You can spend as little or as much as you like on camping gear and accumulate lots of things you may use once or twice and lay aside. My choices here are all personally tested and proven, with a good balance of cost for value and durability.
You can send yourself and someone else a Camping Gear Wishlist at the end of this post.
Anti Shock Trekking Trail Poles
While climbing Mt. Marcy in the Adirondacks years ago I first saw people using trekking poles. Okay for fancy folks who couldn’t hack it with a good old hiking stick. A few hikes later I tried an old Scout’s trekking poles for a few hundred yards and I was hooked, and now I won’t go hiking without them.
Trekking poles will save your knees and feet some work, something I have found helpful as I have grown older,
Anti Shock Trekking Trail Poles on Amazon
Victorinox Midnite Minichamp
I have a couple of full-sized Swiss Army Knives, but the Victorinox Minichamp (2.3 inches long) rides on my keychain. One of the most useful tools is the hooked ’emergency’ blade pictured on the lower right above. It’s an excellent tool for opening that frustrating plastic clam shell packaging. Having a spare pen and led light has come in very handy on many occasions. The Minichamp is also light enough to carry backpacking as a backup knife.
Midnite Minichamp Tools
- Nail file with nail cleaner
- Cuticle pusher
- Screwdriver with ruler
- Emergency blade (package and letter opener)
- Orange peeler with scraper
- Bottle opener with magnetic Phillips screwdriver
- Wire stripper
- LED mini white light (18,000 MCD)
- Retractable ballpoint pen
- Key ring
Victorinox Midnite Minichamp on Amazon
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
I’ve owned and tried out dozens of different LED headlamps, but the Black Diamond storm is my overall favorite. The fully water proof Storm provides a maximum of 100 lumens with a dimming feature that allows me to set the level of brightness to the task at hand. An LED indicator displays tracks the level of four AAA batteries advertised to last 200 hours at maximum brightness. The Storm can be locked so it does not accidentally turn on in your pack.
I carry my Storm headlamp everywhere, not just for camping. It comes in handy!
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp on Amazon
Rayovac Sportsman’s Lantern
Rayovac Sportsman’s Lantern at Amazon
Streamlight Nano LED Key Chain Light
The best key chain light bar none, and less then ten bucks! It’s not the absolute brightest, but it is plenty bright enough (it still amazes me whenever I turn it on). Clio one on your backpack, or throw one in your emergency kit (or, at this price, do both) and you’ll have a reliable, bright, useful light when you need it most.
Streamlight Nano on Amazon
Sawyer 3-way Water Filter
Over the past thirty years of camping I’ve owned or used several different pump-type filters and tried different chemical purification options. Each has their merits and drawbacks. Pump-type filters have been prone to mechanical failure, tricky to use, prone to clogging and slow to use. Chemical purifiers take longer, leave an aftertaste, and depend on carefully measured, accurate proportions. The Sawyer 3-way water filter that employs hollow membrane technology derived from kidney dialysis. According to the company website they engineered a hollow fiber filter for quick flow, accurate filtration and to withstand back washing so the filter can be reused.
Sawyer 3-Way Inline Water Filter at Amazon
25 Stormproof matches and 3 strikers in a waterproof container. Unlike other “waterproof” or “windproof” matches, UCO Stormproof Matches are easy to light even after being submerged in water, and stay lit for up to 15 seconds.
Storm Matches on Amazon
Helinox – Chair One, The Ultimate Camp Chair
Having a comfortable place to sit when I am out camping or canoeing has always been a bit of a puzzle. I’ve never really found a comfortable light-weight folding chair (and most of the heavier ones weren’t all that comfortable either).
I’ve had the Helinox out on several trips now, and it is a real game changer. Weighing in at just over a pound and a half, packs to 14″ x 4″ x 5″, with a capacity of 320 pounds, and exactingly engineered the Helinox is definitely worth the price.
Helinox – Chair One at Amazon
Barska 10×25 Waterproof Binocular
I’ve tried out several cheap binoculars and learned that spending a little extra is worth the investment. The Barska 10×25 is my current favorite. They are waterproof and have a good ratio of magnification (10X) to lens size (25MM) for a bright, clear view of distant objects. They are small and light without being flimsy or difficult to adjust.
