How to Pack for Wild Camping
Wild camping is the key to unlocking your outdoor adventures. It is an activity that has simple requirements but rich rewards. To go wild camping, you need only pack a bag full of essentials to prepare for your wilderness adventure. By carefully selecting your equipment, you can be self-sufficient and survive off-grid, exploring nature at your own pace.
As good as this sounds, there is a knack for how to pack for wild camping. It’s easy to overpack and bring the wrong equipment on your expedition. This can lead to aches and pains, insufficient protection against adverse weather, and reduced performance over a long hike. To put you in the best stead for your wild camping trips, here are a handful of rules and a few helpful tips you should follow.
Choosing a Backpack
Before you look at camping equipment and cooking gear, you need a suitable backpack for wild camping. Unfortunately, a dainty daypack simply isn’t going to cut it. Sleeping bags, tents, food, and cooking equipment are all bulky items that add weight to your haul.
The size of a backpack is measured in litres. Anything smaller than 30 litres is considered a daypack (unless you are a thru-hiker using specialist featherlight gear). 40-50 litres is the ideal size for a wild camping backpack. It’s not too big, yet it’s light enough to store all your camping essentials.
Selecting the colour and style of your bag is down to personal preference. One-pouch bags are ideal if you’re a minimalist hiker. A backpack with lots of exterior straps and clips is good if you like rock climbing, winter hiking, or any activity that requires additional equipment.
When you pack for wild camping, you should take the bag weight and your body movement into consideration. A hiking backpack should never weigh more than 20% of your body weight. Any higher than this and you’ve overpacked. For example, a 100kg person should carry a bag that weighs less than 20 kg. This is still a considerable load to carry if you’re hiking for many miles. However, there are ways to relieve this burden when you pack for wild camping.
The strongest part of your body for supporting heavy weight are your legs and back. With your bag fastened correctly to your body, it’s possible to transfer the weight down through your hips and into your legs which will help to drive you forwards.
The heaviest items should always be packed at the bottom of your bag and close to your centre of gravity. You want your bag to be evenly balanced with a bottom-heavy structure. This keeps the weight close to your core which aids your balance. Your sleeping bag, stove, and any heavy equipment that you pack for wild camping should be stowed away first. After this, fill the rest of the bag with clothes and progressively lighter gear.
You should always keep your kit ordered and accessible in your bag. Fill top pockets and side pouches with items you may need throughout your hike. For example, snacks, water, a hat, sun cream, and a rain jacket should all be in the top of your bag or within easy reach. This helps to balance the general load of your rucksack while also making it convenient to access items throughout your hike.
Essentials to Pack for Wild Camping
Before you pack for wild camping, make sure you scrutinise each item. Only carry the absolute essentials when you’re wild camping and don’t get carried away with unnecessary items. Aim to categorise your kit into sleeping gear, clothing, cooking equipment, and miscellaneous items. You may also want to write out a list and tick off each item once it’s packed to ensure nothing gets left behind.
- Sleeping Gear
Your sleeping gear is clearly a crucial component to pack for wild camping. You need a sleeping bag (3-season suits most conditions), a sleeping mat (to insulate your body from the ground), and a tent. You can also choose a bivvy bag and tarpaulin if you want to do away with the tent and go lightweight.
- Cooking Equipment
The next key category to pack for wild camping is your cooking equipment. A JetBoil is fuel efficient and relatively lightweight. A propane canister with a detachable stove fitting is another good option. A spork can be used to stir, mix, and eat your food. A saucepan and cup round off this basic kit list. Your cooking equipment can be packed at the bottom of the bag as it isn’t used until the evening.
Select food that can be rehydrated with boiling water to make your life easy. Pack meals that are high in calories, non-perishable, and loaded with good fats, protein, and carbohydrates. Carry enough food for 2-3 days and after that, you should stock up from local stores. Make sure you carry enough water for drinking and cooking each day and bring a water filter for emergencies.
Your clothes should be layered items that can be taken on and off. Hats and gloves are ideal for blocking the sun or keeping warm on cold days. Breathable materials and high-performance sports clothing are effective for hikers. Make sure to pack some comfy clothes to sleep in at night!
Lastly, pack all your miscellaneous items. This could be a medical kit, map & compass, charger, camera, water filter, e-reader, GPS device or any small gadgets that don’t fall into the other categories. Coloured stuff sacks are helpful to compartmentalise your clothing into handy storage pockets.
After you have packed everything in your bag and weighed it, you can then consider whether you want to bring a couple of personal items. Don’t go crazy here but give yourself a little movement to add some luxuries if you have space. A specialist coffee maker, bottle of whisky, speaker, or treat foods are some examples. Practice packing your bag and testing it on your back before you depart. That way, come the day of your adventure, you can be confident you know how to pack for wild camping.