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Camp Tricks

Hiking In An Area With Bears

September 14, 2017

Some of the best hiking trails in the U.S. are in areas populated by bears. Despite this, a chance of a bear attack isn’t too likely. In general, bears tend to avoid humans, and the likelihood of a bear attack is miniscule.

Beyond packing bear spray, there are a few other things you can do to reduce the chance of a bear encounter. Here are some useful tips for anyone who is planning on hiking in an area with bears.

©istockphoto/Umkehrer

Grizzly Bears
Grizzly bears are commonly found in Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, and Alaska. They are less common than black bears, but they’re also larger and more dangerous. A grizzly has a smaller snout than the black bear, and they can run very quickly. For this reason there’s no point in trying to outrun them, as they will be able to catch you quickly. Grizzlies can’t climb trees well, but they can reach up to grab things in trees—such as yourself!

©istockphoto/KeithBinns

Black Bears
Black bears are more common than grizzly bears, and they’re found in most parts of the US. They come in a variety of sizes and colours, including black, brown and cinnamon. The black bear is around 7 to 10 feet tall, and males can weigh between 125 and 550 pounds, whereas females tend to weigh between 90 and 300 pounds.

When are bears are most active?
Bears are generally shy animals that prefer to keep themselves to themselves, so they normally avoid humans if they hear them or smell them. However they do become more aggressive during mating and birthing season, and they will also be more aggressive if they’re injured or protecting their young. They are most active during the cooler hours of the early morning and evening, and during the daytime they tend to seek shade in the under bush.

©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

Tips For Hiking in Bear Country

  • Hike in a group instead of hiking alone, and try to make as much noise as possible as you go. You can whistle and sing as you walk, or you can carry bear bells to create a sound.
  • Stay in open areas as much as possible, as this minimizes the chance of you surprising a bear and scaring it.
  • Always be aware of your surroundings. Avoid the underbush during the day as it could be a bear’s bed, and look out for running water or lush vegetation as this could signal a bear’s home. If you’re in an area that you think could be a bear’s home, leave immediately.
  • Avoid going off-trail, as you’re more likely to encounter a bear in an area that’sn’t regularly used by humans.
  • Don’t wear strong perfumes, soaps or hair spray, as a bear will be able to smell it and they may think it’s a food scent.
  • Make sure that your cooking area is at least 100 feet away from your tent. Bears are attracted to the smell of food, even if it’s just a dirty pan, and this can increase the risk of an encounter in the night time. If you’re further away from the food the bear is less likely to notice your presence.
  • Make sure all of the food is properly packed up before you go to sleep to minimize odors.
  • Change your clothes before you go to sleep, especially if you cooked in the clothes or kept snacks in the pockets.
  • Consider all personal items as food (such as your deodorant and your toothpaste). Pack them away securely and keep them away from your sleeping area.
  • Be careful if you’re traveling in a windy area, as a bear may not smell you before you arrive so they’re more likely to be startled by your presence.
  • If you come across an area with berry patches or dead animals leave immediately, as you could be hiking through a bear’s food source.
Camp Tricks

How To Repair A Ripped Tent

September 11, 2017

©istockphoto/freemixer

One of the most frustrating things when overnight backpacking is a rip in the tent. Maybe you pitched your tent on a sharp rock, or a stray branch fell on your shelter and ripped a hole right through it. A rip can even be caused by strong winds if you’re camping in an exposed area.

But you don’t need to throw the tent away—and if you have the tools, you won’t even need to cut the trip short. Here is how to repair a ripped tent in the field.

Small Tears
Little tears are much more likely to occur than a big rip, but they can be just as difficult to repair. Normally little rips occur when the tent is dragged against a stone or a rock, and this small hole can let wind and water into the tent. It can also release your scent and that of your food, so likely attracting wild animals.

For a quick fix, duct tape works. It will stay for a short amount of time, but when you get home from the trip you should take the time to fix the hole with tent repair tape.

For a more permanent fix, you want tent repair tape. Start by pulling and holding the rip in the tent together, then apply tent repair tape to one side of the rip. Let go and apply tent repair tape to the other side of the rip. This will help to reduce the chance of the tear re-opening.

Once you have done this you should cover the inside and the outside of the rip with seam sealer. This will help to guarantee that the rip won’t re-appear the next time you put strain on the rip area.

