Wednesday, March 12, 2014

There's No Place Like Home - Guest post by Lee Flynn

A Few Tips on How to Make your Camping Trip a Bit more Comfortable

Camping combines all of the best parts of sleeping on the ground, getting eaten by insects, and pooping outdoors. However, despite the fact that most of our ancestors got over “the call of the wild” about ten thousand years ago, nearly 50 million Americans annually decide to toss aside millennia of technological advancement, all for the opportunity rough-it outside and eat charred potatoes out of blackened tin foil. Hey, what can you do? Camping is an American tradition. Unfortunately, what many campers don’t realize until they’re hacking away at the frozen ground with a camping shovel while the pressure in their bowles slowly increases, is that the tradition itself is based almost entirely on discomfort. Discomfort is really what defines camping, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are a few ideas on how you can make getting out in the rough go a little bit more smoothly.

1. Dress for success

Having lived for generations in the comforting embrace of internal climate control, many of us don’t really appreciate just how extreme the elements can get. Fortunately, all it takes is a night curled up in a shivering, frost-covered ball, or a day swooning from heat exhaustion to really drive the point home. Before you head out into the wilderness, check the weather forecast. See what the temperatures are supposed to be, and be sure dress appropriately. A pair of thick socks or heated fleece mittens could potentially mean the difference between a weekend spent in a tent and a weekend spent in your own private hell. Also, be sure to prepare for the worst. Even if the weather is expected to be nice, make sure to bring a warm, waterproof coat. Also, a pair of waterproof boots and several changes of socks are a must. Oh, and never leave home without waterproof matches, because it’s easier to stay warm and dry when you’ve got a fire going.

2. Location, location, location

Sometimes, people who claim to hate camping actually mean that they hate camping in a specific spot. While you’re planning your trip, be sure to take location into account. Find out a few things early on, such as the availability of utilities such as water, bathrooms, or electrical outlets. Familiarize yourself with local plant and animal life, making special notes of any that are dangerous, or ones to which you may have allergies. Check for online reviews of the campsites, and determine how crowded the area is likely to be. Also, take travel time into consideration; if you use up all of your patience just getting there, then you won’t have any left over to deal with the camping itself.

3. You are what you eat

Camping-food always seems like it’s going to be better than it actually is, but once you sink your teeth into the half-frozen, half- charred insides of a hotdog cooked on a stick, the reality of your situation quickly becomes apparent. Don’t just pack the kind of camping food that you always grew up eating; instead, get creative and come up with some meals that will be easy to pack, but still pack a punch in the flavor department. Do some research and see which of your favorite meals you could potentially put together over a cooking stove. Alternately, you could make a unique foil-dinner, by picking up a few of your favorite fast-food items and wrapping them up for easy reheating once evening rolls around (just remember, things like soft-tacos and chicken-nuggets work a lot better than hamburgers). Or, consider pulling a few dehydrated or freeze-dried meals out of your home’s emergency food storage for easy-to-prepare meals that are also nutritious.

4. Sleep it off

Most of us have very specific sleeping circumstances that we seldom deviate from. And, for most of us, sticking with those preferences while camping is completely impossible. As such, you’ll need to know what kinds of things are likely to prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, so you can prepare for them. If you’re sensitive to hard or uneven ground, make sure you get some bedding that will offer support while still protecting you from the roots, rocks, and slopes that might otherwise bore into your back while you try to sleep. If you feel as though the sounds of nature will be anything but peaceful, bring along some earplugs. Consider including a sleeping bag liner or a hotwater bottle if you think you’ll get cold at night. Perhaps most important of all, make sure that you’re tired enough when it’s time to hit the sack that you’ll be able to sleep—even if you’re outside of your sleeping comfort zone. This means you need to make sure to get plenty of exercise during the day (hiking, swimming, fishing, playing, etc.) so that when you hit the pillow at night, you’ll be too tired to worry about being uncomfortable.

5. Always have an exit strategy

Hey, not every camping trip is going to be a success. If you get out there only to find that everything is going wrong, don’t be afraid to retreat. After all, discretion is the better part of valor, and knowing when to quit is the sign of a logical and realistic mind. Why not instead check into that motel you saw a few miles down the road? 50 million Americans go camping every year; one less won’t make much of a difference.

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