Ask A Connecticut Guide: Packing List For Your Next Campout

April 27, 2013 9:00 AM

James Hliva, the finance director for the Town of Oxford, has been a long-time camper. He started camping with his two now adult children when they were only five years old. Now he camps out with his grandchildren. “Start small and simple,” he advised if you’re camping as a parent. If you do it right, it becomes such a wonderful bonding experience that it becomes a tradition handed down from one generation to another. If you do it wrong, no one with you will want to ever do it again. Jim has gone camping in Kent and Cornwall, Connecticut all the way to upstate New York, New Hampshire and Maine. He has some wonderful tips when it comes to packing for a camping adventure.

James Hliva
Finance Director for the Town of Oxford

Tip 1: The Backpack

“Make sure that the backpack never weighs more than 1/3 of your body weight,” said Hliva, adding that if young children are going camping with you, they too should carry back packs with proportionate weight limits. “Even if they only carry peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, it makes them feel important and necessary and gets them immediately involved in the camping experience.”

Tip 2: Food and Water

“It’s important not to over pack. With food, you really have to be careful. I like to pack foods that I can rehydrate. This keeps the food light weight. Camping supply stores have all types of foods like this. You have to be careful with other foods, especially meats. If you’re in bear country, you don’t want to keep meats near your tent. You want to keep it a good distance away from you so you don’t attract bears to you. You also want to protect other food types from mice and small animals. As for water, you want to pack a good supply as well as a small portable water purifier. Camping supply stores will recommend the best ones,” said Hliva. “I like to pack mac and cheese packages because they are light to carry and just about everyone’s favorite.”

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Tip 3: A Tent, Flashlight, Fire Starter and a Small Swiss Army Knife

These should also be packed. According to Jim, when you’re camping with youngsters for the first time, you don’t want to set up a tent more than a mile away from your car. You never know what type of emergency can occur. He also said the best type of portable lights are the ones that you can attach to your foreheads. In this way, you’re able to keep your hands free. While it’s fun to get a fire going rubbing sticks together, it’s smart to bring waterproof matches or other fire-lighting devices. He also said to pack a good pocket knife. Some knives also have small utensils that you will need to eat with or you will have to pack some utensils.

Tip 4: Warm Clothes

“Even if it’s the middle of the summer in Connecticut, you need to pack warm clothes. It can get pretty cold some nights and you certainly want an extra blanket. “Don’t take cotton clothes with you,” warned Jim. “Cotton acts like a sponge and absorbs water. If you get wet, it’s much better if you’re wearing a synthetic material. Even with socks,” he advised, “wear wool socks. If you wear cotton socks and they get wet and you have to walk in them, you’ll end up with blisters.”

Tip 5: A First Aid Kit and a Pencil and Small Notebook

Because you never know what can happen on a camping trip, you must be sure to take along a first aid kit. The best ones are soft packs that are light weight and you can find these online or at a camping supply store. “Make sure your kit contains sterile adhesive bandages in all sizes,” he said. You’ll also want to make sure there’s an antiseptic, plastic gloves, gauze, aspirin and scissors. Another surprise that I always pack when camping is a pencil and notebook. I wrap duct tape around the pencil, so the pencil serves two purposes – a rod for the tape and a good writing tool. If I have young campers with me, I want them to journal their camping adventure. You will be surprised at how delighted they are to do this at the end of the day when they’re sitting by the campfire or on a rainy day.”

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Joanne Greco Rochman is the arts editor of The Fairfield County Review, a columnist, critic, feature story writer and English professor. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Republican-American and Hersam-Acorn Publications. Her work can be found at

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