Man School 101: Hiking to an Overnight Camp


So, you’re an experienced mountaineer whose stood on a surplus of summits and spent countless nights camped out in the back country? Then frankly… you don’t need to read this article. Except for a bit of charming wit to be enjoyed, there’s not much here for you, sir. You see today we’re going to have a little primer for the first time (or amateur, at any rate) backwoods camper. Now, on the other hand, if you have lots of experience camping but you always do it near the car or RV, you might still learn a thing or two, because what we’re discussing today is each and every object you’ll need for a successful overnight hiking and camping trip. At least… we’re discussing the very bare minimum of what you need.

Related: For the Day Tripper

If you’re loading up your pack and heading out into the country, this is what you need to bring for a one night camp and the hike in and out (and I’ll throw in a few thoughts on why).

Your Clothing – Start from the Ground Up

On Your Feet!

On Your Feet!

Hiking Boots – Make sure they are comfortable and broken in.

Socks – Bring three pairs, including the ones on your feet.

Pants – Depending on the weather, make ’em lighter or heavier. The ones that zip into shorts are ideal, even if they’re about as fashionable as wearing a barrel with suspenders.

Under Things – Boxer briefs, briefs, you decide. Just bring 3 pairs. Consider long johns for layering, especially at night.

T-Shirts – Bring 2 or 3 depending on how much you sweat (again including the one you have on)

Thermal – A good long sleeve thermal is crucial even in warm weather. If it does get cold at night, you’re gonna need it.

Jacket – Again, check the weather. Light weight, warm, and ideally water proof.

Hat(s) – Bring a brimmed hat for use in the sun and a warm cap for cold weather at night.

Gloves  – Always a good idea, even in summer. Use ’em for scrambling over rough terrain even if you won’t need them for the cold.

There! Your clothes are packed! But a few other ideas: consider a pair of very light sandals to give your feet a break. If it’s cold out, you might need a scarf, a balaclava, or other gear. A poncho never hurts, as it can help reinforce a shelter even if it’s not used for rain.

Your Shelter and Sleep Gear – Watch the Weight!

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Tent – Bring the lightest tent you can that will serve your needs, i.e. number of sleepers, weather, snow load, etc. A bit of research will pay off here.

Tarp – Always have a tarp to put under the tent. Always.

Pad – Inflatable is always best as they are light and pack small, but foam pads are OK if that’s what you’ve got.

Sleeping Bag – Get a good one; make sure it’s light, packs down small, and keeps you warm. They’re rated for different temperatures, so read up before making your pick.

Pillow – Meh. Get a fancy camping pillow if you want. Balled up clothes work fine, too.

Your Pack(s) – Comfort Is Key

Everything Adds Up

Everything Adds Up

Hiking Pack – Borrowing one is fine; buying your own is better. Just make sure you check its comfort and adjustability to suit your body while it is at full weight. Remember most packs have built-in areas for water bladders, and it’s a good idea to take advantage of that.

Summit/Day Pack – If you’ll be ranging out from your campsite, make sure your main pack has removable compartments that lighten the load, or consider packing along a smaller bag for food, water,. etc. (i.e. for when you don’t need to carry your tent, sleeping bag, etc.)

Your Gear – Remember, This Is the Bare Minimum!

The Classic

The Classic

Knife – Swiss Army über alles when it comes to a knife. Make sure it has a saw.

Water Filter – Get a good one. And bring backup iodine tablets (I’ve watched filters break)

Fire Starters – Lighter, matches, maybe a flint; be redundant, but also know fires are illegal in many natural areas, so check the rules.

Stove – Make sure your team has at least one working stove and at least 2 cans of fuel. If you’re going out for more than one day, make sure it’s 2 stoves.

Cookware – A couple lightweight pots and pans, basic utensils, etc. And napkins. These will potentially have many applications…

First Aid Kit – Buy one or assemble one, but cover the basics of wound care, medications, and so forth.

Headlamp and Flashlight – And backup batteries for both (and yes, bring both: one is the other’s backup).

Hiking Poles – Good ol’ ski poles work great. Fancy telescoping poles are fine, but do go fancy: cheap ones break. And if you think you don’t need hiking poles, don’t bring them on a tough, overland trip but encourage a friend to use them. Your jealousy will overwhelm you and you will never again hike without them.

Bear Canister – These are required some places, and a good idea all places.

Bungee Cords – Bring one or two short cords. They always come in handy. And consider a length of rope, especially if you need to hang your food.

Your Eats – And Drinks

For... Wound Cleaning...

For… Wound Cleaning…

When it comes to food, you need to think about it for yourself, but remember that minimal prep is key, and know you will consume as much as twice the calories of a normal day. Balance protein and carbs and have some sugary things along for a boost. Energy/Meal Replacement bars are key. So is beef jerky. Couscous cooks in seconds, is tasty and versatile, and is very compact.

Basically, you need to pack enough food for the number of meals you’ll spend out in the country, and then bring lots of snacks. Then pack one extra meal and more snacks. Now you should be OK.

Water – Have at least 2 – 3 liters on you basically at all times, and make sure you know there is a source of water. If not, you’ll need to pack much more water than that, as you’ll be sweating, you need it to cook, and you might need it for washing a cut, brushing, and so forth.

Flask – with whiskey in it. This is important.

Hey, guess what? That’s pretty much all you need! And chances are it will add up to more than 30 pounds already, so go minimal with your accessorizing: a pack of cards, a harmonica? Great! A copy of Shakespeare’s Complete Works? Not good. And as far as things like a camera, binoculars, and so forth, those are all good ideas, but not necessities, so you decide.

Now get out there!