Camping in Beautiful Bhutan is not as Far Reaching as You Think

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Me at Tiger’s Nest Monastery

By Mary Lyons

When I tell people I went to Bhutan, I get mixed reactions. Sometimes I get asked, “Where’s Bhutan?” Others say, “Oh, is everybody really happy there?” in reference to their reputation for measuring Gross National Happiness. But the response I get most often is, “Wow, I want to go there, but ______…” You can fill in the blank. There’s always a but, and when it comes to Bhutan, there are two main obstacles that prevent people from visiting this amazing country. Number 1 is money. Number 2 is lack of knowledge that results in the misconception that getting there is difficult.

 

SAVE YOUR PENNIES, AND NICKELS… AND DIMES… AND PROBABLY A FEW DOLLARS

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Main building of Bhutan’s airport. It was completely empty except for one custom’s official.

Money is a justifiable obstacle. It can be expensive just to get to Bhutan. I flew from Kuwait to Kathmandu, and then on to Bhutan, for less than 500 USD round trip. However, my friend from Boston who met me there paid 1500 USD, also going to Kathmandu first. Before flying to Bhutan, travelers will have to fly into India, Nepal, Singapore, or Bangkok first. There are two airlines that fly to Bhutan. I know, I know. I couldn’t believe it either. One is Druk Air and the other is Bhutan Airlines. The planes are fairly small due to the decent into Paro, between two mountains. You’ll want to be awake for that.

Most people who are aware of Bhutan’s tourism industry already know that everyone pays a fee per day to go to Bhutan, and it is not cheap. It does, however, include everything but tips, alcohol, and souvenirs.

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Town square in Thimpu and view from my hotel room.

Tourism fees are set by the government and do not vary from operator to operator within Bhutan. I consulted several websites for a variety of tour operators within Bhutan and for the trek I wanted to do, every operator charged the same price. That’s because they don’t charge by the activity you want to do, they charge a fee per day that is set by the government. For groups of three or more, the fee is 250 USD a day. For a solo traveler or a couple, it is a bit more per day. I went with one friend, and we paid 280 USD each per day. I think a solo traveler will pay 300 USD per day. This daily fee is probably the single biggest obstacle for people who want to visit Bhutan.

Wow, that is steep, you say? Actually, it’s not a bad considering what is included. All of our lodging, food, guides, visa, and any entrance fees (not sure there are any…), and a 65 USD tourism fee is included to ensure responsible tourism. The only things not included are alcohol, souvenirs, and tips for the guides. If you know how long you want to stay in Bhutan, you can multiply the number of days by 250 USD (or 280 USD or 300 USD) and you’ll know how much your tour costs without even asking. All the tour companies I checked online post this government set fee on their website. Tourists are not charged this fee for the day of departure.

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We were greeted by this stunning sight after returning to Paro after a short walk to a museum.

There are no hidden fees. You will not be asked to pay for this or that when you arrive. I needed to rent a sleeping bag from my tour operator and I was told up front before arriving what that would cost. However, if you are trekking, you need to have your own gear because it is not available to buy within Bhutan. I rented a sleeping bag that belonged to the manager of Snow Leopard Treks, the local tour company I used. Even in Thimpu and Paro, trekkers cannot find gear, so it is important to bring everything the tour company says to bring with you.

VISA TO BHUTAN? THAT’S THE EASIEST PART!

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Bhutanese people at a local temple at one of the largest prayer wheels I’ve ever seen.

Everyone needs a visa to enter Bhutan except people from India, Bangladesh, and Maldives if they have at least six months remaining on their passports. Everyone visiting Bhutan for tourism purposes must also book through a licensed tour operator, of which there are many. The Bhutanese government does this in order to protect their country and their people from the negative effects of tourism, (not sure this is 100% effective) and also to limit the numbers of people who visit each year so they can prevent environmental damage.  They have never reached the maximum number of tourists allowed in one year, according to my guide, but numbers are growing.

Your tour operator will tell you exactly what to send them in order for them to get your visa. The cost is included in the daily fee. No special documents are required. You’ll just need to photocopy and scan some documents to email to your tour operator.

I recommend booking through one of Bhutan’s many tour operators rather than one in a surrounding country that offers a package including Bhutan. Here’s why. One, your money will go directly to the people of Bhutan. Two, you’ll be certain that you are getting the right information about your tour/trek. Three, you will pay less. There will be no extra fees that go to the tour operator. Tour operators in other countries are just middle men. They have to contact and work with a tour operator in Bhutan to book your tour, and you will pay for that middleman service.

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Me, Big Buddha, and the only decent cup of coffee I had during the entire stay in Bhutan.

 

IF EVERYTHING IS PAID FOR, I DON’T NEED CASH, RIGHT?