Big Tears
A bigger tear will take longer to repair. It is possible that you will be able to temporarily fix the tear using tape so that you don’t have to cut your trip short, but if you don’t have the right tools you may need to head home to do a proper repair.

A proper repair starts with you trimming away any loose threads, as they could make the rip worse further down the line. You can simply use a pair of sharp scissors to get rid of any loose threads.

Then clean that area of the tent. If your tent is dirty it will be very difficult to repair since dirt will get in the way. Clean the tent using warm, soapy water and then use rubbing alcohol to clear the tear.

An optional third step involves steaming the area around the tear, as this will help to iron out any creases in the fabric. This may seem unnecessary, but creases in the tent can make it very hard to effectively sew the tear up.

Once the tent is clean and crease-free you can start to repair the tear. Hold both sides of the tear and pull them together, folding the top side slightly over the bottom side. When the fabric is in place (you may need a second set of hands to hold the material) you can tightly sew the tear together. Use waxed thread as this is durable and strong (sturdy floss can work, too), and once you have finished sewing apply seam sealer to reduce the chance of the hole ripping open again later.

If the hole is too big to be pulled together you may need to buy a new tent. Alternatively you can buy patches of tent fabric that you can use to cover the hole. Simply iron or sew the patch over the hole using waxed thread and then apply seam sealer.

©istockphoto/SolisImages

How To Avoid Tears In The Future
Tent tears are one of the most frustrating things about backpacking, but you can reduce the chance of them happening in the future if you follow these tips:

  • Don’t pitch your tent too rigidly; instead make sure that it’s able to flex a bit in the wind.
  • Check the campsite for rocks and sticks before pitching your tent.
  • Use shock cords and guy lines to stabilize your tent.
  • Don’t go to bed with sharp tools on your belt.
Camp Tricks

How to Address Kids’ Misbehavior on the Trail

August 2, 2017

©istockphoto/monkeybusinessimages

You’re just far enough into the hike to make the trek back impractical when your kids begin acting up. Whether they’re stepping off-trail in sensitive wildlife areas or planting themselves like trees, refusing another step, there’s a whole host of bad behaviors that can ruin your day. Here’s how to get your rowdy young explorers back on track.

Give Them the Opportunity to Succeed
Young ones act out for a reason. If you set them on a task beyond their physical or emotional capacity, you’ll have trouble on your hands. Be aware of their unique abilities before mapping out your route. Remember, they might tire easily or become fatigued without lots of snacks. Consider any sensitivities or fears that might make the journey prohibitive. It’s great to challenge them, but don’t ask more than they can possibly give. Try to avoid problems in the first place by planning a hike that is appropriate for your whole crew.

Give Everyone a Task
Boredom is a huge factor in misbehavior. When everybody on your tiny team has an important task, you all feel you’re pulling together for common good. Help older kids to stay focused by giving them more important tasks, like assistant navigator. Make sure everyone has some responsibility for their own trip, carrying their own water and snacks. You’ll foster independence and increase their investment in making the trip go smoothly.

Be Firm but Sensitive
There’s always a nice way to give directions. Wilderness can be overwhelming, so deliver all expectations in an authoritative yet calm manner. Present yourself as the leader of this little pack and you’ll earn their respect and trust. True leadership never requires empty threats or screaming. If you’re too exasperated for words, take a quick time out until everybody is on the same page. Drink some water, eat a snack, get back to it.

Apply Consequences that Can be Carried Out in the Moment
Sometimes the gentle approach isn’t enough. But if you tell them they’re going to lose privileges at some far off future point, you won’t have the same impact as if you can respond immediately to the behavior. A navigator who refuses to stay on-trail, for example, loses map holding privileges until she can demonstrate she’s ready to take the responsibility seriously. Major misbehavior at the beginning of the trek might result in heading back to camp and performing cleanup chores. Let consequences follow as naturally as possible from the misbehavior to help them make those connections and take control of their behavior.

Always Encourage First
Even if you do need to discipline your young hikers, always use positive messages. As soon as the behavior turns around, congratulate them and move forward. Nobody feels good when the focus of a trip is on poor choices. Give them the tools to make good decisions then give them a high five. Outdoor time is a growth experience for all of us. Your youngest members of the family are no exception.

