I was at Sullivan Lake with some friends eight or nine years ago when my friend Kristen pulled out a big bottle of what looked like liquid dish soap and announced "I'm going to go brush my teeth." Fascinated, I asked to look at the bottle when she got back and that, my friends, was my first experience with Dr. Bronner's. As I read the trippy religious tractage of the packaging, my friend explained how this stuff is great for camping because you can use it for so many things. Brilliant!
So with that it mind, here's a small list of those things no camping trip is complete without. We're not talking about the tent and sleeping bag here, people. We trust you've got that part covered. What we mean are the incidentals... those (for the most part) easily overlooked items around the house that can make or break your camping trip:
1. Dr. Bronner's 18-in-1 Liquid Soap
You don't need separate containers of dish soap, hand soap, detergent, shampoo or toothpaste if you've got this stuff. This gentle castile soap comes in Almond, Lavender, Eucalyptus, Tea Tree, Peppermint and even Baby/Mild, and is made from organic essential oils certified under the USDA's organic food regulations by Oregon Tilth. It's concentrated, so a little goes a long way. And the packaging is amazing -- the late Dr. Bronner left Germany before the Holocaust and his products' labels are densely peppered with the good doctor's philosophies (All-One!) and information on living a more spiritually balanced life. Easily found at Huckleberry's, Pilgrims and some larger supermarkets.
2. Flashlight/Head Lamp
Okay, so maybe you really don't wanna see where you're going when it's the middle of the night and you're headed to one of those infamous National Forest vault toilets, but consider the alternative. You don't want to trip and fall in there, do you? We didn't think so. So don't forget to bring a flashlight, or better yet, invest in one of those nifty Petzl headlamps. You'll look cool and your hands will be free for a variety of useful campsite tasks.
3. Swiss Army Knife or Multi tool
We make no value judgment on whether you should go with a Leatherman or the ol' Red & amp; White (although our staff tends to favor the gleaming, multicolored possibilities of the Leatherman "Juice" line), but whatever you choose, you'll be glad to have one of these little gadgets along. Knife blade, bottle opener and scissors are all pretty standard; other models include saw, awl, screwdriver, wire cutters and corkscrew (and really, what tastes better in the great outdoors than a nice robust Syrah?)
4. Matches or Lighter
This is a real no-brainer, but even the most modest car camping trip can be heavily compromised by having to run from one's automobile to the waiting fire pit with a rapidly cooling automotive cigarette lighter in your hand. Big kitchen matches are nicely old school, but you also can't go wrong with one of those butane wands.
5. Lip Balm with Sunscreen
Nobody wants to come back from a weekend of camping with gross, scabby sunburned lips. In addition to keeping your yap nicely moisturized and supple, you can use lip balm for all sorts of emergency cosmetic purposes. In a pinch it makes a good hair styling product (just smear it on your fingers and smooth away), a good sunburn shield for your nose and even a protective film for scrapes and cuts if you don't have anything more hygienic around.
6. Coleman Stove
Oh yeah. Repeat after me: pancakes, bacon and coffee. None of which would be possible without your li'l buddy, the two-burner Coleman Stove. Don't be a hero -- cooking in the fire pit is dicey at best. Just get one of these lightweight, portable stoves, a few canisters of propane and you're good to go.
7. Ziploc Bags
In addition to keeping your stuff dry and organized, you can't beat the unassuming plastic baggie for multi-functionality. You can use larger ones for mixing food or pouring (just cut a corner off the bottom and presto! You've got yourself a spout. You can also use them as emergency head gear in a rainstorm, or -- if you're feeling particularly industrious -- poke holes in the bottom of one, fill it with water and hang it in a tree for a quick forest shower.
No, really. They aren't as essential as say, your flashlight, but consider the amusement potential of a few current issues of the Weekly World News. Lighter than a paperback, highly combustible and chock-full of peanutty goodnesses like "Ed Anger" and Bat Boy, tabloids more than earn their keep at the campsite.