a pen and paper to think about what you really will need logically.

You can do it, you were smart enough to ready my article right? If you have doubts the guys at the camping store can help, just don’t let them sell you on anything expensive you don’t need.

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