This is a guide to the equipment lists, with a little more explanation of what things are and why you need them. These items will keep you comfortable and safe in variable weather conditions on your trip.

These items are necessary. If your camping experience is limited and you don’t understand what something is for, please bring it or ask us, don’t assume you don’t need it. Similarly, if you are experienced and think you know better, please humor us and bring what we ask, there may be a reason you haven’t thought of.

Things with an asterisk* can be borrowed from us. Just ask.

Warm Weather Gear

  • 2-3 T-shirts to wear during the day. Any material will do.
  • Nylon shorts. Bring your fave quick-drying sports shorts to wear on sunny days.
  • Bathing suit. Nice on canoe trips, optional on hiking trips.
  • Sun protection. A hat with a brim (big floppy sunhat or baseball hat depending on your taste), sunscreen SPF 15 or higher, lip balm and sunglasses.
  • Underwear. Bring two pairs of whatever you wear and 1-2 sports bras or tanks if you wear them.

The clothing in this section is designed to work in a layering system to keep you warm and dry if it happens to be cold, damp and soggy outside. When put together, your layers should be Wicking, Warm, and Waterproof

  • *Thermal top and bottoms. This is your wicking layer. Made of synthetic material, silk or wool, it is designed to move moisture away from your skin and keep you warm even if it gets wet. Make sure this layer has no cotton since cotton holds 26 times as much moisture next to your skin as synthetics. Cotton kills, as we like to say.
  • *Fleece top or jacket. This is your warm layer. This should be a thick fleece jacket or pullover that will keep you cozy on chilly nights. Check your tags to make sure there is  no cotton. The thicker the fleece, the cozier you'll be.
  • *Rain Jacket. This is your waterproof layer. This layer needs to be made of 100% waterproof material like coated nylon or Gore-tex. If you're not sure, put the material up to you mouth and try to suck air through it. If air gets through, it’s not waterproof and you’re going to get soggy. Cotton isn’t waterproof, it kills us to say. Rain pants are also nice to have for your waterproof layer.
  • *Wool or fleece hat. This is your winter hat, which should cover your ears and keep you warm. Stories abound about how you lose 40% of your body heat through your head, and while this isn’t exactly true, or in fact remotely true, a hat is still important.

Hey, we got through that last bullet point without saying ‘no cotton’. Sorry, we’ll try harder in future.


  • *Hiking boots. For hiking and combo trips only. You will need a pair of leather or synthetic-with-Gore-tex hiking boots that provide ankle support. Current outdoor trends have more and more people buying low tops, but we don’t allow those because of the large pack you will be carrying. You need that ankle support. Make sure to break your boots in early and coat them in waterproofing treatment like Nikwax.
  • Sneakers. Bring an old pair of sneaks, still serviceable but willing to get muddy.
  • Sports sandals with heel straps. For water trips only. Water shoes are an acceptable alternative but old sneakers are miserable to wear wet all day. Flip flops, Crocs or anything that won't stay on when you swim won’t work.
  • *Gaiters. Required for Sewards and Grand Traverse but optional for other hiking trips. These nylon covers go over the top of your boots and up to just below your knee. They keep mud and debris out. We like ’em.
  • *Socks. Very important for keeping your feet dry and blister free. No cotton socks. Although it’s hard to tell cotton from wool sometimes, the odds are if it’s a white sock it’s cotton. This truly does matter; the cotton holds perspiration next to your heels and toes, which causes friction to build up and voila! blisters. Blisters are the fastest way to turn a great trip into misery.

Personal Gear

  • Toiletries. Keep these to a minimum. All you really need is a toothbrush, a half-used tube of toothpaste (or one of those nifty travel-sized ones) contact solution, prescription meds., insect repellant (no aerosol cans) and tampons or pads. Don't bring anything smelly like deodorant, hair gel, lotion etc. as insects and critters will target in on you. The wilderness just isn't the place for these things.
  • Pocket knife. Optional, but handy. Just a small one.
  • 1 bandana. Ok, ok, you can bring a cotton one. It comes in handy now and again.
  • Lighter or matches. Simple. If you’re flying to campus or have a pathological fear of little bits of wood, then don’t worry about it.
  • Extra glasses or contacts. If you have one of those retaining straps for your glasses that would be great, but we can make them out of string or duct tape and you won’t have to worry about your specs going in the lake...
  • *Headlamp or flashlight. Headlamps are more handy in the woods, literally, because you can wear it on your head and use both hands. The little ones with LED lights work perfectly. Flashlights are fine too, but not those huge security guard Maglite things, you'll give yourself a hernia.
  • 2 water bottles, 1 quart or 1 liter-sized each. Something you can carry one quart in. (Or liter, they're near enough the same for our purposes.) Nalgenes, Siggs, whatever. Bladders are fine, and Gatorade bottles are perhaps the best of all.
  • *Eating utensils. Plastic bowl of some sort, a spoon, and a medium or small insulated travel mug. Bringing a ‘Mac’s double mega gulp bucket of trucker’ coffee mug will look weird, but will get a laugh.
  • *Sleeping bag. This should have synthetic fill (not down, unless you’re really really good. I don’t take my down bag...), mummy shaped, and rated to about 30 degrees F (zero degrees C). That rectangular cotton thing you took to camp that packs down to the size of a Jeep, that’s not going to work. Just borrow one of ours if you need to.
  • *Foam sleeping pad. Sleeping on the ground sucks. It’s uncomfortable and it’s cold. One of these foam pads makes life a lot more liveable. Got a big fat Therm-a-Rest? Lovely. Skinny yoga mat? Not so much. Instead, borrow one of ours and you'll be warmer and happier.
  • *Two large heavy duty garbage bags. News just in - backpacks aren’t waterproof, even the waterproof ones. So put all your necessities in a garbage bag and life is good.
  • *Backpack. For hiking trips and combo trips titled ‘hiking’ only. It has to have a frame, either internal or external. It has to have room for your gear and some of your group’s (tents, food, etc.) so should be between 4000 and 5000 cubic inches in volume (65 to 80 litres). Make sure it’s comfortable by loading it with 40lbs of gear and carrying it around the house for a few days. Mind the TV!
  • Daypack. A bookbag will do, or a fancy one if you have it. It should be big enough to carry your needs for the day; water, food, rain gear, stuffed animal, and extra warm layers.

Optional items

  • Dr. Bronner’s or Campsuds. Small plastic bottle of biodegradeable soap. You can get this in the ‘crunchy natural’ section of your supermarket, at least in the US. If you can’t find this item, we’ll let you off just this once.
  • Camera. Put it in a ziplock to keep it waterproof.
  • Very small towel. T-shirt sized or smaller.
  • Compass, bring your Silva-type compass if you’ve got one.
  • Stuff sacks. Small nylon bags are great for organizing things.


Andrew Jillings

Director of Outdoor Leadership

Help us provide an accessible education, offer innovative resources and programs, and foster intellectual exploration.

Site Search