What you’ve heard about prostitution is completely false: camping is actually the world’s oldest profession.  In fact, I dare anyone to go on and find a lineage that doesn’t track back to a storied camping family.  Even our religions are based on camping:  Buddha gained Awakening in the forest, nature holds a crucial importance for Wiccans, Adam and Eve were known to frequent Garden of Eden National Park, and don’t get me started on the Animists.  The great outdoors isn’t all fun and games and learning the difference between good and evil, however. Preparation (even if it’s just leaving a note) can often be the difference between life and this.  

I’ve done you all the monstrous favor of compiling a list of some of the most crucial items to take with you as you enjoy all that Mother Nature has to offer.

1. Food

Contrary to popular belief the great outdoors is not one giant organic produce isle, and you are not Les Straud.  No one will fault you for over packing tasty morsels; just try to be as efficient as possible.  That means lightweight foods capable of providing high energy: nuts, nut butters, dehydrated fruit, energy bars, burritos, ice cream…alright maybe not ice cream, but there is plenty of room to get creative.  For example, oatmeal can be made a lot more appealing by adding a packet of carnation breakfast drink mix.

2. Water/Water Bottles

Camelbacks, Nalgenes, empty water bottles...  I recommend bringing enough apparatuses to carry at least 2 liters of water at any time.  If your camping site does not include a well or fresh water, you’ll be glad you overstocked.  Remember when rehydrating, it’s recommended to do so from a running water source (rivers, streams, it’s just important the water is moving) rather than a stagnant pond.  I also recommend bringing along some water purification tablets just to be safe.  I personally don’t mind the mineral taste that results, but they have neutralizers for that if you prefer.

3.  A Headlamp

Everyone loves peeing in the woods, but navigating the woods in the dark is no easy task.  You can do yourself a lot of favors by bringing along a lamp that sits comfortably atop your head, leaving your hands free to work your zipper and swat away mosquitos.  Trust me, you don’t want to be the only schmuck who didn’t bring one, and you definitely don’t want to be the one with mosquito bites on your personal wilderness.  You’ll find these reasonably priced at any outdoor store.

4.  A Multitool/Knife

They can cut your food, sharpen a stick, and even clip your toenails.  These are lightweight tools to help you stay alive and comfortable, and can even serve a purpose in your personal toolbox at home.  You will sometimes hear a multitool referred to as a “Leatherman” by the same type of people who think apple is the only company that makes computers.

5.  A Chainsaw

Even better than a multitool or a knife, a chainsaw can get you out of any jam.  Whether an animated tree branch is getting fresh with your girlfriend, a re-animated corpse is clawing its way through your cellar door, or your own hand has turned against you, you’ll be glad you equipped your cabin with a chainsaw.  Side note: If you are forced to lose the hand, I recommend affixing the chainsaw directly to your arm for maximum utility.

6.  Map(s)

“Is it left, down, up, left?  Down, left, up, left?  Dammit, I’m going to candle this whole f***ing place to the ground!”

Sound familiar?  Never get lost in the woods or have to pay some old gypsy for directions again by bringing your own maps.  Turns out it was up, left, down, left the whole time…that’ll be 30 rupees.

7.   A Protocol Droid

Annoying as they may be, they’re fluent in over 6 million forms of communication and will be indispensable if you ever find yourself captured by ewoks…or wookies for that matter.  Really any kind of unintelligible species named with a series of e’s, w's, o’s, k’s, and s’s.

8.  Drugs

9.  An Eagle Scout

Goddamn, these things are useful.  Say what you will about the Boy Scouts of America but they’ve saved my ass more times than I can count, and I’m a superb counter. Packing tips, the best trails, knots; they know it all.  And they’re the ones you can count on to remember all the little odds and ends my list forgot.

10.  A Towel

A towel is about the most incredibly useful and versatile thing a camper can have.  It can be wrapped around you for warmth, you can lie on it on brilliant marble-sanded beaches, you can sleep under it beneath the stars, wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat, wrap it round your head to protect yourself from the sun,  you can wave it in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off if it still seems to be clean enough.

Anyone who can hike the length and breadth of the wilderness, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is, is clearly a force to reckoned with.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but I hope this serves as a practical foundation for any would be campers.  May the forest be with you.