17 Absolutely Essential Items for Camping, Squatting, or Living Long-Term in the Kalalau Valley
1. Spices – small plastic containers of potent powders and flavorful flakes like oregano, chili powder, garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, lemongrass don’t weigh much and do wonders for occasionally feeling civilized in the middle the wilderness. Ditto for hot sauces.
2. Vacuum-sealed burritos – not everyone wants to catch fish, cut vegetables, cook rice, or hand-roll sushi after a day of foraging or frolicking, so having a few favorite entrees ready for when forest fatigue settles in is valuable.
3. Dehydrated ground beef – “shelf-stable beef” might sound like a hungry camper’s impossible dream, but we made it work. Tip: wipe away excess oil during the dehydrating process and before vacuum sealing the meat because too much fat can lower the amount of time the meat can be stored or carried.
4. Dehydrated mushrooms – while lots of native and non-native fruits and vegetables (cherry tomatoes, oranges, watercress, bananas, and more) can be found in the Kalalau, dehydrated mushrooms are easy to carry and transform instant noodle soups.
5. Coleman fleece sleeping bag – whether sleeping on the beach or in a hammock between trees, a protective layer is a good idea. Avoid a body covered in sticky sand and the nightmare of a centipede falling from a tree with a Coleman warm weather sleeping bag. The bags are light and have zippers along the bottom for increased ventilation.
6. Portable music – while some evenings in the Kalalau inspire campers to make their own music, morning and afternoon chores can be made less taxing with the soundtrack of a favorite playlist. Bring a personal music player for yourself and/or a portable stereo system for your camp. Recommended: Bose SoundLink Bluetooth speaker.
7. Portable USB solar charger – keeps the above devices blinking green.
8. Tri-fold bamboo beach mat – the Big Save store in Hanalei a few miles from the trailhead carries a selection of beach mats, and the tri-fold mats are wider than the half-fold mats and perfect for sandy days at the beach.
9. Sarong – a sarong is traditionally worn around the waist, but a veteran valley camper also uses his or her sarong as protection from the sun, a light and quick drying beach towel, an evening blanket that protects against flies and mosquitos, and more.
10. Machete – we used a Bear Grylls parang nylon sheath by Gerber (advertised as “a modern version of the traditional jungle tribesmen’s machete”) and found it indispensable for clearing branches and vines from overgrown paths and harvesting bamboo.
11. Collapsible handsaw – heating water and cooking meals several times a day requires lots of wood, and for many valley dwellers using a camping stove isn’t a feasible long-term option because gas canister refills aren’t available. In lieu of a big handsaw or axe, a collapsible handsaw gets the job done.
12. A leather glove – for the blisters from the handsaw.
13. Heat resistant candies – who says life in the jungle should be devoid of all small pleasures? If or when the chocolate stash runs out or melts into a gooey mess, individually wrapped candies save the day. (We enjoyed Hi-Chews, a chewy Japanese candy.)
14. Pancake mix – toting Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix into a Hawaiian jungle might seem akin to bringing Betty Crocker cake mix into the Congo – strange and maybe unnecessary – but the ingredients list for pre-made pancake mix (flour, sugar, leavening, salt, calcium carbonate) makes it a good foundation for improvising sides and entrees.
15. Battery-operated Christmas lights – sometimes one decorative touch makes a temporary campsite feel like home.
16. Hennessy hammock – the jungle is a wet place, and when it rains those campers with hammocks that have roofs are a wee bit happier than anyone else.
17. Bulk water filtration system – the days of hand-pump water filters are gone. Why not fill an eight-liter sack, hang it from a tree, and let gravity do the rest of the work?
Photos taken by Derek Smith and Isaac Welch.