Packing list for wild camping & bivouacking | sleeping outside without a tent
With Kailo, as part of a group nature therapy retreat, we spend most of our time out in the wild. And really:
we spend the night without a tent - only with a tarp for protection
we make fires to cook on and gather around for fire circle dialogues
we walk - at least the last part of the way - and carry everything we need in our backpacks
we are on the move nomadically and change our sleeping place (almost) every night
through all this we create a connection with the nature around us, with our inner nature and with the others who are on this journey with us
How we sleep outside could also be called wild camping without a tent or bivouacking. Whether you are travelling alone, in pairs, in a group or with us in nature, a tried and tested packing list with all the things you need out there is gold. We have it for you! Validated several times in practice and repeatedly learned from mistakes.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
With the following packing list for bivouacking and wild camping, we want to help you avoid beginner's mistakes or rethink and optimise your existing equipment. It takes less of the right things than a lot of the wrong things.
3 general tips for wild camping & bivouacking beforehand
#1 less is more
Basically, one always needs less than one imagines when packing at home. Time and again it happens to us that we carry parts around for several days without using them.
On a normal trip with a travel suitcase, this may be bearable. However, when we are out and about for several days with a backpack, you feel every item that is too much: either through the weight or by constantly clearing it from left to right.
#2 keep it simple
From our experience, the most expensive equipment is rarely needed. A simple T-shirt made of cotton actually always does a better job than a functional shirt made of artificial materials for three times the price.
In most cases, a single pair of trousers is enough for a trip lasting several days. Unjustly frowned upon in our opinion: the versatile zip-off trousers with detachable legs. They give you both long and short trousers in one.
I have had the "Fjällräven Karl(a) Zip-Off Trousers" for years. The G-1000 fabric is water- and wind-repellent, yet breathable and quick-drying. Not unimportant, too, is that it looks and fits really well. Not in the way you would normally imagine these trousers to look.
In nature, aesthetics also play a role. So think about what colours and shapes you bring with you. Keep it pure and simple.
#3 wet wipe wonder
Wet wipes (biodegradable) are an insider tip and a miracle cure out there. They can cover a lot of purposes, trust me.
The important thing is that after use, just like your toilet paper, it's always best to put them in a resealable plastic bag and then dispose of them appropriately later. It all rots too slowly in nature.
The tried and tested outdoor packing list: everything you need to spend the night outdoors
Carrying & Sleeping
BACKPACK A backpack size of 70 litres is ideal for several nights outdoors. However, you should not fill it completely with your personal belongings! There still needs to be space for general equipment, which will be shared among everyone in the group: pots, food, water bags, etc.
SLEEPING BAG For restful nights, you should have the right sleeping bag - depending on the prevailing temperatures. Preferably impregnated down (in case something gets wet) or synthetic fibres. You should take a critical view of the comfort range and always opt for something warmer.
FOAM MAT Experience has shown that a closed-cell foam mat (e.g. EXPED FlexMat) serves perfectly as a flexible sitting surface during the day and as an underlay for an inflatable air mattress at night. For travellers who like it particularly simple, it can be the only sleeping mat.
AIR MATTRESS An insulated air mattress (e.g. EXPED) is a loyal and very comfy companion for nights outdoors. Pay attention to the R-values for the temperature range and size as well as the weight and pack size of the respective model. Depending on the surface you sleep on, it makes sense to place a foam mat and/or a pad underneath.
TARP & CORDS We want to enter into a kind of dialogue in and with nature and that's why we sleep without a tent. A tent would separate us from everything around us and hinder this process. We only protect ourselves with a tarp, which we fix with cords. You can choose between a professional lightweight tarp or a simple tarpaulin from the DIY store. In the end, both serve the same purpose except for a few details. Tie it down with cord from 3mm upwards.
