Equipment - Things to Bring to Your Waterfalling Excursions

Things to Bring

When it comes to enjoying
waterfalls and the great outdoors, you need to bring equipment that will help you prepare for what lies ahead. So this page tries to address some of the things we think you might consider bringing with you to better enjoy your waterfalling (or in general, outdooring) experience. We've broken up the equipment on this page into the following:

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Unpredictable conditions on a dayhike

Nature can be a very unforgiving place, and you need some specialized equipment and clothing to help you cope with most of the things Nature can throw at you. We've compiled a list of the equipment we think you should bring with you for daytrips.

  • Dayhiking Boots/Shoes
    The key feature of these shoes (and not just any ordinary sneakers or sandals) are that their bottoms have grip. This will allow you to more confidently tackle slippery or steep terrain. In addition, these also tend to be sturdy so they last longer in more rugged conditions, plus most have ankle support to help reduce the likelihood of you severely twisting and spraining your ankle thereby rendering you immobile. You might also consider shoes or boots with gore-tex which can help your feet from getting soaked in most stream crossings that are shallower than ankle deep. Of course all these features come at the expense of weight (as well as price), which can become a factor when hikes get longer.
  • Daypack
    These are good to store essentials for short term day hiking. Some are equipped with bladders for hands-free hydration while others have side pockets to hold water bottles easily within reach. The ones I like tend to have a few more pockets to store things like maps, guidebooks, flashlights, tick removers, journal, and even trail food. Some also have hip belts for a little transfer of weight to the hips though they're not as effective as those with frames. However with frames, you pay the price of increased weight for the stability.
  • Handheld GPS
    These are good for trip logging but they can also be valuable when combined with a Topo map for any cross-country hiking or confirmation that you're on the right path or you're lost. I believe most of these units are waterproof enough to withstand some degree of dunking (though you don't want to make this a habit).
  • Hat
    This may be stating the obvious, but sunburn and the hidden risk of skin cancer from overexposure to the sun can't be underestimated. Generally the broader the brim, the greater the coverage which might include the neck. Some even have dog ears for cold weather protection in addition to additional sun cover. Baseball caps lack coverage in the back of the neck and ears.
  • Light Wool Socks
    Not only are they good cold weather insulation, but even when your feet sweat, their moisture wicking properties reduce the likelihood that you'll have blisters. If you've ever had blisters before then you can appreciate the advantage of these over cotton socks.
  • Compact Flashlight
    You can never underestimate situations where your excursion lasted longer than you thought, even when the day turns to night and you can't see a thing. That's where these can come in handy to at least give you some sense of where you're going. If you want to go hands-free then a headlamp may be the way to go.
  • Water Bottle
    This is obvious, but if you really want to be eco-conscious than having your own reusable water bottle is the way to go. If you use Klean Kantene or Nalgenes, many water filters mate directly with the tops of the bottles so the filtered water spills into the right place without the need for you to hold the bottle itself.
  • Compass
    Even though this may be one of the more underutilized tools, its simplicity and reliability can't be matched especially when compared against the higher tech gadgets like GPS (which can be prone to loss of reception in canyons or under cover). Coupled with a Topo map and you can triangulate with fairly high precision to keep yourself from getting lost.
  • Medical Kit
    You never know when you suffer a cut, a twisted ankle, a really annoying insect bite, a tick bite, or even things like a gash or bloody nose to name a few things. So that's why it's handy to keep one of these around to stop bleeding or tape up an ankle to control swelling or even apply alcohol to open wounds to prevent infection
  • Multitool
    If you ever watched Les Stroud's Survivorman then you know the value of these things whether it's a Swiss Army Knife or something even fancier. Some of these come with things like a bottle opener, pliers, scissors, even files or nail clips, etc. You'll never know when these features come in handy, especially if you find yourself in a survival situation.
  • Sunscreen
    If you can't cover yourself up with clothing and protect yourself from the sun the old fashioned way, you could also apply SPF 30+ to ensure protection from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun. Just be warned however that there are side effects from some of the more popular brands while the more organic ones tend to not lost as long. It's a tradeoff you'll have to weigh in the name of UV protection
  • Sunglasses
    Cataracts (an eye ailment) is something that creeps up on you when you get older. You can decrease your chances of this with a decent pair of sunglasses. Some even feature polarization to cut some of the glare and make your vision even more contrasted than with just your own bare eyes.
  • Hand Sanitizer
    These can come in handy when you have no clean water to wash your hands with (you especially have to watch out for bacteria in rivers and streams). They can help you clean off dirt, residue from Nature calls, residual insect repellant or sunscreen, or other things you probably wouldn't want to put in your mouth, nose, or eyes

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Nature can be a very unforgiving place, and this is especially the case if you're spending one or more nights out in the wilderness (we're not talking about car camping here). There are lots of things to consider regarding weight, comfort, equipment quality, etc. But we've compiled a list of the equipment we think you should bring with you for overnight backpacks to hopefully make it easier for you to prepare and/or get a better idea of what's involved.

