Common Camping Mistakes Beginners make

Everybody started as new campers and everyone, even seasoned campers, made mistakes from time to time. Below is a list of the common mistakes new campers should remember and try to avoid to prevent unpleasant experiences.

 

1) Not researching the destination

Selecting the right campsite and read up on the conditions, weather, facilities available, including water and toilet, permits,..etc will determine whether your trip will be successful or not. Popular parks are usually booked well in advance, so if you do not book, you will be disappointed on arrival. The worst thing is that the nearest alternative campsite could be hours of drive away and it is getting late in the evening. Hence, always call in advance to find out the costs and availability.

 

2) Not trying out the tent and equipment

New campers usually wait till they reach the campsite before trying to set up their new tent. It will be a big embarrassment if you fumble for hours trying to put it up or reading instructions at the camp ground on how the thing works.Practice makes perfect, so always set the tent up first in the comfort of your home before the trip. This includes used tents just to make sure all the parts are still in working condition. Try out the new light, lantern and stove to ensure they operate properly. Check all batteries and bulbs and bring extra sets just in case. It is also a good idea to try the sleeping bag one night at home to find out how well you fit in.

 

3) Arriving late at the campsite

Arriving late at the campsite is a bad idea as it may be crowded or not having the opportunity to pick a better spot. You also need sufficient time to get familiar with the campground layout, rules and amenities. Besides, setting up tent and preparing meals are a lot easier during day time than struggling at night using flashlight. Tip: Make sure to reach the campsite early and have a backup plan if the site of your choice if full.

 

4) Not buying a tent that is big enough

Beginners frequently find themselves short of space inside the tent. Unless you are backpacking, it is always a good idea to opt for a bigger tent size. For instance, for couple campers, it is recommended to go for a 3 to 4 person rated tent, for a family of four a six person tent, etc. In your subsequent camping trips, you will appreciate the benefits of the extra space.

 

5) Not buying quality equipment

New campers tend to choose cheaper equipment on their first buy and upgrade later. This is usually the wrong decision as upgrading is costlier later. In addition, camping in the back country or wilderness require good and quality stuff that can be relied upon.

 

6) Throwing Garbage

Throwing garbage is a very bad habit, not only spoils the environment but also attracts nocturnal animals or insects to your site.Hence, always carry large garbage bags to lock up all the garbage and put it out of reach. Remember to bring out all the garbage bags in the car with you and dispose off properly in a bin outside the camping park.

Essential To-do list for a safe and pleasant camping trip

To avoid disappointment and frustration while out in the back country, some serious planning is a prerequisite. The following to do list is a great help to ensure a safe and enjoyable camping and hiking outings.

1.  It is a good idea to pack enough food and water for the length of the trips plus an extra few days depending on how far and remote you are heading to. The easiest way to accomplish this is to list down every meals of the day. Once this list is finalized, make a food shopping list adding a minimum of one to two extra days of food per person.

2.  Food is vital if you are lost in the wood. Hence, remember to carry extra food and water in your day hiking trips.Always bring energy bars or high nutrient food such as the Granola bars, etc that does not need to cook plus other easy to pack meals. In addition, always bring a water filter such as a life straw and some water purification tablets. These can come in handy and really lighten the amount of water you need to carry in the backpack if there is known water point along the route you are taking. The idea here is to carry the minimum load but knowing that you can get more if you ever need it.

3.  Try to stay warm and dry at all time. It pays to opt for all clothes made of quick dry materials to keep your body and feet dry. Avoid cotton clothing unless you are hiking unless you are hiking on a particularly hot day. Do not forget the rain gear as it can easily squeeze into your any backpack.

4.  It is very important to protect yourself against bites from bugs, insects or snakes, bee stings as well as heat stroke from the sun. Always pack sun block and a hat to prevent severe sunburn. Also bring insect, mosquito repellent and bite ointments as they are small items that can be easily slipped into your backpack. Last but not the least, experts usually recommend that you must have appropriate medication that include anti-histamine, pain killer, anti-biotic, etc if you are allergic to insect, bee or other bites. A compact first aid kit is mandatory in every camper’s backpack.