Camp Tricks

5 Things to Put on Your Overnight Hike Checklist

July 21, 2017

©istockphoto/DieterMeyrl

For some obvious reasons, overnight campouts are very different animals than day hikes. You don’t need to turn around and retrace your steps after hours of hiking or worry about getting back to the car before dark; instead you can sit down and enjoy the stunning views for even longer. There’s nothing better than relaxing at the end of a long hike with a hot drink and some food, knowing that you can spend the evening relaxing in nature. You can lie beneath the clear night sky, and in the morning you can watch the sun rise as you enjoy your breakfast.

Now is the perfect time to go for your first overnight hike as the weather is warm and the sun is shining for longer. Here are 5 tips for an overnight hike.

Appropriate Shelter
Your shelter should be determined by your region. If you live in a wet, cold area you’ll need a proper backpacking tent with a waterproof floor. But if you live in a warm, dry area without too many insects, you can try a tarp between two trees and a bivy bag; or put the tarp underneath your sleeping bag and sleep out under the stars. Most people are happy to invest in a quality camping or backpacking tent as it provides the most shelter—especially important if the weather is unpredictable.

Enough Food
Going on an overnight hike you’ll need to pack plenty of food and water. Some people prefer to pre-cook meals, some utilize dehydrated backpacking food, while others are happy to eat packaged food, snacks and sandwiches. The most important thing is to pack high-calorie food that will give you energy to keep hiking, as well as lots of water to stay hydrated.

You should also remember to hang the food from a tree so that it doesn’t attract insects or wildlife. If you are hiking in an area with bears, you should use a bear-proof bag or a bear canister.

Proper Clothing
The clothing you pack will depend on the temperatures and weather. You must also consider trail time and sleeping when you are getting dressed for your overnight hike. The temperature will drop at night time so you should wear some long-sleeved, thin shirts as they will help to keep you warm. You may also want to pack a warm fleece jacket and some spare socks; most people struggle to sleep in the damp socks that they spent all day hiking in!

Sleeping Options
Consider your sleeping bag options carefully before making a purchase, as you need to find a sleeping bag that is lightweight, warm and well fitted to your body. For instance, lots of people choose to buy women’s sleeping bags as they are smaller so it they warm up quickly. You can choose between a synthetic sleeping bag or a down sleeping bag; synthetic is normally cheaper but heavier, while down is fairly expensive but it is easier to carry and packs down much smaller. You should also buy or borrow an insulated sleeping pad—for comfort and so that the coldness of the ground doesn’t keep you awake.

Heading Home
When it’s time to head home, clean up your campsite properly. Hikers are normally very respectful of the wilderness, but it can be more tempting to leave rubbish behind after an overnight hike, if only because you’ve got much more garbage. Keep your overnight campsite clean, and when you leave in the morning, leave no trace of your presence. Pack garbage bags you can use to dispose of your waste when you get home.

Camp Tricks

7 Hacks for Camping in the Rain

July 19, 2017

©istockphoto/Maridav

Nothing ruins a good hike like a sudden downpour. Rainstorms are always a risk when camping, especially in the spring and late summer, but that doesn’t mean your trip has to end when a little water falls from the sky. Here are some hacks to help you enjoy your camping or backpacking trip, rain or shine.

Pack Kindling
Rather than trudge through the rain and attempt to find a few twigs that haven’t been drenched, try packing your kindling before you leave. This way you’ll keep it dry in your pack and won’t have to struggle to make fire. If that doesn’t work for you, pack a bag of Doritos instead. They’re highly flammable.

Cuddle Your Clothes
The best way to keep your clothes dry and warm is to sleep with them. Slip them into your sleeping bag at night and cuddle up next to tomorrow’s shirts, socks and underwear to keep them out of the cold and toasty for the next morning. They’ll draw heat from your body and the bag will keep everything insulated so it won’t escape.

Sleep in a Hammock
Setting up a tent on a soggy patch of ground is never a fun task. It’s even worse in the morning when you have to clean up mud and dirt off the bottom before you can pack up. Avoid this by using a hammock while you camp instead. Attach it to a couple of sturdy branches and you’ll be safe and dry above the ground. Just remember to put up a tarp overhead first.

Bring Trash Bags
Trash bags are the ultimate camping resource. They can be used to keep your clothes dry or as a makeshift poncho in a pinch. Most importantly they’re great as impromptu pads to sleep on. Just pack a trash bag with surrounding moss, leaves and other soft plants (or even mud) and you’ve got yourself a cheap DIY sleeping pad that’ll keep your backside dry and comfy in the dreary weather.

