What to bring to live in the woods?
September 5, 2008 10:05 AM   Subscribe

Less obvious things to bring when going to live in the woods for a month or two?

Next year i'll be going to live in the woods for one to two months, most likely in the north west of the united states. I wanted input on things to bring that i might not have thought of, i have the basics under control. I'll be there with another person but we don't want to rely on each other to bring things we didn't, we want to be essentially self sufficient. I'm looking to keep packing as light as possible, so i don't want to bring anything bulky or things that require a lot of time and construction.
posted by assasinatdbeauty to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (31 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
A deck of cards.
posted by phunniemee at 10:13 AM on September 5, 2008

A kindle full of books and a way to charge it?
posted by sharkfu at 10:17 AM on September 5, 2008

Bring a small bottle of a strong condiment, like hot sauce/mustard/wasabi/soy sauce/etc. Camp food can get pretty boring.
posted by vorfeed at 10:19 AM on September 5, 2008

Do you mean in a tent, or in a cabin, or as part of a trail crew, or what?

Because what you bring depends a lot on whether you have to carry it on your back, or if it comes in the trunk of your car.
posted by Forktine at 10:20 AM on September 5, 2008

Response by poster: Only bringing what i can carry on my back
posted by assasinatdbeauty at 10:28 AM on September 5, 2008

A lot depends on what you mean by “live in the woods.” Will you be backpacking? Walking several miles each day and setting up a new camp every night or will you be stationary the whole time? If you’re stationary, will you again be walking several miles to that location or will your car be 100 yards away?

Self sufficiency is nice, you want to be able to survive alone if you separate from your partner, but in the case of “luxuries” (in this case “luxury” is anything you don’t need to survive) you should probably check with your partner so you don’t double up needlessly.

You say you want to pack light so I’ll assume either way you need to carry everything on your back. Not including the regular backpacking gear (tent, sleeping bag/pad, clothes, etc) a few light things to have on an extended trip are:

A tarp. Even with a nice tent it’s still nice to have a dry spot to hang out at or cook under. 6x8 would be the minimum size you’d want for two people. Bring some decent cord to hang it and learn a knot called the taughtline hitch. This will allow you to tighten the ropes so the tarp won’t sag.

A small plastic washbin. A small litter box will work. This has a million uses on an extended trip. You can wash dishes in it, use it to fetch water from a stream, use it to soak tired feet, to gather edible plants, etc. Light enough to strap to the top of your pack. It’s not something you’d want for a short trip but it’ll really come in handy on a longer trip.

A really long rope for bear bagging. Hanging your food from a tree is one of those things that is a lot harder than it sounds. It’s not often easy to find a tree high enough, with a branch high enough (but not too high, you need to be able to throw the rope over) that isn’t too close to other trees, etc. A few days worth of food (not to mention a month’s) is also rather heavy.

Condiments. At the very least salt and pepper, a small bottle of hot sauce and a block of Parmesan cheese. You can buy small pepper grinders in the spice aisle of most grocery stores.

A good first aid kit. Know how to use it. Take a wilderness first aid kit so you can learn to take care of the patient for an extended period of time without outside help.

Map and compass. Forget GPS. Well, bring it if you have it, but expect it to not work when you need it.
posted by bondcliff at 10:31 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

A hammock for sleeping, hung slack near the ground for lounging, high for stowage of food and gear.
posted by hortense at 10:32 AM on September 5, 2008

"Take a wilderness first aid kit" should be "Take a wilderness first aid class"
posted by bondcliff at 10:33 AM on September 5, 2008

Things that field biologists I have known have brought:

Cards - regular playing cards an/or something like Set, which you can play solo or with someone else
Pencils - if notes get wet, pencil won't run the way ink does
Small whetstone for sharpening your knife
Small booklet on how to tie knots, and some cord
duct tape
penny whistle or recorder
posted by rtha at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2008

Would also help to know your gender.

Pen/pencil and small format notebook
Sewing kit (the sort that comes free in good hotel rooms)
Is there water nearby? A telescopic fishing rod
Mints/breath fresheners
A good first aid kit including painkillers, anti-hystamine, etc.
Sterilising tablets
posted by ceri richard at 10:36 AM on September 5, 2008

Also, bring about 20 of those plastic electrical ties of various sizes. They can be used to fix just about anything. Those and some duct tape and you're all set.