  • Three-Season Backpacking Tent
    Since we generally don't go overnight backpacking in the Winter, we figured 3-season tents are sufficient for all intents and purposes. The key features I look for are ease of setup, weight, compact size, waterproofness or reliability, and even the ability to stand up to wind as well as size. For me, a 2-person tent is sufficient though it can be a little extravagant if you don't have a companion spending the night with you.
  • Hiking Boot
    Like in the Day hike section, you'll want these for grip, ankle support, gore-tex waterproofing, and sturdiness. This is especially important if you're carrying around 50+ pounds as the footwear will take an increased pounding. Sure backpacking boots tend to be on the heavy size, but this is a tradeoff as you definitely don't want this piece of equipment to fail when you're miles away from civilization
  • Internal Frame Backpack
    This is a vital piece of equipment to not only store all your backcountry essentials which can easily top 50-70 lbs, but you also want to select one that fits you well while also transferring all that weight off your shoulders and to your hips and legs (i.e. the strongest parts of your body). A bad fit (and/or bad packing technique) and you could find yourself with shoulder soreness, back pain, hip chafing, and a whole host of other things. When you're carrying these things for upwards of 4 or 5 hours or more at a time, this is something you can't take for granted. There are also cheaper and simpler external frame packs if that's your thing, but they tend not to be as effective at weight transfer though they are far more flexible in terms of usage.
  • Inflatable Sleeping Mat
    Sleeping mats are important to insulate your body from the cold ground when you sleep while also giving you some degree of comfort from the hard surface below. Inflatable ones have the advantage of packing light when deflated but giving you upwards of 1" or more (depending on the tradeoff between weight and comfort) for hopefully a better night's sleep. These do tend to require a little more time to set up as well as care and maintenance (i.e. you don't want one of these to be punctured) than a foam mat, but it's yet another piece of equipment to consider when it's just you and Nature
  • Sleeping Bag
    The key feature of this equipment is to minimize the risk of hypothermia by trapping your own body heat within its confines (especially against freezing temps in the elements). The best heat-trapping performance come from goose fill down sleeping bags but if they're wet, their performance is severely compromised. Meanwhile, synthetic bags work a bit better if it happens to be wet (though you'd do good to keep these as dry as possible) but they are bulkier and heavier than their down counterparts.
  • Cookset (Pots and Pans)
    In addition to helping you cook food, they can also work as plates and bowls. Well designed sets also pack so well that you could fit all your pots and lids in one set while still having room to fit in a camp stove plus some utensils
  • Stove
    You never know when you'll need to be boiling water or even making your backcountry experience a little more comfortable with some cooked food. Besides, you can't kid yourself into thinking that you could last more than 2 or 3 days on trail mix or other dried foods alone.
  • Water Filter
    This is a pretty vital piece of equipment if you're on a long term excursion either lasting the better part of a day or several days (where the weight of carrying too much water is too much of a burden). That's where these come in. If you find a pool, well, or stream, these can filter out most of the baddies that can make you sick with diarrhea or other gastrointestinal ailments
  • Trekking Poles
    While some people debate the merits of having these (see an article I wrote about this), I tend to think that they're useful to distribute the pounding your legs take while also improving your balance (4 legs are better than 2). This is especially true if you find yourself rock hopping across streams. Plus there are other intangible benefits, which I mentioned in the article.
  • Headlamp
    You'll want these for the same hands-free reasons as mentioned in the day hiking section, but it's pretty much a given since you'll be spending at least a night in the wilderness where it's usually pitch black. So it'll enable you to tend to essential tasks like watching where you're going, brushing your teeth, even reading, or doing other tasks you'd normally take for granted
  • Hat
    You'll want this for the same reason as in the dayhiking section. However, its importance is amplified when you consider that you'll be exposed to the sun (maybe at high altitudes or in the desert) for far longer than a typical day hike
  • Moisture Wicking Heavy Duty Wool Socks
    You'll want these for the same reason as you would for long day hikes - blister prevention. It also helps to carry extra pairs to prevent fungal build-up as well.
  • Silk Sleeping Bag Liner
    This falls under the optional category, but when you consider how non-trivial it is to even wash sleeping bags without compromising their performance, then it's probably worth having these as an extra layer of protection in addition to adding a degree or two of warmth on a cold night