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Red Panda is one of two local brews, neither of which is worth writing about.

Wrong! If you plan to buy alcohol or souvenirs, you’ll need cash. Most places do not accept credit cards. Be warned, most souvenirs are made in China. Or Nepal. Or India. Not so much in Bhutan, although most tour operators will take tourists to the Handicrafts Emporium where people with disabilities are learning to create some beautiful works of art, including mandalas, Buddha sculptures, and traditional weavings.

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The other local brew, also not worth writing about. But hey, it’s beer, right.

The main reason you’ll need cash, though, is for gratuities for your guide, cook, and any helpers during your trek. Tipping is most definitely expected. It was impossible to get a straight answer about how much to tip the guides on our trek. I checked my Lonely Planet guide and that was also no help. My guide was not much help either. It is not in their culture to ask or even really discuss money, but he did give me some idea.

 

I’M A SOLO FEMALE TRAVELER. IS IT SAFE TO GO ALONE?

My response to this question is YES! Absolutely. Bhutanese people are warm and welcoming. The crime rate in Bhutan is one of the lowest in the world and they have too much pride to harm anyone and risk “losing face.” Anyone visiting Bhutan will not need to carry large amounts of money because most everything is already paid for.

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Artists at the Handicraft Emporium.

You’ll be the only female on your trek unless you’ve joined another group. Your guide, your cook, and any helpers will be men. The horses might be female. Either way, it won’t matter because you can rest assured you will be safe.

 

WHERE SHOULD I GO ON MY TREK IN BHUTAN?

Trekking in Bhutan depends on how much time and money a traveler has. Regardless of both, there are several trekking options and tour operators will tell you in detail about the trekking options they offer. There are three most popular treks in Bhutan, but none of them will be crowded. To minimize environmental damage, a toilet tent will be provided and you will be very thankful.

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Cheri Monastery day trek is quite easy for most fitness levels.

Here’s some information to give you an idea of what to expect from these three treks.

Cholmolhari Trek – app 13 days including flight days – 8 days, tent camping – includes a trek to Cheri Monastery and Tiger’s Nest and other cultural sights, like the Folk Heritage Museum – No one is allowed to climb Cholmolhari because it is sacred. This trek is challenging and you’ll be rewarded with absolutely stunning views and a great sense of accomplishment. You’ll also see some yak farms and yaks are awesome.

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Me and our guide, Sonam, at Cheri Monastery. The caretaker wasn’t there so we couldn’t go inside.

 

Gangtey Trek – 7 nights, 8 days – 5 nights tent camping –  includes a visit to the Folk Heritage Museum – considered easiest trek in Bhutan – trek through the valley of Phobjikha which is a glacial valley at 3000 meters above sea level – This is the trek for bird watchers or those who want an easier trek, but one that still showcases the beauty of Bhutan.

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Prayer wheels on the way to Tiger’s Nest.

 

Bhutan Culture and Haa Valley Trek (this is the one I did) –  app 9 days total – 2 nights 3 days trekking – 2 nights tent camping – 1 day trek to Cheri Monastery – 1 day trek to Tiger’s Nest – visit to Handicraft Emporium and other cultural sites and temples in Paro and Thimpu – Haa Valley was opened to tourism in 2001 and is still unspoiled by tourism. There is an opportunity to walk around and see the small, traditional town of Haa.  You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the Haa Valley and Cholmolhari.

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Tiger’s Nest, this time without my big head in the way. Absolutely stunning and not treacherous, although it doesn’t seem that way from this view.

 

No matter what trek you choose in Bhutan, altitude will be a consideration, but in the three treks I mentioned, the highest point is 14,000 feet, but camping is not at that elevation. I did not experience headaches or altitude sickness on this trek, but everyone is different. All treks will have challenging changes in elevation and some steep ups and downs, but your guide will set a pace that everyone in your group can handle. Trekking in Bhutan doesn’t come cheap, but it does come with many rewards.

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This is a yak. Yaks are awesome.

 

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Spinning the prayer wheels. They are everywhere.

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in the Backcountry

Avoiding Bear Problems 1

By Carley Fairbrother

I went on my first backpacking trip when I was 19, and since then, solo backpacking has been an important part of my life.  It does shock people sometimes, though.  One of the first things people ask is, “what about bears?”

On the other end of the spectrum, I hear people talking about their bad habits and saying, “I’ve been doing it like this for years, and I’ve never had a problem.”

Both these mind frames can really ruin a trip.  On one hand, the fear of bears can hold people back from immersing themselves in nature, but on the other hand, being too relaxed about it can result in disaster.

