You know what they say – it’s all fun and games until someone gets eaten by bears. That is what they say, right? Over the years we’ve made a mistake or two (or three…) and we want to help you avoid the same pitfalls.
1) Never store food, toothpaste, deodorant, or smelly things at ground level
Bears, raccoons, coyotes, and other hungry undesirables have an incredibly keen sense of smell and they won’t stop at much to get food. Lucky for you, campers of generations-past figured out that it’s more difficult for them to smell and get at things that are above their head level.
- While setting up camp, find a tree a short distance away from your tent or cooking area, with a sturdy branch a minimum of 10 feet off the ground.
- Tie something slightly heavy (even a rock will do) to the end of a rope and toss it over the branch you’ve chosen.
- Secure the rope to the branch in a way that will enable you to easily get it down when you’re done with it (not a slip knot!)
- Tie the other end of your rope to your sack or container of smelly items.
- Pull the rope to hoist the sack off the ground and tie the loose end to something secure.
Yes, raising and lowering your articles from the tree is a pain in the ass, but this is the best way to keep your food and campsite safe.
2) Never put off setting up camp
This is a bad idea for so many reasons. First, unless you’ve been camping with this gear for a long time and you’re very familiar with it, you are likely to get very frustrated trying to see what you’re doing. You are also much more likely to trip over a rock, tree root, or something else on the ground and injure yourself. As much as it may suck to do work when you first get to your site, you will thank yourself later for setting up as soon as you arrive.
3) Never go swimming alone or at night
Regardless of how strong a swimmer you are, a lot of things can go wrong while swimming, especially in unfamiliar waters. You can injure yourself on rocks, get pulled into an undertow, or in some cases even encounter hostile wildlife such as snapping turtles. If these things happen when you’re alone, it is much harder to get yourself to safety.
4) Never get intoxicated before chopping wood
This one sounds a bit obvious, but for many people some drinks, a joint, or even other substances are a great way to celebrate a beautiful day or arriving at your campsite. Unfortunately, intoxication and sharp objects rarely mix well, and you can be a danger to yourself and others without knowing it. Either delegate the hatchet to someone sober or get the chopping done before you get the party started.
5) Never skip the weather report
No matter how nice the weather is “supposed to be” this time of year, the skies can turn unfavorable pretty damn quick. Not being prepared for high winds, rain, or even thunderstorms can really put a damper on your entire trip. Water can render important gear (such as matches and firewood) useless, or worse, soak your clothes – potentially exposing you to hypothermia. Before heading out, check the forecast and ensure you are prepared for any realistic possibility.
6) Never let your belongings get wet
As a follow-on to the last one, important things can’t get wet. There are tons of ways to avoid this – the best being to buy a dry-sac. When used properly, these bags will
7) Never leave your campsite a mess
A messy campsite is an open invitation to wildlife, injuries, and misplacing important things. You can lose things, trip over them, step on them, or they can blow away in the wind. Keep a tidy camp at all times.
8) Never drink untreated water
Sure that river or spring may look clean, but all it takes is a few microscopic bacteria (which are unfortunately quite common) to ruin your entire trip and make you very ill. Take it from someone who has experienced it – water-borne illnesses are awful.
9) Never forget to properly extinguish your fire
Just because it’s not a roaring inferno anymore doesn’t mean it can’t create one in an instant. Fires that have died to mere coals can still spit embers into the air which can land on dry foliage and cause devastating wildfires. This is like going to bed with a lit cigarette in your hand – could it burn out on its own and be completely fine? Sure. Could something much much worse happen from your carelessness? Absolutely.
Always make sure your fire pit is surrounded with large rocks, and before turning in for the night, dump multiple buckets of water on it.
10) Never leave a trace of your presence