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Equipment for a ‘Deep Woods’ Excursion

Written By Darren Martin. Suggestions welcome!

The following is a list of items and suggestions for a trip into the ‘Deep Woods’, which is basically more than one night in the middle of nowhere. We will start off with some of the animals that you may encounter and then cover some of the equipment you will need. Keep in mind that every trip will vary and special equipment may be necessary or recommended.

The Wildlife

While out in the woods of Northern New Hampshire and Maine, there is a variety of animals that you may encounter. While all of these animals are fun to observe in their natural environment, precautions must be taken in order to be safe and also to not disturb the animals. It is important to remember that no animal is out to get you. This notion is a byproduct of too many movies.

There are a few ‘Nevers’ to follow when it comes to wild animals:

    1. Never attempt to pet a wild animal.
    2. Never attempt to feed a wild animal.

Wild animals, no matter how cute or tame they seem, are still wild. Your attempt to pet them may provoke a bad response, such as a bite, scratch, or even an attack. It goes without saying that you also do not attempt to catch a wild animal. They have spent all their lives defending themselves from predators’ attacks. The fact that they are still alive says they are good at it.

Many animals will come around the campsite looking for food. Feeding them may place you in an unsafe situation, and it definitely does not help the animal. You may get scratched or bitten inadvertently while feeding the animal. Also, the animal begins to associate people with food. When the hikers are all gone and the snow sets in, the animal will be at a disadvantage. This will push the animal to go where the people are, thus raiding trash and what ever it can get. An animal belongs in the wilderness, not the local restaurant dumpster.

Always keep a safe distance from any wild animal. During the spring months many animals have young which they will defend. Most animals will avoid you and you will never see them and their young. But if you do happen across them, your curiosity could be taken the wrong way.

Bears are particularly protective of their young. If you encounter a bear or its young, slowly turn around and walk away. Once out of site, you may want to put some distance between you and the area. Do NOT run, as this may provoke the bear, especially if there are young around. Playing dead is also not an advisable tactic.

Moose are also protective of their young. Moose are not the most intelligent of animals and may unpredictably react to any situation. If they feel threatened, they may rush you. Always keep a good distance from moose. In the event that something does happen, try to keep something big in between you and the moose, like a tree.

With all the small creatures out there, just watch them from a distance. Skunks and Porcupines have obvious reasons to stay away from. Most animals have sharp teeth and claws. Snakes, while rare, do live in the northern woods of New Hampshire and southern Maine. They do their best to avoid people so usually you never know they are around. There are two poisonous kinds that I am aware of in this region. If you are really close to the snake, fast movements may provoke a strike, so move slowly away. If you see one, slowly back away and give the animal a wide berth. A snake bite kit is not an unheard of item in the first aide kit.

In general, try not to disturb the wild life, and you’ll usually not have a problem. If you notice that the animal is aware of you, then you are close enough. Enjoy them in their environment. Don’t be afraid to watch them, they’re not out there to get you. Replace fear with knowledge. Understand them in their environment and you will have great experiences.


There are some basic elements of equipment that everyone should have for a stay in the deep woods. Usually weight of items is a big factor since you’re hauling them over many miles. Below is a list of things I bring along for most hikes.

