99 Camping Tips
April 12, 2011
Filed under Feature Stories
Here are some ideas to make your camping trips a whole lot easier and much more fun. Use those that best apply to your style of camping and outdoor recreation
SETTING UP CAMP
1. Arrive early. Give yourself plenty of time to set up camp before dark.
2. Choose a level spot. Sweep it free of debris. If you must sleep on an incline, rest with your head uphill.
3. Check for potential hazards such as anthills, wasp nests, piles of rock or branches where snakes or scorpions would make a home.
4. Look up! Rocks that may tumble, hanging pinecones, and dead tree branches are dangerous.
5. Don’t park or camp under a lone tree in a field, especially on high ground. It (and you) will be a lightning rod in the event of a thunderstorm.
6. Unroll your sleeping back right away so when it’s bedtime, the bag has lofted up and is ready to offer full insulation. The same goes for your self-inflating sleeping pad.
7. Stake your tent down. Even a minor storm can blow your tent away with all its contents.
8. In sandy or loose soil, use rocks on top of tent stakes to hold them in.
9. In rocky soil, where tent stakes won’t take well, use rocks inside the corners of your tent to help anchor it securely.
10. Never make camp (tent or trailer) in a natural watercourse. A rainstorm, even miles away, can turn your camp into a raging river.
11. Camp where the morning sun will strike your tent or trailer. It makes chilly mornings a bit warmer.
12. The bottom of a valley or canyon will be colder and damper in the morning than the side of the valley. The ridge tops will almost assuredly be more exposed to weather. Try to find something in between.
13. If at all possible, determine the prevailing direction of the evening wind. Locate your tent or trailer upwind of your intended campfire so smoke won’t blow toward it and fill your sleeping quarters.
14. Always use a ground cloth (some call it a footprint) underneath your tent. It’s another layer of insulation and protection against excessive wear and tear.
15. In warm weather, orient your tent or trailer door toward the prevailing wind to help cool the interior. It also helps keep flying bugs away from the door — they tend to gather in the eddy on the leeward side of an object.
16. If stormy weather is predicted, it’s better to orient the sharper, more aerodynamic end of your tent (often the rear) toward the breeze. This will better deflect the breeze and help keep rain from blowing into the door.
17. Make your latrine no closer than 200 feet from water to minimize water quality impact.
KID CAMPING TIPS
18. Bring a game of checkers. It’s a simple game for children to play. Young, old and in-between can enjoy the action.
19. A good old-fashion deck of cards is a winner on any camping trip.
20. Spend a night together in the tent or trailer before the kids’ first big trip. It’s a good way to familiarize everyone with sleeping outdoors.
21. Let children bring their own pillows. A little bit of familiarity goes a long way.
22. Give each child a flashlight. Teaching them the appropriate use of this basic camping tool is a good place to start wilderness education. It’s also a good security blanket at night.
23. Consider battery-powered camp lanterns. No flames and no heat mean no burns.
24. Dress kids as you would yourself, in appropriate layers. Kids chill and overheat faster than adults.
25. Break long car rides into segments. It lessens the monotony. Plan stops that have some special interest.
26. Trekking poles, or a hand-carved walking stick, make hiking easier and more fun, too.
27. Pick a trail with a fun destination, such as a pond or beautiful meadow.
28. Give each child a camera. Inexpensive, one-time-use cameras are ideal for this.
29. Teach kids the basic rules of how not to get lost: Don’t go off alone, and always be thinking about where you are, where you’re headed, and where you’ve been.
30. Teach kids what to do if they get lost: Stay put. Stay calm. Make noise.
CAMPING TIPS FOR GEAR AND CLOTHING
31. Practice setting up a new tent or trailer before leaving home.
32. Seal the seams of your tent. You’ll have a drier night. Some tents come with a tube of sealer. It’s also available at outdoor-equipment retailers.
33. We prefer aluminum to fiberglass tent poles, and flush- to collar-joint poles. Aluminum is more durable, and flush-joint poles tend to slide through tent-pole sleeves easier, making setup and takedown quicker.
34. Slightly polish the connecting joints of your tent poles with super-fine-grit wet sandpaper for an easier fit.
35. If an aluminum pole joint jams, gently heat one side so it will expand.
36. If you’re on a budget, don’t save money on bargain tents or sleeping bags. Cheap versions of these two most critical items can be terrible.
37. Some tents are overrated in sleeping capacity. Two feet of width is nice for a comfortable night, not the 18 inches or less many tent makers allow.
38. Clean, dry and air your tent after each trip. It will last longer and not mildew.
39. Check your tent’s condition and ensure no parts have been lost or damaged prior to each trip. Give yourself enough time to replace or repair parts if needed.
40. Shop for a tent with a vestibule. The vestibule offers protected space for boots or wet gear just outside the tent.
41. Look for a tent with a gear loft. It’s a great place to store gear such as flashlights or clothing.
42. Bugs are attracted to bright colors (especially red and yellow), so keep your clothing color choices toned down for camping.
43. Stick to high-quality wool-blend socks for hiking. Cotton traps sweat next to your skin.
44. Leave those left-over rock concert T-shirts at home. Invest in high-quality wicking or hydrophobic base layer wear, which pulls moisture away from your skin.
45. Layering is the key to proper camping attire. Have a base layer, a mid-layer (like a fleece insulator) and a shell (rain jacket).
46. Break in those new boots. This is best done by wearing them for a few hours a day around the house for a couple of weeks before the trip.
47. Always carry a spare pair of boot laces.
48. If you’re not backpacking or going on extensive day hikes, you probably don’t need boots. But don’t cheap out — at least buy good outdoor trail shoes — your feet are an important asset.
