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Packing (for camp) Essentials

May 2, 2009

3day_ambassador_badgeFirst of all, I am not a camper. Walking 60 miles didn’t scare me near as much as sleeping in a tent for two nights. The only way I knew I would make it was because of dear friends who had done it before. If they could do it, I could do it. I want to offer you some support that you can do it to! If you are a camping novice or if tent-camping on the 3-day makes you anxious, this post is for you!!

Things you need to know about camp:

1) Tents are provided. Camp is an incredibly well-oiled machine. When you arrive the first morning of the 3-day you will drop your bag and the crew will make sure that it gets to camp. When you arrive to camp after the first day of walking, you will pick up your bag and your tent. Walking with a team is awesome because you always have people to help you set up your tent!

2) The food is incredible. I really worried about this, but I’m here to tell you that the food at camp is top-notch. It is hot, delicious, healthy, and catered. If you are a vegetarian or have dietary needs, they will care for you. No need to bring snacks with you unless you are an INCREDIBLY picky eater. Snacks and lunch on the trail are incredible as well. I ate my weight in peanuts and animal crackers. Pit stops had uncrustables, fruit, nuts, crackers, and snacks. Lunch was wraps, sandwiches, fruit, etc. Don’t worry, you will have plenty to eat. 🙂

dscn01433) There is more to do at camp than is possible to get done in two days. You can shop, stretch, eat, sing, write letters, and journal in the survivor tent, but you also need to shower, change, drink water, and sleep! Don’t worry about being bored; there is plenty to do. If you are on a team, your tents will all be together. Some folks will bring camping chairs and you can set up a nice place to hang out. You will make new friends and develop a deeper bond with old friends.

Things you need to pack to make camp more comfortable:

1) Tarps. I brought one tarp to go under my tent and one tarp to go under my bag. There is no room inside the tent for your bag, so it will have to stay outside. A tarp will make sure that it doesn’t get wet. Even if it is not scheduled to rain, you’ll want a tarp to go under your bag to protect it from dew. I bought two of the smallest tarps for just a few bucks. They are easy to pack also!

2) Ear plugs. Camp is noisy. A 9pm quiet curfew seems incredibly early, but when the sun goes down, you just might want to sleep. There is a stage with music until about 9pm, but the tents are also very close together and some folks like to party more than others. If you’re a nerd like me and want to sleep, put in some ear plugs and sleep like a baby!

3) A twin air mattress. The tents have floorspace enough for two twin air mattresses and that is all. Two twin mattresses will take up every free inch of the tent, but will be well worth it. After a hard day of walking, you will want something comfy to rest on. Cots are nice, but often are too big to fit in the tent. Don’t forget to bring a battery operated air pump! Note: depending on where your walk is and what the weather is schedule to be like, you should plan to pack appropriate bedding. I have an incredible sleeping bag from Wal-mart that kept me incredibly warm!

4) Shower shoes. The showers are a haul from your tent, so pack shoes you can wear to and from the showers/port-o-potties. These may be the same as the shoes you wear IN the shower. (I’ve heard crocs are better than flip flops) Or pack two pairs of shoes: one for walking around camp (trust me that you won’t want to wear your tennis shoes anymore!) and one for in the shower.

5) A flashlight. Once the sun goes down, it’s dark in your tent, even if the camp lights are still on. Bring a flash light or camping light to help you organize your things for the next day. A headlamp or clip on light will also come in handy when you have to make a late night trip to the port-o-potties. It never gets pitch black at camp, inside the tent (and port-o-potty) is very dark at night.


A folding camp chair or stool. I didn’t have room for this in my bag, but if you do, it’s a great thing to have. It is hard to get from the ground to standing again after 40+ miles. 🙂

How to pack:

1) Pack in ziplocks. I packed my clothes for each day in separate large ziplocks. This made it easy to carry to the showers and kept everything dry in the humidity. Each ziplock had everything I needed for each day. When I showered in the evening, I changed into my clothes for the next day. I wasn’t convinced that this was the best idea before the 3-day, but it was PERFECT. It made my morning routine easy, which got me out on the course at the front of the pack.

0001527271579_av1_500x5002) Everything you pack needs to be in ONE bag. This includes your airmattress/cot, sleeping bag, pillow, clothes, shoes, shower stuff, etc. Your bag needs to be HUGE, but not too heavy (bags can’t weigh more than 30 lbs or so). Because you’ll have to cart your bag around some, you’ll want one with wheels. If you don’t already have a bag or suitcase with wheels, I got a great one for about $30. This one has a big pocket under the main section. I put my pillow, tarps, and airmattress underneath and my clothes and stuff in the main section. Absolutely perfect.

3) Don’t overpack. But don’t forget anything. 🙂 Forgetting a pair of socks or underwear wouldn’t be the end of the world, but it wouldn’t be pleasant either! Plan ahead and think through everything you’re going to pack. You aren’t going to want to have a bunch of unnecessary stuff taking up space.

If you’ve already walked and have additional advice, please comment! If you are walking for the first time and have questions, please comment!