Shellac Your Matches
If you’re the type to keep things old school when you camp and still try to light fires with matches you’ll want to keep them dry as possible. Or, you could just cover them with shellac or clear polish. It’s perfectly safe to coat your matches with the gooey resin and they’ll still light up when you strike them. Best of all, water basically rolls right off of it.

Camp in a Clearing
While it might seem smart to pitch your tent under a tree in order to mitigate the amount of rainfall on your roof, you’re actually more likely to get soaked this way. The buildup of rain in the leaves comes down more heavily beneath a tree so you’re better off setting up camp in a clearing. You’re going to get wet either way, so you might as well get a decent view out of it.

Bring a Sponge
If there’s one thing that holds true no matter where you camp in the rain, it’s that water is going to find its way in. Whether you spring a leak or just end up tracking some in on your clothes, rain has a nasty habit of sneaking inside the tent and dampening your gear. Rather than wiping it up and leaving damp towels lying around the campsite, which take forever to try, bring along a sponge. You can find a cheap one at the dollar store nearest you and they mop up water like nobody’s business. Once you’re done, give them a quick squeeze and they dry out within an hour.

Camp Tricks

How To Dress For A Hike In The Sun

July 5, 2017

©istockphoto/pixdeluxe

While hiking in the sun is fun (and a great chance to get a tan), it can also be quite dangerous. The sun can leave the ground baking hot and some trails have no shade, so you and your four legged friends can quickly end up overheating. This can turn an enjoyable hike into a stressful situation, but you can help avoid this situation if you wear the right clothes.

This list might be simpler than you were expecting, but it’s all about preventing the sun from even hitting your skin. Here’s how to dress for a hike in the sun.

Long Sleeves
Hiking can be a strenuous activity, so many people assume they should wear short sleeves in the summer so they don’t overheat. Sadly, arms that are exposed the sun are much more likely to burn, and they will probably feel just as warm due to the bare sun beating down on them.

This is why it is best to wear woven long sleeve shirts on a hike, just like the cowboys do in the Texas sun. Make sure that the top is loose fitting so that warm air can still easily escape your clothes. It is also advised to wear clothes in light colors, as light colors trap less heat and reflect heat more than dark colors. There are plenty of synthetic fabrics out there with built in SPF protection.

Long Pants
Shorts are another popular hiking option, but it is likely that they will leave you with sunburned calves and thighs, and a few itchy insect bites for good measure. Loose fitting, lightweight long pants are your best option for a summer hike, as they will protect you from insects, thorns, scrapes and the sun, while still providing you with some ventilation.

Some people swear by cotton as it is so light and comfortable, while other people prefer wool due to its natural temperature-regulating properties. And these days, synthetic blends are all the rage. Try on a few options in a store to see which material you prefer.

Hat
One of the most important things you need to wear for a hike in the sun is a hat. Your head is getting the most contact with the sun and your face and scalp are extremely sensitive. This could leave you feeling thirsty, achey and nauseous, so it is very important to wear a hat, especially if you have thin hair on top or fair skin in general.

Lots of hikers favor baseball caps, but these hats don’t cover your ears, your shoulders or the back of your neck. They are still better than no hat, but a better choice is a wide brimmed hat that will cover your whole head, neck and shoulders.

If you’ve decided to wear a baseball cap, add some extra protection by tying a bandana or wearing a Buff to cover your ears and the back of your neck.

Sunglasses
If you’re going out on a sunny day sunglasses are always a good idea, and that rule applies to hiking. You will be spending a lot of time in the sun on a hike, sometimes with nowhere to escape, and you will want full visibility even if you are walking toward the sun. A setting sun can be blinding without protection.

Sunglasses will do more than just make it easier for you to see: they will also protect your eyes from harmful sun rays. You can actually sunburn your eyes if you’re not careful. If you regularly hike in the sun, make sure to invest in a pair of sunglasses with 100-percent UV protection.

Spare Socks
Hiking in the sun your feet will soon be sweaty. This might not seem like much of a problem—after all, you are doing physical activity—but sweaty socks increase the chance of blisters. Make sure to pack a spare pair of socks so that you can swap them out if you notice they are sweated out and causing hot spots or blisters. Clean socks will also be less appealing to bugs.