What we really need to bear in mind (pun intended) is that bears think a whole lot like us.  We have similar food preferences, we’re both curious, neither of us are great hunters, and we’re both pretty darn smart. It makes sense that we run into each other so often in nature.  It’s helpful to keep those similarities in mind when considering how to avoid dangerous situations with bears.

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Berries – a favourite food of humans and bears

 

On the Trail

Like us, bears want to avoid other large predators. It’s their instinct to avoid us, and knowing where we are will allow them to do just that.  They don’t like being surprised, and running into a potentially harmful creature like a human may trigger some aggressive behaviour.

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A lot of people like to bring bear bells with them, so that they are constantly making nose.  However, I’ve heard of accounts of bears coming to inspect the curious noise.  This is unlikely to create an aggressive encounter, but it’s something to keep in mind.  The main reason I don’t use bear bells is that it stops me from hearing my surroundings.  Aside from the fact that I love the peace an quite of the forest, I feel a lot more comfortable if I can hear a large creature moving around in the underbrush.  Instead I opt for yelling periodically – something like “Hey bear ” or “Way O.” This also lets other people on the trail know that I am human.

 

Avoiding Bear Problems in Camp

Bears usually wander into camp because they’re hungry – no, not for human flesh, but for whatever delicious meal the humans have been cooking up.  Bears have very similar food preferences to us, though they are significantly less picky.  This means that you have to watch out for things like your garbage and sunscreen too.  To keep your camp safe, follow these three rules.

Avoiding Bear Problems 4

 

 1. Store your food (and other smelly stuff) properly

When it comes to storing food, it’s important to put it somewhere where a bear isn’t going get to it.  Anything that smells, such as chapstick, toothpaste, dishes, sunscreen, and garbage should be stored with your food. Some folks say to put the clothes you wore while cooking in the bear cache, but I don’t think that’s necessary unless you’ve spilled food on them or have been gutting fish all day.  And yes, a bear can smell your candy bar, so don’t even think of trying to store it in your tent for a midnight snack.  When it comes to how to store your food, there are a few options.

Avoiding Bear Problems 5

 

Use the bear cache provided: A lot of sites that are maintained by parks will have bear caches already set up.  They can come in the form of big metal lockers, a cable and pulley system, or, if you’re lucky, an old rickety ladder leading up to a sketchy platform.  Use these if you can.  If those aren’t available there are other options.

Avoiding Bear Problems 6

 

Hang it from a tree:  This is probably the most common method.  It’s a pain in the butt, but all you need is a waterproof bag and some rope.  There are a number of ways to hang food, the simplest being to throw something weighted (I use my water bottle) over a tree limb, tying one end to my food bag, pulling it up, and tying it off to a tree trunk.  Of course, there is always the risk that I’ll lose my water bottle in a tangle of branches, and it can be hard to get it far enough away from the tree trunk using this method.  Speaking of which, your food bag should be 2 m (6 ft) or more away from the trunk and 3 m (12 ft) above the ground to actually get it out of reach of a bear.  Make sure your bag for this method is waterproof.

Avoiding Bear Problems 7

 

Use bear proof canisters: If you like camping in places with no trees (or small trees), hanging food from a tree is obviously not going to work.  Even in some forested areas, bears, being the smart critters that they are, have managed to figure out that getting that yummy smelling bag down from a tree isn’t actually that hard.  As a result, many busier parks, particularly in the United States, now demand that food be kept in a bear canister. This saves you the trouble of hanging it from a tree, but they are heavy (at least 1 kg/2 lbs) and bulky.

Avoiding Bear Problems 8

 

Use bear resistant bags: Bags such as the Ursack are made of tough, bear resistant fabric.  They are light and easy to stuff into your bag. The drawstrings are very strong, and allow you to tie the bag to a tree.  The downside is that a bear will be able to crush your food, and probably get a tooth or two through the fabric.  As a result, most of the parks that require bear canisters do not allow bear resistant bags.  This is, however, my preferred method.  If I’m camping in the forest I will put it in a 20 L dry bag and hang it from a tree.  If I’m camping in the alpine, I will hide it outside of my camp and try to tie it to a rock or a dwarfed tree.

Avoiding Bear Problems 9

 

Odour Proof Sacks:  There are a number of companies that make odour proof sacks. The most popular is LOKSAK’s OPSak.  I’ll admit that I haven’t used them, but many people swear by them. This should be used in combination with one of the other methods, and not a replacement for it. I’ve heard of people keeping their food in a “smell proof” bag in their tents. Bears have an amazing sense of smell; some sources say that a bear can smell a carcass upwind from up to 30 km (20 miles) away.  Sorry, I but I trust a bear’s nose over a piece of mylar.  However, many of these bags are very light and make an excellent supplement to your food bag or canister.

