Camping: Learn About the Gear

Tents
When choosing a tent for use at a campground, maximum space and comfort are the biggest considerations. Cabin tents have nearly vertical walls and high ceilings, most with enough room to stand up in. Features such as bug-proof netting, a large rain fly and ventilation panels or windows will provide extra comfort and protection from the elements. Other options may include additional "rooms" or an integrated screen house, ideal for families seeking separate living and sleeping quarters.

Dome tents are smaller and less expensive than cabin tents. They make more efficient use of space and are easier to put up and take down, making them ideal for extended trips. Many L.L.Bean dome tents, including those that are family-sized, can be set up in less than ten minutes, and their aluminum poles are lighter and sturdier than other styles. Because of their lower profile, dome tents also fare better in wind and rain.

Tent Tip: Using a ground cloth will protect the floor of your tent from rocks, roots and dirt, and greatly extend the life of your investment.

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Sleeping Bags
Many campground campers prefer a rectangular-style sleeping bag. Although heavier than tapered mummy bags, rectangular models offer more room for a comfortable and unrestricted night's sleep. Rectangular bags also zip together easily to form a double bag, or can be unzipped all the way to make a comforter. Mummy bags are lighter and offer better heat retention, which is ideal for the colder months. L.L.Bean sleeping bags will keep you warm whether it is -15° or 40°.

Goose down and synthetic fibers, such as Polarguard, are the two types of insulation used in sleeping bags. Down is very durable, and if properly cared for, will last longer than synthetic insulation. Down models also pack smaller and are a good choice if gear storage space is limited. They are ideally suited for dry environments.

Synthetic models are less expensive than down, dry quickly and require little maintenance. They are preferred by campers who want hassle-free performance and by paddlers who run the risk of getting their gear wet.

Sleeping Bag Tip: Use a sleeping pad under your sleeping bag to insulate and cushion you from the ground.

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Camp Kitchen
What's a camping trip without great food? Coolers and large-volume water containers prevent trips to the nearest town in order to restock. When it's time to cook, consider a double-burner camp stove for boiling and simmering, or where open fires are not permitted. Other items such as a stove stand, portable cookware and a packable sink help make the chef's job easier. Try utensils made out of titanium for a lighter, more rugged alternative to regular cooking implements.

Cooking Tips:

  1. Set up a cooking fly using an old tarp and two trees so your kitchen area stays dry.
  2. Dehydrate food before you leave; food will last longer and is easier to pack and carry.
  3. Measure ingredients for recipes at home before your trip and pack them in individual plastic bags to save time and space.
  4. Pre-cook noodles, stew or even rice at home and then just reheat the dishes when you get to camp. It saves time and fuel.
  5. Bring packets of instant soup on your trip to add flavor to your meals or to serve on rainy days.
  6. Try foil-pouch cooking just make a packet around your food with heavy-duty aluminum foil and add in a small amount of liquid (some broth, an ice cube, oil or butter) for a quick meal that will stay moist and won't scorch.
  7. Save on fuel by covering pots and pans when you cook.
  8. Use ecologically friendly soap to clean up after all meals.
  9. Always pack out what you bring in to your campsite.

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Camp Furniture
Folding chairs and tables will make mealtimes and campfire stories more enjoyable, while folding cots, foam mattresses and aero beds help ensure a good night's sleep.

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Other Essentials
  1. Compass, park maps, guidebook
  2. First aid kit
  3. Iodine or water filter
  4. Multitool or pocket knife
  5. Water bottles or hydration pack
  6. Sunscreen
  7. Lanterns, flashlights or headlamps
  8. Insect repellent
  9. Two-way radios
  10. Camera/binoculars
  11. Utility storage bags

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Need help? Please call the L.L.Bean Outdoor Hotline at 800-226-7552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.

Backpack
Your backpack should fit well so you are well balanced as you ski or snowshoe. The pack should be able to carry your skis, shovel, ice ax and snowshoes strapped to its exterior. Many prefer an internal frame pack that has an internal envelope for the sleeping bag to protect it from snow and dampness. If you choose an internal frame backpack, pack the heaviest items so they are in the middle of your back and close to your body. If you choose an external frame pack, make sure you pack it so that most of the weight from your gear sits low.

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Snowshoes
Use snowshoes when the snow is deep so you don't exhaust yourself "post holing" or breaking trail in deep snow. Make sure your snowshoes are equipped with crampons if you are traveling on slick and icy terrain.

