The wilderness, for the most part, is free.
The gear you need to survive out there, however?
It adds up. And hunting for it, much like hunting for untamed wilds, can feel like a lifelong pursuit.
So we asked Aaron Wolf, founder and chief outdoor field guide of Adventures Accessed — arguably the easiest way to explore the Midwest’s best camping destinations — about the gear he doesn’t leave home without.
A Marine Corps vet and licensed outfitter guide to a handful of protected lands (Manistee, Hoosier, and Shawnee National Forests), Wolf started Adventures Accessed back in 2015 to help Chicagoans get out and go. The all-inclusive service hosts camping trips all over the Midwest, supplying food, shelter and all the essentials.
Needless to say, the man knows a thing or two about backcountry goods.
So from tents and water-filtration systems to the one camp stove to rule them all, consider this your study guide for the season ahead.
Marmot Tungsteen 2P Tent
“We like Marmot's Tungsten two-person tent. Lightweight, durable and easy to use. Don't overthink this — the Tungsten is reliable and applicable for any three-season campout.”
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System
“Simplicity and economy are key. The Sawyer Squeeze is compact, lightweight and straightforward. It's also among the best-performing, longest-lasting and economical filters on the market. Upgrade the bladder for a 2L Platypus and save a trip to the stream.”
Adventure Medical Kit
“Be prepared. Yeah, sometimes bulky or heavy, first aid is something you can never neglect — and that goes along with the knowledge to apply when it matters most. Adventure Medical Kits makes first aid kids for any group size and any situation.”
Mountain House Freeze-Dried Meals
“Arguably the one thing that will lift your spirits more than a sunny day is food. While it's easy to romanticize cooking over an open flame, it's a lot harder than one would think. For fast, filling and delicious, hit up Mountain House for their full freeze-dried menu.”
JetBoil MicroMo Cooking System
“With all the dough you saved on your water filter, why not splurge on the Jetboil MicroMo Cooking System? It's exactly what it sounds like. Compact, fast and easy to use. And all Jetboil products are economical on fuel because of their thoughtful design.”
Ka-Bar Dogs Head Utility Knife
“Your knife is a tool. Remember that. Especially with our recommendation of a big blade like a Ka-Bar. Originally made for US Marines in WWII, this mini version is rich with tradition and grit. Stacked leather handle, fixed blade, leather sheath. Handle with care.”
Light My Fire Lighting Kit
“Are you Les Stroud? No. Pack a Bic lighter and some Light My Fire fire starters. These non-toxic tinder bundles burn for several minutes, ensuring you get the fire you deserve to gaze emptily in to.”
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
“Weatherproof, bright and functional. Perfect for reaching camp in dark, taking a whiz at night and has multiple night functions so you don't blind your campmates.”
A Positive Attitude
“When faced with poor weather, lost on the trail or a hungry girlfriend, nothing will keep you and your group at an even keel more than being the one guy who can lead from the front with grace and optimism. Be the light, the motivator and ‘the man’ and keep your chin up when others are down.”