5.  A bright high quality headlamp is a must at most campsite, whether you are cooking dinner, walk from the tent to the washroom or going for a night hike. Batteries drain fast, so be reminded to pack at least two extra set in the backpack just in case. Most accidents happened due to insufficient lighting. For flexibility, choose a headlamp that has red light option as it provide some nice dim light while not disturbing others from sleeping or stargazing. Everyone should have a headlamp plus a powerful LED torch.

6. If you get lost in the forest, how do you increase the chances of being found by the search and rescue party? Experts advise you to stay where you are instead of wandering further and further away from the track. Two small items can also increase your chance of survival. One is the super loud whistle where you could be heard miles away and the other is the headlamp with s strobe light, where rescuers can pinpoint your location the light shone in the sky. Always get ready a pair of the emergency whistle, one for the backpack and one for the camp.

7.  Now that you have taken note of all the above to do list, the last thing is to sit back, relax and enjoy more in your next camping vacation with a peace of mind.

How to Survive Hypothermia in the wilderness?

Understanding hypothermia and treatment is important to all outdoor enthusiasts, not just in cold climate condition because hypothermia can happen in any temperature environment and even indoors. It can hit anyone at any time. Even though hypothermia is a potentially deadly injury, it can easily be avoided if you understand and aware of the symptoms and the immediate treatment.

Hypothermia is the lowering of the body’s temperature, medically defined as below 95 degree Fahrenheit. Intense, uncontrollable shivering and fumbling hands are usual early symptoms, it is the body’s attempt to generate heat. If the core temperature is not brought up immediately, death frequently occurs. If you shivers before then you have felt the early stages of hypothermia while fishing, hiking or camping. Other symptoms include slow response, clumsiness, poor coordination, removing of clothing in cold or wet weather, headache, blurred vision, shallow breathing and a low pulse rate..etc

Body heat can be lowered rapidly by many causes such as fatigue, poor diet, wet or damp clothing, cold and exposure to wind. If the early symptoms are felt or noticed, treat for hypothermia immediately. The initial treatment is as simple as warming the person up by adding an extra jacket, a hot drink or start a campfire. Advance treatment includes the following:

– Get out of the wind, rain or snow to prevent further heat loss. Build a shelter and a fire.
– If wet, change into dry clothing and place the victim in a dry sleeping bag or emergency blanket.
– Keep the victim warm and dry, use two sleeping bags if necessary.
– Give the patient a warm drink every fifteen minutes to rewarm the body internally.
– Do not provide food to the victim as the stomach is incapable of processing and digesting food at this stage.
– Get the victim to urinate so the body can use the heat to keep the major internal organs warm again instead of the urine.
– It is very important to avoid tobacco, coffee and alcohol during treatment because these dehydrate and increase heat loss.

Ways to avoid hypothermia

– Limit the exposure to weather. If it turns from bad to worse, seel shelter by pitching a tent or a tarp. Do not continue to hike.
– Take many hot drink during hiking
– Dress for the anticipated weather and prepared for it to get worse. Dress in layers in order to obtain heat from the trapped air pockets.
– Increase the food intake, especially carbohydrates, fats and proteins.
– Always carry high energy bars and chocolate candy in your hiking backpack
– Take regular breaks during hiking to avoid exhaustion.
– Avoid shivering at all time. If shiver, quickly add an extra layer of clothing, make yourself some hot drinks, seek shelter and build a campfire.
– Keep in mind that stress, anxiety or injuries could increase the chance for hypothermia.

By knowing the symptoms, understand proper treatment and ways to avoid it, this type of injury can be prevented in majority of cases.

What is Fastpacking?

In recent years, a new form of backpacking has gain increasing popularity for those seeking new challenging adventures. It is known as fastpacking, a cross between backpacking and mountain running. Fastpacking can simply be described as fast, long distance mountain trekking / running, over multiple days carrying the lightest pack possible.

Modern gears are now made stronger and with ultralight materials. A multiple night backpack can now be weighted at ten pounds or less which enables backpacker to run with ease and comfort.

The objective of fastpacking is to cover a much longer distance in as short a time as possible, carrying only the bare essentials. It is quite common for fastpackers to run 20 to 40 miles over rough terrain in a day. This is an endurance sport, only fit for the fittest of all hikers.

