12 pounds. That amount of weight or less is what is generally considered to be the total heft of the equipment you carry on your person to be considered a minimalist camper. Go between 12 and 20 pounds and you fall into the category of “ultralight.” Though this style of supreme survival sounds great for anyone who’s read Hatchet or watched Man vs. Wild and Survivorman, the reality is truly brutal.
How to Minimalist Camp
Minimalistic camping boils down to how much you know, and how to make the most out of a dozen pounds of gear or less. There’s no hard and fast rule to the process, other than this: Throw a bunch of stuff out of your pack.
Every environment has different requirements and each camper has different needs, so what you should dump and what you should keep really is up to you and up to the place you plan on going. Our advice is to never try to do it all at once. Plan ahead for a minimalist camping trip to a safe location. Load up your car with all the bells, whistles, coolers, and solar panels you would use on a regular camping trip, but spend a night or two in the bush with just a tiny day pack.
Repeat this dry run process over the course of more days, tweaking your gear each time so that you know what you shouldn’t have left behind, and what you never ended up using. Take along a cell phone that doesn’t count against your weight, and never get so far from civilization that you can’t return should the going get too tough.
Best Minimalist Camping Gear
Though there’s no way to predict precisely what will suit your slim pack, there’s a few items that help any lightweight camper, and can help cut weight to the bone while adding utility to your load. Here’s 15 minimalist camping equipment pieces to facilitate your survival.
Potable Aqua Water Treatment Tablets
In The Drink: When it comes to the juice of life, it’s important to have as many ways of cleaning water on hand as possible. A set of simple iodine tablets will keep you in clean water for as long as you need, even if it might have a slightly metallic taste. Three days without water is all it takes to kill you, and you can’t ever trust what’s upstream from your drinking source.
SMOEM Survival Signaling Bandana
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Instruction Manual: Blaze orange for keeping hunters off your back and letting rescuers know where you are, a good bandana is a way to keep sweat off your brow or cool your body when wetted and wrapped around your neck. It can also act as a satchel to keep small foodstuffs, a bindle for carrying extra gear, and this one has survival tips and tactics so you’re never completely reliant on your own cunning and guile to survive.
Cleaned Out: LifeStraw is an invention that will remove 99.9999% of water-based bacteria and 99.9% of water parasites so they never reach your lips. Able to successfully filter a full 1,000 liters of water without adding any chemicals of its own, it can turn everything but streams near Chernobyl into drinkable cocktails better than most FDA-approved home filters.
Paracord Planet Spools of Parachute 550 Cord Type III 7 Strand
That’s a Wrap: A nice hunk of paracord can turn any piece of material into a tent, lets you tie yourself to a tree for a night, allows exploration up and down sheer cliffs, can hang out your food to dry, or secure items to your back and pack. Take a little or take a lot, just never be without it.
OUTAD Waterproof Camping Tarp
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Basic Bivouac: Whether using it as a ground mat, a tent, or an extra layer of warmth, a quality tarp is never unwelcome in a pack. 210 Denier Oxford fabric, this is made to take abuse and live through it, never creating rips or gaps that let the wetness win, no matter how rough your route is or how much use it sees.
Klean Kanteen Classic
Walk On: A sturdy bottle for carrying water away from a spring or lake is imperative. Ounce for ounce, the Klean Kanteen gives you the least amount of heft for the most amount of storage space, and won’t crack open upon hitting a rock or coping with extreme weather changes. We suggest never going smaller than 32oz, and getting the looped cap for easy attachment to bag or belt; but you can do as you like with this piece.
Tru-Spec Military Boonie Hat
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Clothing Optional: While we avoided much in the way of clothing, there isn’t a place on the planet where a boonie is a bad idea. You can keep a set of tools in the MOLLE loops around the crown, and it will keep sun and rain off your face with equal efficacy and a style that’s as foxy as functional.
GSI Outdoors Halulite
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Cook ‘N’ Serve: Made of featherweight aluminum that’s also durable, the Halulite is your single cooking and eating system. Both a pot for boiling water and an insulated bowl complete with sexy prison-shank grade spork, there’s few items that will stave off starvation better, and none as packable and utilitarian.
Coffee Substitute: You’re not going to have a lot of space for a cup of joe or your personal ground French roast, but we do suggest having as much protein on hand as you can. Using the Perky Jerky, you can get a little caffeine jump when it counts, and the energy built into the fine, tasty, turkey flesh.
Light My Fire Swedish FireKnife
Flaming Fixed: You should ideally have three ways to start a fire whenever you head into the woods, but this is our favorite. Both a fixed blade, half tang knife and a flint fire-starter, it’s comfortable to use over the long haul, and will strike sparks wherever you are. (Related: 17 Best Everyday Carry Knives)
Sea to Summit Nylon Tarp-Poncho
Personal Weatherproofing: We like items that can pull double-duty when we’re trying to keep gear to the bare necessities. Equally good as a ground cover and a piece of weather-proof wear, you can fit a backpack beneath the folds or hang it from a tree for a 2-person tent that won’t disappoint.
Warbonnet Blackbird Camping Hammock
Sleep Tight: Most minimalist campers crash out on a bedroll, but at just over 2lbs, we’ve found the Blackbird to be a superior way to sleep that will keep the bugs off and jagged rocks on the Earth below. It comes in several fabric choices, and different suspension options, with everything you need to rest right in the box.
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm
Heated Exchange: Exceptional at kicking your body heat back to you, but also able to stop cold from seeping into the air underneath, the XTherm provides supportive rest at ground level, whatever the weather.
As Tucas Sestrals Quilt
Forgotten Art: The Sestrals Quilt is a bit of something old and something new. Acting as an open sleeping bag that’s just a few hundred grams in weight, the quilting borrows from age-old shepherd techniques for staying warm while reducing rips. The featherweight material is all contemporary craftsmanship and packs down to nearly nothing.
Katabatic Gear Palisade 30
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Bag It Up: Minimalist camping is typically a spring and summer activity, but if you’re one of the brave few who likes to truly test their mettle in the dead of winter, the Palisade will give you plenty of warmth for when the mercury drops. Good for everything from frosty desert nights to the Wonderland Trail, there’s few failures to be found in the 1+lbs of stuffing.