 

2: Store your food away from camp:

Don’t get caught up in idyllic campsites on TV and movies where happy campers are roasting their hotdogs over a fire with their tents only a few feet away.  Evidently, movie makers don’t know much about camping in bear country.  Sleeping near anything that smells like food is a bad idea.

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Don’t do this in bear country
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Planning your camp area

 The last thing you want is to draw a bear into camp.  This means cooking and storing your food at least 100 metres (or yards) away from your tent.  You also want to minimize the smell around your food to reduce the chances of a bear finding it.  This means eating 100 metres away from where you are storing your food.  Essentially, your camp should make a triangle, with each side at least 100 m apart.  If you need help estimating distances, that’s about 120 steps.  Unfortunately, some sites are set up with a cooking area or fire pit right next to the tent pads.  Evidently, it’s not just Hollywood who don’t know much about camping in bear country.  If this is the case, still try to find somewhere else to cook.


3. Keep you camp clean:

Going through all these precautions aren’t going to do you much good if you’ve left a bunch of smelly morsels of food around. Try really, really hard not to spill, and pick up what you can if you do. Don’t bury leftovers or put them in lakes or streams, even if you think they will decompose easily.  Aside from bear concerns, this could attract a variety of unwanted critters and disrupt the ecosystem.  Pack your leftovers out or store them and eat them for breakfast the next morning.  Try to eat every bit of food before washing your dishes; heck, lick your plate if you need to (no one cares about table manners in the backcountry anyway, right?). Remember, leaving a mess not only puts you in danger, but also the people who camp there after you.  Plus, no one want see little bits of your ramen noodles in the stream.

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Don’t burn garbage or leftovers.

 

If you follow these rules, it will go a long way to keep you safe.  Bears are just like us but hungrier, and better at smelling things (okay, they also have bigger teeth and shorter tempers).  If you keep food smells away from camp, store you food properly, and make noise while you hike, the only time you are likely to see a bear is from a safe distance.  While following bear safe principles aren’t guaranteed to keep you safe, the vast majority of bear attacks happen when people haven’t followed them.

 

To see all about avoiding bear problems in video form please take a look at the video below:

 

Getting Misty in the Cloud Peak Wilderness

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Lake Helen

By Robin EH. Bagley

If you don’t mind running across a stray moose or getting a little chilly at night, consider a trip to Misty Moon Lake in the Cloud Peak Wilderness in Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains. This summer we took two trips to this area on the western side of the Bighorns. This is one of the most popular routes into the wilderness area for day hikers or backpackers who are making a run at either Cloud Peak (13,166 feet) or Bomber Mountain (12,841 feet). Plus, it’s absolutely breathtaking.

Trail 63 departs from West Tensleep Lake and more or less follows the creek upstream. Be prepared for a couple of creek crossings early in the hike, and expect high water early in the season from snowmelt. There was a noticeable difference from mid-July to mid-August when we easily were able to cross on stepping stones. Watch for moose along the lake shore and the creek. Moose are large and grumpy, especially cows with calves, so observe from a distance.

 

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Bull moose chilling in the woods

 

The trail begins above 9000 feet and only goes up from there; the air gets a bit thin as you climb. If you experience headaches, dizziness, nausea, or extreme fatigue, it may be altitude sickness, and the only remedy is to descend to a lower elevation. Spending a night there before you hike will help you acclimate.

You’ll wind through meadows and the creek bottoms, and may spy some oxbows in the creek. All the while surrounded by peaks and cliffs. The trail leads in and out of the trees, and while the shade is welcome in the summer, that’s where the bugs are waiting. The mosquitoes are fat and relentless; bug spray is a necessity.

After five miles, you’ll reach the southern end of Lake Helen (elevation around 9900 feet), which I feel is the prettiest lake of the three. It’s a good spot to refuel, and you may be tempted to stay awhile. On our first trip, this was as far as we went, after all, it’s a 10 mile round-trip hike. The lake is so clear you can see the fish swimming around near shore. You can see Cloud Peak from the lake, looming large and broody to the north.

However, there are two more lakes on the list. The worst of the elevation gain is over; however, the rest of the hike will be completed over 10,000 feet. You’ll skirt the west edge of the lake, sometimes hiking above it for great views, and sometimes along the water’s edge where you’ll be tempted to stick a finger in to check the temperature. It’s cold! The most noise you’ll hear are squirrels chattering and the plop of a fish jumping.

 

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Cloud Peak is still five miles away

 

Continuing north along the stream, you’ll climb a bit more and after another mile you’ll see Lake Marion. The trail doesn’t touch this lake, staying above it along the granite wall. Lake Marion is beautiful but much smaller than Lake Helen.

