Camp Like the Experts: 8 Secrets of Camping Pros - Panergy

by Regina Wu
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Camp Like the Experts: 8 Secrets of Camping Pros - Panergy

 

Man reading a map on cot in a tent

Brand new to camping? A litle rusty? Not sure if you can handle roughing it outdoors? Take heart -- you, too, can camp like the experts. The only difference between you and expert campers is that they've learned -- whether by trial and error or from other campers -- how to stay safe and comfortable in the great outdoors by following some basic rules and routines. What makes them experts? Here are eight of their secrets.

1. INVEST IN A GOOD SLEEPING BAG.

There are two main reasons why you might skimp on a sleeping bag: space and money. When it comes to space (or weight if you're doing a lot of backpacking), it's tempting to get the smallest, lightest sleeping bag you can find. The problem with these bags is that they don't keep you warm unless you're camping some place where it's going to be borderline hot at night.

The second reason you might skimp on a sleeping bag is money. While there are lots of ways that you can save money on a camping trip, being a cheapskate when it comes to your bag is a bad idea. As your mother told you, "You get what you pay for." Cheaply made sleeping bags have a variety of problems with them, including not keeping you warm, wearing out too quickly, retaining moisture, and so forth.

There's nothing more miserable than going on a camping trip and not sleeping the whole time because you're too cold or because your bag's zipper is broken. Therefore, take the experts' word on this one and save enough money to invest in a good sleeping bag. You'll have it for years and it will pay you back in good, warm rest.

2. TAKE A SLEEPING PAD.

Experienced campers know that you don't get cold at night because of the air temperature; you get cold because it seeps up from the ground. Even with a great sleeping bag, you'll need a pad underneath you to protect you from the ground. It doesn't hurt that it's also much more comfortable to sleep on a pad than on the ground, but the main reason for the pad is that it provides some insulation.

3. IF YOU HAVE KIDS, STUFF THEIR PAD INSIDE THEIR BAG.

Kids have the bad habit of rolling around in the middle of the night, rolling off their pads and onto Mom and Dad, leading to a sleepless night for everyone. You can keep the kids and the pads in the same place by stuffing their sleeping pads inside their sleeping bags.

4. WARM YOUR BAG UP BEFORE YOU GET INTO IT.

Sleeping bags work by trapping your body heat and reflecting it back to you. However, if your body is cold when you get into the cold sleeping bag, it's going to take a long time to get warm.

There's an easy solution to this problem that expert campers use all the time. You should have a thermos with you anyway for hot or cold drinks, so before you get into your bag at night, fill your thermos with boiling water. Wrap it in a towel, then put it inside the bag, zipping the bag all the way up. When you get into your sleeping bag fifteen or twenty minutes later, it will be nice and toasty, enabling you to fall asleep quickly. You can even put the still-warm thermos by your feet at the bottom of the bag as an extra bonus.

5. THIS SOUNDS DISGUSTING, BUT PUT YOUR WET SOCKS ON YOUR STOMACH AS YOU FALL ASLEEP.

While the last thing you might want on your stomach as you fall asleep is a pair of sweaty, wet socks, it's the best way to dry them out overnight. Which would you prefer: Waking up in the morning and putting on cold, wet socks that didn't dry overnight, or waking up in the morning and putting on warm, dry socks? If you'd rather have the dry socks, put them on your stomach.

6. AVOID ALTITUDE SICKNESS BY STAYING HYDRATED.

It's always important to stay hydrated when you're backpacking, but when you're in the mountains it's even more important, because being well-hydrated helps protect you from altitude sickness. Altitude sickness causes muscle cramps, nausea, and headaches, plus it makes you more susceptible to both hypothermia and frostbite. Yikes!

The problem is that hiking through high-elevation mountains often means that you feel cool -- even cold. When you're cold, you forget to drink water. When you forget to drink water, you get dehydrated and you the altitude begins to affect you. Knowing this, drink plenty of water when you're in high altitude places, even if you don't feel like you need it.

7. CARRY A GOOD WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM WITH YOU.

If you're on a long backpacking trip, there's no way you'll be able to carry all the water you need with you. If you're on a short camping trip, you still need to have a method of purifying water, just in case.

There are too many options on water filtration and water purification to cover them all in this short article, but make sure you do your research and take at least one with you on your camping trip.

8. ALWAYS CARRY AT LEAST THREE WAYS TO MAKE A FIRE.

It can be downright dangerous to camp or backpack without a way to make a fire. Sure, not having a fire is fine if you are camping somewhere that's 70 degrees at night. But if you are camping where it gets cold at night and you don't have any way to warm yourself up, or if you get lost and don't have a way of signalling your rescuers to your location, then you can get into a sticky situation quite quickly.

Therefore, always carry at least three ways to make a fire, and be sure you are a competent fire-builder with each one. Carry matches and/or a lighter, carry flint and steel, and carry something that can be used as tinder. The last point is important: Even if you have a lighter, if everything is so wet that you can't get it to catch, you'll still be fire-less. Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly and stored in air-tight bags are a simple way to carry tinder on you.

by Regina Wu

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