When I hear the phrase “gearing up,” two quite different things immediately pop into my mind.

First, as we are getting into the succulent sweet meat of the summer season, we realize not only that we’ve got at least four months of outdoor fun ahead of us, but we’re struck with the realization that it’s only four months, then camping and hiking will begin to wind down.

So it’s time to shift into high gear and make some serious plans about some not-so-serious fun. Remember, if your plans call for a camping visit at any one of the state’s campgrounds managed by the Bureau of Parks and Lands, space at these choice destinations tends to be limited in July and August, so a visit to www.campwithme.com is not only desirable to get details and availabilities, but is the easy way to register for your favorite site from the convenience of your own desk.

Sites in the Public Reserve Lands are all first-come, first-serve, so early arrivals (especially on midsummer weekends) are recommended. Info on all of Maine’s public and private campgrounds is available in an informative publication that you can pick up at any Maine Information Center.

Second, now’s the time to review your checklist of gear that you’ll want to be sure to take along, either on a day hike or for an extended camping trip. You may have forgotten that on your last hike in the fall, one of the straps on your backpack let go, you punctured the sole of one of your boots or … heaven forbid … your tent sprung a leak right over your sleeping bag. So I always haul out and inventory, and check over thoroughly, my gear in anticipation of an excursion into the woods or up a mountainside. Setting up your tent in the comfort of your own backyard is an easy way to check out its condition and to make sure all of the necessary components are together: poles, stakes, ground cloth, rain fly, etc.

And despite untold years of experience setting up and breaking down tents, it seems like every year when I take the time, in the convenience of my own yard, to erect the thing, I hear myself asking questions like, “Now, where in heck does this piece go?”


I blame old age, but I’ve heard from younger friends that they go through the same re-orientation dilemma.

Maybe you’ll find as you go over your gear checklist that it’s time to replace a few things. Every year there are innovative new pieces of hiking and camping equipment available, so a visit either online or in the store at places like EMS, Kittery Trading Post, Cabela’s and our traditional local mainstay, L.L. Bean, can be instructive.

If you need a new bag, I’ve found the 20-degree ones are the most versatile for camping in Maine or across the border, and light enough for easy toting.

Modern conveniences like cellphones and GPS’s are pretty much de riguer for the modern outdoors person, and can be lifesaving in a pinch.

But a word of warning from personal experience: Cellphone use is sometimes tough in the hinterlands, and your GPS can fail or provide inaccurate information, so a hand-held compass (or two) can be a reassuring backup.

As you organize your pack for a day trip or your duffel for a camping adventure, plan for the best and assume the worst. Make sure you have rain gear (and a nice big tarp with plenty of rope to protect your tent and picnic table) because surprise storms can come up even if they’re not forecast.


And although your plans may not include trying to find your way around after dark, pack a headlamp or at least a flashlight, and a lantern to brighten up your campsite.

Inventory your cooking gear and utensils, check over your gas or propane stove for leaks and replenish your fuel supply. Toss out and replace any leftover condiments stashed away with your gear last fall. Sponges and towels for cleanup are essential, and although you can purify water by boiling, that wastes precious fuel so pack away some purification tablets. There are even some lightweight water purifiers that use UV light and chemical reactions.

Your hiking and camping companions will appreciate your attention to personal hygiene, so take along toilet paper and a trowel, and, of course, hand sanitizer. Make sure your gear includes at least two 32-ounce water bottles for hiking, and a large collapsible container for your campsite.

And finally, again from experience gained over years of tromping in the woods and camping under the starlit Maine skies, here’s my handy little checklist of other not-to-be-forgotten items to have at the ready for your first and subsequent adventures of the summer:

Fire starters

Sun protection (both apparel and lotion)



First aid kit

Knife or multitool

 Tent (and air mattress, if necessary) repair kit.

John Christie is an author and year-round Maine explorer. He and his son Josh write in Outdoors about places to enjoy the beauty that only Maine has to offer. He can be contacted at:


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