Fastpackers trade the comfort of luxury camping items for being able to run faster, longer and over rugged terrain in less time. In other words, there is no ground sheet, sleeping bag, stove to cook hot meals as these bulky items will weigh you down. Fastpackers normally settle for items like tarp tent, energy bars, or freeze dried ready meals.

Remember, the rule is to carry the lightest pack possible. For a start, aim for 10 pounds or less; many consider 20 pounds to the limit.

Tip: Before your first trip, choose a two days route with many water points which you have confidence to cover. Try to convince a buddy to tag along or inform one of your emergency contact. If you bring a tarp shelter, make sure you test the setup first before leaving for the trip.

A brief guide to what to pack:

Pack – Your pack should be lightweight, small in size and comfortable while running. It should not hold more than 20 pounds.

Clothes – To be light, you do not need separate clothing for sleep. Wear lightweight hiking pant which can be unzip to turn into a short.

Shoe – Some fastpacker prefer trail running shoe, others go for even lighter running shoes.A vapor proof sock may be helpful.

Sleep – Sleeping well is important in all outdoor adventures, more so for fastpacking. A good option is to choose a self inflating ultra lightweight mattress, some models only weigh 14 oz and pack down to the size of a small bottle. To save weight, get a three quarter length pad and use the empty pack for your feet.

Rain – Some rain gear can be used as an overnight shelter. Carbon trekking poles which are superlight and collapsible for easy stowage, can be used to make a canopy.

Food & water – Fastpackers usually do not carry stove and instead depends on dried fruit, candy, energy bars, power bars, gel packs or ready meals that do not need to be cooked. Bring water purification tablets to cut down weight.

Essential items to carry – Map, compass, first aid kit, pocket knife, headlamp, extra battery set, insect repellent, biodegradable toilet paper. Always bring emergency whistle and a reflecting mirror. A duck tape and paracord are also useful items.

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace

The principles of leave no trace remind us to respect the rights of other users of the natural environment as well as to preserve for future generations. It is an awareness and an attitude instead of a set of rules and regulations. All of us should share and practice Leave No Trace to minimize the impact of your visits to the natural heritage areas such as the forest, mountains, rivers, seashore and all other outdoors. Simply put, when you visit the wilderness, leave everything just as you found it.

 

1. Plan Ahead and Prepare

“Good Planning is living the experience in advance” Sir Edmund Hillary.

– Comply with the area regulation such as the limit on group size and schedule your trek to avoid times of high use.
– Obtained information and prepare for extreme weather and unexpected emergemcies.
– Build appropriate campfire, minimize trash and repackaging food to prevent waste.
– Avoid marking rocks and trees with paint, use GPS instead.
– Be prepared to turn back if you sense danger in your trek to avoid abandoning the leave no trace techniques.

 

2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

– Hikers and campers should focus on using the established and existing trails and campsites. The objective is to minimize disturbances to soil and vegetation.
– Keep campsite small by pitching tents closer to each other.
– Trek in the middle of the trail even when muddy or wet.
– Avoid areas where impact are just starting to show.

 

3. Dispose of Waste Properly

– Always make is a habit to “Pack it in, pack it out” Before you leave, make sure to pack out all the rubbish, litter and stray food in proper disposal bins.
– Proper human waste disposal helps to prevent spread of disease. Dig catholes of about 6 to 8 inches, at least 200 feet away from river or campsite, and cover when finished.
– Use biodegradable soap to wash dishes or take shower.

 

4. Leave What You Find

– People visit backcountry to explore nature’s beauty and mystery, hence, make sure you leave rocks, shells, plants, fossils and other natural objexts as you find them and pass on for others to discover later.
– Never touch aboriginal rocks or historical artifacts
– Never build tables, chairs, structures or dig tent trenches.
– Hammer nails into trees or damage the bark of the trees in any which way are against the leave no trace principles.

 

5. Minimize Campfire Impact

– Many campers like campfires but they are no longer essential for food cooking or comfort. Use a light weight stove for cooking instead and use battery operated lantern for light. Campfires will cause lasting impact to the natural environment.
– Whenever possible or permitted, use an established campfire ring
– Leave no trace fire is small and use only deadwood or sticks that can be broken by hand.
– Burn all wood to ash and be sure to put out the fir completely when done.

