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January 30, 2009

The Beginners Guide to Setting Up a Campsite

Filed under: Camping — Tags: , , — writer @ 8:34 am

Tent Camping
Photo by: K Rayker (Stock Exchange)

Once upon a time the most important advice a camper could adhere to was don’t pitch your tent facing into the wind, and dig a trench to avoid flooding. While it is still a good idea not to pitch your tent into the wind, digging holes or trenches could get you thrown out of some campgrounds today. So what can you do to ensure a safe and comfortable campsite?

Choosing a Spot to Set Up Your Tent

1.  Make sure you arrive at the site before dark. You want to be able to check the area before you set up your tent.
2.  Look for a flat area that is not at the bottom of a slope. What’s wrong with a slope? If it rains the water may run down the slope and flood your tent.
3.  Avoid setting up to close to a stream or river, or even a lake if there is a chance of flash flooding.
4.  Look for animal tracks. A large number of wild animal tracks in one area probably mean the animals use it frequently as a pathway. You don’t want any critters traipsing through your tent in the middle of the night.
5.  Look for broken glass and trash as well as rocks and sharp branches. Unfortunately not all campers clean up after themselves.
6.  Check for anthills and wasps nests.
7.  Try to find a spot that is in the shade, but not directly under a tree.

January 23, 2009

Finding the Right Tent for You

Filed under: Camping — Tags: , — writer @ 4:11 pm

Camping tents come in all shapes and sizes. From compact one-man domes to large, sprawling multi-family units, tents are made to suit any camper’s needs. Determining what style of tent is right for you can be a challenge, but it is not impossible.

The first step in evaluating your tent choices is to look around you. Knowing your surroundings and the weather you will be camping in is vital to assuring you are well-protected as you sleep under the stars. Smaller, more compact tents made of dense fabric work best for cold or windy areas. The less open area you have exposed in your tent, the less body heat will be cooled by the chilly air. The weather can change drastically from day to night in many camping spots, so a safe bet is always to plan for an overnight temperature around 32 degrees during a summer camping trip. Pack an extra blanket or sleeping bag if necessary to be sure that you stay warm even during the coldest nights.

The number of campers you have in your party is also essential when evaluating your tent choices. Most tent companies build tents according to the number of people that will be sleeping in them, so an accurate body count is necessary. If you are camping alone, a one or two man dome tent will be more than adequate. If a larger group is going, plan on a tent just big enough to sleep all of you. Many tent companies make tents with separated sleeping units, so even people who are not exactly comfortable sleeping in the same room can enjoy camping together.

The final important consideration when selecting your tent is it’s size and weight. Camping in a designated campground area makes larger tents much more manageable, but if you are camping off the beaten path a smaller, more compact unit is important. Many manufacturers are producing lightweight portable tents made of light fabrics and sturdy, lightweight support beams to ease stress and strain for those who carry tents long distances. If your trip requires a hike and a larger tent, employ two people to help pack the load. One can carry the tent fabric and one can carry the poles and stakes to help distribute the heavy load.

Camping can be one of the most enjoyable ways to spend a spare day or two. Proper planning is vital to ensuring you have a safe and pleasant trip, so look over your tent options carefully and choose the right style of tent to avoid any unnecessary stress or backaches while out on the trail.

January 15, 2009

Important Cold Weather Camping Tips

Filed under: Camping — admin @ 10:09 am

Many people assume that when warm weather ends, so does the opportunity to spend time outdoors. This is a common misconception. As long as you think ahead and prepare well, you can camp and enjoy the great outdoors year-round. Camping in the cold and snow does require a bit more preparation, but it can be just as enjoyable as sleeping out in July.

Photo by angela7dreams on Flickr

Photo by angela7dreams (Flickr)

The most important consideration when camping in the winter is staying warm overnight. While temperatures in can be in the 40s and 50s during a nice winter day, nights can dip well below freezing. A well-insulated sleeping bag and thermal undergarments can help ward off the chill, as can a draft-free tent. Some people prefer to camp with a small generator to power a heater in the winter. If you go this route, make sure you place your heater a safe distance from any flammable materials.

Deciding what to eat during a cold camp trip can pose a bit of a quandary for the novice camper. Warm, filling meals are vital to maintaining energy levels, so the basic sandwich may not be adequate. Soups and stews make the best choices, as do chili. A pound of ground beef, a can of your favorite beans, some canned tomatoes and a few spices make a hearty meal in minutes. Just make sure you keep fresh fruits and veggies in an insulated cooler to prevent freezing.

Check local regulations carefully before doing any out of season camping. Certain states prohibit camping during the winter due to storm and avalanche dangers, so it’s vital that you know you can be safe before heading out. Make sure you stick only to approved trails and paths to reduce your chances of becoming stranded during a storm, and keep flares on you in case you do get lost in a squall.

Photo by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)

Photo by Steve Jurvetson (Flickr)

Camping in cold weather offers an entirely new experience, even for the most seasoned camper. The beauty of the wilderness is winter can be fascinating, and enjoying it can be simple and very pleasurable with just a few simple precautions.