The only knots you'll need to know are a double figure-8, a bowline, and the aforementioned taughtline hitch. With those three you can accomplish just about anything.
posted by bondcliff at 10:40 AM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

You should bring a bunch of thin-but-strong rope.
You can use it for a zillion things, like:
-hanging things out of bear-reach
-drying out clothing
-just airing out clothing, which will extend time between washes
-learning knots
-tying up a hammock
-rigging ingenious goldbergian camp devices to lift your kettle off the fire [or something]
-I don't know what else. I wish I was better with rope.
It's little and light and maybe it will save the day or something.
posted by Acari at 10:40 AM on September 5, 2008

As pointed out above, it depends very much on what you mean by "living in the woods". Are you car camping, staying in a cabin, trough-hiking a month-long hiking trail, or pitching a tent on a lake shore somewhere for a month?

Either way, here are some suggestions:

- DEET. At some point you will need it.
- Individually wrapped wet wipes. Especially if there is nowhere to shower/swim. These are a life saver.
- Wool clothing. This isn't really that important if you can wash your clothes frequently, but otherwise a wool t-shirt is worth its weight in gold. Comfortable in pretty much any temperature, and doesn't turn in a chemical weapon after you wear it for a month.
- If you are going to be hiking, then take spare socks. Two spare pairs are better. Wool or synthetic. No cotton.
- Ibuprofen, Immodium, Pepto, etc.
- A good LED headlamp.
- A nice warm hat.
posted by skaffen42 at 10:42 AM on September 5, 2008

If you are backpacking (meaning hiking every day with all your stuff, rather than basecamping and peakbagging or dayhiking from there), your mantra needs to be "less is more." Every ounce you can save really matters. They make miniature sets of cards, for example. But don't carry cards, and a heavy book, and a chess set, and and and and... I'm always amazed at how heavy some people stuff their packs — a heavy pack makes for miserable walking.

If you are basecamping, bringing a large tarp (silnylon tarps are really light) gives you a place to sit other than in your tent when you are in the fifth straight day of rain.
posted by Forktine at 10:50 AM on September 5, 2008

I picked this up from a friend and have used it to great success: draw a scrabble board and a chess board on your thermarest, and then bring a set of scrabble tiles. Dice also work well if you learn some dice games (hot dice is good times)
posted by craven_morhead at 11:18 AM on September 5, 2008 [2 favorites]

Fingernail/cuticle clippers.
posted by Meatbomb at 11:22 AM on September 5, 2008

A Swiss Army Knife.
posted by Ostara at 11:42 AM on September 5, 2008

If you're worried about being bored, hanging out in the woods for two months is a great time to learn to knit. You can vacuum seal wool (which is very light) in a vacuum bag and unseal it when you get to your campsite. Circular needles are easy to stash in a backpack. All of this will weigh next to nothing and will provide you with hours of something to do.

And, when you complete a scarf, if you're REALLY bored, you can pull out the stitches and start again!
posted by DarlingBri at 11:47 AM on September 5, 2008

I spent a couple of months in the backcountry of Yellowstone working on trails. Rope is an "of course", as is a good pocketknife. You definitely need wool clothing. (Check Sierra Trading Post for wool t-shirts.) Be sure to get a good wool hat and a wool overshirt. Bring a bandanna or two, too -- you can use them to pre-filter water, package berries for carrying, mop the sweat from your brow, and a zillion other things.

Do bring a paperback book. You want something easy, maybe a little sleazy, and completely escapist; best of all is some favorite that you can read over and over again. Because there will be a day when you've gotten soaking wet, your companion is unspeakably irritating, you're sick of all the food you brought with you, and you generally hate life and would give anything to be elsewhere. Later on, this moment will seem like no big deal; but in the moment, your stupid paperback book will be worth its weight in gold.
posted by sculpin at 11:53 AM on September 5, 2008

A really sharp knife and a whetstone - a long time in the woods is a great time to learn how to whittle or carve. Your wood supply is what you find. Consider a ball in a cage for your first project.
posted by plinth at 12:04 PM on September 5, 2008

If the person you are going with is at all a potential romantic interest, I'd bring anything you might need to prevent pregnancy.
posted by Ironmouth at 12:09 PM on September 5, 2008

I think a camp shower would be worth the extra weight, and it would double as a water carrier.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:18 PM on September 5, 2008

Axe. Not a hatchet, but a full size axe. Keep it sharp.
posted by electroboy at 12:19 PM on September 5, 2008

There's no way youre giong to have a remotely good time with 'just stuff you bring on your back.' Youre going to sleep in a pup tent the whole time? At the minimum I would do this:

1. Spring for large tent. 14 foot plus dome tent minimum.

2. A tent shower.

3. All the medicine you can find. Especially cortizone, aspirins, bandages, etc. If not a nice first aid kit. You will use this.