UNDERPAD (optional) For some people it is nice to have a camp pad with them. On the one hand, it can protect the air mattress from stones or thorns on the ground and also keep things tidy, especially in the sand or with lots of old leaves. On the other hand, sometimes you feel like having as much contact with the ground as possible and in this case it is best to leave it out.
PILLOW (optional) My pillow is sacred to me. It takes up an extreme amount of space in my backpack, but it is worth it to me. I'm a big fan of the Therm-a-Rest compressible pillow. A rolled up jumper can serve the same purpose for some others.
SLEEPING BAG INLAY (optional) Made of very thin cotton or silk, such an inner sleeping bag or hut sleeping bag can make the night more comfortable or even warmer. If it is quite warm outside, this layer alone can be sufficient.
DRINKING BOTTLE In our experience, the SIGG aluminium bottle is the most functional. The great thing about it is that you can also use it to make a warm drink or a hot water bottle for your sleeping bag: simply place the bottle (with the lid open!) by the fire.
DISHES For eating, you need plates or bowls, cutlery (your pocket knife can serve as a knife) and a cup. For the tableware, choose something that is not heavy, does not rattle and is practical. It is best to put everything together in a cloth bag. This way everything stays together, you can leave it close to the group place and you can also use the bag as a kitchen towel.
FIRE & FLAME Matches burn better than a lighter, but the latter has advantages in the rain. A candle can sometimes help to light a fire in difficult conditions. In addition, natural materials such as resin or birch bark are suitable as firelighters.
HEADLAMP/ TORCH A headlamp proves to be much more practical as you always have both hands free. Make sure it is fully charged.
Clothes & Miscellaneous
OPEN SHOES (as required)
WOOL CLOTHES for cold nights I can recommend anything made of wool, it helps wonders: e.g. socks, cuffs, hat or jumper
PERSONAL HYGIENE PRODUCTS
WET WIPES & TOILET PAPER
PLASTIC BAGS resealable plastic bags to wrap your toilet paper and also your "big business" (depending on the ground and whether it could be buried)
SUNSCREEN & BUG SPRAY
WATER BAGS There is no running drinking water in most places outside, so you need to take it with you in water bags. Alternatively you can each carry several plastic water bottles.
POTS Light aluminium post to cook over the fire. The size of the pots depends on the size of the group. Two pots of different sizes will go a long way. You can also make coffee in the smaller one.
ENAMEL JUG to put directly in the fire; for a quick tea or coffee
FIREPROOF GLOVES Practical for cooking and when you have to reach into the fire.
Sharing is caring: borrowing outdoor equipment
For a first trip outdoors, you don't necessarily have to buy everything yourself if you don't already have it. Maybe you can borrow certain things from friends and acquaintances. In any case, it makes sense to look for missing equipment on the well-known second-hand platforms. There you can often get new, almost never used, outdoor equipment for sleeping outdoors at reasonable prices.
You can also rent a backpack, sleeping bag or sleeping mat online. We have looked at the cheapest options in Germany and listed them for you. The equipment is then sent to you by post and you simply send it back after use.
Now nothing can go wrong when sleeping outside without a tent - or can it?
Now that you know what you should and shouldn't pack for your time wild camping or bivouacking out in nature, there's nothing standing in the way of your trip. This does not mean that nothing can go wrong during your adventure. But it will be part of an important experience.
Maybe you notice in the middle of the night that your inflatable mat has a hole in it and that teaches you something about coming into your power, or the tarp just won't stretch and stay in place and that tells you something about the protection you had or didn't have at home as a child.
So that you are not alone with these experiences, the retreats of Kailo give you a protected setting. There you can dive deeper into these and so many other topics and explore them. What are you waiting for?
CHILDREN OF THE SEA
- a retreat on wild beaches
JOURNEY TO YOURSELF
- a desert & sea retreat
March 2023, Egypt
If you have any questions about the retreats, you can always write to us or arrange a phone call with me. If you have any questions about the packing list for sleeping outside, please write to me on Instagram.
I look forward to meeting you,