Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My top five pieces of camping gear (needs)

Wants vs. needs: when it comes to camping, what does each term mean?  Wants and needs are two very subjective words to be sure, one could say that all we really need is air, water, food, and the rest are just details.  However, there are things you bring with you (camping and otherwise) that are more useful than other things.  Plus, if it were to come down to survival or life-and-death situations, certain gear is going to be more important to have over other gear.  That being said, here are the five items that nearly always come with me into the woods:

From left to right:

1.  Big, black, garbage bag - weight 77g - cost, about 3 SEK

2.  Knife and sheath (Mora Forest Bushcraft model) - 143g - 199 SEK

3.  Swedish firesteel (Light My Fire) - 28g - 79 SEK

4.  Map and compass - 135g total - cost varies depending on the map I am using (some are free), and the compass was a gift from my wife so not sure about the price (there are compasses as low as 50 and range all the way to several hundred SEK)

5.  Titanium pot (Snow Peak 700ml) - 92g - gift from my father, but solo titanium pots range between 300-500 SEK (my father said it was around 40 USD in the USA)

Some common uses:

1.  Ground cover to sit/lay/kneel, backpack rain cover, container to gather water, mini-tarp for a improvised shelter, stuffed with leaves/moss for a sleeping mat or pillow.

2.  Carve grill sticks to cook food or chop sticks to eat, gut and clean fish, slice up food or cut up your garbage bag, split firewood, trim poles and sticks for improvised shelter.

3.  Start a fire, one of the most important elements in camping/survival, can even spark in wet conditions, and has about 3000 strikes worth of sparks.  Fire provides heat, light, a means to sanitize your water and cook your food, keeps mosquitoes away, raises morale, and even the ashes that are left after a fire goes out can be used to make an improvised soap when combined with fat.

4.  Find where you are going, especially useful/important if you get lost.  Some compasses, like mine, have a mirror (not just handy to see yourself, but also to signal), a magnifying glass, and most compasses have small rulers where you can measure several centimeters (if anything, good for figuring out exactly how big a fish is if you catch a big one and want bragging rights :)).

5.  Collect water, boil water, cook food, doubles as a large mug if you make coffee/tea, container to collect wild edibles like berries or mushrooms.

Aside from these more common usages, there are other uses for perhaps a more desperate situation.  For example, the garbage bag can be made into an extra layer of improvised clothing if you are cold, and of course is also water proof.  A knife makes an excellent weapon, should you be forced to defend yourself, and can also be used to gut and clean any other animals for food, not just fish.  If you are unable or unwilling to have a fire at night, and an unwanted animal visitor shows up, you could scare it away with the sparks (they are quite bright) and a few yells.  The map can always be used as an emergency firestarter or crude gauze (unless you are lost of course!), and the compass is made of plastic, so it can be melted down and used as improvised glue or fuel (again, only if you are desperate and not lost).  The pot could be used as a dry, portable stove if fire is a priority and conditions are difficult (and perhaps time and energy are a factor) for a traditional campfire.

My next post will cover five of my favorite wants or camping luxuries, which make the time you spend out in the woods more enjoyable, and at not much of a burden in both weight and cost.