If you’re like me, going camping means driving up to a scenic area, parking your car in front of a well-appointed cabin, cooking your dinner — on a stove — inside that well-appointed cabin and then taking a stroll around the woods. Ah, nature!
But we both know that’s not really camping. So if you’re actually going to commune with nature, you’re going to have to get the right gear to make your outdoors trip way more palatable for an urban dweller like yourself.
Ahead of the Pack
First things first: You are going to need a good lightweight, super-fancy backpack. No, Virginia, it is not OK to use that giant tote purse as your backpack. If you are really going to be camping, you might also be doing this thing called hiking, and it might even be uphill. (I know. I’m about to pass out from the thought of it myself.) The Mountain Laurel Designs 2900ci Prophet ($180) is a pretty versatile backpack at a decent price. It’s designed to be ultra-lightweight, which makes it especially good for hot summer outings. Even though the backpack weighs just under a pound, it can supposedly hold up to 50 pounds. And because the ergonomic shoulder straps are well-padded, you won’t feel that weight. The pack has another interesting feature: compression straps that allow you to make the pack smaller for shorter trips, so you don’t have a huge amount of wasted space. Unfortunately, there is one downside. Although there’s an outside pouch for a water bottle, the pocket isn’t reachable while you are wearing the backpack. It’s also available with all sorts of elaborate options we don’t really understand like a “stow pouch,” a “rain cover” and a “pack waist belt pocket,” which can be added on for an extra cost.
You’ll need a roof of sorts over your head, unless you’re one of those brave folks who aren’t afraid of bears or critters — and we know you are not. So you’ll need this thing. It’s called a tent. Although you can purchase more traditional tents, dome-shaped ones are good for several reasons. The height in the middle of the tent gives you more room, and they tend to be easier to pitch (that’s the camping term for “set up”) than conventional cabin-style tents. Still, camping experts recommend first putting up the tent at your house to see how it works. The Nemo Equipment Losi Tent ($388.95) from Amazon.com sleeps three and is lauded for being lightweight (just 6.7 pounds) and relatively roomy. It’s also recommended that you get something called a footprint ($12.99–$54.95) that goes under the tent to help protect it from rocks, twigs and other sharps edges.
Although people say sleeping on a hard surface is good for you, snoozing on the ground isn’t really all that appealing. So at the very least, you’ll need a sleeping bag. Packed with Thermotec insulation, the Coleman Alpine Sleeping Bag ($19.88) from Walmart will keep you warm in the coldest of temps, so you’ll literally be as snug as a bug in a rug. But if you really want a glamorous camping experience, you should get a sleeping pad like this Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad ($89.95-$129.95) to put your sleeping bag on top of. Or better yet, buy an air mattress ($109.95) from REI. You won’t even miss that cabin! And oh yeah, don’t forget your Grand Trunk Adjustable Travel Pillow ($19.99) from Gander Mountain.
Because you’re not at all experienced in the outdoorsy department, it’s probably advisable that you bring along a first aid or survival kit. Amazon.com sells Adventure First Aid ($7.35-$19.35), which is a soft-sided kit that comes with a multitude of necessities, including moleskin pads, elastic bandages, an instant cold pack and a handful of ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen tablets — not to mention every type of bandage and Band-Aid available. Not bad when you consider the price.