What to Bring
The general rule of thumb on what to bring is: never carry more than you need. However, when preparing for an outing, people often overlook essentials that should always be taken. Cutting corners to lighten a pack is not a good idea and could result in disaster. Here is a list of crucial items that should be taken no matter what outing you embark upon:
- Guide and Maps
- Canteen or Water Bottle (at least one quart/person/day)
- Flashlight or Head Lamp (and charged batteries)
- Emergency Food (candy bars can provide quick energy)
- Matches, in a waterproof container, and/or a lighter
- Knife, multipurpose
- First Aid Kit
- General Equipment
Before going on an outing, become familiar with the conditions and terrain which you expect to encounter, and outfit yourself accordingly. Although it is easy to avoid spending hundreds of dollars on fancy gear, be sure that what you have is in good condition and suited to your needs. Having shoddy gear will not only make you less comfortable, but will also increase the likelihood of crisis situations (i.e. hypothermia, broken equipment, etc.).
The most important aspect of gear is your clothing and how to wear it. Although there are many different brands and materials on the market, there is one simple rule to dressing in the out-of-doors: layers! Rather than carrying a pair of shorts and T-shirt, a down parka and wool pants to prepare for both hot and cold, one should carry several intermediate layers that can be easily interchanged. Wearing multiple loose layers allows you to stay warmer with less by creating dead air pockets. Also, the layering system allows you to find the right amount of clothes for a wide range of temperatures.
Some key things to remember within the general philosophy of layering: avoid wearing cotton next to your skin and have a wind and water resistant outer layer. Although a cotton T-shirt is ideal for sunny spring conditions, cotton is ineffective at keeping you warm in wet and cold situations. By wearing either polypropylene or wool, you will stay warm even if you are wet. As for the outer layer, it is essential to have something that will keep the weather away from all the inner layers. Both wind and rain will cut through wool and cotton. Therefore, be sure to have a coated nylon or Gore-Tex type shell (both top and bottom, if possible).
A final note: always have a warm hat as we lose a great deal of heat through our heads. If you are ever cold, a hat is one of the most effective ways of retaining heat.
The following is a general clothing list, good for most extended trips in New England (for winter, bring more warm clothing and suitable footwear):
- Socks, two pairs, wool or synthetic
- Sock Liners
- Long Underwear, polypropylene or wool, top and bottom
- Long-sleeve Shirt, cotton or wool
- Pants, wool or fleece
- Sweater or Jacket, wool or fleece
- Rain Gear, top and bottom
- Parka, insulated
- Wind parka and pants (rain gear can often double)
- Warm Hat or Balaclava
- Sun Cap
- Mittens or Gloves (wintertime outings require both)
- Hiking Boots
- Sneakers or Sandals
Aside from clothing, there is additional equipment that is necessary for camping. Depending on the specific outing, your gear needs may vary. Listed below is a general overview of the things to consider (in addition to the crucial items listed previously). Once again, become familiar with the conditions of your trip before you set out. Most of the items listed are important, so only decline to bring something if you are sure you won’t need it (i.e. no need for a tent if you are sleeping in a cabin).
- Backpack (external or internal frame)
- Sleeping Bag (rated 20° F for spring, summer, and fall; -10° F or colder for winter)
- Sleeping Pad (should insulate from the ground)
- Ground Cloth
- Stove and Lighter
- Cooking Kit
- Soap (biodegradable)
- Eating Utensils
- Toilet Paper (and ziplock bags)
- Stuff Sacks
- Sunglasses or Goggles
- Sunscreen and Lip Balm
- Towel (small is fine)
- Rope (twenty feet of one-eighth-inch nylon should be sufficient)
- Sewing Kit
- Plastic Bags
- Coins (for emergency phone calls)
- Games and/or Books
No matter how much Gore-Tex and high-tech clothing you wear, you’re doomed if you don’t eat well. After a good day of hiking, a bowl of hot gruel is as close as one gets to nirvana (aside from getting a good back rub). However, planning your gruel is a skill which requires some practice and foresight. Even if you plan poorly, the primary rule is: EAT A LOT. You burn a tremendous amount of calories in most outdoor activity, and need to keep fueling the fire if you are to remain energized.
The four most important elements in choosing food are: weight, preparation time, taste, and energy content. A perfect menu is light, quick to prepare, full of calories, and delicious. Concentrate on carbohydrates and fats for three-quarters of your diet. Unfortunately, one can say little more about food planning, for it is truly an art that is developed on one’s own. However, listed below are an assortment of ingredients and staples that are time tested.
Bagels, English muffins, dried milk and cereal, sturdy fruit (apples, oranges) or dried fruit, oatmeal (brown sugar, raisins, dried milk), cream of wheat, granola bars, pancake mix, cocoa, tea, Tang.
Bread (pita, bagels, rice cakes), cheese, sturdy vegetables and fruit (carrots, cucumbers, oranges, etc.) or dried fruit, cream cheese, pepperoni, summer sausage, canned fish (sardines, tuna), crackers, peanut butter and jelly.
Soup mix (great as a stew base), pasta, cous cous, rice, beans, grains, vegetables, dried meat, canned fish and meat, cheese.
Trail Food and Desserts
Chocolate, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, hard candy, trail mix.
The once common practice of drinking clean and fresh water directly from a stream is no longer the rule, but the exception. The presence of giardia lamblia (or just giardia), an intestinal parasite, is becoming more and more widespread. It is never possible to be completely sure of the purity of a water source, no matter how remote and secluded the source is. Water with beaver activity is especially dangerous, as beavers are the primary carrier of giardia. Springs on high mountain-sides are generally safe, but avoid all stagnant water and sources which livestock use.
The safest course to avoid extreme bowel discomforts is to carry your own water. When your supply runs dry, you may either treat stream water with purification tablets or liquid such as iodine; other option are to bring water to a boil or to use a manufactured filter. If you buy a water treatment device, be sure to read the directions thoroughly.
When exercising in the out-of-doors, it is a good idea to constantly re-hydrate yourself. Always carry at least one quart of water per person per day. It is surprising how quickly you lose water when doing even light exercise. Drink enough to make your urine clear and copious.