January 14, 2009

Create a First Aid Kit for Camping

Filed under: Camping Safety — Tags: , , , — writer @ 5:24 pm
Photo by marvinxsteadfast

Photo by marvinxsteadfast

Most camping trips include some kind of minor injury. This may be a scratch, burn, sting, or some form of bump or bruise. Occasionally the injury is more severe like a sprain or broken bone. Most campgrounds may have some type of first aid station, but it is not always necessary, or practical to make the trek if the injury is small. Anyone can treat minor injuries with some basic supplies. Make up a camping first aid kit for your next camping trip and be prepared. This is what you will need:

  1. Adhesive tape can be used to hold gauze in place. It can be used to hold cuts together until stitches can be put in, and it can be used with other materials to form splints for possible broken bones.

  2. Band-Aids can be used to cover cuts, scrapes, puncture wounds and blisters. A box of assorted sizes should be purchased.

  3. Gauze rolls may be used to control bleeding and cover wounds.

  4. Gauze pads may be used to clean wounds, control bleeding and cover wounds. The most common size to include is 4” X 4”. Be sure to purchase individually rapped gauze pads to keep them clean and sterile.

  5. Elastic bandages can be used to wrap suspected sprains to keep swelling down. They may also be used to make splints.

  6. Bandage scissors or shears can be used to cut the injured persons cloths, or bandages, tape or gauze.
  7. Triangular bandages can be used for slings and tourniquets.

  8. Tweezers can be used to remove a variety of foreign bodies like ticks, splinters, stingers and dirt and gravel from wounds.

  9. Hydrogen peroxide can be used to clean wounds and for a mouth wash as long as it is not swallowed.

  10. Calamine lotion can be used for sunburns, insect bites, and poison ivy.

  11. Ipecac syrup is used to induce vomiting. This is especially necessary when camping with small children.

  12. Rubbing alcohol can be used to sterilize tweezers and needles and to clean minor wounds.

  13. Pain relievers such as Advil, Tylenol or equivalent generic brands. Make sure to include products suitable for children and adults.

  14. Topical ointments such as Bacitracin or Neosporin to prevent infection of scrapes and scrapes.
  15. Benadryl for allergies and bee stings-capsules for adults, liquid for children. Be sure to check expiration dates on this and all other medications.

There are other items you may include such as a basic first aid manual, waterproof matches, safety pins, antacids, nail clippers, hot and cold packs and even a cell phone to call 911. Prescription medication can be kept for those that need it and snake bite kits and or Epi-Pens should be included if necessary. All of the items should be stored in a waterproof container. A plastic toolbox or tackle box is ideal.

Remember to change Band-Aids or bandages and check for infection, which can occur quickly in damp most environments. 

If the injury is more severe like a broken bone, a bad burn, or a deep cut that may require stitches head for the first aid station or nearest medical treatment after administering necessary first aid such as immobilizing the arm or leg, or cleaning and covering any open wounds after any bleeding has been stopped.Any bites from wild animals also require prompt medical attention to evaluate the risk of exposure to rabies.

January 7, 2009

Camping With Kids – Breakfast; Or Please Do Feed the Animals

Filed under: Camping — Tags: , , — writer @ 12:58 pm

Something about camping makes me hungry. All the fresh air and exercise means I wake up ravenous, and so do the kids. Small children are not patient. When they want food they want it now! If you are, or ever have been the parent of a young child you know that the sweet little cherub requesting breakfast one moment can turn into a screaming demon in a matter of seconds if their little tummies aren’t filled quickly. There is nothing more embarrassing than having the peacefulness of an early morning campsite shattered by the howling of a small being bent on convincing everyone in a 20 mile radius that his or her loving parents are starving him or her to death.

Make sure your kid is a happy camper! Photo by Jason Pratt

Make sure your kid is a happy camper! Photo by Jason Pratt

So how do you prevent the outbreak of World War III while the campfire is being lit and a nutritious breakfast is being prepared? Plan ahead. While everyone knows that the idyllic camping trip means cooking over a roaring fire it just is not always practical. First of all, if you try to cook over a roaring fire, everything is going to either burn or melt. This means that you have to build the fire and wait for it to die down. This takes time. Either you, the loving parent, will have to get up ahead of the kids (like that always happens), or you will have to lower your expectations until the kids are older and hopefully more patient. (LOL.)

There is a miraculous invention available to campers called a camp stove. Most camp stoves are lightweight and some are even foldable. They come in a range of prices and sizes. Some have one burner, and some have two. At this point, some of you diehard campers are cringing at the vary thought of propane cooking. Well, guess what? You don’t have to use the stove to cook your meals. You can wait for the fire. Use the camp stove to heat water for cocoa, or even oatmeal to stave off your little one’s starvation. Most camp stoves can heat water to boiling in around 5 minutes and obviously you won’t want the water THAT hot for junior’s chocolate fix. Instant oatmeal comes in a variety of flavors to soothe the savage beast until the real food is ready.