 

6. Respect Wildlife

– Watch and observe wildlife from far away. Do not disturb or follow them.
– Never feed wild animals, help keep wildlife wild by storing the food, trash and leftover food securely so as to avoid damage to their health or change the natural behaviors.
– Avoid wildlife during mating, nesting and breeding seasons.

 

7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors

– Hike and camp in smaller groups, abide the limit rules of the site.
– Be courteous to other users, always travel and camp quietly.
– Choose campsites away from other groups to respect their privacy.
– Respect other visitors, keep the noise down and leave pets and radios at home. Let nature’s sound prevail.

How to Signal for Rescuers to find you

If you are lost in the wilderness and need to be rescued, knowing the distress and rescue communication signals, plan and send the signals quickly can increase the chances of rescuers to find you in time.

 

The most important rule you could have help yourself in advance is to leave a trip plan with an emergency contact. Make sure to include all the following information:

 

*Due/panic time. If yo have not heard from me by ..time..day..date, please call search and rescue and report me as overdue.
*Information about yourself and your hiking team: name, age, medical conditions.
*About the hike such as the name of the trail head or route, camping location, departure time and expected return time
*Your tent color, boot size & type, vehicle color, model and license plate number

 

Tip: If you do not wish to bother your emergency contact on every outing, Check out the “Bugle” app. It is an app which you can create a safety net. The app is for anyone who wants to make sure someone will know if they did not make it home on time. Your emergency contact will be notified by text message as well as email that you are overdue.

 

Choose a Signal Location

 

Sending a signals three times in a triangle shape is the international recognized distress signal. Choose a wide open area, the highest in your surrounding and build three fires in triangular shape, or build three rock piles in the shape of a triangle or build three large “X” mark with stones to signal your exact location. A bright flame at night will attract rescuers’ attention.

 

During sunny daytime, you could attract aircraft’s attention by using reflective mirror, or a reflective emergency blanket or shiny belt buckle. Many outdoor stores offer several types of easy to use reflective mirrors. Once you have succeeded in attracting rescue aircraft’s attention, wave your hand overhead in “Y” shape, which is the clear rescue signal for “Yes, I need to be rescued”.

 

Other signals to make yourself more visible

 

If you have an emergency whistle, three blasts is the known universal distress call and it can be heard a lot further than a shout.

 

Wear a bright red or orange color jacket that contrasts with your surrounding landscape.

 

If you need to move around or head for higher ground and make some visible trail, arrow symbol using sticks and stones, for rescuers to track you.

 

If you hear a helicopter or voices, yell, wave an improvised flag using shirt and stick or turn your headlamp to blinking mode. If the lamp has no blinking mode, move your hand in front of the light to simulate blinking.

 

If you bring a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), use it to send the distress signal.

 

To conclude, rescue effort usually takes time to carry out. The more remote your location, the longer the time frame will stretch. While waiting to be rescued, the most important things to focus is to stay warm, safe and create a basic but strong shelter to protect you. Be prepared to survive on your own until help arrives.

What To Do If You Get Lost While Camping or Hiking

Despite all the preparations and precautions taken, many people still get lost every year. The most important rule in any outdoor adventure is to create a safety net by letting your family or ranger / someone you trust know your hiking or camping plan and what time you expect to be back. If something did turn wrong, someone or the rescue team will know where to start searching for you.

Another important rule once you set foot on the trail is to stick to the original plan, do not detour or leave the trail. Always pack an emergency kit which should include a most recent map and a compass, among other essential items and make sure you know how to use them. Cell phone and GPS are certainly helpful but things can go wrong in the wilderness such as dead battery, out of coverage area..etc. A map and compass are more dependable.

The emergency kit should also include a whistle, do not shout because your vocal cord will quickly get tired. Use a whistle, the distress signal for help is three blasts. If you are lost and need to spend a night out in the wild, other small and light items like an emergency blanket, a tarp and fire starting kit can make a significant difference.

If you realize your are lost, what should you do? Remember the word STOP.