The trail continues through alpine meadows, with the rocks growing larger and the trees smaller. The wind is gets friskier; you may need to grab your jacket. When Misty Moon comes into view, you’ll look down on this little alpine tarn surrounded by rocks and nearly devoid of trees. A few small clumps of trees offer nearly no shelter and campers pitch their tents in the open, at the mercy of the wind. If you thought Lake Helen’s water was chilly, stick your pinky in Misty Moon. Let’s just say I wasn’t tempted to take a dip.

What’s disconcerting is how far away Cloud Peak still seems. I had thought it would feel close, tangible. It still feels very remote from what is considered the main basecamp for attempts at Cloud Peak. It’s still another 5 miles away, and methinks it will be tough 5. Next year!

You’re now about 7.5 miles away from the trailhead, so if you’re doing an out-and-back, don’t linger too long. We departed the trailhead at 9 am and returned around 5 pm with just a few short stops for a snack or visiting with other hikers. And applying tape to the hot spot on my heel. Honestly, the last two miles felt like five, and I know our pace was far slower at that point. Fifteen miles felt like an accomplishment, but damn, were we tired that night! We got back to our campsite, ate our mac and cheese and went to bed.

 

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Taking a break at Misty Moon. Notice the clear water, and Cloud Peak rising in the distance. Hazy skies are from western wildfires.

 

Be prepared for rapidly changing weather. Thunderstorms pop up quickly, so a rain jacket or poncho is a must. The wind is noticeable at the higher elevations, and temperatures can dip quickly. I have another layer of clothing plus my beanie and gloves in my pack. Even the summer, temperatures can sometimes be in the 40s. There are black bears in the Bighorns, so bear spray is recommended for hikers, campers, and anglers.

Pack warm clothes and a warm sleeping bag for camping. You may expect warm temps in summer, but nights are cold. I froze my butt off the first night, even in long underwear in my sleeping bag. Time for a new one! Maybe you’ll hear the coyotes at night, like we did. Plus a moose walked through our campsite during the night. While bears are possible, there isn’t a large concentration in this area. However, don’t keep food in your tent just in case.

There are several US Forest Service campgrounds in the vicinity, but this is a popular camping area so spots fill quickly; make reservations well in advance. I tried to make reservations at the West Tensleep Campground but was unable to get a reservation even three weeks out. These campgrounds are small, some with only 10 spots. However, I did manage to get a spot at Boulder Park the first trip and Island Park on the second trip. If you’re a paddler, bring the SUP or kayak as West Tensleep Lake is a beautiful 125 acre lake perfect for paddling since it’s open only to non-motorized watercraft. For more information on Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains, visit https://www.fs.usda.gov/bighorn.

 

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Finn & I enjoying the view at Misty Moon

 

The Complete Safety Guide for Camping with Dogs

By Bailey Chauner, Redfin

How to Prepare, What to Pack, and Campsite Safety for a Fun Outdoor Adventure with Your Dog

At Redfin, we know that sometimes your home away from home is a tent hidden in the woods. And it wouldn’t feel like your second home without your dog by your side. With summer in full swing, Redfin has compiled the ultimate safety guide for camping with your dog! Camping with your dogs requires a bit of preparation and safety precautions to ensure that you and your dogs can enjoy a safe and fun outdoor adventure – but we’re here to help! We’ve covered important health and safety precautions as well as how to pack the right safety and comfort essentials for your beloved furry family members, and will arm you with important safety tips and information to keep your dogs safe at and around your campsite.

What You’ll Find in This Guide:

  1. Before You Go: Health Checkups and Safety Supplies
  2. Packing for Your Dog
  3. Dog-Safe Best Practices at the Campsite
Camping with Dogs 1
Redfin employee Brittany hanging out with her pup, Rugby / Photo credit: Noelle Marchesini

 

Before You Go: Health Checkups and Safety Supplies

This section covers all the know-before-you-go information that you should take care of before planning a camping trip with your dog, preventative veterinary care tips, and more.

First things first: schedule a visit to the veterinarian for a health checkup. If your dog’s health isn’t optimal, ordinary camping hazards can quickly become serious dangers, so you should discuss your camping plans with your veterinarian. If you plan to take your dog backpacking,  you’ll want to make sure that your dog is up to the task physically. Aging or chronically ill dogs may not be physically able to keep up with a daunting trek, so it might be wise to leave Fido with a trusted caregiver in such a scenario.

Check your dog’s records or double-check with your regular veterinarian to ensure that you’re on top of all preventative care, such as core vaccinations like the Rabies vaccine, as it’s possible that your dog may encounter a wild animal with the disease in the great outdoors.

