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A Checklist for Camping

Be Prepared When Camping Massachusetts

Why do I need a checklist for camping? - Massachusetts camping is an exciting outdoor experience that you'll remember forever but to have a great time, you need to be prepared. What to bring and what to wear largely depends upon when you go, how long you stay, where you are going and what you can live without. The first time you reach for bug spray, you'll be glad you planned ahead!

Whenever I go camping for an extended weekend, whether it's to a Massachusetts state park or privately owned park, I always check my list first to make sure I have everything I need. Here is the basic camping supply list I start out with and my experience with each:

checklist for camping - tent

  • Tent - A tent provides privacy, a shield from the rain and wind, a place to store your gear and a barrier from creatures and insects that might otherwise like to spend the night with you.

    For 2 people, a small pup tent will suffice; it is easy to roll up and usually comes with a carrying bag for portability.
    If you do use it to store your gear as well, it can get cramped pretty quickly. Depending on how much room you need, you may want to upgrade to a larger tent (and also something you can stand up in).

    Each time I take a Massachusetts camping trip, it always seems to rain...maybe it's just my luck:) Anyway, I've found that waterproofing is as essential as bringing the tent itself. Before I waterproofed my tent, every time it rained there was a constant drip right at the tippity top of the tent where all the fabric panels meet. The other spots tents tend to leak are at the seams which are sewn together. Waterproofing also helps keep away some of the dew that likes to set in during the early morning hours.

  • checklist for camping - sleeping bag

  • Sleeping Bag - Sleeping bags are next on my checklist for camping. They are versatile and can be comfortable as long as you choose the right one. Before purchasing a sleeping bag, make sure to check the size, type of insulation and temperature rating. The temperature rating is especially important if you're camping in Massachusetts during the spring and fall seasons where temperatures can dip down into the 30's (F) at night.

    Mummy bags are warmer but also have a narrower fit. I personally prefer the rectangular bags as they are less restricting, especially if you move around when you sleep; they can also be fully unzipped to be used as a nice blanket.

  • Sleeping Pad - Sleeping pads go hand and hand with sleeping bags and should also be on your checklist for camping. They go underneath your sleeping bag and are found in various types of material from foam to rubber. You can always improvise and find something around the house - I bring along an old egg crate mattress pad which works perfectly fine.

    I've found that a sleeping pad is necessary on three levels:

    • It's an extra cushion between the ground and your bag for added comfort.
    • It traps body heat between the bottom of your sleeping bag and the ground; in the colder months this is especially noticeable.
    • It can be an extra barrier so your sleeping bag doesn't get wet. If it rains and your tent decides to leak, a sleeping pad could be your saving grace to getting a good night's sleep. I've had a friend actually bring along an air mattress which worked wonderfully; I decided not to bring a pad because I didn't think I'd need it. A thunderstorm that brought torrential downpours came out of no where and the tent once again leaked around the bottom seam. While my friend stayed happily above the water and dry, my sleeping bag got soaked and I spent the night in the car with the heat on!

    checklist for camping - tarp

  • Tarps - Tarps are always on my checklist for camping and have come to the rescue many times. They have a wide range of uses and come in various sizes; when in doubt, get the larger size. If I know rain is in the forecast, I will cover my tent with a large tarp to seal off any small holes water may leak into; I do this by simply stringing rope through the tarp eyeholes and then attaching them to the tent stakes in the ground.

    If your campsite is more dirt and sand than grass, you can also lay a tarp down in front of your tent and take your shoes off there instead of tracking it into the tent. When you're camping by the beach, it's also great to use as a makeshift blanket to lay your picnic lunch on.

  • First Aid Kit - I had once cut my finger from the top of a can of baked beans right at the beginning of a camping trip. For the rest of the trip, it was quite the annoyance and made the rest of my stay less than enjoyable...if only I had brought some antibiotic ointment.

    checklist for camping - First Aid Kit

    A first aid kit is one of those things that can definitely be overlooked, I know I did - make sure this is on your checklist for camping.

    At the minimum, It should include bandages and gauze, antibiotic ointment like Neosporin, sterile wipes, pain meds (Advil/Tylenol), tweezers to pull out those nagging splinters, scissors/sharp knife, sunburn relief spray or lotion (with Aloe), and the all-in-one Pepto-Bismol.

