Look Like a Camping Pro: Gear to Minimize "Roughing It"
The last of the summer months are upon us, and we are desperately searching for weekend activities before the weather shifts. This past weekend, a friend tried to convince us to go camping with him. He described the joy of setting up a campsite, grilling food etc. We, admittedly, were fixated on the bears that might come to say hello and eat our bag of Doritos in the middle of the night. While we get over our fears of things that growl in the dark, we thought it would be a good time for Jon Rich to revisit his tips for camping in-style and comfort. This is what happens when city-folk get in touch with their wilderness spirit:
When we last chatted (OMG, how have you been???), I gave you insight into the leisure activity known as camping. It’s hands down a unique way to bond with friends and get back in touch with nature, and probably come home with funny stories and mosquito bites (Zika be gone!). However, camping is not all fun and games people - there’s a lot of work to do before you venture out. I’m not just talking about the obvious things like bringing six bags of organic trail mix and a six-pack of LaCroix; there are many crucial steps that need to be taken to ensure that you have a good time, and at the very least, you don’t hurt yourself. Nobody wants to be that guy or gal that shows up the Monday after a long weekend with a cast or awkwardly placed, jumbo band-aid on a random part of your face.
First, let’s talk about basic gear. Depending on the terrain, (i.e. mountains vs. lakefront), you’re going to need a solid pair of hiking boots. Many amateurs, like me, are cool wearing sneakers, which is okay if it’s not rough terrain. But if you’re going to do any type of hiking or climbing, or the ground will be rocky or uneven, you’ll be better off in a comfortable pair of hiking shoes. Leave the fashion and wedge sneakers at home. Brands like Timberland, Salomon and Merrell are great options.
Next, your pack. This turned out to be one of the most crucial pieces of camping equipment. While I thought a medium-sized, top-loading backpack made for snowboarding would do the trick, I was sorely mistaken. Since that was my only backpack, I also had to lug around a weekend duffel bag, which has no place in the wilderness. This is especially true where there will be hiking. The only piece of luggage you’ll need is what’s called a backpacking pack. You’ve probably seen them on the backs of young tourists. These packs are made to fit a lot of stuff in one, vertical pile, which allows you to wear it all on your back, freeing up your hands. I really could have used that when I was trying to brace myself on the craggy hills of our hike, but all I could do was stick out my elbows for support, while gripping my weekender bag. While there are many brands that make these, Osprey is on my wish-list. For a good one, look to spend about $200.
Getting a good night’s sleep while camping is also key. Depending on the season, where you camp and how much you love mother nature, you’ll need to consider whether to bring a tent and/or sleeping bag. In terms of tents, there are two general types: backpacking tents, which are smaller, have sloping sides, and usually fit just a single human; and camping tents, which are larger, more open and fit more people. I probably shouldn’t have to explain why someone might prefer a backpacking tent to a camping tent, but if you want to assure that you’ll be sleeping without the fear that your friend is going to snuggle up next you and swear it’s just to aggregate body warmth, then grab a backpacking tent and go solo. There are a host of offerings on the market, but the ones I like are in the $300-$400 range. FYI, for those who really love sleeping in their cars, some companies make what’s called a vehicle tent - it's a big tent that literally attaches to the side of your car. There’s even car-top tents. Fancy.
Sleeping bags. It’s sometimes nice to switch from your luxurious queen, extra-firm mattress and cocoon yourself up in a cozy sleeping bag. The main things you should worry about is whether the bag is waterproof and what temperature it’s made to withstand. Meaning, if it’s below 30 degrees outside, will the bag keep you comfortable and prevent you from turning into an icicle. You should spend about $200-$300. Reliable brands include Marmot, The North Face and Sierra Designs.
With the right, basic gear, you’ll definitely have a great time.You can even focus on the joy of whipping up some campfire-friendly recipes and telling ghost stories while you nosh on s’mores. Remember, everybody likes a happy camper.
Jon Rich is In the Midfield's Men's Lifestyle Editor. He is also a practicing attorney in NYC.
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