If for some reason you do not feel comfortable cooking on a camp stove for whatever reason, there are foods that you can prepare ahead of time.

Kids love frozen grapes. Just wash and separate several bunches of grapes before you leave home, and spread them on a cookie sheet. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer for a few hours until frozen then put them in a Ziploc bag. Keep the bag in the freezer until it is time to transfer to the ice chest. Other fruit such as apples, oranges and bananas don’t need to be frozen, just doled out.

Speaking of Ziploc bags, pour individual servings of a kid’s favorite cereal into a sandwich, or snack size bag. Believe it or not, it is okay for a child to eat cereal without milk. If you are afraid your child will become calcium deficient in the few days that you are camping, feed the kid some cheese! No really; milk will keep perfectly well in an ice chest for several days as long as the ice is replaced as needed. The point is, it is convenient to hand the child some cereal to munch on until the eggs are done. True, there are individual, snack-sized boxes of cereal available, but have you seen the cost of those things?

One final food item to prepare ahead of time is trail mix. Trail mix can be made of whatever you want it to be made from. Ingredients such as the ever popular cereal, nuts, pretzels, dried fruit or raisins and even a few chocolate chips or M&Ms. I’m going to go out on a limb here and suggest that you don’t usually give your child candy for breakfast. The novelty of this action just might make the camping trip more memorable for the kid, and give you the time to prepare a healthy breakfast.

January 5, 2009

Tread Lightly

Filed under: Camping — writer @ 4:16 pm

Camping can seem like an arduous task. The amount of gear alone can make even the most seasoned outdoor adventurer cringe. However, camping can still be a very relaxing and rewarding experience even with a minimal amount of supplies. Packing lightly not only helps reduce the stress and strain on your back, it also helps to reduce the strain on the natural environment when you pack out.

Backpacking Photo by Rob Lee

Backpacking Photo by Rob Lee

Packing for a day or two in the woods does not need to be a massive undertaking. The essentials, including sleeping bag, food and water, can easily be carried in a small, lightweight pack to allow for maximum comfort and maneuverability. Many outfitters make ultra lightweight, portable gear for camping in even the coldest conditions with super insulated sleeping bags weighing less than two pounds.

Eating on the trail can often be a difficult task. Cans are bulky and produce a lot of waste, and boxes are easily crushed while packed in with other gear. Many campers have got their food situation under control with the help if military-style meals such as MREs. MREs, also known as meals ready to eat, are complete meals in one compact package. They can be warmed in their own packaging and are nutritious and well-balanced, and produce very little waste to haul out. Freeze-dried foods are also very tasty and take up little space, making them popular for conscious campers.

If you camp with a canine companion, your pooch can help you carry supplies. Doggy backpacks are a popular product for outdoor sportsman and dog enthusiasts alike, and let your furry friend carry his own gear down the trails. Dogs of any breed can wear packs, although the amount they can carry varies depending on size. Be sure to put in a set of convenient collapsible bowls and a few biodegradable waste bags and you and your pooch are ready for the road.

Your camp trip should be spent enjoying the glory and beauty of nature, not worrying about how to haul your supplies around. With just a few small convenience items and a little bit of forethought, you can tread lightly through the wilderness and leave it as quiet and undisturbed as you found it.

January 2, 2009

Bugs and Camping

Filed under: Camping,Nature — Tags: , , — writer @ 10:17 am

As much as my family loves camping, there is something about camping that we don’t like and that’s finding bugs in our tent! I’m not scared of most bugs, but I certainly don’t want them as roommates, especially spiders. My family has learned some tricks over the years that help keep the bugs where they belong—outside of our tents.

Spider Photo by Wendy Pastorius

When we arrive at a campsite we choose the best spot for our tents. We look for areas that are less likely to attract flying and crawling bugs. We never pitch our tents directly beneath the long hanging branches of trees. We don’t pitch our tents near standing water or under light poles, either. All three of those places are prone to be bug magnets.

There are a couple of tent rules that I enforce when camping:

  1. No one is allowed to eat or drink inside their tents.
  2. Don’t turn on your flashlights inside your tent unless the door is zipped closed. (Because bugs are attracted to light, we try to keep our camping lanterns a good distance from our tent doors, too.)

I’m a clean camper. I know that the less attractive my campsite is to bugs, the fewer bugs I’ll have to deal with. This means I keep garbage at our campsite to a minimum. We either dump it right away at a dump station, or we burn what we can. We also never leave leftover food on the table. I try to cook only what we’ll eat at a meal. But, if I do have leftovers, I store it away in air tight containers.

Another bug deterrent is a campfire. While it impossible to keep a campfire burning 24/7 because we often leave the site to go exploring, we generally have one when we are at our campsite—no matter the season. (If you opt for a campfire, be sure it’s attended by an adult while it’s burning and make sure it’s completely out before you leave your site.)

The truth is there’s no way to completely avoid bugs when you’re camping. While the occasional Daddy Longlegs may still find its way into our tents for a sleepover, the majority of the time our tents are bug free.

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