  • Rope, Nylon cord or Para cord - Some rope may be too large to fit through the tarp eyeholes when tying them down. Nylon cord is a great alternative to use as it's also very sturdy and provides some give if the tarp is being weighed down by water. Para cord is the type of cord used on parachutes so you can imagine how strong it needs to be. Flexible and strong enough to hold 500 lbs., para cord is as versatile as they come and can be used in any type of situation; I always keep a roll in my car.
  • checklist for camping - foldable chair

  • Foldable Chairs - If you want to sit on the ground or backpack that's perfectly fine but I personally prefer bringing a foldable chair whenever I go camping. They are a much more comfortable option and they have those nice cup holders for drinks:)

  • Duct Tape - Like tarps, duct tape has also always been on my checklist for camping. It's kind of like my go to item when something goes awry despite my best efforts to be fully prepared:

    • Repairing a torn piece of tent from the rock sticking out of the ground that seemingly wasn't there before.
    • Fixing a tent pole that broke because it was bent too far when pitching the tent.
    • Covering blisters after realizing your hiking boots weren't nearly as comfortable as they used to be and finding out that someone used all the bandages in the first aid kit.
    • Making a nice handle for a walking stick or taping together the bottoms of your pants to prevent ticks from finding a new host.
    checklist for camping - campfire

  • Fire Starting Materials and Fire Wood - To start a fire, it can be as easy as bringing a lighter or matches with some newspaper and dried kindling wood. To waterproof matches, simply soak the match in turpentine, nail polish, or coat with wax from a candle.

    In worst case scenario situations, which usually include rain, I always have on hand cotton swabs coated in petroleum jelly and stored in an empty camera film case. The cotton swab lights very easy and quickly and the petroleum jelly stays lit for a long time letting you get your kindling together.

    Massachusetts State Parks usually have fire wood for purchase but I like to collect my own dead wood when available; at the very least I might add some fatwood kindling pieces to my checklist for camping. When collecting dead wood, if the wood is cool to the touch it may be too damp to burn unless you have a really hot fire going with lots of coals; don't use rotted wood or freshly cut wood.

    Birch bark and pine branches with needles attached, damp or not, works really well to get the fire going quickly. Also, collect more wood than you think you'll need. It's always better to have a little extra than to be scouting around at night to keep the fire going.

  • checklist for camping - multitool

  • Multi-Tool, Knife, Saw - A multi-tool is a definite must and should be on your checklist for camping. Your multi-tool should include a sharp knife, pliers and wire cutter, bottle/ can opener, Philips and flat head screwdrivers, and scissors. I haven't had too much luck using the saw on most multi-tools. Instead I bring a foldable saw to cut dead wood into smaller pieces for the fire. A hatchet is another alternative but in most cases a saw is quicker and less dangerous.

  • Personal Items - What you need here is entirely up to you. Dress in layers and bring a rain coat or poncho and comfortable boots and shoes. In colder areas, wear wool instead of cotton whenever possible as it insulates body heat even if wet. Also add shower items if you're staying at a campground with such facilities, towels, tooth brush and toilet paper to your checklist for camping.
  • Cooking Items - Pots, pans, bowls, cups, utensils, stove and extra fuel, cleaning items and garbage bags. I try to take as much paper items as possible to cut down on the amount of garbage needed to take away...hot dogs on a makeshift skewer roasted over the fire are the way to go for me. Paper plates with a little grease work wonders for starting a fire. Remember not to burn plastic items as it is harmful to the environment and give off toxic fumes.
  • checklist for camping - bug spray

  • Bug Spray and Sunscreen - When you're settling down for the night enjoying the fire, the last thing you want to deal with is mosquitoes buzzing around all over the place...don't forget to put bug spray on your checklist for camping! Although experts are mixed on their use, I've found that DEET-based repellents are most effective at keeping the insects away.

    Sunscreen is also a must for your camping checklist. Check the label for the SPF count, the higher the number, the better the protection. I usually go with SPF 25-30, get the spray-on kind and re-apply every couple hours.

    The best defense from both bug bites and harmful sun rays however, is to just cover up. In the end it is up to you what you're comfortable with using.

  • Flashlight - A reliable bright flashlight that's preferably water resistant should be on your checklist for camping. Check the batteries before going on your camping trip and always bring extra batteries just in case. I also have a back up waterproof flashlight that's powered by shaking it a bunch of times. It's less bright than the other flashlights but in an emergency situation, it's better than nothing.
  • Water and Ice - Make sure your checklist for camping includes extra water not only for drinking but cleaning as well; private campgrounds may or may not have running water available. When cleaning, do so by staying at least 150 feet away from any body of water's edge.

    Regular small ice cubes are nice to use in drinks but in an extended camping stay, they melt too quickly. The big blocks of ice last much longer and keep your food fresh and drinks cold.

  • Cooler - Something to put all your food, water, ice, and drinks in. You can pick up a foam cooler for very cheap but I've found they end up falling apart under the weight of items inside and need to be reinforced with duct tape. Make sure your checklist for camping includes a cooler that's both functional and durable.

  • Food - Make it easy on yourself, you don't want to be cooking a 5 course Thanksgiving dinner. Hot dogs, hamburgers, baked beans, soup/chowder, and smores are tasty, simple and fun things to make that almost everyone likes to eat.

That's about it. Did I forget something? Like I said before, this is the basic checklist for camping I follow. I always add or subtract other things that may or may not be needed depending on the weather forecast, how long I'm going and where I'm going. I hope this list will help you plan out your next Massachusetts camping trip and ensure you have the best time!

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