Hiking Boots Make sure they are comfortable and fit well. Some other good characteristics are quick drying, water proof, wool for winter, breathable material for warmer months, and good ankle support. Bring several pairs of socks (not cotton).
Warm Clothes Always bring some clothes for colder weather. Wool is nice, as well as silk. There are a lot of types of clothes that are fast drying and warm. But in particular they are light. Fleece is god’s gift to campers. Always bring a little more clothes than you’ll need. Also, wearing the same thing several times is very useful, less to carry.
Rain Gear Always a must. It’s miserable if you need it and don’t have it. A poncho or rain coat is a start, but rain pants are also nice to have. Also have something to cover your equipment. Usually a trash bag or two works well. Always plan for rain!
Frame Pack A good pack will make or break a trip. Usually for extended trips a solid frame pack is recommended, but soft frame packs can be used. Solid frame packs provide more support and are easier on your back. The pack should have a hip harness that puts all the weight on your hips rather than your back. The shoulder straps should keep the pack comfortably close to your back, but they should not support any weight. All weight should be on your hips. This also lowers your center of gravity, which makes it easier going in areas that require balance. The pack should have enough space for all of your equipment, and then some. Extra space always comes in handy.
First Aid While we hope we never need it, it’s always best to have one. It should include sterile bandages, antibiotic ointments, ace bandages, triangle bandages, medical tape, scissors, burn cream, aspirin or ibuprofen and any other nick knack you can think of. If you are unsure of how to use these items a quick guide should be included in the kit. All medications should be in the first aid kit so everyone knows where they are in case of an emergency.
Tarp An all around good idea. It can be used under the tent to help keep dry, over then tent, over the fire in the rain, and a million other uses. Just bring it, you’ll use it.
Tent Make sure it’s water-resistant. Don’t bring a tent that is too big for what you need. It should fit your party and a few pieces of equipment.
Rope A must for every trip. I recommend nylon rope, since it’s light, doesn’t get wet, and usually has a bit of stretch. Use it with the tarp to hang equipment in the trees overnight, and a million other uses. 100’ is usually enough.
Knife The Swiss Army knife is always a good choice, but you should also have another, larger knife with a thick blade. The infamous Rambo knives are a good example. You can cut rope or food, pound in tent stakes, cut small branches, dig a bathroom spot, move things in the fire, and a million other things with a large knife. Think of it as a tool rather than a knife.
Water Always bring more than you’ll need. Iodine tablets or a water purification device are highly recommended. Make sure your water supply never goes below 1/3 what you normally have. Always fill up when the opportunity presents itself. Never drink water from a water supply that is not designated as drinking water without treating the water first.
Cooking Items Bring as little as possible. Aluminum is the lightest. Try to get one pot or pan which could be used for several things. Lightweight utensils are also recommended. Multi use items are best , you carry less, and less is better after 10 miles.
Food Always bring more than you think you need. Extras should include dried pastas or dried fruit. While it is nice to have a juicy steak, items like this will attract animals. Have the means to take care of items like this. Canned food is ok, but it weighs a lot and produces heavy trash.
Trash Have a plastic bag that you can seal for trash. This will help hide the smell of food. Always carry out your trash--never bury it! Several trash bags are recommended.
Compass, Map Even the best get lost. Map, too.
Matches Waterproof matches are a must. A lighter is also recommended. Bring multiple items for starting a fire just in case one fails.
Accelerant Good for helping fires get started when things are damp. EMS or L.L.Bean have dry cubes you can use to heat water or help get a fire going. Gasoline is not recommended. Lighter fluid weighs a lot; the dry accelerants are the best.
Flashlight Small and bright ones are the best. Always have a backup set of batteries.
Bungee Cords Great for attaching things to your pack, as well as hanging things at the camp site.
Other Items Toilet paper, bug spray, isopropyl alcohol, extra shoe laces.


The Camp Site

There is one main idea you should keep in mind when selecting and preparing a campsite, Minimal Impact. Ideally you should not be able to tell you camped in an area after you are gone. There are some basic characteristics of a good campsite. It should be on ground a little higher than the surrounding area, it should be as flat as possible, there should be some form of cover around, like trees, and your camp fire site should not be close to the tent area. Another thing that can improve a campsite is running water near by.

Set up your tent at one end of the camp area, and build a small fire pit at the other. It is usually best to have your tent near some trees. This will help if it gets windy or if a moose chooses to wander through the site (don’t laugh, it happens). The fire pit should be as small as possible. You should never build a blazing bon fire. The pit should provide warmth if necessary, and enough heat to cook. Make a ring of rocks and/or dirt around the fire to help contain the embers. Cooking is best done with embers, not flames. Get the fire going and let it create a bed of hot embers. Place a few large rocks in the embers and place your cooking items so they balance on the rocks. I usually use a triangle formation of rocks with the hottest embers in the middle. Gather dead wood from the surrounding area, do not cut down trees. Also, don’t break off branches from trees that are alive. Usually there is plenty of dead wood around, you just have to search for it. Make sure the fire is completely out when you leave the fire pit. Use lots of water and cover it with dirt.

When cooking food that is greasy, cook it as early as possible so that the fire will have time to burn it off. No matter what you do, animals will smell your cooking. Place every item that comes in contact with food in a bag and seal it. Wash your hands before you enter the tent. Hang as much equipment in the trees as possible. A good hanging spot is 15’ up and 7’ out from the tree. When the animals come, and they will come, this will prevent them from tearing your packs apart. Hang the trash bag as far away as possible. Keep no food in your tent. No matter how well you seal it, the animals will smell it. Since it is usually people that have the problem with animals, keeping all these items away from the tent will help prevent a close encounter.

Summing Up…

Camping out in the sticks can be very exciting, but it can also pose some dangers if you are not prepared. Make sure you understand the environment you are going into. Replace your fear with knowledge, knowledge of how to survive in the woods, knowledge of what the animals are like and how to co-exist with them, knowledge of how to be a responsible hiker, and knowledge of how to be a responsible camper.