Camp Tricks

How to Prepare Young Campers for Their First Trip

July 3, 2017


Knowing that spending time in nature has been proven to reduce stress and anxiety, it’s ironic that getting into those great outdoors can provoke a lot of fearful, anxious responses—especially in small kids.

If you’ve got an anxious little one who could use a dose of wilderness, here are a few pre-trip tips to get everybody in the best frame of mind.

Get Them Involved
Having your kid help plan some aspects of the trip gives them a sense of control, which can help ease anxiety they may have about such a new experience. Let them assist with meal planning, to ensure that they’ll still have things they enjoy eating on the campout, or let them choose some comfort items to pack. If they don’t have basic necessities, like a sleeping bag, take them with you to choose their own. Consider giving them a choice of campgrounds: would they feel more comfortable near water or in a forest?

Keep it Simple
An easy trip may be dull for you, but for anxious kids, it means less pressure and fewer unknowns. Camp close to home to avoid long travel times and plan to camp near your vehicle if possible—backpacking adds a layer of complexity that may be too intense for little ones. The further kids can wander without leaving sight of the tent, the more boldly they can explore and the more confidence they gain in a new environment, so try to choose sites that have interesting features—downed logs, water, and small boulders are all popular choices.

Do Your Homework
Anxiety thrives on the unknown, so hit the books to help your kids get familiar. If you’re going somewhere iconic, chances are good there are picture books and documentaries about it. Loads of popular kids’ characters have gone camping, from Little Critter to Amelia Bedelia and Fancy Nancy, so try to tailor your picks to their interests. Maps won’t go amiss either—if you’ve booked your site in advance, you’ll be able to show your kiddos exactly where you’ll park n’ pitch, and you can use it to tempt them with nearby trails and points of interest.

Do a Test Run
It’s a good idea anyway, especially if you’ve got new gear that wants testing, but pitch your tent in the yard or the living room first. Lay out your bags, stow your gear, and spend the night in there with them. Having a chance to practice sleeping in the tent in a safe environment will build positive associations, and it’ll give them a better idea of what to expect at the campsite.

Plan an escape route
This is worst-case scenario, but it never hurts to be prepared. Figure out in advance what kinds of conditions call for an immediate change of plans—a serious injury necessitating medical care isn’t out of the realm of possibility, even in well-traveled, furnished campgrounds, and unanticipated weather can rain on anyone’s parade—and then figure out how you’ll evacuate your crew. You don’t need to discuss this with your anxious kids, but being able to communicate that you’ve got a plan in the event of an emergency can help ease their fears.

Camp Tricks

Fire Safety Tips for Spring Camping

June 26, 2017

Spring is here, which means it’s time to head into the woods for some family outings by the campfire. It also means the ground cover is drying out and it’s warm enough for that fire to get out of control if you’re not careful. Here are some fire safety tips to help keep you and your loved ones safe this season.

Build a Pit
Keeping a fire contained is the most important part of building one at your site. You want enough room for the fire without wayward flames sparking a forest fire. Dig a fire pit to create a natural barrier that will contain your campfire. A hole in the ground away from the trees and brush will go a long way in keeping the fire from spreading. Surround the edges of the pit with stones if available.

Clear Debris
It’s important to clear your campsite of debris. Move sticks, leaves and fallen brush away from the flames, at least five feet but preferably more than eight, to make sure they don’t catch fire from blowing embers. Similarly, don’t build a fire underneath a hanging branch. Also remove any pressurized containers or flammable items you brought with you away from the campfire.

Buy a Fire Pit
If you’re not comfortable making your own fire pit, or just want to save yourself the hassle, consider buying a portable one instead. A solid propane fire pit is a great way to heat a campsite without creating a mess of smoke and embers that could set the place ablaze. Many of them come with a regulator to help control the heat and flames, making your job a cinch.

Keep Water on Hand
The leaves might be new but that doesn’t mean they can’t catch fire in an instant, so always keep water on hand to douse the flames. A couple of jugs or buckets of H20 should be reserved for the campfire. Just be sure not to pour anything like alcohol on the flames, unless you want the fire to burst out of control.

Extinguish it Before Bed
Absolutely do not leave the fire burning when you go to bed. This is the quickest way to start a forest fire because even the smallest of embers left burning can get blown into the woods, or dry leaves can get blown into the pit. If the fire reignites while you’re asleep in your tent the smoke and flames could overwhelm you before you realize what’s happening. Douse the flames in water and spread the ashes with a stick to make sure nothing is left burning. Remember that if you’re using coals they can stay warm for up to 24 hours.

