Are you a camper? Or, does your family want you to be? My idea of roughing it is a limited-service hotel. But, my husband and son have determined this is the year they’ll win me over to being in the great outdoors for longer than just a barbecue.
I’ve done some camping “research” (ok, mainly asking friends and watching shows like Running with Bear Grylls). Still, I’m sharing 4 tips to make camping more tolerable, oops…I mean more enjoyable.
1. Don’t Invite the Bite
One of the main things that’s kept me from camping is the feeding frenzy that happens whenever I’m outside. I’m not sure why, but mosquitos just love me. I’ve discovered some new tips that can help keep biting pests away.
First, the hard-core route. You can spray clothing, tents and sleeping bags with a .5% Permethrin spray to keep ticks, chiggers and mosquitos at bay. While there’s some advance prep involved (spray items outdoors and allow to dry before packing), this will repel those pests up to 6 weeks on treated items. You can find it online or at stores like Walmart, the local drug store, REI, etc. Be sure to read the warnings to avoid skin contact and protect pets from direct exposure.
If you prefer the more natural approach, try using lavender, eucalyptus and citronella oils to keep mosquitos away. Burning sage sticks in your campfire has also proven an effective (and pleasant smelling) deterrent. For ticks, purchase odorless garlic pills at your local pharmacy or health food store. Neem oil, rose geranium oil and tea tree oil can also keep these pests on the run.
Lastly, avoid perfumes, scented soaps, and other similar items. Turns out some pleasant scents can work against you “in the wild.”
2. Know Who’s Sharing Your Sleeping Bag
Snakes, scorpions, spiders…oh my! This is another big reason I’ve never considered camping a relaxing experience. Maybe I’ve watched Anaconda and Arachnophobia a few too many times, but the idea of sharing the outdoors with these creatures just irks me.
Based on my research, there’s little to no possibility of a snake joining you in your sleeping bag. Whew! Most snakes prefer to be left alone and will use the “flight” half of the fight or flight principle whenever possible. Also, snakes typically hunt during the day so they’re more likely to be tucked away with a full belly at night and not looking to curl up next to a warm body.
While knowledge is power and I do feel better about sleeping outdoors, there is one simple way to make sure you don’t have any unpleasant surprises. Shake out shoes, clothes, sleeping bags, etc. before you use them. I’m not taking any chances…shake, shake, shake!
3. Don’t come home with more than you took
Being careful to avoid insects is also important so you don’t come home with an unexpected illness like Lyme disease. Certain ticks are known carriers of this disease, so be on the lookout for strange-looking bites, a sudden rash or other unusual symptoms. Some symptoms can have serious consequences if not caught quickly.
Consider using a service that allows you to call or email a doctor even when you’re in the middle of nowhere. Here’s an example from one of our team members who used the freshbenies Doctors Online service to email a doctor.
“Using a Doctors Online service was invaluable. I was able to take a picture of the rash using my app, explain the myriad of other symptoms, and email a panel of physician specialists. Within several hours of my inquiry, I had a personalized response in my app’s in-box with a strong confirmation of what was believed to be Lyme Disease. This response was from a board-certified physician who invited me to follow up with additional questions and spurred me to an urgent visit with my family doctor.”
What a great reminder that asking expert advice through a service like this is a smart move. Also, it’s a good idea to carry a copy of your insurance cards, which is now super easy if you store an image of them inside your freshbenies app. If you’re a freshbenies member, just click here to read 4 fun features our app offers to keep you prepared on the go!
You’ll also want to brush up on how to identify things like poison ivy, poison oak and other plants that can make you very uncomfortable during your stay at the campground. After some research, I learned that poison ivy has varied appearances. One simple rule to play it safe is: “leaves of three, let it be.” If someone in your camping party didn’t “let it be,” consider using a telehealth service to contact a physician 24/7 and get a prescription to help (if the physician deems it to be necessary).
Finally, as tempting as it might be, don’t take items as souvenirs (I know kids love rocks, plants, etc.). Nature needs to remain in the ecosystem as you found it. Make memories, take pictures, or – if it’s a state or national park – hit the gift shop on the way out!
4. Enjoy the experience
With most of my fears laid to rest, I admit camping is beginning to sound like something I might enjoy. I can see the health benefits of being outdoors, breathing the fresh air, getting some exercise, and resting – and spending time with my family (without technology interfering) is a definite plus! So I think I’m ready to have some fun, tell some ghost stories around the campfire, and toast marshmallows for s’mores.
Vincent van Gogh said, “I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.” Growing up in the country, I always loved laying in a swing looking at the stars at night. I’m looking forward to sleeping under the stars while safely tucked in my (snake-free) sleeping bag.
Now it’s your turn! What are your best camping tips for the novice or the pro? How do you suggest being prepared while having fun? Comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.