S – Stop. The minute you realize you may be lost, stop, stay calm and stay put. Panic will not help as you will lose the sense of direction and not be able to think rationally. In addition, the further you walk the higher the chance of being the wrong direction and will take rescuers longer to find you. Find a safe place, sit down, relax, drink some water and eat some snacks but stay calm and keep a positive mental attitude.

T – Think. Take some deep breaths and try to recall how you got to where you are, were you heading South or East. Did you see or pass any landmark that you can recognize and follow to guide you back?

O – Observe. Scan and observe the surrounding. Take out the map and compass, try to identify some landmark and pinpoint your exact location to help you form a plan. This step is usually sufficient to get re-oriented to guide you back onto the right path.

P – Plan. If you are confident to navigate the way back to some known landmark and still have time to reach before dark, then proceed. It is a good idea to mark the trail with sticks or rocks in case you need to make it back to the starting point. If the sky is getting dark or you are not sure about your plan is correct, staying put may be the best option.

While staying put, there are a few things you should do to survive until search party arrived.

  • Whistle for help and listen for a response.
  • Search for water, collect plenty of woods for fire for the night and find a dry
  • sheltered spot where rescuers can easily see you. Set up a campfire to keep you warm as well as to make you more visible.
  • Setting up rocks to signals “SOS” or “HELP” or hang brightly colored clothing from tree branches to attract searchers’ attention.

How to Poop in the Wood while Hiking or Camping

What is the best way to poop in the wood? Everybody poops, when nature calls, you will have no choice but to answer. Nobody likes to see human poo sitting anywhere near the trail path nor would they want to see anyone doing their business by the river. Knowing the proper method to “Leave No Trace pooping” is one of the important etiquette in outdoor camping and hiking.

 

1) The Outhouse

 

Many campsites or trailheads have outhouses. if you are visiting one of these for the first time, the facility there often is not pleasant but it does provide privacy and the best place to store human waste. They are design to consolidate refuse and protect the surrounding environment, especially river , from pollution and is easy to use.

Always use the outhouse before you hit the trail.

 

2) Burial Method

 

This method is the most common and convenient. It is also widely accepted because by burying your poop, it promotes quick decomposition and hence, prevents the spread of disease instead of simply pooping all over the forest.

When choosing a site for the cathole, make sure it is at least 200 feet away from your cooking area, your tent, water source or trail path. Always keep in mind nobody wants to step on your poop. Go for an inconspicuous spot not frequented by people, for example on gentle hill slope, thick undergrowth or near a fallen timber.

A site with deep organic soil, usually darker color, with some sunlight will help the decomposition process.

Use a trowel or a stick you could find to dig a cathole of about 6 to 8 inches deep and 4 to 6 in diameter. In desert where there is little organic soil, the cathole should be only 4 to 6 inches deep so as to allow the sunlight to hasten the decomposition process. The depth of 6 to 8 inches is widely considered to better promote proper decomposition while keeping wild animals out of reach. Anything deeper is thought to bypass the most active ingredient of the soil.

Once your business is done, use the stick to throw some loose dirt onto the poop and stir to mix it around. This also quicken the decomposition process. Cover and fill the cathole with more dirt and you are set to go.

 

3) Pack it Out

 

For places with dry, arid, rocky, or sandy environment, the decomposition may not happen quickly. Other places such as high elevation mountains, narrow river canyons or the glaciers, the poop will not decompose at all. In all these places, burial is not a responsible option, you have no choice but to pack it out along with your other trash or the poo will be sitting there for a very long time.

For packing out method, you will want to bring along a few WAG Bags (Waste Agglutination Gel); Poop in the bag, seal it and pack it out with the rest of your waste materials.

The Beginner’s Guide to Car Camping

If you have never go camping before but are keen to try it out, the following easy to follow guide can help you to plan and and make sure your very first camping trip would turn out to be a lovely and enjoyable experience.

 

Step 1
Research on which state or national park that you would like to visit.For the first trip, it is a good idea to search for a campsite where booking is available over the phone or online. Popular campsite are usually full during summer months, hence it is worth planning to get a camp spot reserved well in advance instead of searching for one at the last minute.

Some campsites may have a few spots available on a first come first served basis. This risk is not recommended to take especially If you have already driven long hours to react the park.

Many campsites now provide convenient facilities such as playground for kids, shower rooms, toilets ..etc For remote areas, there may be less facilities available.