I’ve gotten fantastic comments, so please be sure to read them! Seasoned walkers have commented on their own experiences, which are awesome! I’ve only walked in Dallas, so I don’t have much experience with harsh weather or rain. (Praise God!) A quick but important note: we were told that you could not tie anything to your bag and were advised to pack EVERYTHING in our bags. The bag shown above at Wal-Mart was plenty big enough for my sleeping bag. Whatever you do, PLEASE do not use bungy cords! These are potentially very painful for crew members. Thanks for reminding us, Lauri! The comments are great and I will continue to write more advice and tips…Please keep your comments coming and I will incorporate them in future posts.

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Joltz permalink
    May 4, 2009 12:13 pm

    This is a most excellent article, thanks for writing it! I’m a first-time walker in Chicago and was most concerned about what to pack. Glad to see I don’t need to bring any extra food!

    You mentioned we’d have to carry our pack a bit, do you meant at camp?

  2. Joy permalink
    May 4, 2009 2:26 pm

    Hey – great advice for packing and camp things. You hit so many right on the nose. I walked my first 3-Day last year and am heading to San Diego in November for my second. I had a few suggestions as well:

    * If you are flying to your desitination, carry-on your bag. It could be a disaster otherwise.
    * To save room in your bag, lash your sleeping bag to the outside of it with a nylon rope.
    * I’d suggest bringing a few flashlights with you, one for each person in the tent. My hubby and I brough one, so if one person needed the light to get to the restroom the other person was in the dark.
    * Pack a travel alarm clock so you can get out and on the road at your own pace.
    * Lots of people wore Uggs around camp at night
    * Travel size soap bars (get two and then throw then away after you shower)
    * Extra Ziploc bags. Some people soaked their feet in them each night
    * If you’re in an area that gets really dewey at night, you may consider putting a tarp on top of your tent (pack old wooden clothes pins to fasten it to the support bars) – I woke up to a dew-covered sleeping bag each morning.
    * Pack a small nylon back sack or tote bag to carry your things to and from the shower
    * Women with longer hair should pack plenty of hair supplies and remember that there is no electricity for hair dryers, etc.

  3. May 4, 2009 4:29 pm

    If you’re doing the 3 DAY where it will be cold at night (as it is where I am)….I would suggest getting some hand warmers. (Academy or Sports Authority). They came in handy for my feet!

    Dallas/Fort Worth 2007-09

  4. May 4, 2009 9:50 pm

    These are all helpful points, but here are a few more. This summer I will crew in Chicago, and in October, I’ll walk in Philly. These will be my 14th and 15th 3Day events.

    1. Definitely heed the suggestion to pack in giant ziplocs, and label each one. It will make your life easier. Especially mark the bag that contains what you will bring to the shower when you get to camp. Your brain may be mush by then. Don’t assume that you will know what to do or what you need.
    2. Bring cards or a book for camp. You may not use them, but it takes up so little space and may provide you a distraction when you are exhausted but also super high from your intense day.
    3. As has been noted above, there are lots of snacks along the route. be warned, you don’t have to horde snacks, nor do you have to eat everything at every rest stop. Try to snack along the route just like you did when you were training. That particular caveat only holds true if you did actual 15-20 mile training days.
    4. TRY to actually do at least one big back-to-back training. Walk at least 15 miles two days in a row. Do this at least 2-3 weeks before the event. This is not a training, this is a test. This is the only way to find out what will be your personal challenges, and to try to prepare for them.
    5. Don’t obsess with exactly how many miles you walk each day. You may walk less than 60 miles in 3 days, you may walk more. The bottom line is that you are walking (or crewing) for a cause that really matters, and building an incredible community with thousands of other people who care about this came cause. Don’t count the steps, count the conversations.
    6. Please, please, please DO NOT lash your sleeping bag, or anything to the outside of your bag. If you cannot fit everything inside your bag, pack in a different bag. I have worked the gear and tent crew several times, and items lashed to the outside are difficult to pack and can (HAVE!) cause injuries. Protect your crew and pack smart.

    I have more comments and stories, but the most important advise is this:
    Walk with care and walk with pride!

  5. Shannon permalink
    May 5, 2009 7:53 am

    This will be my 3rd 3Day. I found the follow picture slide show very helpful in knowing how/what to pack the first year.

    I hope the lady who put it together doesn’t mind sharing 🙂

    Since then, I’ve found that I need the following:
    1. Blow up pool float to sleep on (mattress too much to worry with, throw floats away to avoid re-packing)
    2. Plenty of shampoo & conditioner – travel sizes GOOD (shampoo supplied at camp but not good)
    3. Take towels to throw away after using (save on towel service and avoid re-packing)
    4. Leggings to wear under shorts for chilly morning starts (Atlanta – 40 degrees)

    1. If chilly, sleep in next day’s clothes or sleep with them in the sleeping bag. (I recommend sleeping in them to avoid chaning clothes in the cold)
    2. Start early to get back early – this is not the time to sleep in.
    3. Somehow mark your bag so that its EASY to find. I used colored duct tape and formed the numbers for my tent location.
    4. Get a hotel room the night before – many reasons: good comradery with group, pumps you up, close to walk, etc.
    5. Take something to spot your tent with (day and night), something to attach to the top of tent or poke in the ground – battery operated lights, etc.

  6. Tirani permalink
    May 6, 2009 4:37 pm

    Thanks everyone for all of the information given above. I am walking for the first time in DC and not a camper AT ALL. My teammate and I will utilize all of the above I’m sure.


  1. Packing (for the walk) Essentials « this is what i do
  2. 3-day Ambassador Posts « this is what i do

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