Essentials for Camping and Hiking

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picture of some of the essentials that you need to take with you when you are camping or hiking
Clean water is one of the essentials for hiking or camping

Pamela: Hello, and good day, eh? Welcome to the Super Good Camping podcast. My name is Pamela.

Tim: And I’m Tim.

Pamela: And we are here because we are on a mission to inspire other families to enjoy camping adventures such as we have with our kids. Today, we wanted to talk about essentials for camping. We have six planned but there may be some bonuses at the end.

Essential Gear: Navigation Aids, and Lighting

Tim: Alright, so the first thing I want to say is when you go camping, I don’t care whether you’re in a car, whether you’re backcountry, which we know I like, whether you’re going on a day hike, make sure that somebody else has your itinerary. It makes it considerably more difficult, heaven forbid, knock on wood, (that’s me pounding on my head), should anybody run into a problem and then need a rescue. If they don’t know where you are, it’s considerably more difficult to rescue you. So make sure that somebody has your itinerary, at least one person. The list of essential gear applies obviously to backcountry camping because you know, it’s not like you can pop out to Walmart from there in your car and pick up whatever else you don’t have. But it also applies to things like day hikes. Make sure you’ve got all of these things in your pack. Even if they’re in a light version of what we’re about to talk about. Heaven forbid you get lost, somebody twists an ankle, the sun is setting, and you’re going to run into trouble. So just do me a favor, throw these things in your backpack and take them with you. It’s not too much weight. It’s not a big deal. We’re going to start with, not necessarily in order, although pretty darn close, you need some form of location-finding navigation. There’s an app called What Three Words, maybe you use that if you’ve got a signal. I don’t really think about those things, because a lot of times when we’re backcountry camping, there is no signal. So it’s kind of pointless. But always take a map, and always have a compass. If you’ve got a GPS, that certainly won’t hurt. We also drag around a satellite messenger. For me, it’s the Zoleo. Budget-wise I just don’t need anything more than that. I can tie it to my phone, if I need to send a bigger message, Butt Covering 101. I could push the SOS they can track it, triangulate it and come save my butt. So make sure you’ve got those things and by map, it could be a Jeff’s map if you’ve been in the game long enough to own one of those. They’re now called Unlostify maps. It could be the government’s topographical maps, those are excellent. There’s more detail to them. There’s more information so you can sort things out better that way. The next topic would be a headlamp, some form of lighting. Once the sun starts setting you’re going to be in trouble if you can’t see. You’re stopped dead which isn’t necessarily a bad thing if you don’t know where you are. The best thing to do is stay there. A search and rescue operation is going to start at the point that your itinerary says you should be and then they will work backward from there. So staying where you are isn’t a bad thing. If you have a map and you know what you’re doing and you’re headed towards civilization then you’re going to need a headlamp if you’re going to keep going through the night. Or just even say you actually have matches, you’re going to want to start a fire. You’re gonna need a headlamp to go around and collect up wood, stuff like that you want to stay warm, so that’s not a bad thing. When you set out make sure it’s a fully charged headlamp and/or you have spare batteries with you. I have multiple headlamps. Some of them take batteries, and some of them have onboard rechargeable batteries that I have charged. A flashlight’s not a bad thing either. Having more than one of these isn’t a bad thing either. If one goes for a crap, you’ve got a backup. A small mag light or something like that wouldn’t be a bad thing, or a Luci light is also good. The nice thing about headlamps is that they free up your hands to do other things whether it’s cutting wood, or you want to cook dinner, a headlamp makes your life much easier. A Luci light is not ideal because you have to hold it, but it doesn’t necessarily need a power source. You can charge it even on an overcast day. You can get a decent charge into it during the day because it has a solar panel on the top and it doesn’t use a tonne of the battery power to illuminate things. It doesn’t have a tonne of throw to it, but it will certainly light your immediate area for you. I’m going to toss it over to the better half here because as the medical professional she’s going to tackle first aid

Essential Gear: First Aid

Pamela: I’ll talk about the first aid supplies that you want to have with you. We were talking earlier about how there’s no doctor close by if you’re in the middle of nowhere, you have to be your own doctor sometimes. And you don’t want to just bleed out because you forgot to bring a tourniquet or something. We want to bring bandages. If you’ve cut yourself you want to keep things clean so along those lines you want alcohol pads and Polysporin. Especially if you’re in the backwoods for a week and you cut yourself on the first day. You don’t want to be having an infected foot that you can’t get around on by the time you’re trying to leave. A splint if you’ve broken something. Now the good thing about being out in the woods is that you can use a branch or a stick as a splint if you need to. So you can improvise on splints. Iodine, that’s another good thing for helping to sterilize something, if you happen to have had a cut or an open wound. Tweezers to get splinters out. If you happen to have acquired a splinter or to pull out ticks. If you have acquired a tick, you’ll need the tweezers to pull that out. Matches – waterproof matches because then if they get wet, they’re still going to work. Tensor bandages to protect yourself if you have injured something. Gauze pads to bandage up an injury. A little medical booklet might not be a bad idea if somebody is experiencing some symptoms, and you’re not sure what exactly is going on. You’re not a doctor yourself. You want to be able to figure out if maybe they’re having heatstroke, maybe they’re suffering from dehydration, you need to be able to figure out what’s happening, what the symptoms are about. An emergency blanket. So if you do get stranded out somewhere that you’ve got something to keep yourself warm. Water purification tablets too so if you run out of water, you took a water bottle with you but you were gone unexpectedly long and now it’s gone, you’re going to have to drink from the lake. This way, you’re able to drink some clean water. Painkillers if you’ve had some sort of injury and you physically have to get yourself out of where you are. You need to be able to reduce the pain, and make it tolerable so you can get out. And then back to Tim…

Essential Gear: Food, Water, Shelter, and Tools

Tim: Next on the list for me are food and water. For a day hike, throw in a bunch of granola bars and a couple of bottles of water. So here’s one for you. We hiked to the Crack at Killarney a few years back. We did it pretty quickly, I want to say about two and a half hours, three hours, something like that. And I think it’s rated at about a four-hour hike. Some of us are a little more driven than others on occasion. It was a fantastic hike. And it wasn’t crazy hot. Although I start sweating in March, and maybe slow down a bit in the sweating department in November.


