A Night in the Woods: The Essentials

Appreciating nature in its rawest form is an experience that we all want in our lives. Many of us make it part of our weekly or even daily routine. 

It’s important to take time off from our usual busy schedules to do what we love - whether that means hiking trips, mountain climbing or camping.

But when planning to spend a night in nature, there are some essential things to know and bring.

Each trip might require different gear from the last, and from the terrain to the seasons, you need to adapt your bag accordingly. 

Food & Water:

Far too often people underestimate how much food they need for a night in the woods.

The more experienced might attempt to source their food from the surroundings, but this kind of move is best saved for those full fledged wildlings 100% confident and competent in their foraging abilities.

For the rest of us mere mortals, packing your own food is the best move 99.99% of the time.

When packing food for a night in the woods, it’s best to pack light in weight but heavy in calories . Nutrient packed protein bars and freeze-dried food are easy options.  Soft fruits like bananas rarely survive the bumpy trail intact unfortunately, but apples and avocados are hearty enough to be stuffed anywhere and snacked upon whenever.

A way to purify water is also essential, especially if you plan to spend multiple nights out in nature. This can be either via tablets, drops, or a pump.

Having at least one hearty meal that’s a step above the rest is recommended. It’s always nice to have something to look forward to and that’ll leave your pack a little lighter afterward.

Sleeping Supplies:

Naturally for a night in the woods, you are going to need a tent and a sleeping bag as your most basic pieces of gear.

The terrain and the time of year should dictate whether or not you decide to bring extra insulation like sleep bag liners, and if you have extra room, some pillows and blankets as well. 

For summer in the forest, you can get by for as little as a hammock and a microfiber blanket. In the mountains, even in summer, you are going to need several layers of clothing at night.

The Two Pound Survival Kit:

Some carry an extra two-pound survival kit that can potentially save your life out in the woods. Within the kit are essentials like:

  • Signal - alert people of your position and call for help kept somewhere convenient and accessible.  A flare gun or whistle fall under this categoryz
  • Firestarter - For a night in the woods, some warmth always helps. Bring a lighter or matches.
  • Insect Repellant - The woods can be full of bugs which can be both annoying and potentially dangerous as they can carry diseases. Keep them at bay with an insect repellant.
  • Basic Medical Supplies - Along with your standard disinfectant and bandages, it doesn’t hurt to have medication like Aspirin and anti-inflammatory.
  • A Compass - No matter how familiar you are with the trail or area, there is always a chance that you will get lost. Pack a compass.
  • Light Source - The risks of days increase substantially by night. Bring a headlamp or flashlight for both convenience and a safety.

This two-pound survival kit can be tweaked to include a knife or whatever you feel is more important for your trip.

A Sense of Adventure:

If you aren’t accustomed to spending a night in the woods, then it might be best to prepare yourself mentally as well as physically.

Embrace your inner pioneer self, whatever that might mean for you. Maybe your goal is to start a fire without any modern tech, and you can study and prepare for this beforehand, and use the trip as an opportunity to prove your skills.

If you are new and nervous though, then it’s fine to just stare at the stars or into the campfire and let the night wash over you. There are far worse ways to spend your time.

Day hikes are amazing in their own right and easy to fit into any schedule, but spending a night outside forms a more intimate bond with an area. Whether it’s a single night or a multi-day journey into nature, bringing the correct gear and mindset is essential. 

Spending a night in nature  every so often has all kinds of benefits that can decompress us from the stresses found in urban life. Once you have the details of your gear dialed in to your liking, you can then shift your attention to just enjoying the company of your fellow campers and nature alike. 

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