Stack Your Wood Upwind
Prepare for unexpected gusts by stacking your spare wood upwind. Twigs and brush left lying near the fire can easily ignite when embers are blown into them, so avoid this by keeping combustibles out of the path. Always stack extra firewood upwind so the embers can’t catch it. Never build a campfire on a very windy day.

Avoid Flammable Liquid
Lighter fluids and gasoline should only be used on propane tanks and grills specifically designated for their use, not campfires. Adding liquids like these to the fire can cause it to quickly spiral out of control, putting you and wildlife in danger. Use kindling and crumpled paper instead. If you’re unable to build a fire the natural way, consider eschewing an open flame.

Camp Tricks

5 Things to Do to Make Him Want to Camp Again

June 20, 2017

©istockphoto/Pekic

I had given up on camping. I know that’s sacrilegious to some, but it’s true. After too many trips with the guys, sleeping on the ground, freezing my tail off, and eating crappy food, I was over it.

I had not camped in years until I met her. She knew what to do to get me back in the swing of things (yes I married her), and now I’ll share those tips with you.

Talk the Talk
You can challenge his manhood, infer he’s a mama’s boy, come right out and humiliate him in public, or you can do what she did and use all three. Okay, she didn’t do that, but she did give me that incredulous look usually reserved for when you hear “the dumbest thing ever” when I said I had no desire to camp. Then she just said, “Well, you’ve obviously never camped with me.” She was right, and I was intrigued.

Get the Gear, See the Light
Show him all the cool flashlights we now have with the advent of LEDs and let the gearhead in him do the rest. For some reason we men are fascinated by flashlights and like everything else, yes it’s a competition—and the brighter the better. The best flashlight I had in the past was one of those L-shaped olive-green ones from the army surplus store; yes, I am that old. Now, one look at the new lights such as the Heavy—Duty XL Tactical Flashlight from Stansport and he’ll be drooling for nighttime. These babies crank out 580 lumens when in the old days we didn’t even know what a lumen was. Add in the convenience of head lamps that were only for miners, and making dinner at night in the woods is a whole new experience.

Get the Gear, Get Some Sleep
The number one, the biggie, the top of my list item that got me back to sleeping in the woods, was an air mattress. Not just any air mattress but a queen size puppy with accompanying auto air pump. I’ve always said the only thing better than a good night’s sleep on a campout is an even better nap the next afternoon. Well maybe I didn’t always say that, but I sure do now. She really showed she loves me, understands me, and just plain gets it when she added this piece of gear.

The Spice of Life
You know what’s better than a hot dog for dinner? A ribeye steak, seasoned to perfection, cooked over an open fire and served with a baked potato garnished with green onions and bacon bits smothered with butter and sour cream. Now we’re camping. I used to show up with a pack of hotdogs, a case of beer, and me. Now we bring two coolers full of food and drinks and life is good. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. They would be right.

Let Him Play
I know it’s against your better judgement, but let him play with sharp objects. Give a man an axe and he’ll throw it, run with it, and keep it by his side all night. Men who have never even owned a knife will carry one all weekend when camping. The good part is he’ll chop all your wood—just keep the first aid kit handy because he’s probably never held an axe in his life. Yes it’s dangerous to throw an axe around, so of course we’re going to do it. Do not let him throw an axe at a living tree, or any living thing for that matter. Find an old stump or dead tree for him to throw his axe and knife at and he’ll stay out of your way all day.

It Pays Off
So there you have it: food, sleep, toys, and you; that’s really all he’s going to need. Just do it right and you’ll have not only a new camping companion but a pack mule, wood chopper, and bed warmer all in one.

Camp Tricks

6 Things to Do to Make Her Want to Camp Again

June 20, 2017

©istockphoto/valentinrussanov

Believe it or not there are some adults who have never gone camping. I found this out when I was single and constantly trying to get my girlfriends to camp. I didn’t have a lot of luck on return campouts and for a while there I thought it must be me. What I found out was, yeah, it probably was me, but if I had done a few things differently, well who knows?

