Each lookout is a little different, but in general, it’s best to realize that it’s more similar to camping than to staying in a hotel.
The site where you rented the lookout from should have some basic info on what the lookout includes. It’s also important to know whether you need to hike in or drive up and how close the nearest water is.
Drive-up lookouts are, of course, the easiest, and just like car camping, it’s convenient to bring everything you think you may need. Just remember heavy items like massive coolers are not a lot of fun to carry up all of those stairs.
If you have to hike in, it’s basically backpacking without a tent. It would be best if you are prepared to pack everything you’ll use during your stay into a hiking backpack for the trek up the trail.
While some lookouts do have camping mattresses, most are old and not very comfy, so I highly recommend you bring your own.
Here’s my list of things that I commonly bring:
- Sleeping pad / mattress
- Sleeping bag
- Headlamp + battery powered lantern
- Extra clothes – lookouts are not climate controlled they can get cold at night and hot during the day
- Toiletries – including TP for the outhouse
- Water and other drinks
- Camp cooking kit and utensils
- Bug repellant / Deet
- First aid kit
- Camera – don’t forget this, you’ll have great views and amazing memories you want to capture
There are almost always a few logbooks to read through and some pots and pans. A cool part of the lookout culture is that visitors commonly leave things they didn’t use and you never know what you will find at one.
We’ve found sports drinks, wine, cans of food, propane heaters, extra propane canisters, books, puzzles, magazines, bug spray, and many other random items left in lookouts. Just remember, while there are usually things to augment your stay already, you can’t count on anything but what you bring yourself.