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Wander off into the wilderness to achieve true freedom and mindfulness: Backpack the Pacific Crest Trail, traverse the Lost Coast, follow in the footsteps of John Muir, set up camp under the starlit sky of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, or wake up to the sound of waves. No matter where you plan on exploring, dispersed camping gives you the power to hike wherever your feet take you and sets you free from any boundaries.
So, unleash your natural curiosity to discover unknown lands and disconnect from civilization at California's most remote destinations. Good preparation is always the key to success—even if the idea of camping in a remote corner of the world sweeps you off your feet—so use our primitive camping checklist and refresh your survival skills to ensure you're ready. Depending on where your destination lies, your primitive camping packing list may vary, but these are the remote camping essentials you need.
Things to Bring Camping in the WIlderness
First Aid Kit
Always bring a first aid kit with enough Band-Aids, bandages, sterile wipes, rinse solutions, disinfectants, antibiotic ointments, pain and anti-inflammatory medication, allergy medicines, any prescription medicines you might be taking. Tweezers and dental floss (for tick removal), sunscreen, and an emergency blanket are other must-haves. If you want to go the extra mile, bring a survival book that includes a section on how to properly bandage a wound.
Food and Water
No dispersed camping checklist can go without water—and neither can you; you won't survive without water for more than three days. You may not always find potable water, so a Katadyn water filter is vital for any backpacking adventure. Store your filtered water in a Lunatec hydration spray bottle; try the mist, stream, and shower modes for less water consumption when cleaning your gear or keeping yourself cool.
Store your food in an AO Coolers backpack cooler. Cook your memorable camping meals in an Always Pan from Our Place—you can braise, sear, steam, strain, saute, fry, boil, serve, and store food in this pan. Remember to add lightweight, sustainable stainless steel containers and bamboo utensils from Chico Bag to your camping checklist, too.
A Map and Compass
Never traverse unknown and unsigned terrain without a compass and local maps. Learn how to use a compass before your trip, and check your destination’s local visitor center for detailed maps. While phone maps are a huge perk of the 21st century, it's best to download maps you can use offline. If reading maps and relying on your navigational skills isn't that easy for you, invest in a handheld GPS unit that has superior satellite reception compared to cell phones. Even so, don’t rely solely on battery-operated devices and bring maps as a backup.
Pro tip: Put your navigational and compass skills to the test before venturing off on your adventure. Ask a friend to join you on a flat, obstacle-free field close to your home. Mark your starting point (i.e., leave a jacket on the ground or put a stick in the ground), decide where on the course you want to navigate (try to walk around in a circle or square), put a towel over your head so you can only see your compass, and start making your way along the route. Your unbiased observer will let you know if you’ve passed your own test.
Tools are not only an important step in the evolution of mankind, but also integral to a safe, uneventful (in a good way) camping adventure. Olympia Tools has it all—from multi-tools and folding shovels to LED lanterns and headlamps—so you won't miss a beat while you're out and about.
While most California national and state parks don’t allow visitors to cut or collect firewood, California national forests allow you to do so in posted areas. Depending on your destination, you can bring a lightweight camping hatchet, which can be used to chop wood or help you build an impromptu shelter in case of an emergency. Remember to bring duct tape to fix zippers, containers, or leaks. Ropes can also get you out of any tricky situation; from towing and rescuing people to hanging your laundry, ropes are quite multifunctional.
A High-Quality Tent and Sleeping Bag
Any explorer—especially when weather-beaten—needs comfort and rest. One of the most important primitive camping essentials is your tent. While you may find shelter along trails, its best to always come prepared with your own gear when primitive camping. Tarptent has you covered (pun intended) with superlight tents that weigh as little as a pound but shelter you from the outside world while you sleep safe and sound.
Keep yourself warm in a Western Mountaineering water-repellent sleeping bag, and rest your head on Cloudrest down pillows. If you have room, bring a sleeping pad or an air mattress with a pump for extra comfort.
A SOlar-Powered Phone Charger
While you can turn off your phone to connect with nature and your companions, save enough battery to call for help if needed. This is an integral safety precaution and one of the most paramount primitive camping essentials. Charge your phone with Renogy's portable solar charger to check in with friends and family at home so they don't worry.
Even though fashion is not the first thing you’ll think of when packing your dispersed camping essentials, some apparel is integral to ensuring a safe and comfortable journey. With stylish and practical designs, The North Face makes it easy for adventurers to find the right shoes, shirts, jackets, and pants. Or, stuff your pack with clothing and gear from Patagonia (check out Patagonia's Worn Wear to lower your environmental impact while shopping).
25 Additional Things to Bring Camping
Other items on the camping packing list include:
- Stormproof match kit and fire starters
- Cutting board
- Sunflair solar oven or gas burner
- Eco dish sponge and organic solid dish soap from Butter Me Up Organics
- Can and bottle opener
- Coffee maker
- Salt, sugar, seasonings, and cooking oil
- Ziplock bags
- Trash bags
- Paper towels
- Aluminum foil
- Laundry bag
- Raw Elements sunscreen for summer camping trips
- Biodegradable shower essentials from Bathing Culture
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant, and other hygiene items
- Headwear from California Hat Company
- Waterproof jacket or umbrella
- Extra socks
- Pair of slippers
- Extra blankets
- Bug repellent
What are your essential camping items that you can't leave home without?
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