By Steve Gillman
Sometimes called "dirtbagging," wild camping is
just going out there with minimal equipment. You might also call
it rough camping or just "adventuring." The idea is
to use your wits more than your gear, and to have fun with less
of a plan than you might normally have on a more traditional
For example, I once floated down a river on an inner tube
for an overnight trip. I just threw a few necessaries in a bag
that sat on my lap. I slept next to a patch of wild strawberries
and was rained on in my bivy sack all night and as I floated
toward home the next day--but I still had a lot of fun. You can
read more about that adventure here: Dirtbagging.
Sometimes wild camping means breaking the rules a bit. I really
can't apologize for not staying in the shelters in the Smoky
Mountains National Park, for example, because they were full.
And to be honest the challenge of hiding out when camping was
fun. Since I didn't have fires and just slept under a tarp in
areas not commonly frequented by other hikers, my impact was
You can read about a rough adventure I had in the Sleeping
Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on the page; Hiking
I plan to do a jacket-packing trip sometime in the near future.
This will be a test of certain survival skills, since I will
only be bringing a few items--only what will fit in the pockets
of my pants and jacket. That experience will be written about
her on this site, of course, so watch the homepage for new additions.
Wild Camping Safety Tips
It is true that you can go with less gear if you have more
knowledge and skills. Knowing how to stay warm without a sleeping
bag, for example, makes camping with just a seven-ounce bivy
sack possible. Knowing a few of the edible plants in the area
can allow you to bring less food. But there are some essential
supplies that you should bring for safety.
To start with, you need water. Food is not a priority since
you could go for many days without it if necessary. But a way
to carry water and the knowledge of where to find it are essential.
A plastic pop bottle weighs about an ounce, and a small packet
of water purification tablets just a fraction of an ounce. Both
can fit in a jacket pocket or fanny-sack if you are going really
A basic first aid/survival kit is a good idea as well. For
one of the lightest versions, check out the page; My
Three-Ounce Altoids Tin Survival Kit. Again, this is something
that can fit in your pocket.
A fully charged cell phone, while not an absolute necessity,
can be a life saver. If you are going out into a large wilderness
area and wild camping with the bare minimum of necessities, who
knows? You might just get into a bad situation and have to call
for help (but if this seems likely, plan better--the SAR teams
are generally overwhelmed now that everyone in the woods with
a toothache has a cell phone).