  • Collapsable Utility Camping Bucket
    We use these primarily to facilitate water filtration (it's much harder for the intake of a water filter when it's trying to take in water from a moving stream) by using it to store water as well as serve as the intake source of the filter. It also saves you extra trips to a water source. These also collapse so they hardly take any space in your pack. Heck, I even heard of someone in a survival situation able to use this bucket to scoop up water from a deep well he stumbled upon in the desert.
  • Tent Footprint
    To protect the vital underside of a tent (sometimes called the "bathtub"), the footprint gives you an extra layer of protection from such things as rocks, sharp twigs, or other things. It can be considered optional since it does add more weight to your pack, but you trade that with the longevity of your tent
  • Water Bottle
    This is pretty self explanatory and is needed for the same reasons as highlighted in the day hiking section
  • Compass
    You'd also want this for the same reason as you would for a day hike, as explained above in this page
  • Medical Kit
    Likewise, you'd want this for the same reasons as you would in a day hike except its important is magnified when you consider that you'll be spending more time out in the bush where you're exposing yourself more to the risk of calamities in the backcountry
  • Waterproof Lighter
    If it rains or if your pack happened to get wet, you don't want a situation where you can't have a fire or can't ignite your stove (thereby preventing you from heating anything up). Waterproof lighters or matchsticks help mitigate this possibility.
  • Multitool
    You'd want this for the same reasons as explained in the day hiking section
  • Sunscreen You'd also want this for the same reasons as explained in the day hiking section, especially since you'll be more exposed to the sun than you would on a shorter day excursion
  • Sunglasses
    Likewise, you'd want this for the same reasons as highlighted in the day hiking section
  • Sports Sandals
    An underrated aspect of backpacking is having an alternate set of comfy sandals to give your feet room to breathe while unwinding after a long day of hiking with weight or just a long day outing. Plus, if you have a water crossing where you know your boots would be ruined, these sandals would certainly be of help
  • Trowel
    If you're an ethical backpacker then you'd adhere to the principles of leaving no trace. And this includes pooping in the wilderness where you'd bury your waste to protect your fellow backpackers from stepping into it. In addition, you never know when you'll need to be digging for something (especially in a survival situation)
  • Hand Sanitizer
    You'd want this for the same reasons as highlighted in the day hiking section
  • Trash Bags
    The key reason for this is to line the interior of your frame pack to give your gear another layer of waterproofing, especially if you're caught in a rain storm. You could also use it as a make-shift rain poncho if say your primary one fails. I'm sure there's other ways to apply the saying "one man's trash is another man's treasure..."
  • Water Purification Tablets
    Since weight is a major consideration, some people opt to go without a water filter. Instead, they use iodine or other forms of water purification, which tastes gross but will kill off pathogens in the water that'd make you sick otherwise. In addition, you never know if you're in a situation where even a water filter wouldn't protect you against bad water yet you had no other choice in a survival situation.
  • Toilet Paper
    This is overlooked, but could definitely come in handy if you had to poop in the wilderness. There aren't always natural leaves to use as wipes and you never know if some of them are poisonous anyways. However, in the interest of leave no trace ethics, you should pack used TPs in a ziplock bag to be carried out or buy the compostable biodegradable ones to be buried with the rest of your fecal matter
  • Bear Proof Container
    Bears (especially in California) are pretty smart. They've figured out how to get to high energy human food by breaking into cars to get at coolers, stealing backpacks, or even invading campsites. Since some most black bears can climb trees, hanging foods on them is also ineffective. Park and forest service rangers are even making it mandatory to carry these. While they do make your pack bulky, you may be able to be efficient about packing things with scents (not just food but deodorant, toothpaste, etc. are also to be packed in a cannister) by coordinating with your mates
  • Cooking Utensils
    This is pretty obvious if you plan on doing any cooking in the backcountry. Some of these are even foldable so they'd fit in your backcountry cookware.
  • Eating Utensils
    This is pretty obvious if you plan on eating any hot foods or finger foods or eat-with-your-hands foods. It usually doesn't hurt to carry a couple sets of these especially since they're lightweight

