Second episode of my series dedicated to the equipment I bring on expeditions. This time I will cover my basic camping gear list.
Combining camping gears is trying to find the perfect balance between weight and comfort. How to be comfortable at night without feeling the weight of it all as you carry it from one campsite to the next ? Everyone will have an opinion on this matter. From the overlander looking down on you because your rig is not fully uploaded with every single gear available in the Front Runner catalogue, to the ultra light fanatic for whom anyone carrying more than a knife and a small water container is a fake ! Your sweet spot will probably lay somewhere in between.
As you will see, my personal list is rather minimalist, but it suits my needs and does the job perfectly. It fits in a box in the back of my car, or in a medium backpack if I decide to go trekking on foot or with my bike. Everything as been selected following three criteria: Being as efficient as possible, as durable as possible, and as light as possible. Yours should try to follow those same guidelines, but answer your own needs as we are all different.
Tent. Big Agnes SeedHouse SL2
When traveling by car, I tend to sleep inside the vehicle. But when on foot or on bike rides, I always sleep inside my Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2. It’s a classic in the Big Agnes line. I bought it 9 years ago and used it in all conditions. Thunder storm, desert storm, snow storm, and despite all the beating it’s still as good as new. Practical, durable, very easy to set up, ultra light, takes little room in my bag, and its greyish green color keeps me unnoticed in most campsites. (The new model linked has a new color, much lighter than mine)
I took the two person tent, but consider it a solo, especially if you are a big body. It’s just enough to be comfortable with your bag and your dog.
Again bought it 9 years ago with the rest of my gears, and getting this exact model today seems complicated. It’s too bad because it does the job great. Now, many other options are on the market. (probably better and improved). What matters in your choice is the thermo protection from the ground those mats offer. In order to stay warm you need to isolate your back from the ground you’re laying on. Otherwise, no matter how thick your sleeping bag is, you’ll be cold in no time.
Easy to inflate, easy to deflate, taking very little room in your bag. A must !
That alone could be a post, and maybe I will tackle it soon. What sleeping bag do I need ? I have three, but two would have been enough. I have natural goose feather sleeping bags, but I now think that synthetic is a better option.
What you need to know ?
Don’t trust the “comfort” temperatures indicated on the bag’s cover. That’s fully dressed with a thermo regulator under-garment and a thermo mummy liner, in an environment clear of winds… And still you won’t agree with their comfort zone. It’s kinda like your car’s gas mileage announced on the brochure and what you really spend at the station !
If it’s thin consider it a summer bag, if it’s thick, consider it a winter bag. Now as mentioned above in the Mat section. No matter how thick your sleeping bag is, it won’t keep you warm if you are not insulated from the ground. As your back puts pressure on the feathers, they flatten underneath your body and loose all their insulation, leaving you shivering all over in no time. Another problem with feathers, they get damped by humidity. Once wet, the insulation is gone, and that pricy bag you thought was gonna keep you warm in the Arctic by -35°C is letting you down at +15°C. Which is why I now strongly recommend you buy a synthetic bag instead.
Mummy Liner. Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Mummy Liner
Very important and too often neglected. Keeps you warmer, keeps your bag clean. Sweating night after night in a bag during an expedition where you can’t wash it isn’t a civilized way to travel. This Sea to Summit product has been surviving me for almost a decade.
Pillow. Sea to Summit
Many friends call this item useless. However sleeping is vital, it should be at a minimum comfortable if you want it to be beneficial to your body. And my pillow makes the all experience far more pleasant.
To be strong and alert enough to enjoy your trip you not only need to sleep well, you also need to eat well. Again, that can be achieved with very little. No need for a full on kitchen installed in the back of your truck. A small cooking set is more than enough for a delicious meal. (As long as you know how to cook and use it !)
For cooking and so many other things you need a knife. A real one. There are plenty on the market. Some cheap, some very expensive. Being a big fan of The Bear Grylls shows back in the day, I bought the Gerber Bear Grylls edition. It has never let me down. At 33$ it was worth every penny and does the job just as well as the more expensive knives on the market. You can check the rest of the Gerber line here.
Have a small container for some ecological soap and a small sponge for dishes.
Hygiene and safety.
The safety items you should always have with you regardless of your journey deserves a specific post. I will give it a go next week.
As far as hygiene is concerned, you don’t need to carry a fully loaded beauty case. Muji as very useful small travel kits with smart containers. A tooth brush, dental floss, shower gel, deodorant, sun screen, nail clippers, a small towel and ear plugs and you are good to go.
A small head light.
A small Axe to get wood for your fire.
A chair to seat on to enjoy your meal by that fire. (Only if I’m exploring by car)
And that’s it. If you are following my tutorials you know how weight matters, and how one should always stick to the bare essentials. That list reflects that philosophy. Those items have been with me for the past nine years. They have done their expected job with flying colors ever since and go with me on every trip.