Our Editors' Favorite Camping Equipment

Our staff share their list of must-have hiking and backpacking gear, plus their favorite places to camp and explore.

Some of our staff at Great American Country are the outdoorsy type. When they're not doing a bang-up of building TV channels and websites, they're out enjoying nature and exploring all parts of this great country. We've asked them what hiking and backpacking gear they can't leave home without, their favorite luxe item to bring camping and where's their favorite place to camp. Check it out.

AMANDA | Email Marketing Manager

Making water potable at Yosemite. 

Making water potable at Yosemite. 

My favorite piece of equipment is the Sawyer Squeeze water filter. I like it best because it’s compact, lightweight and easy to use. You just attach a water bladder to the Sawyer with your untreated water and squeeze to push the water through into a clean bottle. It’s immediately ready to drink and still cold from the stream, which is nice on a hot day. I’ve used various other water purification methods. Some filters are bulky with lots of parts that make them difficult to pack and operate. Gravity filters seem finicky and force you to be stationary while they work. I’ve used chlorine drops and those are easy to use, but you have to wait for the chlorine to do its job and it can be annoying to wait, especially if you are thirsty.

Mount Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Mount Cammerer in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

My favorite place to backpack or camp is definitely the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. There are hundreds of campsites, both front and back country, and many more miles of trail. You can stay close to the parking lot or hike deep into the woods or to the highest peaks. Sleep in a tent, a shelter or at LeConte Lodge. It’s all beautiful, lush and peaceful.

Hazel Creek and the Calhoun House in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 

Hazel Creek and the Calhoun House in Great Smoky Mountain National Park. 

Best luxury item is definitely my Kindle. My husband/hiking partner loves to fly fish while we’re in the Smokies, so I can pull out my Kindle and read while he’s off chasing brook trout. I keep it in a zip-top plastic bag while it’s in my pack or not in use to protect from moisture or rain.

HAVEN |Writer/Producer

The one piece of equipment I couldn’t live without? That’s tough — I need it all! If I have to choose one item, I would say my hiking sticks. They save me from potential face plants and sprained ankles which I am prone too. Also, I love to take pictures and often make videos after my trips. I hook my phone to the hiking stick with a thick rubber band and use it like a tripod/selfie stick. Best hack ever.

In the winter, I love my Western Mountaineering down pants. Aside from the fact that they keep me from freezing, there’s something so rewarding about being warm when all the elements (ice, snow, wind) say otherwise.

My luxe item has to be the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Mini Pump. After a hard hike, the last thing I want to do is blow up my sleeping pad. So I hook the pump up and let it go. Love it.

No matter where I go backpacking (heading to Glacier this year), I know nothing will compare to the Smokies. There’s something about the Great Smoky Mountains that’s almost like a welcome home hug. The mountains are so lush, green and full of life. When it comes to sites, I especially love Ice Water shelter. Grab the top bunk on the left (facing the shelter) and watch the sun rise from bed. 

JOEL | Manager, Digital Partnerships

The three must-have backpacking items on the top of my list include include: 1. Coghlan's Fire Paste, camping is always more fun with a fire and the fire paste makes it an easier camp chore! 2. Nylon “Paracord” Utility Cord, so many uses and so light you’ll barely notice it in your pack. Crucial uses includes: hanging food/bear bag, emergency bivy or sling, creating a shelter, drying clothes, temporary tent guylines, etc. 3. Iodine Tablets, since water is sustenance of life, always have a backup for clean/safe drinking water. Mechanical water filtration system can become clogged, broken or contaminated, and most require a minimum water depth.

The one luxury item I bring is a Helinox Chair One. Comfortable seating makes hanging around camp much more enjoyable. The Helinox Chair One is surprisingly super comfortable, packs up small enough to fit in a suitcase (perfect for those destination camping trips to visit new national parks), it doesn’t hog up the entire truck like the cheapo folding chairs, plus lightweight enough to fit into a backpack (although I don’t suggest taking it on backpacking trips that are more than a short couple mile jaunt for a single night). All your friends will be buying one very quickly after the first camping trip with this baby.

I have two favorite places to camp: 1. Rialto Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington, primitive/wilderness beach camping. Pack up everything you need for a night (or couple nights), then lose yourself enjoying pristine Pacific coast beaches. A rare and stunning experience in the wilderness. 2. Glacier National Park, Montana, anywhere in the park. The campgrounds are nice but the real treat is spending a night in the backcountry. Glacier NP is home to some of the most dramatic, gorgeous and rugged landscape in the US that was naturally shaped by glaciers millions of years ago. Go see the remaining glaciers before they’re gone.

Photo by: Jarrod Clift

Jarrod Clift

CHELSEA | Editorial Intern

When I backpack, my must-have items are my Jetboil Flash cooking stove and my Bear Vault because I'm lazy and don't like to string up my food. And my luxe item? Mascara. You'll never find me without it.  

Photo by: Mike Faulkner

Mike Faulkner

My favorite place to hike/backpack is the Porter's Creek Trail to Backcountry Campsite 31 in The Great Smoky Mountains. Although not a particularly strenuous trail, it offers something for everyone. On the 3.7 mile hike in to the campsite, you pass remnants of historic homes leftover from the days settlers lived and worked on Porter's Creek. There's a graveyard, an old grist mill and even the skeleton of an old abandoned car. Once you pass the settlement, you cross a footbridge into an entirely different world. On this section of the hike you'll come across a waterfall and a deluge of plant life. It's a must see, especially for foliage hikers. This trail is also a moderately easy day hike if you don't feel like camping. 

Photo by: Mike Faulkner

Mike Faulkner

KELLY | Executive Editor

While it’s not a necessity, a little campsite wine-and-cheese happy hour can warm your spirits during a rainy spell or ease your aches and pains after a long day’s hike. My favorite wine glass, shown here, packs down to save space — the stem screws off and nests neatly inside the bowl. And at just 2.8 ounces, it’s lightweight enough to justify bringing on a short backpacking trip. This happy hour picinic was at Glacier Basin Campground in Rocky Mountain National Park. 

A savory reward after a long hike.

A savory reward after a long hike.

PAUL | Operations Director

Some of the best camping and hiking spots near my home in Atlanta are in the Cohutta Wilderness. The history of the area tells a great story of recovery, as the land was heavily logged until it became managed by the federal government.

Now, you can’t canoe camp in the Cohuttas, but I’d say my favorite luxury item would be … a CANOE! Canoe camping is fantastic as you can carry so much more in a boat than on your back! And I love to paddle, too. As far as what I must-haves for a trip: Bombproof dry bags. Not much worse than wet socks and soggy breakfast.

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