With the cost of hotels and Airbnb rising, many people have started to look into alternative options for sleeping arrangements when they travel. One option that has become increasingly popular over the years is the concept of “wild camping.” Wild camping means that you are boondocking (self-sustained camping on public lands) which means that you are accountable for all of your water, electric, and fuel needs. Wild camping can be a great option for saving money as long as you go about it legally and make sure that you bring along all of the wild camping essentials that you will need for your trip.
The most important thing that you need to think about when packing your wild camping essentials is shelter. What will protect you when you sleep at night? What happens if it rains? Sure, if you are out in the desert you can absolutely cowboy camp under the stars with no tent, but that isn’t an option for everyone. You have a few options when it comes to choosing a shelter for wild camping. It depends on your needs which one will suit you best, but the two main options are using a tent or having a car camping setup. Eric and I LOVE car camping. It works well for us to not have to set up a tent every night when we aren’t hiking. For us, a car camping setup is ideal. We can just pull our car off to the side of the road, as long as we have pre-determined that it is legal to spend the night there and relax for the night.
- Tent and tent poles- When using a tent, Eric and I have this awesome Big Agnes Copper Spur HV 2 UL Hotel Tent that we LOVE. It isn’t as ultralight as we’d like it to be, but it has this awesome “garage” area that is perfect for our gear and boots. When the weather is bad, we have even cooked in the hotel area (Just make sure the area is vented).
- Car camping setup
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The next thing on your list of wild camping essentials is your kitchen items. How will you feed yourself and cook food? The list below is broken up into two parts: essentials and things that are simply nice to have. If you are looking at having the bare minimum packing list— truly just the essentials, then stick with the first list. If you are looking to upgrade your wild camping experience, then check out the second list for some great ideas of what to add.
- Cooking Fuel- Most stoves run on propane which you can get from many gas stations, REI’s, and Walmarts.
- Pot– If you aren’t backpacking or worried about weight, then really any cooking pot will do as long as it is not extra-large. Just be aware that whatever pot you choose will have to fit on your stove. I also recommend getting a pot with a lid that makes it easy to drain.
- Long spoon- Having a longer spoon to stir what is in your pot is just a nice thing to have
- Utensil set
- Reusable Water Bottle
- Mini-Stove– This is truly essential. Without it, you will not be able to cook. We have used the Jet Boil for years on both our car camping trips and our backpacking trips. It’s an awesome mini stove.
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- Coleman Stove– If your basic Jet Boil/rocket stove isn’t cutting it for you, this stove will provide a massive upgrade to your quality of life. It brings pots to boil quickly and is great for cooking just about anything.
- Blackstone Griddle- we have this and it is AMAZING for making eggs in the morning. You can also make burgers or chicken on it with no problem (Just be patient when cooking meat as it takes a bit of time for the meat to cook thoroughly).
- Cooler– You don’t have to buy the most expensive cooler out there to have a good time wild camping. You can do just fine with a basic igloo brand to keep your food cold for a day or two.
- Kitchen Sink- This collapsible sink has been a lifesaver for us on our boondocking and car camping expeditions. It allows us to wash our dishes or carry water from one place to the next. I highly recommend it.
- Windscreen– We ended up buying an ultralight windscreen for our Jet Boil to improve fuel efficiency and help combat cooking on windy days. It has been a nice upgrade for us and I highly recommend one!
- Sleeping Bag- Nights can get cold and a sleeping bag is considered one of your most essential camping accessories. A sleeping bag is considered one of you MAJOR investments when it comes to living a “wild camping” lifestyle. I have a Feathered Friends UL sleeping bag that I use for backpacking and camping. There are many cheaper options available to you though if you aren’t looking to go ultralight.
- Pillow– I use an inflatable pillow that I also take with me hiking. It is actually incredibly comfortable.
- Sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress- Sleeping on the cold ground is no fun at all. We have sleeping pads for camping and a car camping air mattress for when we decide to sleep in the car. We even put our car camping air mattress in our suitcase and brought it with us to Iceland to save money on accommodations!
- Foldable Table- The ability to have a place to cook or eat off of is a true essential. A basic folding table can go a long way to improve your quality of life.
- Camping Chairs- Having somewhere to sit can be really important. You don’t have to have the nicest chair out there, but having SOMETHING can make a big difference.
- Enough Water for the length of time you are wild camping. Here is a container that we use to carry water. It’s ideal to have two. One for drinking purposes, and one for bathing, hand washing, and cleaning purposes.
- Enough food for the length of time that you are wild camping.
- External Charger- If your phone dies, so does your GPS. Keep your phone charged easily with a simple external charger.
- Lighter- You will need a lighter to start campfires and your stove. You can’t cook without one so don’t forget it!
- Paper Towels
- Ziplock bags
- Pocket Knife
- Bear Spray- If you are in bear country, it is good to keep the bear spray on hand, just in case!
- Headlamps– Headlamps allow you to see at night and are truly a wild camping essential, especially when using the bathroom at night!
- First Aid Kit- Your FAK doesn’t need to be huge, but having the essentials like bandaids, ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, and hydrocortisone cream can go a long way.
- Deck of Cards
- Sports equipment
- Hiking Poles- If you plan on hiking while you are camping, hiking poles can help take the strain off of your knees. Hiking poles also saved my life when I fell off a mountain in Iceland, so I highly recommend taking some with you.
- Toilet Kit- Trowel, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, mini-bidet, plastic Ziploc bag to put used toilet paper in.
- Towel- I recommend a microfiber or quick-dry towel.
- Compact Towels- These compact towels are amazing for washing your face at night! They are the size of a quarter initially. Once you add a bit of water, they become a full tissue-sized towel.
- Hand Sanitizer
- Tooth Brush/Tooth Paste
- Bug Spray
This general list of wild camping essentials should get you started on your first few trips out into the wild. Remember to always leave no trace and make sure that you are wild camping legally!
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