By Shelby Kisgen
We women lead stressful lives. We work long hours, field questions about why we are not yet pregnant, have piles of laundry to wash, and stacks of groceries to purchase. That is where the beauty of the great outdoors comes in. Escapism at its finest is retreating to the mountains, beaches, woods, or valleys for recharging in nature. As women in camping, we have different concerns than our male-counterparts. Since camping is supposed to be a stress-free environment, here is a guide of essentials. This list provides pointers on how a woman can get the most out of her wilderness experience and go on her next camping trip feeling confident in herself and her preparations.
- Please tell someone where you are going. Give them specific directions of your chosen site and trails, when you should be back, and when to call Search and Rescue if you are late.
- Also, please do not camp alone. It is always smart to have a buddy, someone who can help you up when you sprain an ankle, or give assistance with those pesky tent pegs.
- Remember to arm yourself: make sure you have bear spray and you know how to use it. Bear spray works for all sorts of unwanted visitors, not just bears.
- Always trust your gut when encountering other campers or hikers on the trail; if you have a bad feeling, inform the possible threat you are hiking ahead of your group and that they are only about 30 minutes behind you. Then quickly leave the area.
- Be kind to the wildlife. Do not feed them, do not litter, and do not antagonize them. Keep a respectful distance, whether it is a squirrel or a moose, be kind. You are in their home, so treat them and their habitat with respect. The more space you give them, the safer you both are.
Take away tip: The safest and best idea is to camp with someone else. Two or three is always less of a target than one.
Rainy Days Ahead
- Check the forecast before you set out or plan your trip. If the weekend calls for storms or snow, you will probably have a better time choosing to wait until the next weekend.
- If the forecast is clear yet a storm rolls in while you are camping, remember your options. If your car is near the campsite, you can always leave. Or you can sit in your car and wait it out. If you hiked or backpacked into the site, use common sense. If lighting is the issue, keep away from trees and bodies of water. Ideally find a hill or rock face to climb under as shelter from stray bolts. If heavy rain is the issue, seek higher ground and avoid ravines for the risk flash floods. Make sure to put on your rain poncho and keep as much gear as dry and warm as possible. In the case of snow or bitterly cold elements, the best bet is to layer up your clothes and hunker down in your sleeping bag to wait it out.
Take away tip: Always check the forecast and plan accordingly. Understand that nature is unpredictable and you should be prepared to remain calm and think clearly to be safe in sudden weather disturbances.
Snacks, Snacks, Glorious Snacks
Something about the fresh air and solitude, a blanket of stars and crackling campfire sparks up an appetite. It is important to remember two things: calories do not count when camping, and choosing healthy, natural foods are your best bet for a high energy camping trip.
- When hiking and burning calories stick with hearty granola (naturally sweetened, old-fashioned type oats, not the fake-sugary stuff), whole-grain sandwiches, and fruits to give your body lasting fiber and energy. Bananas are easy to pack, do not need refrigeration, and provide wonderful levels of potassium to fight lactic acid in those hill-climbing muscles. Oranges, apples, and grapes are also easy to carry and do not spoil quickly. Also, peanut butter is your friend. It is full of calories, protein, and fat to keep you feeling strong for the miles ahead.
- When chilling around the campfire at night, remember that camping is supposed to be fun, and pop a marshmallow, (or 12) on a stick and dig in. (Please note, I said stick. Not fancy sterilized rod. Do not over pack with frivolous items. A marshmallow rod is one more thing to clean, which adds stress, whereas a gooey stick can be tossed in the fire as fuel).
Take away tip: Camping is not the time to purposefully gain or lose weight. Focus on eating healthy foods to keep your vitamin and fiber levels up, but also chow down on delicious campfire hot dogs. Do not let yourself get too hungry or weak; being in the outdoors requires a lot more fuel than binge-watching Netflix.
Prepare Now for More Fun Then
- Choose the Right Gear: Please do not go buy a fancy pair of hiking shoes and use them for the first time on your camping trip. You are begging for blisters. All the gear you take with you should be tried well in advance of your trip. Check bottles for leaks, jackets for tears. Invest in a good sleeping bag. Nature is colder at night than you might think: nothing is worse than 8 hours of shivering and longing for the sun to come up.
- Pick a Route Suitable for your Level: If a trail requires ice picking or rock climbing and you only have a pair of sneakers and a good attitude, that trail is above your skill level. If you want a relaxing camping adventure full of nature but not exertion, pick a campground with the amenities you desire. If you want a thrilling, amenity-free experience, make sure you know how to pack accordingly.
- Have Some Cash: Camp grounds cost money. You should research it beforehand, but sneaky fees can catch you in a bind: access to showers, electricity, water hookups, trail maps, vending machines full of treats. All of these might have an unannounced fee that leaves you anxiously searching your pockets.
- Emergency Essentials: Band-Aids! They stop bleeding, keep out infection, and will save your poor feet if you get a blister. Rain poncho, extra socks, ear muffs, emergency whistle, pocket knife, water sanitation tablets, rope, and antiseptic wipes are always useful too.
- Plan for an Untimely Visit: It never hurts to have a spare tampon or pad at the ready. Plus a chocolate bar and some Ibuprofen never hurt any lady.
Relax, You are Ready
- Roll with the Little Stuff: forgot your toothbrush but remembered the paste? Use your finger, giggle, and make a fool of yourself. Forgot both? Swish your mouth with water and send a mental apology to your dentist.
Take away tip: Plan to the utmost of your abilities and then go for it. Remember, camping is a way for women to recharge and relax. Refuse to stress over the little things, keep a cool head if a big issue arises, and most of all have fun. Enjoy the views and smile as you make memories never to be forgotten. Fill your water bottles, fuel up the car, and grab your girls and go; the wilderness is waiting.