Live Simply With Style

ABC's of Camping

911: This emergency telephone number works across most of United States.

Animals: Bears, rodents, and other furry creatures are attracted to campsites by food. Keep food stored in tamper-proof containers out of sight (car trunk) or out of reach (two balanced bags hanging from tree limb).

Attitude: Keep an "Are we having fun yet?" frame-of-mind. Whatever the situation, try not to panic.

Backpacking: Get away from it all. Learn how little is necessary to survive and how much is just "nice." High on the essentials list are water, waterproof matches, food, map, and compass.

Bathing: If showers are unavailable, hang waterbag in sunny place to absorb rays and heat water. Rinse off with plain water or, for spot cleanup, use baby wipes. You'll sleep better; your sleeping bag/linens will stay fresher.

Birds: Observe birds and other animals. Never feed them as you may become their executioner. Research has proved feeding birds and other animals interferes not only with their instinct but also with their ability to survive. Animals accustomed to eating human junk foods are less likely to live through winter. They absorb their insulating layer of body fat before winter is over and natural foods become available.

Blanket, Space: This lightweight, coated-on-one-side piece of Mylar is an example of beneficial spinoffs from space technology. Take along space blanket when hiking. In case of sudden hypothermia, wrap individual in blanket (reflective side in) to conserve body heat. If day gets too hot, rig space blanket as reflective tarp. Keep one in your tent nightsack. If weather turns cold during night, spread it (reflective side down) over sleeping bag to trap body heat.

Books: Guidebooks add to your understanding and enjoyment of the world around you. Select one or two well-recommended books so you're not overburdened with information or weight. Well-paced novels can also add to your "great escape."

Budget: Whether trip is weekend jaunt or extended tour, it pays to plan your finances. Allocate money for necessities such as food and any camp fees before niceties such as that raft trip or hot air balloon ride.

Bug Zapper: Leave this disruptive item at home.

Choose a chore: Whenever staying at a "free" camping area, spend a bit of time cleaning it up, leaving a roll of toilet paper in the privy, making minor repairs - any small chore that might influence the supervising agency to keep the place "free."

Clothing: Learn art of layering. It allows garments to perform more than one duty to keep you comfortable. Dressing in layers has other benefits: you buy less and you pack less. Always prepare for the worst-case weather scenario.

Compass: Carry one (and use it) when you're hiking.

Cooking Pots & Pans: Pots that nest inside one another take up less space (that valuable commodity when camping or traveling). If you're concerned about weights and oxides, purchase lightweight stainless steel. A pressure cooker makes sense while camping (as long as you're not backpacking). Even in the rain, it can turn out an entire meal in a half-hour whether bean pot or three-course chicken dinner.

Dishes: Carry reusable cups, dishes, and flatware. Think twice about buying paper plates, plastic forks, and spoons. These items really aren't "disposable." They're extravagant wastes of world's resources. When washing dishes outdoors, use that indispensable waterbag to rinse dishes. After drying, place utensils out of animals' reach.

Documents: While traveling in US, Americans need only their driver's licenses. Travelers from other countries also need visas or passports.

Ethics: Here is where golden rule applies. If you take care of plants, animals, objects, and structures as you wish you or your property were treated, there would be no need for any other rules or regulations.

Exercise: Make exercise a natural part of your day. Take a walk, bike ride, paddle, or swim. If it's raining, perform stretches and isometrics in your tent or RV.

Fires: If you must have a campfire, build a small one. Burn fiber egg cartons, cereal boxes - any paper or wood product. Never burn plastics, styrofoam, glass, metal, or batteries. Make certain your fire is totally out before you leave it.

First-Aid (Basic Kit): In alphabetical order, pack aloe cream for sun or wind burn; antibiotic (such as penicillin or erythromycin) to treat infections; antihistamine (such as Benadryl) for respiratory problems; aspirin to lower fever; band-aids/bandages; DEET (diethylmeta-toluamide) to prevent mosquito bites; hydrocortisone cream (such as Cortaid) to relieve skin irritations; rubbing alcohol to clean cuts; and Sting-eze (if ice is unavailable) to treat insect bites.

Fishing: What a rewarding way to let your mind wander! While you solve world's problems or simply get lost in wonders of nature, you might catch dinner!

Flashlight: To prevent accidental draining of batteries, rubber-band flashlight switch "off." New LED lights last longer with greatly extended battery life.