Location, Location, Location
If she doesn’t fish, don’t opt for a reservoir in the middle of nowhere with high winds and no trees. You may want to teach her, but if you don’t catch anything, you’re just drowning worms in an ugly location. Find out what she wants to do. Does she hike? Then camp near some excellent trailheads. Does she want to go canoeing, kayaking, or waterskiing? Then head to that lake that may or may not have fish and wow her with scenery. If she’s nervous about being in the middle of nowhere, then go to a campground, preferably one in a National Park. Hopefully she’ll opt for the wilderness next time.

Bigger is Better
Not everyone cares to crawl into a pup tent at night. For a first timer, a bigger tent makes more sense than trying to cram into a tiny tent to sleep. Having enough room to stand in a tent is a luxury well worth the trouble and price of a bigger tent. Having a place to change clothes and relax is important to a lot of folks, so make it important to you. As a matter of fact, just changing clothes will help. Maybe that’s another reason I never got return camping dates. Anyway, if a tent says it sleeps 3, it should be big enough for 2 and their clothes at least, but you can always go a bit bigger. I once had friends bring a tent for 12 to sleep just the two of them. It was a bit ridiculous until it poured rain for about 20 hours the first day and we all had a great time hanging together in the circus tent.

It’s in the Bag
Bring good sleeping bags and make sure they zip up as well. These days you can easily get oversized bags that are way more comfortable than those old bags we used to squeeze into from the Army Surplus store. Stansport has a 2 person bag that you can cuddle in, or get two and you both can stretch out. The latter is probably a better idea, especially if you’re on day three of that underwear.

What’s Your Sleep Number?
Don’t ask her to sleep on the ground. Heck, don’t even ask me. The advent of the air mattress has opened a new world of camping to all of us so splurge and get a big one. Not only will you both get a good night’s sleep but when that afternoon nap comes calling, and we all know it will, she won’t complain. She might even join you.

Food for Thought
She may not take to hydrated food. As a matter of fact, I don’t take to it either, so don’t even go that route. Also, there’s more to campout cooking than burgers and hotdogs. Bring good food, but bring food that’s easy to prepare. Pre-made breakfast burritos are great in the morning and also mean no messy cleanup. If your guest is a coffee addict, make sure it’s easy to whip some up. A camp-stove, while not near as fun as a fire to cook on, is great for that first cup of Joe in the morning. It helps to have a stove handy, even if you don’t plan on using it, for that rainy day when a fire is impractical.

Company is Coming
Camping is not only way more fun in a group, it is safer as well. If it’s your first time in the wild, or even in a KOA campground, you both may be more comfortable with friends around. Not only is there safety in numbers, but the more people there, the better the chance someone else will gather and chop some wood. You may be a great conversationalist, we all think we are, but even the best might struggle when there are just two of you, especially if camping for multiple nights.

Camp Tricks

How Camping Can Give You A Better Night’s Rest

May 31, 2017
©istockphoto/Sproetniek

©istockphoto/Sproetniek

Our busy schedules make it difficult to maintain a healthy sleep cycle, but it turns out that camping can help you reset that internal clock. Researchers have found that spending a few days in the great outdoors can sync your body back up with its natural rhythm.

Kenneth Wright, an integrative physiology professor at the University of Colorado, conducted a study in 2013 to determine the effect nature plays in humans’ natural circadian clocks and our ability to maintain a healthy sleep-wake cycle. The findings were fascinating, with subjects proving that in just one week being out in nature on a consistent basis, humans could revert back to the way our bodies were designed based on the rising and setting of the sun.

More recently, Wright set out again to discover if just a weekend could also jumpstart this “reset.” It turns out it can.

What is a sleep cycle?
The circadian clock is the internal clock inside our bodies that signals to our brain when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up. The process if controlled mostly by melatonin, a hormone secreted by the pineal gland in the brain, which tells us when to be tired.

While we’re able to ingest melatonin orally through supplements and food, most of it comes from our exposure to natural light. For someone with a healthy sleep cycle melatonin levels typically rise in the evening before bedtime and lower in the morning when it’s time to get up and go to work.

However, because of our modern culture of staying up late and working odd hours, many people have melatonin levels that are off balance. Watching electronics like television and staring at a phone screen can also throw off a person’s sleep cycle.

How does camping fix our cycle?
Melatonin relies heavily upon proper exposure to natural light, and camping is one of the easiest and most effective ways to increase sun exposure. Camping forces you outdoors, away from those four walls that block out the light, helping us to reset our clocks.