Pests such as fleas and ticks are often common in the wooded areas many people favor for camping. Consider having your dog vaccinated for Lyme disease and make sure that he’s been treated with flea and tick prevention. Additionally, heartworms are transmitted through mosquito bites, so make sure your dog’s preventative heartworm treatment is current for optimal protection.

Pack a first-aid kit with essentials. A few must-have supplies for dogs include:

  • Coated aspirin for pain. Use with caution and give only the recommended dosage (between 5mg and 10mg per pound of body weight). You may also consider a safer alternative, but your best bet is to discuss it with your veterinarian before your trip for specific advice.
  • Tweezers or tick removal tools and scissors
  • Butterfly bandages, gauze, and/or bandages designed for pets to close wounds.
  • Rubbing alcohol or antiseptic to clean wounds.
  • First aid gel or spray designed for pets.

If your pet takes medication regularly for a chronic health condition, take enough medication for the duration of your trip, plus enough to last at least a few extra days. You never know what you’ll encounter in the wilderness, so it’s better to be safe than sorry. Take copies of your dog’s health records, including vaccination history, and locate the veterinary clinic closest to your campsite before you leave. Save or print the phone number and directions so that they’re easily accessible in case of emergency. Finally, make sure that your dog’s microchip registration is up to date and that your pet has a tag with complete and accurate information so that finders can easily locate you should your dog get lost. If you know ahead of time that you may not have reliable wireless service, you might also consider adding your veterinarian’s phone number or the contact information for a trusted friend or relative.

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Redfin employee, Bailey, lets Tonka take a dip

 

Packing for Your Dog

This section covers the essential packing list for camping with your dog, including supplies for nutrition, water safety, and just plain fun.

You’ll need more than first-aid supplies for a camping trip with your furry friend, of course. You’ll want to pack your dog’s food and water dishes, as well as enough fresh water to last the duration of your trip plus a few extra days, unless you’re camping at a site with a readily-available supply of fresh water. If it’s going to be warm, keep in mind that your dog may need to drink more water than usual. Take an ample supply of your dog’s regular food and treats, as well. Your dog will have to do his or her business as usual, so you’ll need a good supply of dog waste bags to keep your campsite free of waste and avoid disgruntled fellow campers.

You’ll also want to pack a leash or two, as well as whatever supplies you’ll need to tether your dog while outdoors. Pack your dog’s bed so that he or she can get a comfortable night’s rest. Some dogs prefer to sleep in their crate, but it’s a good idea to take a dog crate or carrier regardless in the event that you need to confine your pup. If the weather will be cooler in the evenings, pack blankets or a dog jacket to keep your furry friend warm in the elements. If you’re heading to a destination near water, a dog life preserver is a good idea, as well as plenty of extra towels to dry your dog off after a swim.

Don’t forget about enrichment. Does your dog have a favorite toy? Take a few trinkets such as balls, frisbees, and squeaky toys to keep your dog entertained. The other items you’ll need to pack for your dog depend on your plans. If you plan on going hiking, for instance, you’ll want a portable water dish that you can easily store in your backpack to keep your dog hydrated throughout the day.

Camping with Dogs 3
Sushiil, Redfin’s E-Learning Specialist, has a camping Corgi named Mugi

 

Dog-Safe Best Practices at the Campsite

This section provides helpful tips for monitoring your dog’s health and maintaining a safe environment for your dog and other campers.

Many campgrounds require that dogs be leashed at all times. Make sure you know and understand the rules if you’re heading for a managed campground; some even specify the maximum lead length permitted. Some campgrounds prohibit dogs altogether, while others place limits on the size or number of dogs permitted. Researching before you go is a must.

Keep an eye on your dog’s well-being throughout your trip. If the weather is hot and humid, you can bet your dog is feeling the heat, too. Watch for signs of heat stroke, such as excessive panting, excessive drooling or foaming at the mouth, weakness, vomiting, diarrhea, tremors, or seizures. If you suspect your dog has heat stroke, wrap your dog in a towel soaked in cool water and get her to a veterinarian immediately.

Ideally, you’ve already spent time training your dog, but if your dog isn’t the most well-trained pup in the pack, it’s a good idea to start slowly, taking a few short trips to see how your dog fares when exposed to the many new experiences he’ll have during a camping trip. The many sights, sounds, people, and scents can send even well-trained dogs into a flurry of excitement, so testing the waters and learning how to work with your dog to manage behavior will ensure not only his or her safety, but the safety of fellow campers and animals, both domestic and wild.