Focus: Choose interest area if you're planning extended trip - bird sightings, battlefields, emigration trails, Native American petroglyphs..

Foods: Buy fresh, locally-grown foods whenever possible. Not only do they taste better and have more food value, but also they're less expensive. Store all food items carefully against pests as well as spoilage.

Footwear & Footcare: Sandals, shoes, and boots that fit can make or break you. It's important to choose comfortable as well as appropriate footwear. For example, in camp change from hiking boots to moccasins or sandals to avoid unnecessary trampling of vegetation. If you're sweating or blistering, take off your socks and shoes, and bathe your feet in rubbing alcohol. Another way to avoid blisters is to wear two pairs of socks: a thin pair next to your feet with a thicker pair on top.

Guns: Statistics indicate - carry no guns.

Hiking: Your feet set the best pace for your mind to absorb the wonders of nature.

Hunting: Over America's last three hundred years, hunting has evolved from survival to sport. Now as population centers encroach on country's last wild places, hunting must be carefully regulated.

Insects: Ants, bees, chiggers, flies, hornets, mosquitos, no-see-ems, scorpions, ticks, and wasps can make you miserable no matter where you are. Practice avoidance: shun scented soaps and lotions; camp in breezy locations; wash dishes and pack away food after eating; check shoes, clothes, and linens before using; dress appropriately (for example, to avoid mosquitos or ticks, wear light-colored long sleeves and pants); use DEET sparingly. If bitten, remove insect. Wash area with soap and water; then cool with ice, if available. In case of swelling or itching, take antihistamine (such as Benadryl).

Itineraries: Let someone (friend, family member, or ranger) know your plans, including arrival place and time.

Kids: #1 rule is keep your sense of humor. #2 rule is pack plenty of healthy snacks that can become pleasurable distractions as well as energizers. #3 rule is dress children in bright colors so they're easy to spot outdoors. Child carriers allow babies who can hold up their heads to accompany you on walks and hikes. Carry baby gently. Plan on stops for diaper changes, feedings, and stretches. Check baby's body temperature and adjust clothing frequently. If child is toddling, expect any foot travel to take about one hour per half-mile. Plan accordingly and carry as little as possible, in case you have to pick up child. Older children love to bring along friends on day trips or overnight excursions. For over-nights, pack separate tent for them. They'll love "responsibility"; you'll love relative peace.

Knots: Take time to learn basic knots. They'll save you much frustration in rainstorms or windstorms.

Lantern, Makeshift: Place candle in empty tuna can to catch melting wax.

Litter: Carry litter bag to pick up trash marring natural beauty of landscape.

Mail: When you're out for extended time, arrange for family member or friend to forward your mail. Ask individual to put pieces in a "Penalty Envelope" (available from the post office) then forward all "General Delivery" to appointed place. Specify when to forward. Allow one week for delivery. Pick a tiny post office to lower risk of it getting lost.

Maps: These necessary items help take frustration out of travel. You can figure out where you want to go and how to get there. Carry official state maps in your vehicle and US Geological Survey (USGS) topographical maps in your backpack.

Medical Information: Wear any medical identification bracelets/tags and know yourself (for example, when you last had tetanus shot).

Money: This commodity is relatively easy to obtain this day and time. Automatic teller machine networks crisscross the country; advances on charge cards are available at most banks; many auto club members can purchase free travelers checks.

Nature: Take only pictures; leave only footprints. Show consideration to all living things you see. Picking wildflowers and feeding or capturing wild creatures for pets is forbidden - it's hard to improve on Mother Nature's schemes. (Too, never buy souvenirs made from endangered animals.)

Moon & Stars: In our electric world, we've lost familiarity with these stellar objects. Buy star chart to get reacquainted. Learn phases of moon.

Nightsack: Pack books, flashlight and batteries, tissues, baby wipes and powder, space blanket - all those little necessities - into one carryall.

Nocturnal Animals: Meet wide range of animals that come out at night.

Observation: Try to use all your senses to identify all that surrounds you.

Options: Keep your eyes open to more efficient ways of doing anything and everything. Remember that goal of camping is to enjoy it - not to work at it.

Organization: Develop systems for loading your backpack, your automobile, your RV.. For example, carry heavy items in backpack near your pelvis and back for balance. Many campers have adapted almost-indestructible milk crates to their needs. Each crate serves a different purpose such as pantry, his or her clothes.. Designate specific places for water bottles, maps, first-aid kit, raingear.. Always put any item back in place so you can find it when you need it.

