Written by RJ Firchau
No matter what time of year it is, there’s no better adventure than taking a weekend getaway to visit the great outdoors. There are so many benefits to getting into camping. You get to enjoy nature. You allow yourself to awaken your primal instincts (Man make fire. Fire good. Fire make hot dogs. Yum). If you hike or trek, you get to challenge your body and take it to extremes you never thought you were capable of reaching. If you backpack, you get to experience what it means to pare down and literally live out of whatever you can carry on your back. If you car camp, you get to get away from the hustle and bustle of 9-to-5 life, if only for a little while. Camping is like a mental and physical reset. You get to really tap into what’s important, and see some epic sights along the way.
With over 50 national parks spread out all over the United States boasting some of the most beautiful scenery, trails, and natural landmarks in the world, it’s easy to see why camping poses an affordable, proxemic, and comparable alternative to shelling out hundreds of dollars for a cruise or plane fare. So, the next time you’re looking to get away from it all, consider a camping trip. If you’re just getting started, you’ll definitely need to invest some money upfront in the basics, like a tent, a sleeping bag, and a propane stove. You’re not going to want to short-change any of these purchases either, because good gear is meant endure crazy weather and keep you comfortable in the process, and that just doesn’t come cheap. Once you’ve gotten good-quality gear together, most, if not all of it, will last you for years to come. Then, that just leaves you with one other consideration: what to wear. Here’s what you need to know about camping wardrobe essentials. Have at least one or two of each wardrobe item handy for any camping trip, and you should have all of your bases–and your limbs–covered.
Dress In Layers
Base layers are the layers that are closest to your person. In the camping world, this usually includes long underwear. If you’re planning to camp somewhere cold, long underwear is one of the most important considerations for helping you retain heat and stay dry. The best long underwear is made of a moisture-wicking material that helps carry perspiration away from the skin (allowing you to maintain more stable body heat). Most long underwear will be made of synthetics (like nylon and polyester), merino wool, or silk, and will often be labeled as ultraweight, lightweight, midweight, or heavyweight. Choose heavier fabrics if you get cold easily, but know that your base layers could cause you to heat up too quickly if the weather rises or if you’re doing something strenuous, like hiking. Also, keep in mind that the colder the climate, the more snug you’ll want your base layers to fit (and vice-versa).
Your insulating layers are all about helping you to retain heat. They should be worn over your base layers and under your shell/outer layer. Materials like wool, goose down, and fleece are some of the best insulators around, as they retain heat well and are relatively lightweight and soft. When looking for an insulating layer, you can choose between lightweight (mild climate), midweight, and expedition weight (cold climate).
An outer layer (or, in the camping world, a shell) is your main defense against snow, wind, and rain. Most shells are treated with DWR to help keep you and your inner layers dry, which is crucial for giving you your best shot at staying warm in the great outdoors. The best shells also feature good ventilation that allows perspiration to escape and evaporate. When choosing a shell, you’ll want to make sure it sports both waterproofing and ventilation tech, and that it is big enough to easily fit over all of your inner layers.
Don’t Forget The Small Stuff
Obviously, you’ll want to choose a pair of socks (preferably wool) that is going to be comfortable and functional when going camping. Your dress socks just won’t do here. No matter what you choose, you’ll want to make sure that your socks are comfortable and moisture-wicking. Then, you can get into the varying degrees of warmth. Lightweight socks are best for warm conditions and easy, quick hikes, and they are the only type that can be worn without sock liners. Midweight socks are a step up in terms of cushioning and insulation in order to protect your feet in colder climates or on longer hikes. Finally, mountaineering socks are ultra-thick, cushioned socks designed for long, rigorous hikes and cold temperatures. As far as liners go, you’ll want to grab a pair whenever you’re going on a long hike or camping out in the wilderness. Liners are pretty much thin under-socks meant to help wick moisture and prevent abrasion and rubbing between your sock and your skin.
There are myriad options when it comes to your camping footwear. The three main types boil down to hiking shoes, day hiking boots, and backpacking boots. Depending on whether you plan to do any hiking or trekking, you’ll want to choose a pair that’ll support you every step of the way. Hiking shoes are low-cut shoes with flexible midsoles. Day hiking boots are mid- or high-cut and best used for longer day hikes and short backpacking trips. Backpacking boots are the sturdiest and most supporting shoes around, and are meant to carry heavier loads and be used on long backpacking trips.
Gloves or mittens will make a huge difference when you’re out braving the cold. If you’re going somewhere extremely cold, you’ll want to grab a pair of glove liners. Then, most any pair of gloves will do, but mittens or convertible (glove-mitten) variations are even better when it comes to adding warmth.
Most folks overlook the watch as a camping gear necessity, but you never know when one will come in handy when you’re out on the trails. We won’t get into all the options here, but some of the best features to look for in a camping watch are GPS capability, a long-lasting battery, and a backlight so you can use it after dark.
Because you lose a significant amount of body heat through your head and limbs, hats are crucial for camping trips, especially in colder climates. Before you go on any camping trip, make sure to pack a beanie or a windproof hat. You never know when it could come in handy.
There you have it. If you’re not used to camping, use this guide to help you get adequately prepared to face the elements. The worst thing you can do is be unprepared. So, gather your wardrobe and other provisions accordingly, and all that’ll be left for you to worry about is enjoying being one with nature.