10 Must Haves For Primitive Camping in the Midwest
I'm doing it. I might be crazy, but I'm doing it. The wife and I are packing up the kayaks and fishing gear, grabbing the air mattress and sleeping bags, and hauling our brood of 3 for a weekend away at Volga River State Recreation Area. And we're doing it PRIMITIVE!
Yes, I am crazy. Primitive camping is not for everyone and I'd be the first to tell you that I LOVE air conditioning. So what are those "must haves" before your weekend getaway begins. Well Let me tell you...
1) A Tent
Hey, you need somewhere to sleep right. Some people like hammocks, but when you loaded down with a family of 5 the safest, most efficient bet is a decent larger tent. Trust me you want the room and here's why. Not only is it necessary to separate the kids in some instances (I have twins) but more room means less body heat to share. And trust me it's gonna' get hot on those summer nights. And don't forget the tarp for beneath your tent and a nice rain sleeve for the top. No one wants to wake up soaked. Trust me I know as one of my early tenting experiences was ruined by a monsoon and a pool of standing water on TOP of my tent... it started dripping on my face at around 4 in the morning.
2) Sleeping Bag / Matt
The ground can be unforgiving and as I'm only a couple years shy of 40 at the time of writing this, comfort is key. Especially if you're hoping to hike, kayak, and fish over the course of a few days; not to mention keeping up with the boundless amounts of energy contained in small children. Good rest is super important!
3) Camping stove / Fuel / Heat Source
Most primitive places offer some form of fire ring which is great, but if you need your coffee in the morning or an additional spot to cook some more delicate items, this is the easiest way to facilitate a good meal. If no stove is handy make sure you pack the essential for a fire: Fuel (wood/charcoal), matches or a lighter, and a grate to grill/cook on.
4) Multi-Tool with knife
Trust me you'll use it. Whether cutting down small kindling to start your fire, cutting fishing line to the right size, or removing a splinter from those terrible boo-boos I always end up using my knife and multi tools. It's basically a no-brainer at this point.
5) Headlamps / Lantern / Flashlight
Did you know it gets super dark when your away from the city lights. True story. Pack a head lamp or lantern for those uncomfortable late-night walks with the kids to the potty (or yourself) and for some last-minute fidgeting in the tent before settling down. You'll thank me you didn't forget it.
6) Water Bottles / Life Straw / Food
Water is essential whether you're camping, hiking, or sitting around the fire. Some primitive camping areas don’t have running water, so you’ll be on your own when it comes to staying hydrated on the trail. And sometimes your only means of water is a river or stream, so make sure it's safe to drink with a filtration system like a life straw on the trail or chemical treatment for less than acceptable bodies of water. And ya gotta' eat right!? It's always a good idea to pack foods that can "last" as well; trail mixes, jerky, dried fruits or veggies. That's all in addition to your "main course" dishes.
7) First Aid
I mentioned boo-boos, but this is for a real emergency. Sometimes your adventures will take you far and away from civilization and cell service (AHHHHHH). That's when this little guy comes in handy. May I suggest adding athletic tape, para chord, and some form of rubber strap to your first-aid kit. They could all be life savers depending on the situation.
8) Rain Poncho / Jacket
It is so important to stay dry when hiking and camping so keep from getting wet in the first place. If you're fall or winter camping hypothermia is a main cause of death in many instances, and being wet makes getting warm even harder.
9) Storage / Hiking Bag
A backpack is a great way to take what you need out on the trail. It can hold all the essentials for a day on the trails and give you peace of mind should an emergency arise (since you packed your first-aid). Storage compartments can also keep critters out of your food and snacks, and, if your more north-ways, to keep food "bear-safe" is essential. Those critters can get in to pretty much anything on the ground so storing things high and away is a must-do in Wisconsin areas.
10) Battery Packs / Car Chargers
Always have a back-up plan. A day on the trails running GPS or navigation can drain a cell phone battery very fast. It's always a good idea to have a portable battery pack and charger with you. Should an emergency come up and you only means of communication dies before getting back to your campsite. Make good on your vehicle as a "charging station" for your portable battery pack. Mine was fairly inexpensive and can charge to phones completely before needing a recharge.
There's loads more I could add to this list, but these things should be the first to get packed. Everything after that is gravy as they say depending on how comfortable or miserable you want your camping experience to be.