10 Essentials for a Comfortable Camp

We all know how important the basics are for backcountry travel. Things like a headlamp, map, and first aid supplies are needed to keep you safe, but sometimes comfort can be just as important. After all, how can you enjoy your time outdoors if you haven’t slept well?

Here are ten items that will help you camp more comfortably, so that you can focus on what really matters—enjoying time outside with your adventure buddies.

1. Pillow

A good night’s sleep goes a long way in helping your body recover after a beat-down on the trails. You probably use a comfortable camp mattress and a warm sleeping bag, so why not a pillow? It might seem like an unnecessary luxury, but if you sleep with one at home you should in the backcountry—the fewer changes you make to your sleeping position, the better.

Camping-specific expandable pillows are actually super comfortable and take up minimal space in your pack. At the very least, make a pillow using a stuff sack and a puffy coat. Your neck and spine will thank you, and you’ll be well-rested the next day.

2. Chair

Using a chair offers insulation and back support while hanging around camp.
Gregory Mountain Products/William Woodward

Unlike developed front-country campgrounds, remote backcountry camps don’t usually have picnic tables or areas to sit while you cook and eat. Chances are that you may have to sit on the cold or damp ground while you hang out.

Using a chair offers insulation while you are cooking, keeps your body off the cold ground, and will prevent the slouching that occurs when your muscles are tired. A fold-up chair, three-legged camp chair, or even a chair kit for your inflatable mattress pad will relieve your back and keep you that much warmer.

3. Camp Lantern

Lanterns are a good alternative to headlamps. Matthew Brodeur

There is nothing more annoying than being blinded by a friend’s headlamp while you’re cooking or hanging out, so save everyone’s eyes (and headlamp batteries) and illuminate camp with a lantern. Backcountry lanterns have come a long way, and you can find lightweight, inexpensive lanterns that hang from the inside of your tent or sit upright on a flat surface.

A lantern may make things easier while you’re cooking, washing up, or playing a game of cards, but it’s also a good backup in case someone’s headlamp breaks, gets too wet in the rain, or runs out of batteries.

4. Games and Puzzles

Tear out a few pages from a crossword puzzle book, especially during cooler weather or if rain is in the forecast. It can be a drag to wait out a rainstorm in a wet tent, but bringing crossword puzzles or other fun and lightweight games (like a deck of cards, Sudoku, or word search puzzles) can be a fun way to pass the time.

5. Dessert

OLZqr3I6ek2sg6QO0MoMMDessert is the perfect treat to the end the day. Gregory Mountain Products/William Saunders

Everyone knows you should bring more food than you think you’ll need, but who says it all has to be healthy? Making a camp dessert with friends is a fun way to top off a long day, and very few people will turn down a toasted marshmallow.

If you need another reason to add dessert to your packing list, the process of digesting food keeps your body warm, so by enjoying a few extra treats, you are actually helping yourself get a good night’s rest. (It’s science.)

To make marshmallow treats, just measure out butter and marshmallows and dump it all into your pan. When it melts, mix in some Rice Krispies and enjoy! Add peanut butter or chocolate to make it extra delicious. Other fun do-it-yourself backcountry desserts are instant puddings or cheesecake or brownie mixes.

6. Down Booties

Imagine slipping out of your muddy hiking boots and into a pair of down booties—the ultimate in camp comfort. Down booties have a great warmth-to-weight ratio, meaning they do a lot to keep you warm while adding minimal weight to your pack. Think of them as down jackets for your feet.

Purchase down booties with durable, water-resistant bottoms, so you can walk around camp in them. Wear booties in your sleeping bag during cold nights with a dry pair of wool socks for extra warmth. Your feet need the chance to dry out at night, and you will sleep better with warm and dry toes.

7. Fishing Rod

5a2spGeBbaQasSwYo86E8Bring a fishing rod on your next camping try and maybe you’ll catch dinner! Jenner VandenHoek

Many backcountry lakes, rivers and streams are home to plenty of fish. Casting a line can be the perfect way to spend a sunny rest day, and you may even be able to mix up dinner with your catch. Always check with your local land management agency to see if fishing is even allowed, what permits you need, and whether it’s catch and release or if you can keep what you catch. Get a collapsible, travel fishing rod for maximum weight and space efficiency.

8. Hammock

A hammock adds comfort to your time in camp. Gregory Mountain Products/William Woodward

There is nothing quite like lounging in a hammock after hiking all day. A hammock adds comfort to your time in camp, and there are plenty of backpacking hammocks made of durable and lightweight nylon fabric, so you don’t have to worry about adding weight to your pack. String up your hammock using climbing slings or cordelette, which is lightweight but also very strong.

Hammock camping has become increasingly popular over the past couple of years, so you might even find yourself leaving the tent at home altogether and sleeping outside under the stars!

9. Binoculars

Use binoculars to scout a new route or just see what kind of wildlife is nearby. Evan Kirby

Binoculars are fun for finding birds or other wildlife and useful for getting a closer look at that snowfield you may be crossing. When you’re camping in the alpine, pass the time by scoping out nearby peaks and rock walls, dreaming up future trips or getting a good look at the glowing blue crevasses of glacial ice (from a safe distance!). Bring out the binoculars at night to take advantage of the excellent stargazing of the dark wilderness sky.

10. Lightweight Shelter

When backpacking with a group, a large, lightweight shelter that can fit everyone inside to eat, talk, or play games is helpful, especially if bad weather rolls in. Lightweight shelters are similar to tents but without a floor, and keep the rain out while providing a warm, comfortable hang out space in the evenings. (Ultralight hikers will often ditch their tents in favor of these floorless shelters.) A tarp pitched between trees and staked out with nylon cord will also do the trick, but a tarp can be heavier and isn’t as weatherproof.

Written by Jacqui Levy for RootsRated in partnership with Gregory Mountain Products and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@getmatcha.com.

Featured image provided by Gregory Mountain Products/William Woodward