4. Some kind of pedal generator. If not a gas generator. Or is this an electronics free 2 months?

5. A good knife and a spare knife.

6. A few LED lanterns. Or a good gas lantern.

7. Shoes, boots, extra boots, and in-tent rubber slippers.

8. All manner of soaps and shampoo.

9. Extra socks.

10. Duct tape and lots of rope.

11. At least one good camping or survivalist handbook and an emergeny plan. A radio to contact help.

12. Extra water, extra batteries, extra deet. Extra citron candles.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:44 PM on September 5, 2008

About the recommendation above for DEET: Go with Ben's 100% DEET. It costs virtually nothing, it's a tiny bottle that weighs virtually nothing, and it will last you a year or more. All other bug repellents are either useless or this stuff watered down and heavied up.

The only caveat is don't even think of using it if you're doing any rock climbing. DEET eventually eats through nylon. You don't want it anywhere near climbing ropes.

Thin but strong rope == 550 para-cord. Bring a bunch of this. It's good for everything.

A good knife. Not a Swiss-Army knife -- that too if you really think you need screwdrivers and stuff (you probably don't), but just a good strong folding or fixed-blade plain old knife. They don't make my favorite anymore, but there's lots of good choices.
posted by rusty at 12:57 PM on September 5, 2008

Nice local field guides so that you can learn to identify everything around you--plants, mammals, bugs, fish, herps, whatever. Region specific ones also usually have all kinds of information about the local geology and ecology which can be fun rainy day reading.

A hacky sack. Or 3, then you can also teach yourself to juggle.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:26 PM on September 5, 2008

If you're bringing knitting, I strongly suggest socks. I know people whose very first knitting projects were argyle socks.

It takes me about ten hours of knitting to complete one sock, and a pair can be made with 100 grams of yarn. That's about 3.5 ounces. Bring a spare set of sock needles though. They can get lost/broken and you can't make a sock with only three needles. Additionally, sock yarn comes in lots of fantastic colors, so my "lizard brain" is very entertained with watching the colors appear and swirl together. Or make stripes. Or whatever.

Also, the first time you turn a sock heel is a mystical experience. And good practice for just following instructions without questioning them. You'll get to a point where the instructions say "knit 15 (or whatever number you're told) knit 2 together knit 1, turn" and your brain says... "but there are still ___ stitches on the needle, I can't turn because I'm not done this row." Don't listen, just turn. And a magical pocket will form for your heel. I promise.
posted by bilabial at 5:28 PM on September 5, 2008 [1 favorite]

A book of New York Times crossword puzzles. (Link is to the Monday puzzles, which are the easiest. Each day gets harder, Sundays being the hardest.) It's the size of a thin paperback and will provide a thousand hours of diversion.

Bring a pencil with an eraser to do the puzzles. I recommend this one (doesn't need sharpening) or this one (can be sharpened with a pocketknife.)
posted by Cranialtorque at 7:56 PM on September 5, 2008

Shortwave radio.
posted by hortense at 7:57 PM on September 5, 2008

The SAS Pocket Survival Guide is very small and very useful. Any of Tom Brown's books might also be of interest, but they are bulkier. If you can bring a book, Tom Brown's book on tracking could be fun to have along.

A hand-crank flashlight or music player means not having to carry batteries.

Pocket starchart.

If you have the means to buy the super-powered astronomy binoculars, its definitely worth it if you will be somewhere far from light pollution.

Triple the amount of ziploc bags and matches than you thought you'd need.

A travel crib board. They fold down to double the size of a deck of cards.
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 9:40 PM on September 5, 2008

craven_morhead writes "I picked this up from a friend and have used it to great success: draw a scrabble board and a chess board on your thermarest, and then bring a set of scrabble tiles. Dice also work well if you learn some dice games (hot dice is good times)"

There are a swack load of games that can be drawn on thermorest. Backgammon just needs the scrabble tiles and dice, Go needs some time to gather stones as does Mancala, crib needs a few tiles and a deck of cards, and of course Arimaa has the same needs as chess.
posted by Mitheral at 7:21 PM on September 7, 2008

« Older Maybe-too-technical-filter: Change system prefs...   |   birds of a certain feather Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.