Did you ever receive a gear list from an outdoor program and panic? So much stuff! Likely questions arise. Where do I begin? The outdoor gear industry is like anything else, “you get what you pay for.” Do you need to purchase expensive gear from a specialty store? Not necessarily. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • How much am I willing to spend?
  • Will this equipment ever be used again?
  • How comfortable do I want my child to be?

With all of this in mind, let’s talk gear! Here are a few tips in looking for the most critical items:

Sleeping Bag

What to look for in a sleeping bag:


  • The comfort rating is measured in degrees F. Remember the temperature rating is relative. If you are cold or warm-natured, remember to compensate accordingly.
  • Weight is important – look for a bag that is as light as possible. A 0 – 5 F degree bag should weigh no more than 5 to 6 lbs.
  • Compressibility refers to the size of the stuff sack the sleeping bag can be stuffed. The smaller, the better. Be careful, manufactures know you will be evaluating compressibility so they sell very small stuff sacks with their bags. Make sure your child can get the bag back into the sack without difficulty.
  • The most efficient sleeping bag design is the mummy bag with a hood or drawstring.
  • The fill or insulation in a bag will determine the warmth to weight ratio. There are two types of fill: synthetic and down.
  • We require synthetic fill such as Dacron II because it will maintain some insulating value even when wet and will dry much faster than down.
Sleeping Pad

A sleeping pad is an important part of camping equipment. In addition to comfort, the pad is an essential item providing insulation from the cold ground.

Important information about sleeping pads includes:

  • There are two different mattress styles – closed foam and self-inflating open foam
  • The closed foam mat price ranges from $9 to $25
  • The self-inflating mattresses are more expensive, starting at $40
  • Closed foam mats are better for icy/snowy conditions
  • Weight is important – they will backpack with this pad. It should compress to the size of an inflatable that can fit in a pack.
Insect Repellant
A non-aerosol repellent is required (cream or liquid). Aerosol sprays can damage the waterproof characteristics of fabrics including jackets and tents.
Water Bottles

A water bottle, also known as a Nalgene, should hold at least 1 qt. and not leak. The best option is a plastic “Nalgene” brand bottle with a wide mouth. The army surplus canteen is a 50/50 gamble as about half of the leak. The old western style round canteens typically leak and are hard to pack. Please ensure you pack three water bottles.

Nylon Cord (50’)

This cord is used in the camping setting for clotheslines, lashing gear, etc. It is a small diameter cord and is sometimes referred to as a “parachute” cord. Please bring at least 50 feet.


A daypack is a small backpack used to carry essential gear for day excursions. A school-type book bag will NOT suffice. The daypack must be large enough to carry the “five essentials” and then have a little room left over for lunch items (24 liter). The five essentials include rain gear, water bottles, flashlight, whistle, and extra warm clothing. Some daypacks have a waist belt. This is a nice feature as it redistributes some of the weight of the pack from the shoulders to the torso.

Expedition Backpack

Please pack all of your field gear and clothing in a large backpack. Backpacks should be comfortable, fitted, and approximately 5500 – 7000 cubic inches with a sturdy hip pad and a good suspension system. Prices range from $150 – $350. Fit is the most important factor when purchasing a backpack. We recommend an internal frame pack, with plenty of space for all required gear. It is also important to purchase a Rain Cover for your backpack that is compatible with the size and shape of your backpack. This will help prevent gear from becoming wet.
*Some participants are short or the frame might extend beyond their head.*

Footlocker/Trunk & Large Duffle Bag

Please pack all of your base gear and clothing in a trunk/footlocker and large duffle bag. A 30”x15”x12” trunk is recommended. They typically sell at Wal-Mart for around $40.00.

Wool/Synthetic Clothing

Wool or synthetic {also known as fleece or polyester) clothing is an important component of a successful outdoor experience. Wool and/or synthetic clothing will keep you warm under the most unfavorable conditions, even when the clothing is wet. Cotton will not! Please do not substitute cotton clothing for wool or synthetic clothing items indicated on the Gear Lists. Cotton is an ideal material for jeans and T-shirts as long as you have wool or synthetic clothing available for cool or rainy weather.



Make sure boots are a good fit. We recommend wearing a breaking-in before arriving to base.

Snow Boots

Boot selection and preparation are important. Ensure the boots are comfortable and able to accommodate a pair of trekking socks for a crisp mountain morning. Reputable makers of lightweight hiking boots include Lowe, Hi-tech, Danner, Vasque, Merrell, and Asolo. It is critical that you break in any boot before the start of your course. Failure to do so will result in blisters and sore feet. Ensure you purchase waterproof leather or GoreTex hiking boots with flexible un-shanked soles.


Socks Liners


Quality socks are important in preventing blisters. Cotton socks will increase foot moisture and discomfort. Please purchase wool or synthetic wool socks, such as Smartwool or Thorlo Backpacking socks. Although these are more expensive, they are more durable and worth the cost. Just be sure to put the participant’s name on the socks! You may also consider purchasing a liner sock, which can be worn in combination with the backpacking socks. This will further decrease friction between the foot and the boot and can extend the time in which socks can be worn prior to washing.

Eating Gear/Mess Kit

Eating gear should be sturdy but does not need to be fancy. A plastic bowl or a metal sierra cup, spoon, and fork are sufficient. They do not need a full-blown “cook set”

Rain Gear

Effective rain gear consists of a separate top and bottom. There are two types of jackets that are adequate: waterproof-non breathable and waterproof-breathable. Breathable materials allow sweat to evaporate through the
jacket. Non-breathable will not. Due to the physical nature of the course, we strongly recommend breathable fabrics to
ensure comfort. You may also choose to purchase a Soft Shell jacket that combines fleece and a water-resistant layer. These technical fabrics are great in a variety of conditions, but can eventually become saturated in a downpour. The easiest way to ensure comfort is to utilize a number of layers. We recommend a combination of under layer, fleece, and a waterproof outer layer for maximum effectiveness in cold, wet conditions.

Water Shoes


Water shoes will be worn in all water-based activities such as swimming. A Velcro-strap “Teva” type is common, as is the slip-on water shoe. However, some Velcro shoes may get sand stuck in the straps which can create blisters. Keen and Chaco are two brands of popular water shoes that provide a structured footbed and are longer lasting than most inexpensive water shoes. Astral water shoes are widely popular in the whitewater world and are a closed-toe option.

Head Lamp

Brands include Petzel and Black Diamond. You can buy them or order them at gear stores. Prices range from
$30 – $50

Winter Gloves

Glove Liners

Course Links

North Carolina Gear Lists