1. When purchasing a sleeping bag, make sure that you also purchase a ground pad for the bag. The best types of pad are foam and air core pads. Make sure you also plan accordingly for what type of weather you will be using the sleeping bag in. Most standard sleeping bags are only rated to maintain warmth to an outdoor temperature of 40 degrees F, while three season bags are generally rated to 20 degrees F, cold weather sleeping bags are rated to 0 degrees F, and winter camping sleeping bags are rated to between -15 and -20 degrees F.
2. When purchasing a tent, make sure that you also purchase a ground cloth for underneath the tent. This will help protect the tent’s floor, as well as keeping the interior of the tent cleaner and drier. Make sure you also first determine what type of tent you need. If your purchasing a tent for family camping, you will want one that is well-ventilated and has plenty of space. If you are purchasing a tent for a hiking or canoeing trip, you will probably want a tent that is lighter-weight and very durable.
3. When choosing your campsite, choose a site that is level and well protected from the sun. Make sure that you are near a water supply, and that your site has good drainage if there is rainy weather.
4. If you are unsure of the quality of the water at your campsite, PURIFY IT! You can do this by boiling it or using a water filtration or purification system. Better yet, if possible, bring your own water. Make sure you always carry at least between two and three quarts of water per person if you go this route.
5. Mosquitoes and black flies are always a nuisance when camping. To try to keep the bugs away, avoid camping in areas that are particularly wet or grassy. Try not to use personal products containing scents or fragrances. Try to use a bug repellent containing a chemical known as DEET; however, be careful when using this, as it may cause health issues with prolonged exposure. Repellents with DEET should also not be used by small children.
6. If you build a campfire, make sure that you have a shovel, a bucket filled with water, and if available, a fire extinguisher nearby to put it out when the time comes. Make sure that you have constructed a fire ring surrounded by rocks that is away from the campsite and any flammable materials. Make sure you have plenty of firewood to keep the fire going! Tinder is small twigs or shavings that can be used to start a fire and will burn quickly upon being lit with a match or other firestarter. Kindling is small sticks, around one inch in diameter or less, that will continue to burn once the tinder is lit. The true fuel for the fire will be larger logs, that should be added one at a time once the fire has reached a good burn.
7. If you plan on cooking while camping, before you leave for your trip, pre-measure any ingredients you may need and place them in well-labeled storage bags. If you make a soup or stew, you may wish to freeze it beforehand, store it in a cooler, and reheat it for a quicker meal preparation time. Freeze any meat you may need before placing it in the cooler, as this will also help preserve other foods longer. Before placing pots and pans over a fire, rub liquid soap on the exteriors of them to aid in cleanup after the meal and to help protect them from smoke and fire damage.
8. Why not try winter camping? It is a good time to enjoy winter activities such as cross-country skiing and snowshoeing, and some people may look at it as a personal challenge against the elements while having time for solitude and reflection. But, you must first be extra prepared before attempting this. Make sure that you have a winter camping sleeping bag, ground pad, and especially a good ground cover for your tent. The more layers between yourself and the ground, the warmer you will stay. Make sure that you are well-dressed for the weather. Dress in layers and bring plenty of additional clothes, as you may find you need to change your clothes more often due to perspiration, which causes moisture, and a loss of body heat. Make sure you also have plenty of strong firewood to keep a roaring fire, and that you plan ahead for hearty winter meals to keep your blood flowing and your body warm.
9. It is always a good idea to be well-trained in first-aid before embarking on any camping trip. It is very easy to cut yourself with a knife, burn yourself on a fire, or otherwise be injured while camping, and knowing the basics of first aid will help to avoid any catastrophes.
10. When it is time for your camping trip to end, you should always leave your campsite in better condition than you found it when you arrived. Make sure all litter has been removed from your campsite, all traces of your tents and any other material have been removed from the site, your campfire has been thoroughly extinguished and the ashes have been spread well through the fire ring, and try to leave a few starter pieces of firewood behind for the next campers.
11. Learn what is considered a poisonous plant – such as poison oak and poison ivy – so that you don’t sit on it or touch it and end up with an itchy rash.
12. If you are planning on camping with children, try camping in your back yard first to see how the kids do. Also keep them involved in the entire planning of the trip – everything from the location to the meals that are going to be eaten.
13. Take a nature id book with you. There are hundreds of books that will allow you to learn how to identify plants, trees, birds, insects, animal tracts and so much more.
14. Take the time to pack the proper clothing for your camping adventure. You will need clothing that is comfortable and that can be layered. Good socks, a hat, sunglasses, and gloves are essentials to take with you.
15. When camping in a campground, be courteous of those camping around you. There is nothing worse then a group of campers that want to stay up and talk, laugh and listen to music all night in a camping spot next to a group that wants to go to bed early so they can get an early start the next day. Many camp grounds have sound curfews that need to be respected.
16. Test your camping gear to make sure that it is in good working order before you head out on your trip. You should set up your tent in the back yard, roll out your sleeping bags and take out your coolers. If you have been camping before then you these will be a good way to make sure that your equipment is still in good shape. If you have never been camping before this is a good way to make sure that you know how to put up and take down your tent, as well as re-roll your sleeping bags.
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