49. Hats are a must. They keep the sun off your head and face during warm weather, and keep heat from escaping from your head (a prime source of body heat loss) during cold weather.
50. Never, ever leave home without high-quality sunglasses. Throw those cheap dime-store shades away. Your retinas can be damaged by the sun’s radiation without UVA/UVB protection.
51. Have at least two flashlights, and spare batteries for each.
52. Consider binoculars a basic camping tool. Your trips will be more rewarding.
53. Unless weight is an issue, bring a small hatchet and saw for cutting firewood. It’s easier and safer than trying to break it up with your hands.
54. Get a collapsible shovel. The U.S. Army calls it an “entrenching tool.” Uses range from latrine duty to campfire tending.
55. Those little headlamps may look silly, but they’re worth their weight in gold when you need two hands free in the dark.
56. Use stacking storage tubs to organize your camping gear. They also make it easier to transport the gear from the house to vehicle to camp.
57. Down sleeping bags are best for insulation, but when wet, can lose loft and heat-retention qualities. Three-season, synthetic-fill bags are generally less expensive and a good choice for family campers.
58. Wear a cap at night. It will help conserve body heat.
59. Don’t go to bed cold. Prior physical activity will start your night warm.
60. Wear a base layer (long underwear) to bed.
61. A sleeping pad is essential for warmth. Without it, heat radiates out of your body and to the ground.
62. Wind steals heat. Keep your tent or trailer closed up. If you must, vent the tent or trailer on its leeward side.
63. Keep the next day’s dry socks and underwear inside the foot of your sleeping bag. They’ll be warm for the morning.
64. Get a bag with features such as draft tubes (keeps zippers from leaking warm air) and a collar (helps seal the top of back around you).
65. Although it feels warm at first, drinking alcohol just before bedtime actually robs your body of heat later.
66. In bear country, cook and eat at least 100 feet from your sleeping area, so no food or drink spills will bring hungry visitors too close at night.
67. Always hang your food properly or store in lockers (if provided) when camping in bear country.
68. Cook your meals on a camp stove. Campfires are difficult to control and more likely to burn food and your fingers.
69. Freeze meat prior to departure. It will stay fresh longer.
70. If you must take glass-bottled beverages, wrap the bottles in aluminum foil or sealed in zip-top plastic bags, so if they break, glass shards don’t find their way onto the ground to harm wildlife.
71. Use or build a windscreen for the stove. It will conserve fuel and shorten cooking times.
72. A tarp strung over the camp kitchen (rigged high enough to stand under) keeps falling debris and rain out of food and flame.
73. No fuel-fired stoves, lanterns, heaters or other appliances should be used inside a tent or trailer. The fumes can kill.
74. If weight is not an issue, invest in a couple of good cast iron kitchen pieces. A deep frying pan and a Dutch oven can cover 90 percent of camp cooking.
75. Don’t forget pot scrubbers and sponges for cleaning up cooking utensils.
76. Always bring extra fuel for stoves and lanterns.
77. Bring three separate fire-starting devices (lighters, matches), waterproofed or sealed in plastic bags. The idea is that one of them will work, no matter what.
78. Filter, boil or purify all your drinking water unless it comes from a known clean source. No matter how clean the creek looks, it’s not.
79. When packing your food, don’t forget the spices — salt and pepper can liven up any meal.
80. Don’t forget potholders, but if you do, a thick hiking sock will do.
81. Make sure you have a can opener. A knife is a dangerous substitute.
SANITATION AND HYGIENE TIPS
82. If you are staying in improved campgrounds with trash cans, use them. If you are camping in the backcountry, take out everything you brought in. Leave no trace of your visit.
83. Bring heavy-gauge plastic trash bags and double them so they don’t burst and spill their contents.
84. If you’re RV camping, a pair of long rubber gloves will make dealing with dump stations and your dump valves a lot less disagreeable.
85. Your mother told you so. Washing your hands with hot water and soap before meals is considered one of the greatest scientific advances in preventative medicine. It’s especially so when camping. If clean water is not expected to be readily available, use one of the disinfecting hand lotions now commercially available.
86. If sinks aren’t available, excess cooking and dishwater should be disposed of at least 200 feet from the nearest body of water.
87. Never dump or bury food scraps. Flies and other animals will find them, and so will the next person to use your campsite.
88. Wash hands and dishes at least 200 feet from a body of water, and use biodegradable soap products.
89. If you want to bathe in a river, creek, pond or lake, don’t use soap. Even biodegradable products will leave a residue for a long time.
90. Urinating in the outdoors is relatively eco-friendly, as long as it’s not done anywhere near a camp, trail, body of water or on a plant.
91. If you must defecate outdoors, do it well away from water sources, trails and campsites. Dig a hole at least 6 inches deep and bury the waste.
ODDS AND ENDS
92. Carry a full package of dental floss. It’s better than a toothpick, and is strong enough to work as thread for fabric repairs or as emergency bootlaces.
93. Short pieces of candle can be used as fire-starters.
94. Bring a compact pair of scissors. They’re good for all kinds of uses — from first aid to equipment repairs.
95. Always bring a small sewing kit. Don’t laugh — try hiking with a busted trouser button.
96. Drink sips of water all day long. You won’t know you’re dehydrated until it’s too late, so prevent it by constantly re-hydrating.
97. Leave boots and shoes outside the tent to keep dirt outside the tent.
98. If a daypack feels restrictive, try a waist pack (lumbar packs are especially nice) when hiking. It still has enough room for the essentials.
99. Carry a roll of duct tape. There are at least 101 uses for duct tape, ranging from first aid to tent repair.
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