 

Step 2
Make a list of the essential camping gears that you will need.

a) Tent. Preferably a double layer tent with a ground sheet in case of excessive rains. Always choose a tent that fits your budget, the area and the season that you will be camping. Most campers prefer the light and easy to set up type. For a couple, it is always recommended to pick a three person tent as it offers extra room to store your clothes, backpack and other gears.

b) Toiletries and clothes. Most people prefer to pack light and carry quick dry material shirt, pants, towers, inner thermals, gloves, extra pairs of long socks in case of cold nights, rain jacket..etc. Extra rolls of toilet paper would come in handy.

c) Sleeping Bag. Choose an appropriate season rated sleeping bag. A three season bag is suitable for most camping trips as it is better to err on the warm side than wake up in the middle of the night freezing and shivering.

d) First Aid Kit. Always bring the box along in every outing.Be reminded to include other safety gears such as lantern, bright flashlight, whistle, extra water, water filter and water purification tablets are especially useful for day hiking.

e) Tools. Bring essential tools that include scissor, knives, hammer, screwdriver, ..etc. An axe is particularly useful for collecting woods for the campfire.

f) Food and kitchen utensils. Pack as much food as you like for the duration of the camping stay plus some extra for another day or two just in case.

 

Step 3.
Optional gears such as air mattress or sleeping pads may be classified as non-essential but they are comfortable luxuries worth to pack as they provide as extra layer between the sleeping bag and the ground below.

Tarp and paracord. Set up an extra shelter in front of your tent door for cooking and dining is always a wise move in case of rain.

 

Step 4.
Always abide by the rules, notices and restrictions put up at the camp ground. They are there for good reasons to ensure everyone has a safe, pleasant and enjoyable camping experience.

Before you leave the campsite, make sure the campfire is extinguished, the site is clean and do not forget to pack and bring all the garbage out with you.

Lastly, have fun and enjoy every camping trip.

Choosing the Best Campsite

When you arrive at the campsite, what are the things to look for when choosing the best spot to set up your tents, cooking area and space for campfire? Choosing the right campsite will definitely make life a lot more easier and enjoyable when you are camping out.

 

1) Arrive early

Seasoned campers always arrive at their campsite early, to be ahead of others as well as to have many choices to pick the ideal campsite spot. In addition, setting up the tent is a lot easier during day time than trying to set one up in the dark using torchlight. Start the trip early to ensure you have plenty of time to relax and enjoy the nature.

 

2) Choose a flat spot

Of all the complaints campers made, sleeping on uneven ground is one of the worst thing to experience. To ensure you get a good night’s sleep when camping, always choose a level spot to lay your sleeping / air mattress. If you sleep with your feet above your head, you are likely to end up with a headache the next morning.

The second important reason for choosing a nice level spot is to prevent rainwater from flooding your tent should weather takes a turn for the worst. To avoid fooded tent, always stay away fro hill side / slope even though the spot may offer the best view.

 

3) Spot is comfortably big

The spot you choose should be big enough to fit all the chairs, kitchen table, camping stove..etc that you brought along and space to set up a campfire that is sufficiently far away from your tent to avoid catching fire.

 

4) Out of the wind

Keep in mind that wind can ruin a camping trip as it can blow garbage everywhere, blow hot ambers from the campfire around or in worst case scenario, damage the tent. When deciding on a camp spot, it is also important to go for one that is out of the wind as much as possible.

The obvious option is to be closer to the trees as it can block wind as well as providing cool shades during hot summer days. If trees are not available, the next best alternative is to pick a spot away from open areas or ridge tops. Position the tent door 90 degrees opposite the prevailing wind in order to prevent the wind from filling the tent and blow it down.

Tip: If possible, un-pitch the tent to prevent damage from wind.

 

5) Close to the water source

Another good criteria to remember is to choose a spot that is as close to the water source as possible to avoid having to carry water over long distances multiple times.

 

6) Sun’s Warmth

For campsites in the northern hemisphere, except for the wind factor mentioned above, it is always a good idea to position your tent to face south to allow maximum amount of sunlight to reach your campsite and warm you up in the morning. You also get to enjoy watching sunrise in the morning.