Travel Essentials for Wild Camping

Planning for a trip to the woods or interested in trekking, back packing maybe? This post will help you get started in terms of travel essentials which will come in handy.

Backpacking as they say is an art, and packing your rucksack with Tetris like precision definitely so. To make things more complicated it is also a function of destination, weather, duration and of course level of personal comfort. You will come across many helpful tips on the web and endless number of books on the subject of camping, trekking, walking, backpacking, et al. This post is the result of many people who have done this before me and what I have learnt from my sojourns.

The below mentioned list is primarily aimed at wild camping in grassland, expecting fair amount of rain and for 2 to 3 days. It will change considerably if any of the parameters change—say if your destination is desert like arid region or tropical rain forest or snow-capped Alps. Also this might be more useful as a guide for a beginner than some dyed in the wool experienced traveler in which case the pack can be made considerably lighter.

My comments are a result of my experience of using the items mentioned in the article. Here’s to a tryst with nature!

Clothes and Gear

1. Tent: Invest in a good tent at the very onset and only from reputed brands. This is important. Do not head off into the woods with some cheap festival tent. They have their place but not in the woods. The three major choices to make are – size, weight and price. Tent and the sleeping bag are the most important investments for your camping trips. Both these can be dealt as separate topics in my next article.

Vango Banshee 200- Tent for two persons. Weight: 2 Kg

Vango Banshee 200- Tent for two persons. Weight: 2 Kg

2. Sleeping Bag: Another big investment for your wild camping. This will need considerable research before you narrow down on one. I will visit this topic later. Tip: If you are getting only one, choose a little warmer (higher season rating) than you need for this trip. I use a synthetic filling and season3/ 4 rated (temperature range of Comfort/Limit/Extreme 0 / -6 / -24°C) and weighs around 1.5kg. Also it is a good idea to bug proof it with a coat of permethrin spray at least along the openings).

-This sleeping bag is about 14in by 8in in size

This sleeping bag is about 14 inch by 8 inch in size

3. Mat: To lay inside your tent to sleep on. Cheap closed foam (likes of a yoga mat) works fine and it is light in weight.  It can be tied outside your rucksack.

4. Ground Sheet: Pitch your tent on this to insulate from ground and protect your tent from thorns, rocks etc. DIY guys can make this one for themselves out of waterproof gunny bags.

5. Pillow: Use neck pillows as you use in an airplane. But if you do not want to increase your luggage weight you may ignore this and can use folded clothes. They work fine.

6. Pants: Carry and wear cargo style trousers with lots of pockets. They can be zipped off to make shorts. Prefer light colored pants to make out bugs, ticks and other crawling insects. While choosing your pants, make sure that they are made of quick drying material. Bug proof ones are costly. I made mine bug proof with a coat of Permethrin.

7. Base Layer: Always wear this inside your clothes to wick off the sweat and keep you dry.  You can get them at any sports shop. Do not wear cotton inners in cold temperatures. This absorbs and holds sweat and makes your body loose heat fast as it dries. This can prove dangerous if hypothermia sets in.

8. Socks: Don’t forget to carry at least three pairs of socks.

9. Hat & Sunglasses: Essential for protection from sun and also if walking in forested areas.

10. Fleece: Fleece offers good warmth to weight ratio and they are comfortable as well. It will be your second layer on top of base layer.

11. Jacket: In the wild, weather is unpredictable and it may change anytime of the day. Always carry a jacket preferably water proof. If it is not water proof, it should be at least water resistant. Hooded will serve you better in chilly winds. This will act as your outer layer.

12. Towel: Small to save on weight. During my visit to India, I used a handloom towel, locally known as gamchha, which dries quickly and is light in weight.

13. Rucksack: Buy this last. You will know how big it needs to be. It should be light in weight, sturdy and offer good support at the waist. External straps are extremely handy (for carrying rolled up mat, trekking poles etc.). Research online but do try it on in a shop before you buy. Make sure it has a rain cover built in or get one which fits the bag snugly.


1. Water: At least a liter (more according to climate conditions). Keep note of all the places you can fill up in between (village, stream, river, etc) and carry accordingly.

2. Med Kit: You do get off the shelf medical kits for camping but it is always better to tailor it to your needs. You may want to upgrade this to serve as your emergency survival kit as well. I will share mine in another post.

3. Multipurpose Knife: Carry a Leatherman /Swiss army knife but learn to use it thoroughly beforehand.

Leatherman and 15 ft of paracord 550 as lanyard

Leatherman and 15 ft of paracord 550 as lanyard

4. Map: Carry a map if it is available. In case you cannot find a detailed map, at least carry a hand drawn map with distances and other details. But it depends on the type of trip and location. Do not forget to keep it in a waterproof case.

5. Compass: This again is a good investment to last a lifetime. Teach yourself to use this and a map, to take bearings and transfer bearings. Learn “navigators dozen” (research online). Compass in key rings may not be accurate and trusting them will do more harm than good. Therefore buy a proper one.

Silva4 Compass

Silva4 Compass

6. Rain Coat: Good quality, light weight and packs small.

7. Rope: 15- 20 feet in length, preferably paracord550.

Paracord550 and Compass

Paracord550 and Compass

8. Head Torch: light weight and reliable. Petzl is a good choice.

Petzel e Lite: Head torch; White light for normal use and red light to preserve night vision

Petzl e-lite: White light for normal use and red light to preserve night vision

9. Bug Spray: Useful in almost all types of location.

Permethrin (for using as clothing spray) and Repel55 to apply on body

Permethrin (for using as clothing spray) and Repel55 to apply on body

10. Pen/Pencil/Paper.

11. Scotch Tape: Carry in case you need it in emergencies. To save on weight and space wrap some around a pencil.

12. Poncho: Again an emergency equipment but important nonetheless.

13. Trowel:  Travel but travel responsibly. To support the Leave No Trace (LNT) ethic of minimizing impact by humans on the wild, please ensure to carry a trowel.


1. Water Bottle: 1,500 ml bottle (apart from the one mentioned above) inside your bag for emergencies.

2. Stove and Fuel: They should be as light weight as possible. Carry stove in box. Hex burner is also a lightweight option. But it is really difficult to get one in India. In my last trip to India, I had to search it for almost four days to find one in New Delhi. I needed it for a trip to Zanskar in Jammu & Kashmir. The most important thing is that you cannot carry it in airplane or train. Make sure to carry Aluminium foil as well to make wind shield for the stove.

Hexburner with fuel tablets

Hexburner with fuel tablets

Stove with box and fuel canister

Stove with box and fuel canister

3. Mess Kit: Prepare, cook and eat in this. It saves on weight and space of heavy utensils. Carry a big spoon along and it is enough for most purposes. Make cover lid with Aluminium foil.

Mess tin (set of 2)

Mess tin (set of 2)

4. Spice Kit: Small amounts of spices and oil (packed very carefully).

Spice kit for spieces and oil

Spice kit for spieces and oil

5. Fire: Carry an ordinary lighter and a fire lighter (learn to use this too before you leave) to light stove.

Magnesium and stell lighter

Magnesium and steel lighter

6. Tinder: Tinder can be made from lots of things available outdoors. Keep some cotton (dry) and some Vaseline (petroleum jelly) wrapped in cotton.

7. Plastic Bag: Few garbage bags. You can use to wrap things and also carry out garbage generated. 1 or 2 extra will server well.

This list may work as a base checklist  which you can refine to suit yourself. Have a wonderful and safe camping experience in the wild. Good luck!


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