Tim wears t-shirts in the middle of winter.


I’ve got problems. We took three water bottles on the hike and we were rationing it by a quarter of the way back. We were starting to go oh, okay, we’ve got to stretch this out a bit.

Pamela: And we didn’t factor in the dog.

Tim: Yeah, we didn’t anticipate needing extra water for the dog. Poor planning on my part, I hadn’t really given much thought about him. You lose a lot of water that way trying to give him water out of your hand. Again, even if it’s on a day hike take tonnes of water. I know it’s heavy but get over it man. It’s really going to suck if you don’t have water. Bonuses – take a water filter because they’re pretty light and it covers your butt if you come across a stream and you’ve run out of water. You really, really don’t want to drink the water and take a chance on some of the bad things that will happen to your insides because it may end up costing you quite a bit more than just being thirsty. Bonus if you happen to have a stove with you or the ability to collect firewood and those matches in your first aid kit. If you have something that’s not plastic you can boil some water, which would be fine. Of the food and water, the water’s the most important. Granola bars, trail mix. It’s heavy but it’s got a lot of go-go juice in it. Thomas and I dehydrate quite a bit of food for our backcountry trips. It weighs nothing. It takes forever to rehydrate if you use cold water so you would ideally like to have boiled water to do it but it will rehydrate, most of it will. Kidney beans and stuff like chili wouldn’t, you’d spend hours waiting for that stuff to get re-hydrated. But oatmeal and things like that, it’s pretty easy. It will take 20 minutes, maybe half an hour with cold water. And then we move on to shelter. So the first thing right out of the gate I’ll refer back to the first aid emergency blankets that will keep you warm, especially in shoulder seasons or the temperature drops at night even in the summer. Or you get a weird Alberta Clipper coming in or something like that, which we had at Algonquin last year. The temperature dropped to single digits in the middle of July. So at night, it was not particularly fun. That emergency blanket will keep you warm, keep you dry, if you can be under it. It will do all the things that you need it to. There’s shelter for you. There’s a nice light easy one, if you’re taking your first aid kit with you then you’re covered. If you’re taking more or you’re backcountry, try to have a tent, that’s the ideal. Next, sort of halfway between a tent and the emergency blanket will be a tarp and some paracord to string it up and get underneath it. Even a garbage bag. If a sudden rain squall blows up, a garbage bag will keep you dry. It will keep your core temperature from dropping as you get wet, etc. Those are all good things to have. And then I’d say, last but not least a knife or a multi-tool knife, in particular, it’s a form of protection from whatever. You can cut wood with it to make yourself a fire again, assuming you’ve got those matches in your first aid kit. If you don’t have scissors in your first aid kit and you’ve got to cut a bandage or something to tie a splint or what have you, it’s going to come in handy. You’d be surprised, even just a single blade. It’s definitely on my essential list. And then bonuses I would say, if you’ve got space for it, they’re not particularly heavy but some of them are a little bulky and it depends on if you’re going to go for a two-day hike, it might be nice to have with you sleeping bags and pads, something to cook in whether it’s a small mess kit and an MSR stove and fuel, spare clothes are never a bad thing if you hit that rain squall, or somebody slips and falls into a creek – anything along those lines where you get wet. Wet clothes are crappy to be in. Nobody enjoys that and they’re going to suck a lot of the body heat out of you. So you don’t want to be like that.

Pamela: As a Scouter, we always drill into the kids that we always bring extra socks. You do not want to be in wet socks. Because of blisters or foot infections or whatever, we just always have extra dry socks.

Tim: Yeah, blisters are nasty when you’ve got them and you’ve got to hike your way back out of somewhere. That’s because unless you can do handstands, there’s no way around it, if your socks are wet, you’re gonna have blisters and that’s crappy.

Pamela: So that’s our list of essential gear for hiking and camping including the bonuses.

Tim: These would apply to backcountry camping but also front-country camping or hikes. If you’re going for a lengthy hike, you need to have at least a downsized version of a lot of those things with you just in case of emergency or unexpected events.

Pamela: And that’s it for us for today. It’s Super Bowl Sunday as we’re recording this. And who was your pick, Tim?

Tim: I don’t know, the Bills aren’t in it. So I don’t even care.

Pamela: Tom Brady’s not in it and Patrick Mahomes is not in it, so I’m gonna go with the Bengals.

Tim: It’s gonna be a good game, regardless.

Pamela: Enjoy the rest of your day and thanks for listening. If you would like to connect with us, we would always love to hear from you. Our email address is and otherwise, you can connect with us on all of the social media, and we’d love to hear from you. Thanks. Bye!

Tim: Bye!

The preceding post is the transcript from our podcast episode, Essentials for Camping and Hiking. You can listen to the episode here.