It might not feel like it everywhere just yet, but spring is coming! Although traveling is fun in any season, there is something about warmer weather and longer days that make day trips and weekend jaunts that much more enjoyable, especially when you get to deviate from your typical daily routine and spend a little time outdoors. If camping is on your spring travel list (and it should be!), make sure you have these five essentials for a great weekend in the woods.
1. The Perfect Location
Unless you are literally planning to sleep under the stars, a comfortable tent is the first essential for any successful camping trip. A high-quality tent tends to be an investment, so visit a sporting goods store that will allow you to climb inside some actual tents and ask yourself these questions before purchasing: Will you be camping only in favorable weather, or do you plan to do any winter camping? With how many people (and/or pets) are you planning to share the tent? How easy is the tent to assemble? Will you be car camping or backpacking? If it is the latter, you’ll want to find a lightweight tent that clips easily to your backpack. And speaking of your backpack …
2. A Sturdy Backpack
Source: Colton Jacobs
Whether you’re camping for the night, weekend, or an extended trip, a comfortable yet sturdy backpack is necessary to tote all your essentials. A daypack or three-day pack is typically adequate for most camping trips, but there are larger options as well.
I tend to prefer an internal frame backpack, because I find the weight sits more comfortably against my back but some campers prefer external frame backpacks because of the extra ventilation and heavier carrying capacity. Don’t be afraid to test out multiple packs at a sporting goods store before making your choice. And with whatever backpack you choose, remember to pack it with sunscreen, snacks, and plenty of water!
3. Sleeping Pad
Source: Alex Strohl
Sure, you have a tent and a sleeping bag (or you’ve elected to stay somewhere that provides a mattress), but a sleeping pad can really increase your overnight comfort, especially if you’ll be sleeping on rocky or uneven terrain.
A sleeping pad also provides an extra layer of insulation between you and the cold ground on chilly nights. A more comfortable night of sleep means you will be better rested for a day of exploring the wilderness, so the investment is definitely worth it. Plus, many sleeping pads roll up quite small and can clip easily onto your backpack for minimal added weight to your pack.
4. Adequate Lighting
Source: Alexandra Taylor
Depending on what types of activities you are planning, how long you’ll be gone, and what time you want to retire each night, you will definitely want to bring a flashlight, head lamp, and/or lantern, for both safety and convenience.
Personally, I find multidirectional flashlights to be quite nifty because you can use them during the evening to navigate and set up camp, then you can open them into a lantern to illuminate the interior of your tent as you prepare for bed, read, play games, and otherwise relax inside.
5. Portable Battery Charger
Source: Rob Strok
Of course we encourage you to stay off your phone as much as possible during your camping trip to disconnect from daily stresses and focus more on your surroundings, but it isn’t a bad idea to keep a portable battery charger handy if you get lost or need to make an emergency call—especially if you aren’t sure whether you’ll have access to an outlet. Always better to be safe than sorry! (And if you will be trekking into the wilderness, you should also have a paper map and an emergency plan in case you lose service.)