At minimum, your dog should obey a few essential commands, such as “sit,” “stay,” and “leave it.” If you don’t know how your dog will react to strangers, particularly excited children, use extreme caution until you’re comfortable with your dog’s temperament in new situations. These commands will come in handy for situations such as encountering poisonous plants or other hazardous substances; a dog who obeys the “leave it!” command will be much more easily redirected than a dog who can think of nothing else but devouring those delicious-looking leaves or berries. You should do your research to know which plants your dog must steer clear of and how to identify them in order to be proactive about keeping your dog away from these dangerous plants.

Above all, have fun! A camping trip is a great opportunity to kick back and relax. When you take the proper precautions and keep safety top-of-mind, a camping trip is an enjoyable bonding experience for humans and dogs alike.

Camping with dogs 4

 

Resources on Safe Camping with Dogs

This section provides valuable resources on dog health, camping safety, and other essential information for a safe and enjoyable camping trip with your furry friend.

Camping with Dogs offers a wide range of articles about camping safely with your dog.

Ruffwear’s Blog provides advice on all types of outdoor activities with your dog and products to keep them save.

IHeartDogs.com provides 12 important safety tips for camping with your dog.

The ASPCA offers a comprehensive guide to vaccinations for your dog, including information on core and non-core vaccines, regulations and risks associated with vaccination, and how to determine the proper vaccination schedule for your dog.

GearJunkie is an excellent resource for discovering the essential outdoor gear your dog needs for a fun outdoor adventure.

Dogster.com also covers some common outdoor risks for dogs, including helpful tips for helping your dog cope with anxiety from thunderstorms, preventing poisoning, and other helpful advice.

Even in the warmer months, when the sun goes down, the chill can set in. The American Veterinary Medical Association offers helpful cold weather safety tips for dogs and other pets.

CampTrip provides a useful guide for first-time camping with your dog, including tips for getting your dog in tip-top physical shape before your trip, acclimating your dog to tents, and more.

Mother Nature Network offers helpful advice for camping with your four-legged friends, including an informative discussion on determining whether your dog’s temperament is well-suited for camping.

The Humane Society provides a comprehensive list of what to include in a first-aid kit for your dog.

BarkPost names 10 ideal, dog-friendly camping destinations that are surely on every dog’s bucket list.

The Pet Poison Helpline provides a handy list of 10 plants poisonous to pets. Knowing how to identify the plants that your dog must avoid is essential for a safe and enjoyable camping experience.

See the original article from Redfin.

 

Using a post camping checklist or process

Free Checklists post camping

By Lynley Joyce

Packing up, getting home and unpacking is the part of the post camping process most of us enjoy the least. Here’s a bit of a rundown to help you get through it all.

1. Packing up

There are two broad approaches to packing up the campsite.

  1. Clean, dry and organise everything as much as possible to make life easier back at home.
  2. Stuff everything back into bags and the vehicle to worry about when you get home.

Obviously (A) is the better option, but it’s not always practical. If the last day of camping is wet, most of us get out as quickly as possible. Often most of us have better things to do on the last day of a camping trip than ‘housework’. Most of aim for (A), with the post camping process, but usually end up somewhere between (A) & (B).

Aim for the following in order of priority:

  1. Packing 1Put all dirty or wet clothes in one bag (or several bags) separate from clean stuff. You’ll be able to toss those bags in the laundry as soon as you get home.  Hopefully throughout the camping trip you’ve been putting dirty things together, so this should be easy.
  2. Put any dirty eating and cooking items in a single spot, ready to quickly offload into a dishwasher or whatever when you get home.
  3. Pack up clothes vaguely in to bags that correspond to their storage place at home.
  4. Make a note of anything that needs fixing or special cleaning as you go along.
  5. Sweep out the tent before folding it up. If the tent is damp when packing up, just get it in the bag in whatever way is easiest, as you’ll have to dry it out at home.  If it’s dry, shake it off and fold it properly, checking the number of pegs etc.
  6. Put any perishable food in one spot, preferably a cool box, so it’s easy to offload into the fridge at home. Hopefully there’s not too much left by the end of the trip.
  7. Carefully check around the campsite before you drive off to make sure nothing has been left behind.

 

2. Everyone fed, watered and (relatively) clean

Once home, it’s best to get the people in order before worrying about the stuff, especially if some of those people are kids.  Everything is so much easier if everyone has had a good feed and wash. Kids then are generally happy to entertain themselves or go to bed. If it’s a long trip home or it’s late, many people buy dinner on the way home. If you arrive home very late, this might be the most you can hope for until the next day.

 

3. Post camping: Unpack the car

Unless you’re travelling with small children, and you arrive back home in reasonable time, you’ll probably unpack the car and possibly some of step 4 before step 2, with everyone pitching in to help.

