Founder of The Daggerfish Gear Co.
For a lot of us in the US, there was very little to do for fun in the summer of 2020 other than go outside. The outdoor recreation industry saw a huge spike in demand for things like bikes, kayaks, and camping gear over the summer, as people were itching to try something new following the spring quarantine.
Prior to 2020, outdoor participation rates were on the decline, especially among younger people. But the surge of newcomers to the outdoors as a silver-lining result of the pandemic will hopefully mean more continued participation for years to come.
If you or a friend were among the thousands of people who recently tried camping for the first time, welcome to our world. It’s great here. And we hope you stick around.
You may already have some camping basics, but as the holiday season approaches, here are five camping necessities for beginners and things to take camping that will make your experience of the outdoors better.
5 GREAT GIFTS FOR NEW CAMPERS
Everything below is a part of my personal camping supplies list, and I recommend these specific items for newcomers to the outdoors because they give you a lot of bang-for-your-buck.
1. A HATCHET
“Hatchet,” Gary Paulsen’s seminal novel about a young boy stranded in the Canadian wilderness, was a tremendous influence on me as a kid. And while the book makes a great gift for someone just beginning their outdoor adventures, the tool itself makes a perfect addition to almost anyone’s camping kit.
Why you should have one: Hatchets help you to up your fire-building game significantly, and along with a good knife, provide the backbone for building bushcraft shelters and other camp equipment. To get a sense of what a good hatchet can do for you, I highly recommend this this great video from TA Outdoors, which shows some excellent techniques for using a hatchet as well as a bunch of other useful information. It’s long, but worth a watch all the way through.
Which one to get: For your first hatchet, I recommend a Fiskars X7. It’s lightweight, effective, hard to lose in the brush, and you can pick one up at your local big box hardware store for a reasonable price.
2. A POCKET BELLOWS
Since we’re on the subject of fire building, a nice-to-have accessory I’ve started carrying is a pocket bellows. It's is basically an extendable metal straw that lets you easily blow air into your fire, ramping up combustion and helping to create a roaring blaze.
Why you should have one: In most circumstances, it’s not hard to make a fire, but there will be times when we’re camping in wet weather and good, dry tinder is hard to find. In these cases, being able to give your fire a boost is essential, and a pocket bellows is an inexpensive, lightweight, and fun tool to have on hand to help keep your campfire burning bright.
Which one to get: Brand doesn't really matter when it comes to pocket bellows - they're very simple tools, after all. You can find them online from a variety of sources, or check your local outdoors store to see if they have any in stock.
3. A WATER FILTER
Let’s switch from fire to water; when you first start camping, you might be tempted just to carry all the water you’re going to drink. I’ve done it and it can be done, but at a big cost. Water is heavy and bulky, so carrying enough for more than one night means you’re weighed down, leaving other things behind, or both.
Why you should have one: Carrying a water filter dramatically decreases the amount of weight you need to carry at one time, and can significantly increase the amount of time you can comfortably spend in the woods. Modern filters are easy to use and very affordable, and nothing beats a cold drink from a mountain stream.
Which one to get: I carry a Sawyer Squeeze filter Squeeze filter and recommend it highly. You can find them online, at your local outdoor gear store, and even at Walmart.
4. POLYPRO LONG UNDERWEAR
I can say, without hyperbole, that there is no more valuable piece of clothing I own than my set of polypropylene long underwear. Polypro wicks moisture and retains heat exceptionally well, so much so that through most of the spring, summer, and fall I often camp with just a set of long undies as my warm clothing.
Why you should have one: Wool or synthetic base layers are one of the keys to a good outdoor experience, especially when the weather isn’t cooperating. As opposed to cotton, which retains water, these fabrics wick away moisture and help ensure you stay warm even when wet.
Which one to get: I have a pair of black polypro bottoms and a long-sleeve polypro top, with a collar that unzips to about the mid-chest. For the backcountry beginner I recommend a similar set of mid-weight polypro undies. Any brand is fine to start, and you can find them anywhere from Walmart to Patagonia.
5. A DAGGERFISH HANDREEL
At the very end here, I’ve got to recommend the product we make, the Daggerfish Handreel. But this isn’t just an ad - like everything else above, I chose this because the Daggerfish is “gateway gear.” I made the first ones because I wanted to try fishing on my backpacking trips but didn’t want to carry a huge rod or a ton of tackle. It worked, and I went from never going fishing to always having a backpacking fishing rod with me when I go outside.
As our company grows, we’re on a mission to help people expand their experience of the outdoors. A lot of backpackers, kayakers, and campers don’t think fishing is for them, because it can seem complicated and difficult from an outsider’s perspective. Tools like the Daggerfish are designed to help you discover the many parts of the wilderness that are available to you, even if you’ve never tried something before.
Why you should have one: With a rod, reel, and tackle box all in one handcrafted package, the Daggerfish is an elegant and effective way to get started in backcountry fishing, expand your experience of the outdoors, and makes a perfect camping gift for the camper in your life.
Which one to get: You can learn about the the differences between out Original and Deluxe models here, or just head over to the store to check our what we have available.
Hopefully, this list has show you that the newest or highest-tech gear isn't always the best addition to your camping supplies list. If you've already got the standard camping necessities, like a shelter and a sleeping bag, the items on this list will help you go beyond camping basics and be more comfortable, stay out longer, and have a broader variety of experiences in the wild. They make perfect gifts for campers just starting out, and are great things to take camping that even experienced outdoorspeople will benefit from having in their kit.
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No matter where you are in your journey to reconnect with the wilderness, Daggerfish has the minimalist, intuitive gear & tools to help you get closer.