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Packed up and ready to go

Having traveled much of the world in search of waterfalls, we've learned a thing or two about how to deal with some of the logistics of what to pack and how to deal with some of the inconveniences of airports. You definitely don't want to be lugging too much stuff around as this could result in excess baggage fees, take too much space on a bus and/or train, or force you to spend more money than you anticipated in taxis.

So we've compiled a list of some of the travel gear we've used to help us get through some of the unpleasantries of travel.

  • Luggage
    We're picky about our luggage, especially given TSA restrictions. For a trip where you want a hassle-free no-checked-baggage experience for your flight, we use the type of luggage that can fit in the overhead compartment. But be forewarned that some international carriers will force you to even check these in anyways if they exceed some ridiculously low weight. Otherwise, if size is not a consideration, then you'd just want something sturdy since some baggage handlers get pretty rough with them
  • Luggage Lock
    We generally go with TSA locks so if an authority needs to check your luggage, they can use a key to get right at it. Otherwise, they're helpful at keeping hotel staff or other unwanted folks from digging through your belongings when you're not there
  • Lightweight Shoes/Sandals
    You'll want these to ensure your trip is comfortable not only at your destination, but also while on the plane
  • Quick Dry Underwear
    The weight and bulk of your luggage adds up if you bring an underwear for every day you're abroad (especially if it's something like a week or more). That's where these underwears can be useful as you can soap them up and wash them in a shower, then let them dry for a day (assuming there's sufficient ventilation) for reuse the following day
  • Money Belt
    Pickpockets are everywhere. That's why these belts (get the wire ones) can be concealed beneath your clothes so you are not only discreet but you're also less of a target. Of course you do also have to use discretion when you have to extract some cash
  • Sunscreen
    You want this for the same reason as you would for day hiking or backpacking
  • Sunglasses
    You'd also want this for the same reason as you would in a day hike or backpack
  • Hand Sanitizer
    Coming from someone who has had diarrhea and vomiting from food poisoning while abroad and you can see the value of keeping clean hands when eating or other hygenic needs.
  • Water Purification Tablets
    Water filters can be bulky when space and weight is at a premium when flying. So tablets like these can help you if you plan on doing any long distance hiking abroad or you simply don't trust the water you're about to drink
  • Toilet Paper
    This may sound obvious, but not all restrooms have toilet paper available (especially in developing countries). So it's worth having an emergency stash just in case
  • Electrical Travel Adapters & Converters
    Since not everyone uses the same electrical outlets and voltages, you'll either need a kit or an all-in-one type adapter so you can use electrical outlets regardless of which foreign country you're in. You do have to be wary of electrical devices without AC adapters as you could end up frying not only your equipment but also causing a fire without them

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Capturing precious (and fleeting) moments is just as important as staying comfortable in the field. But there's usually a price to pay in terms of added weight to bring such gear.

So in order to help you determine what you need to accommodate your camera, we've compiled a list of some of the camera gear we've used.

  • Digital SLR Camera
    Yes these cameras are big and bulky, but that's the price you pay for its speed, flexibility, and quality. Point-and-shoot cameras simply don't have the speed to capture such fleeting moments as a dolphin doing a backflip, a helicopter fly-by, or even low-light long exposures in some cases. Plus, you get to control how you want your photograph to be captured where as more point-and-shoots are more difficult to configure or customize
  • Tripod
    You'll want this to stabilize your camera for long exposure photographs or even if you want that super sharp photo that might be worthy of selling. Unfortunately, the sturdier the tripod, the bigger, bulkier, and heavier it is. This is something to consider when you're trying to travel light
  • Ball Head for Tripod
    For fancier, more flexible tripods, the ball head allows your camera to swivel in all sorts of angles for landscape, portrait, or even compensation for uneven terrain when utilizing a tripod in the field. Some having mating capabilities for simple snap on of the camera to the ball head assembly.
  • Camera Bag
    This may sound obvious, but your choice of this could mean the difference between your camera getting in the way or one that keeps your camera-related stuff nicely organized and compact. The ones I prefer can store batteries, memories, a long lens camera, plus a cloth and brush; all within a size of about 12"x10"x7" with straps that either allow for hip mounting or over-the-shoulder carrying
  • Circular Polarizer Filter
    This may be optional, but I find that having one of these really helps improve the contrast and color of your photo on a sunny day. However, there may be some subtle image quality compromises (depends on how well the filter is made thereby minimizing any distorting optical effects) to consider
  • Neutral Density Filter
    This may be another optional item, but it could prove useful if you want to darken the scene your capturing to facilitate long exposure photos - a concept many waterfall photographers are familiar with
  • Memory Card
    This is pretty obvious, but I mention this because you may want to carry a spare or two in case you don't have a portable hard drive handy or you're without electricity for a long period of time
  • Memory Card Holder
    If you have spare memories, a holder will help keep them organized and not scattering around where they're prone to getting lost
  • Backup Battery & Charger
    You never know when you run out of batteries so having spares is a wise thing to carry around. Not only that, but having a charger to recharge your batteries when the opportunity presents itself also becomes possible
  • Lens Cloth
    You never know when your camera lens is bombarded with water droplets, which can easily ruin your photo. That's why having a lens cloth handy is good to wipe away these droplets while also minimizing the chances of stains forming on your lens

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