My “essential” list is small, light and crafted from decades of experience.  Two items that surprise many are earplugs and a sleep mask.

My select pile of essential goodies goes with me on every camping trip whether it be a multi-week adventure in the far north or a one-day flash into the mountains to cleanse the soul. So why a sleep mask and earplugs?

My small pile of “essential” goodies is actually divided into 2 separate bags. One that includes gear needed on all outdoor adventures, and the second for overnights only.  The primary essential bag is red and clearly marked “TRAIL”, the overnight essential bag is blue and clearly marked “CAMP”.   The TRAIL is needed whenever I venture on the trail, and the CAMP is only needed if I camp out.


Both are always filled and ready to go at a moment’s notice. I never want to be deep in the backwoods with dead batteries, an empty roll of “bum wad”, a drained lighter or no water purification tabs.

The TRAIL “essentials” include such items as a compass, maps, a headlamp, a micro lighter, bug repellant etc.

The CAMP “essentials” include such things as spare batteries for my headlamp, a spare micro lighter, toothbrush etc.… and always a pair of earplugs and a sleep mask.

Ear plugs are huge if your tent partner snores – and weight “zero”

So what’s the deal?

Many may think that these are luxury items, not essentials. Well, I disagree. They are so light and small that it’s hardly worth including in your total pack weight.


If you have ever attempted to sleep in a tent with a buddy or loved one who snores?  Or perhaps bunking in a backwoods hut with 30 other smelly noisy campers. Ear plugs are a God send.


After a restless sleep beside a nasal deviated camper whose junkyard symphony rattled in your head all night… or perhaps sharing a bunk house with a quartet of hikers who all suffer from an assortment of sleep disorders, you would have had better sleep in a stinky dumpster surrounded by a hungry horde of zombies pounding on the steel walls in a mindless search for their next meal.

Your bandana makes a great sleep mask – “double duty” your gear

Following those sleep-deprived nights, earplugs would seem essential.

Sleep Mask

Sleeping in the far north under the never setting sun… the always bright skies will disrupt your sleeping patterns.  The mask with help.

Sharing a tent with a tiny bladdered buddy is another reason closer to home for the average camper. His or her multiple nightly tent exits to void with the assistance of a blinding super duper headlamp and will have far less impact on your precious beauty sleep if you are wearing a sleep mask.

One last point… I generally don’t bring a sleep mask specifically.  A well-folded bandana will do the trick. Double duty your gear and save weight, grief and reduce your essential list.

The forgotten essentials… earplugs and a sleep mask.



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