Passes: Purchasable Golden Eagle Pass allows you into unlimited number of national park service locations. Golden Age Pass qualifies anyone over age 62 to camping and entrance discounts. Golden Access Pass provides disabled individuals free entrance to national park sites. Check out state and local passes too.

Pets: Pets can create problems when traveling. If you must bring one, be prepared to make allowances for needs of other people and animals as well as your pet. Keep pet leashed.

Photography: Here is another focus that allows you to enjoy your trip again and again.

Poisonous Plants: Know how poison ivy, oak, and sumac look to avoid them. Pack cortisone cream in case you have a close encounter.

Quiet: Now recognized as a resource in need of protection in many parks, rules have been made to restrain generators and other noise during specific hours. If fellow camper is noisy, approach immediately and courteously request quiet.

Recreational Equipment: Keep it simple. How about a frisbee?

Rules & Regulations: Take responsibility to determine if there are any specifics beyond golden rule.

RV Ethics: Use generator sparingly - never at night. Discharge gray/black water at dump stations - never at campsite.

Safety: Always consider safety of others as well as self.

Sanitation: If toilets are unavailable, walk as far away from camp or trail as feasible. Dig small hole at least four inches deep. Afterward, fill hole with soil and tamp down. Cover with large rock or branch to keep animals from digging. Carry plastic bags for toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and tampons.

Shelters (Tents, Screenhouses, RVs): Select best option according to your needs - not salesperson's.

Site Selection: In campgrounds, choose inside curves along roads to avoid headlights. Look around. Avoid low places for water drainage and never trench area. Look overhead to avoid dead tree limbs. To hold your place, leave large but inexpensive item - for example, a lawn chair. In back-country, select site 200 ft or more from trails, lakes, and streams and hide your camp from view.

Sleeping Gear (Pads, Bags, Liners, Pillows): Make yourself comfortable. A washable liner acts as a sheet and protects your sleeping bag.

Smoking: If you must, dispose of matches, ashes, and cigarette butts in responsible manner - they're litter as well as fire hazards.

Snakes: Remember that snakes tend to shy away from humans.

Solar Cell Panel: When stopped, use this environmentally sound way to power appliances - operates without gas or oil and creates no noise.

Stoves: To lessen site impact, use campstove instead of fire. Select reliable model and take care of it for dependable service.

Styrofoam: Avoid purchasing Styrofoam containers whenever possible. These containers cannot be recycled, creating hazards to our environment.

Sun Protection: As world's ozone layer depletes and allows ultraviolet rays to harm skin, you must take steps to protect yourself and, especially, your children. When sun is bright, wear hats or sunscreen or both. Pay special attention to noses.

Telephone Cards: These pieces of plastic come in handy at pay phones. Make sure you have long-distance carrier's customer service number for any assistance.

Time: Take your time, but know when to go. Be aware of time zones and daylight savings time changes.

Tools & Spare Parts: Keep it simple - for example, a hubcap works as a shovel.

Trails: Stay on trails. Avoid trampling fragile undergrowth or causing erosion by taking switchbacks.

Transportation: Choose your wheels - bicycle, motorcycle, car, RV - and maintain for reliable service. Consider options of boat, plane..

Trash: Purchase recyclable or refillable containers. Avoid butane cylinders, sterno cans, disposable lighters, and razors. Also, avoid individually packaged items such as cereal and juice boxes, cheese singles, or fruit and pudding cups. Use wax paper instead of plastic for food-wrap. Wax paper burns cleanly - plastic doesn't. Make sure your garbage doesn't end up in ocean, lake, creek, gully, or side of road. Pack it in; pack it out.

Volunteer: Get involved in special places and projects. Often, you receive as much as you give.

Water: Importance of water cannot be underestimated. Carry and drink plenty. A multi-gallon container allows freedom to camp where water is unavailable - often saving you a camp fee. If backpacking and collecting water from streams and lakes, carry water filter or purifying tablets.

Weather: Watch the weather so you can decide when to pack up, tie down, or bring extra gear inside tent or RV.


All text and photos copyrighted - ©2002 Smithwrights

Contact us for permission to use

All of the images on this website are available for use. To have the copyright overlay removed and/or have the image in another size, please contact me here.