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Backcountry Skis
Backcountry skis have metal edges and are wider than touring skis, providing better flotation in deep snow. The boots and bindings are extremely sturdy to support skiers in wilderness terrain.

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Backcountry Ski Poles
Backcountry ski poles, which are sturdier than touring poles, should reach midshoulder. They are shorter because in steep and uneven terrain, skiers use their poles for balance as much as propulsion. Some backcountry ski poles have adjustable lengths.

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Gaiters
Gaiters keep snow from accumulating on your lower legs or in your boots. They also protect your lower legs from protruding branches and brush, ski edges and crampons.

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Tent
A winter camping tent should have more tie-downs to secure it against strong winds and a low-profile, aerodynamic shape to withstand both wind and snow accumulation. The tent should also have strong aluminum poles to anchor it in high winds.

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Sleeping Bag
Sleeping bags come in either rectangular or mummy shapes. Consider buying a mummy bag in a longer length than you would choose for summer use. You'll appreciate the extra room if you're storing boots and gear in your bag to protect them from the cold. A mummy bag is more thermally efficient and lighter than a rectangular bag because of its tapered cut. Winter sleeping bags are usually rated from 0F to -30F.

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Sleeping Pad
A full-length pad is important to insulate the entire length of your body. The best pads for winter backpacking contain a foam and air core. The pad inflates when you open a valve for maximum insulating comfort.

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Stove
Find a stove that operates reliably in low temperatures and is sturdy. White gas and unleaded gas burn well at low temperatures.

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Shovel
Bring a portable shovel to build a wind-blocking snow wall around your tent or to secure your tent straps in the snow. Most backcountry campers take a special style of shovel called an "avalanche shovel." It is short, lightweight and has a large scoop to clear snow efficiently.

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Hat and Face Mask
30-50% of your body heat can be lost if you don't wear a hat. Some winter campers take two hats, a balaclava and a neck gaiter and headband to adjust to changing temperatures. In extreme cold, wear a face mask that covers cheeks and nose.

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Sunglasses/Goggles
Sunglasses with side blocks are important to protect your eyes from ultraviolet radiation, which intensifies when sunlight is reflected on snow. Prolonged exposure to ultraviolet radiation causes snow blindness. Be sure to choose a model with UV protection, such as polarized lenses, which also reduce glare. Some sunglasses also have a nose shield to protect against sunburn.

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Layering
Your base layer should consist of long underwear tops and bottoms made from a wicking fabric such as polyester or polypropylene. A base layer top with a zip-up neck is good for temperature control. Medium or heavy-weight fleece should make up the next layer, or insulating layer. Choose the weight of your fleece by the temperature and activity.

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Outerwear
To protect yourself from wind, snow or rain, we recommend a wind layer. Depending on the temperature and activity, this could be a lightweight anorak or heavier waterproof shell. Soft shells combine a highly water-and wind-resistant shell with a warm interior layer and can be zipped into a jacket for versatility. At the end of the day a goose down or synthetic-filled parka and pants provide plenty of warmth for setting up camp and resting.

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Stove
Find a stove that operates reliably in low temperatures and is sturdy. White gas and unleaded gas burn well at low temperatures.

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Gloves
Choose a glove that is breathable and has a quick-drying, moisture-wicking lining. Some trekkers take a glove liner and an outer glove. The glove should also have a durable palm covering to withstand the friction of using your ski poles.

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Socks
For the most comfort on the trail, you should layer two different socks. Wear mediumweight, smooth-textured socks made from wool or polyester to cushion the foot and lightweight polyester sock liners to wick away moisture from your skin.

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Boots
Warm, high performance boots are critical to winter comfort and safety. Choose either sturdy, well-waterproofed leather boots or plastic mountaineering boots with removable insulated liners. Make sure the boots will accommodate heavy winter socks and sock liners. It is also a good idea to choose boots that will accept crampons for increased traction on snow and ice.

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Other Essentials
  1. First-aid kit
  2. Water treatment equipment
  3. Repair kit and duct tape
  4. Headlamp and/or flashlight
  5. Extra batteries
  6. Compass
  7. Wide-mouthed water bottle with an insulating cover
  8. Map
  9. Sunblock
  10. Handwarmer packets

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Need help? Please call the L.L.Bean Outdoor Hotline at 800-975-4552, any day between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. EST.