Researchers found that just two days of pro-longed exposure to the outdoors can help stabilize our circadian rhythm by naturally regulating the level of melatonin being released into the brain. Away from all the accouterments of modern society, like television, smartphones and weekends at the bar, we’re more likely to fall asleep based upon the setting of the sun.

Our internal clock is capable of changing at a remarkable rate once we’re away from modern day distractions.

Why does it matter?
People with regular sleep cycles are likely to live longer, healthier and happier lives. Our internal clock plays a huge role in our ability to get through the day. It affects our tiredness and our mood, making the day a breeze or excruciating to get through without coffee or a nap. Someone on a natural sleep cycle is capable of getting through the night more restfully, without interruptions, and therefore more likely to feel less groggy over the course of the day.

How to make it work.
Simply heading outdoors for the weekend might not be enough to reset your body’s clock. That’s because modern campers have developed a habit of bringing along many of the toys from home that negatively affect our sleep cycle.

On your next camping trip leave the iPad at home and focus on being one with nature. Ban electronics whenever possible and try to let the sunlight dictate your plans. You might also want to avoid alcohol on your next camping trip, as drinking often leads people to staying up way past when our bodies tell us it’s time for bed.

Of course, when you return home from your camping excursion you might have to make some changes in order for the reset button to stick. Just as a weekend in the woods can quickly alter our internal clocks, so can a couple of nights spent up late in front of the computer checking e-mails.

Try to maintain the habit of cutting off electronics before bed, and when the sun goes down, start prepping yourself for sleep by avoiding food and TV. If you get into the practice of sleeping at a more natural time you might find yourself enjoying your life just a little more.

Camp Tricks

Planning Next Season’s First Camping Trip

May 26, 2017

Stansport Tent

There’s nothing like your first time…of camping season. Hopefully there will be plenty of camping trips this summer, but the first kicks off the season, so let’s make sure it leaves a good impression.

Planning Ahead
Hopefully you’re not too far from the forest, the mountains, the beach, or wherever you may camp and can do some scouting. As the weather warms up, and the trails dry out, you can always take a day and scope out other areas. Any excuse to get out in the wild is a good one but this one is not just goofing off, that’s what work is for; this is important. While some folks have their regular spots, others prefer to explore different areas every year. Some advance scouting can help you determine exactly where you’re going —very handy info if you have others you’re meeting.

Planning Ahead
If you stay in established campgrounds, whether in State Parks, on National Forest land or at a commercial site, you must often make reservations. One of the biggest sites to do this is www.ReserveAmerica.com, which covers thousands of sites all across the U.S. including state parks and more. For National Parks you can also use the site at www.recreation.gov . If you aren’t nearby to check it out yourself and don’t have a recommended site, you can always use GoogleEarth.com or any other satellite sites after you pick your campground and research further to pick just the right spot.

Supply Check
What do batteries, propane, matches and garlic salt all have in common? Chances are you are low on one or all of these. Now you may not use propane, or maybe even batteries or matches, but nobody goes camping without garlic salt do they? Now is a good time to check all your supplies. At Stansport.com you’ll find a free, printable checklist detailing everything you could possibly need.

Equipment Check
What shape was that tent in when you packed it up at the end of last season? Was it wet? Did the zippers all work? Chances are you may not remember so now is a good time to set that tent up in case there are problems. While you’re at it, unroll those sleeping bags. Not only are you checking for rips, tears or faulty zippers, but you can never air those things out enough.

Dress for Success
I don’t know about your camping trips, but on mine, no one looks like they just stepped out of an L.L Bean catalog. Camp clothes get trashed and filthy and sometimes I don’t think of that far enough in advance. My camp style leans more towards thrift store chic so a quick trip to Goodwill or the Salvation Army will do just fine, especially for the outer layer like jackets or sweatshirts that get dirty the most. If you don’t plan for this, you may end up having to take your nice stuff and end up with a funky smoke smelling, charcoal-covered, ripped up, muddy $400 REI jacket.

Hang With the Right Crowd
We all have busy schedules these days, making it hard to get groups together. That’s why picking a spot and a date early, along with considering a reservation in a park or a campground, is so important. Not many people will go camping at the drop of hat, as I’ve discovered when I’ve tried to get big groups together. Either that or it’s all the garlic salt I use.