One of my favorite things to look at with binoculars is the night sky. Training them on the moon or the milky way is always astounding.
Barska 10×25 Waterproof Binocular at Amazon
I carry a kit like this on every camping trip. I rarely have to use anything in it but I can throw it in my pack and I know it’s there of I have no other options
“Contingencies” (someone forgot a flashlight, wet weather makes fire building difficult, etc.) are much more common than actual emergencies on Scouting trips. I recommend a first-aid kit supplemented with a few other items on the ‘ten essentials’ list.
This kit is your ‘air bag’ – essential but you hope, like the air bag in your car, you’ll never need it.
While it is possible to assemble a first aid kit from things you have around the house or pick up at the pharmacy, I’ve found that a carefully chosen pre-made kit is usually cheaper.
Coghlan’s Trek II First Aid Kit is packed in a durable zippered pouch, add these items to build a great contingency kit.
- Coghlan’s Trek II First Aid Kit at Amazon
- Spare flashlight, I recommend the Streamlight Nano
- Spare whistle at Amazon
- Trail food, a couple of granola or energy bars.
- Matches like the storm matches above, and I like these fire starters at Amazon
TETON Sports Internal Frame Backpacks
Three decades of taking Scouts backpacking have taught me that most important things about a Scout’s backpack is a proper fit and that it can be adjusted as a Scout grows. A top-of-the-line $400.00 backpack that doesn’t fit properly or grow along with a Scout is not only a waste of money, it’s going to be so uncomfortable a Scout will think twice before he goes backpacking again.
To carry correctly and comfortably a pack needs to fit both torso length and hip size. Torso length is measured along the spine between the base of the neck and the top of the hips and hip size is measured around the top of the hips, (don’t confuse this with waist size).
The Teton Scout 3400 adjusts from 15 -19.5 inch torsos (for people up to 5’9″ in height) and 26-60 inch hips, the Teton Explorer 4000 fits 16-23″ torsos and 26-70 inch hips. This broad range of adjustment virtually guarantees a Scout can use these packs through his Scouting years and into adulthood.
TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack at Amazon
TETON Sports Explorer 4000 Internal Frame Backpack at Amazon
Dragonfly External Frame Backpack
The Dragonfly from Outdoor Products is a great choice for Scouts because it’s flex frame can be adjusted for a 15-22 inch torso and a hip measurement from 25 to 36 inches. Adjustments are easy with the ‘clickfit’ sytem. The pack has a capacity of 2780 cubic inches and weighs just 3 lbs. 10 oz.. The Dragonfly has a great suspension system featuring padded belt and shoulder straps with load carrying adjustment straps.
We have recommended this pack for our Scouts over the past fifteen years and they have purchased dozens of them. While some of our Scouts decide to upgrade to a fancier pack after a couple of years most of them use their Dragonfly for five to seven years of backpacking trips.
Outdoor Products Dragonfly External Frame Backpack at Amazon
Mountainsmith Lumbar Day Pack
Stoutly made and versatile I use the pack to carry my camera and other gear for short hikes, walks around town, and any other time I need to stow a few things. In fact it makes a great bag for disk golf. The waist belt stows away in its own compartment when using the bag with the detachable shoulder strap.
Load adjusting straps assure I can carry pretty heavy loads (15-20 lbs) without the pack flopping around or sagging. Two mesh water bottle holders hold a 1 qt Nalgene bottle or other gear. The pack has a front compartment and a generously sized main compartment with a zippered pocket that is ideal for stowing a wallet and there’s a clip for keys. There’s also a ticket pocket behind the well-padded back panel. Larger gear can be carried outside of the bag (most often I carry a wet raincoat or a waterproof map case) with an adjustable lashing cord.
Mountainsmith Day Lumbar Pack on Amazon
Maxpedition E.D.C. Pocket Organizer
My Maxpedition organizer holds all of the bits and pieces that would otherwise be floating around in my pack. At 5″ x 7″ x 0.75″ it’s plenty large enough to contain pens, pencils, spare batteries, etc.
Maxpedition EDC Pocket Organizer at Amazon
Camping Gear Wishlist
Check the items you’d like to include on your wishlist and send it to yourself and someone who can take a hint!