I take camping and backpacking pretty seriously. Like, sometimes it’s actually my job! Right now, I’m getting stoked for summer, and if you are, too, take a look.
1. Sketcher’s GO Step Shoes. Lighter than Chacos, pack smaller than Crocs, warmer and more protective than either for firewood-gathering bushwhacks around camp. I have taken them on every backpacking and canoeing trip since I got a pair at a second hand store and my feet always thank me when I get out of my boots after a long day on the trail. I never knew athletes wore Sketcher’s until Meb won the Boston Marathon wearing them.
2. Plastic sheeting painter’s drop cloth. Make sure you get 4 mil or thicker. So much cheaper than a ground cloth. We cut ours bigger than the floor of our tent, stick it inside and bathtub it up the sides. Never be wet again.
3. Cutting board. Go to Wal-mart or a kitchen store and get a thin, flexible cutting board (sometimes sold in sets). Cut to fit inside your pan for ease of packing. Keep it inside the pan while cutting, then pull it out from under your veggies (don’t forget this step!) and your veggies are ready to saute with no risk of dropped food in transit.
4. Paring knife with sheath. This cost $1. Yup. $1. Kitchen Collection stores, found at outlet centers (including in North Conway if you’re hitting the Whites), has them up front by the register in a rainbow of colors for impulse buy. Impulsively buy as many as you can, then you can keep one in your car for emergency snacks, one at your office for the same, one in your car camping kitchen box, and one in your backpacking. Plus grab a few for your friends and maybe they’ll even invite you camping sometime. Not near a Kitchen Collection? Usually kitchen stores have some version of this for less than $10. Easier to clean than a pocket knife, safer than a handmade cardboard sheath.
5. Car camping plates, backpacking bowls- Plastic in rainbow colors strikes again as you hit up the Christmas Tree shops during picnic season! Big Lots or a dollar store are a good bet, too.
Heading to Bear Country?
6. Bear ropes– 3 pieces of 50 foot cord, one metal pulley from the hardware store. Braided rope stretches less than twisted. Here’s a case where you don’t want stretch. Check weight limits and plan appropriately. One piece of ropes goes through the pulley, each of the other two gets thrown over a tree branch and secured.
7. Onion sack. Pack your food in this before you hang it for the night. Why? It dries fast and if a critter does try to chew it, you won’t have sacrificed a spendy stuff sack. Weighs next to nothing.
8. Otter box light– Keep your valuables dry with a snap-lid food storage container from the grocery or dollar store. Check that the lid has a rubber seal (showm here in blue) to keep things tight. Buy a pack of sponges and cut to size to pad the inside when traveling with electronics.
9. Folding toothbrush. Game changer. Wal-Mart or Bed Bath and Beyond are good places to look. Never deal with toothpaste smeared ziplocks again.
10. Apple juice, seltzer, Gatorade bottle, etc. Why buy a Nalgene that’ll weigh you down when these lighter alternatives are practically free? Gatorade bottles are some of the most durable of the options listed here, and depending on the size can have a fairly wide mouth which can make filling easier. If it’s easier to pump into a Nalgene, bring one of each and you can fill one from the other!
BONUS- Metal travel mug. Sure, you can find these at a gear store, but the free give-away variety with some logo on it is sure better. In the picture at the top of the post, we had filled the mug with home dehydrated veggies and some water so they could soak while we hiked and make dinner quicker to cook! Strapping it on the pack in an upright position meant it didn’t matter if it was fully water tight.
JUST FOR THOSE OF US WHO MENSTRUATE- Thinx or other brand period underwear and diva cup. If you use disposables- rubber gloves, ziplock and duct tape for the tidiest trash bag ever (see my post here for the deets).