Welcome to the wonderful world of camping! If you are planning your first camping trip, the task can seem daunting. Everything from which products to buy, to what to pack and what not to pack, and when and where to camp, can make the whole thing seem overwhelming. There are tons of guides on this, but often these guides lack basic survival camping tools. You may be wondering what exact tool you should use to get your stakes in the ground, or if you really need an ax and what for. We are here to help you determine what you will need.
Matches or Lighters
The debate on what device is best for starting a fire is probably as old as fire itself. The simple truth is, there is no best answer. Sure, a torch can probably light a fire way quicker than a match, but you aren’t likely to be carrying torches around, now are you? The best tactic is to stick with what you know and bring multiple variations. If you know how to use matches and lighters, why not bring both? I like matches that are specifically designed for camping and that come in waterproof containers. I’m not a huge fan of strike anywhere matches, simply because I’ve never used them. When it comes to lighters, I prefer a good old-fashioned BIC. Zippos are nice, too. Just bring a few different fire sources so that you’re able to start a fire if one goes missing or craps out on you.
Flashlights, Lanterns, and Head Lamps
I like to have all three of these. Headlamps are great for walking to the camp bathroom late at night, or any other late night excursions. Lanterns are nice to keep in the tent. You can even create your own lantern by placing a headlamp on a jug full of water. And flashlights are always handy devices.
Ropes can be used for all kinds of things, from clotheslines to towing to rescuing people stuck in the water. It can even be used as a makeshift shelter if your tent explodes (or something). Just tie a rope from one tree (or another sturdy object) to another and lay a tarp over it. You can secure the tarp to the ground using rocks.
Tarps are most often used under your tent while camping. They protect your tent bottom from heavy rain and rough terrain. They can also be used with ropes to create a shelter. You can tie a tarp over your tent to keep the rain off of it or use the tarp to block the wind. The possibilities are endless, really.
Compass and Map
These are essential if you’re planning on moving around while you camp, either backpacking or just completing short destination hikes from your base camp to a riverbed, for example. But make sure you learn how to use a compass and a map to navigate. Otherwise, they will be entirely useless to you. REI has a great navigation basics guide. They also offer classes, so if you have one near you, check them out.
Survival Knife/Swiss Army Knife or Similar Multi-Tool
Survival knives are necessary. They can help you cut firewood, open cans, clean and gut fish, and a host of other activities. I recommend having a high quality, large blade, survival knife in addition to a Swiss Army knife or Leatherman Multi-Tool. The Swiss Army knife is versatile, but you won’t regret having a larger blade handy.
First Aid Kit
This is obvious, but things can happen. Make sure that your first aid kit includes the essentials. Band-aids of various sizes, antiseptic creams, hydrocortisone cream, gauze, aloe vera, antihistamines and/or an EpiPen (if you have severe allergic reactions), antibiotic ointments, eye drops, prescription medications, emergency blanket, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen, Naproxen, Tweezers, Scissors, and ace bandage. You could add more or remove some if you’re sure that you won’t need them. Just make sure it is fully stocked.
Ax or Hatchet
Axes are huge and sturdy. They aren’t great for backpacking but can be useful to break up large pieces of firewood. A hatchet will do the same job with a bit more work from you, and it will be smaller and easier to carry around. Never cut down live trees or shrubs, even a portion of them, without first consulting with a local guide or park ranger. In many places, this is an illegal practice. Even if it isn’t, you could end up hurting yourself or others, including the very nature that you are there to enjoy.
Duct tape is essential for quick tear repairs, busted zippers, and sealing food containers. In the event something crazy happens to that rope you brought along (you did bring it, didn’t you?), duct tape can create a makeshift rope. You can use it to mark your trail, fix a leak, and keep a tablecloth on. You can also use it to make a splint or as an ankle wrap if you roll your ankle. The versatility of this item is beyond compare. Don’t forget to bring it.
Tent Repair Kit
Sure, duct tape can fix up a tear quickly, but a tent repair kit will make your life a million times better. Make sure that you keep tent repair kits stocked. Choose one that comes with varying tools, such as a needle and thread, patches, and a tube of sealant.
Mattress Repair Kit
Same goes for your mattress. If you brought an air mattress along, having a quick fix for the random hole you got in the middle of the night is essential.
Mallet or Lightweight Hammer
Bring a hammer to drive down your stakes and pin accessories to the trees. You can also use it to knock out a bear that is charging at you if you need to. Please don’t let this happen to you.
Mini Broom and Dustpan
Keep your tent floor clean with a mini broom and dustpan. Sweep out the debris. Not only does this keep things tidy, but it prevents abrasions in your tent fabric.
Local Field Guide
Find a local field guide and take it with you. If you are camping in National Parks in the USA, the National Park Service Camping Guide is a great tool. If you are camping elsewhere, a quick search on Amazon can usually help you find what you need. If not, stop into a Visitor center wherever you are camping and ask if there are any tools available for free or to purchase. While you’re in the visitor center, interact with a park ranger, if possible. They will tell you all that you need to know about camping in that location for that time of year.
These are just fun to have. They aren’t incredibly useful unless you think you’re being hunted from afar and want to look around to be sure, but you will be surprised what all you can sight with a good set of binoculars. Apparently, they can even be used as a fire starter or a signal mirror if you find yourself in a dire situation.
Filtered Water Bottle or LifeStraw
Convert any water source into drinking water with a filtered water bottle or a life straw. This is invaluable if you are backpacking, as you won’t have much room to carry bottled water with you. This ensures that you will not go thirsty.
Keep a whistle on you in case you get lost and need to send out a distress signal. Blow three short, firm sounds to signal you are in distress and need help. While you’re packing your whistle, go ahead and familiarize yourself with other distress signals. You need to know.
Glow sticks are good fun for kids while camping, but they can also be useful for you. You can use them to create a makeshift lantern, light up the guy lines on your tent, mark your trail, and keep your group together while traveling at night.
Leather Gloves or Worker’s Gloves
Do your hands a favor. Rope burn sucks. So does frostbite. And breaking sticks with your bare hands will leave your hands callused and sore. Thank me later.
Bungee cords are yet another way to create a clothesline. They can also serve as extra tie downs for your tent or tarps. You can hang a lamp inside of your tent, or hang food high off the ground to deter raccoons.
A good survivalist handbook is a Boy Scout guide. It has practical guides to all kinds of things you may encounter while camping and is meant to provide you with basic camping know-how. If you are going on a more strenuous expedition, you may want something that is more inclusive. Not only are these books helpful in the event of an emergency, but they also make for entertaining reads while you have some downtime. Even if you aren’t camping in the swamps of Florida, it is fun to read about how to wrangle an alligator.