 

4. Sort everything out, preferably ready to pack & go next time

Start at the top and work your way down the list. Stop & go to bed when you’ve had enough.

post camping 3a. Avoid a public health hazard

  1. Unpack the cool box and any perishable food.  If the safety of the food is in doubt, throw it out.
  2. Clean the cool box. Leave the lid off so it can dry properly.
  3. Put any rubbish in the outside bin.
  4. Clean any dirty eating/cooking equipment. Your camping stove may need a scrub.
  5. Throw dirty tea towels and cleaning clothes in a laundry basket

b. Avoid long term damage to expensive camping equipment

  1. Air out sleeping bags by turning them inside out in an open area for a while.
  2. Hopefully you swept out the inside of you tent before you packed up, but if not, shake it out now (an outside job).
  3. Set up or hang the tent to ensure it’s dry before packing away. If it needs cleaning, give it a wipe. Check for and follow up any needed repairs.
  4. Check the tent still has a decent number of tent pegs. Straighten any tent pegs as needed.
  5. Completely empty out backpacks and let them air/ dry. Trust me, you don’t want to find old food there the next time you pack for a trip.
  6. If you have wet or muddy walking boots or gaiters, wash them and put them somewhere suitable to dry. If the boots are leather, polish and wax them to keep the leather in good nick. Check the shoelaces and any gaiter straps. If they are worn, make a note to replace them now. It’s easier than having to deal with them half way through your next hike.
  7. Throw all dirty clothes, in with the dirty tea-towels etc. Start washing either the most essential, the dirtiest/wettest or the most valuable first.
  8. If items are wet but not dirty, hang them out to dry & air.

c. Get ready for the next time

  1. packing 4Once things are clean and dry, pack them away, preferably in one or a few locations ready to grab & go next time if you can.
  2. Anything you forgot or didn’t have this time that you needed? Follow it up now while the memory is still fresh. Maybe store whatever it is with your other camping items for next time.
  3. Check you have the right number and range of eating and cooking implements and pack them ready for next time. Remember to check there’s a box of matches with enough matches.
  4. What needs to be replaced in your first aid/emergency kit? Restock as needed, and check the expiry on antiseptic, headache and any other medications. It’s usually band aids that disappear first.
  5. Make notes for yourself for things to remember next time.
  6. Tidy up any remaining stuff in the area you dumped all your camping gear when you arrived home.

d. Flake out

You’re fed, watered, everyone has what they need for the next 24 hours and nothing is going to get damaged if you leave it. Be sure to relax a little and have a drink of whatever it is you fancy.  Get a good night’s sleep in the luxury of your own bed. Most of us are pooped after returning from a camping trip, no matter how enjoyable and relaxing it was.  There’s no point becoming so exhausted from unpacking that you need another holiday.

 

Also don’t forget…

Important: As part of the post camping process, notify any person(s) that you left your Personal Itinerary Notification (P.I.N.) details that you are now safely home again.

A post camping checklist, covering the points included above has also been put together by the author and is able to be downloaded from Camping for Women’s free checklists page.

post camping 2

 

Ask Natalie video program for women outdoor adventurers starts today!

Ask Natalie Banner

By Nicole Anderson

If you have seen posts published on Camping for Women’s YouTube, Facebook or Twitter accounts over the past two weeks, you might already have seen the video trailers of the brand new and exciting ‘Ask Natalie’ program.

If you haven’t seen or heard what all the fuss is about yet, then do scroll through this post and have a look at this fabulous and latest development to come onto the scene.

 

So what is ‘Ask Natalie’?

Ask Natalie - Natalie McCarthyAsk Natalie is a dedicated free resource for all women outdoor enthusiasts around the world who are interested is so many aspects of the great outdoors that apply specifically to women.

This program will produce episodes on what women say they want to know more about and directly responds to their desire to have answers to specific questions.

The beautiful thing about this program is that anyone can get their topics or issues addressed and the entire outdoor women community benefits from viewing the responses while getting a lot of valuable insights and information.

 

To give you a bit of a feel of what Ask Natalie is about, check out this 44 second teaser trailer:

 

There is a slightly extended trailer at 77 seconds that has also received a great response:

 

Natalie McCarthy
Natalie McCarthy

About Natalie of ‘Ask Natalie’

Ask Natalie is hosted by Natalie McCarthy who is an experienced outdoor adventurer and happens to also be a licensed clinical psychotherapist.  Hence she is very qualified to assist with all sorts of issues and topics that concern women outdoors.

To further explain the purpose and nature of the show, Natalie shot the following video to provide a welcome and introduction:

 

 

 

The ‘Ask Natalie’ program is based on the successful ‘Ask Natalie’ column that was introduced by the dynamic Adventure Some Women  group website in the U.S. earlier this year.  The column’s popularity has really taken off since its inception with many topics being covered from women expressing the issues important to them.

 

If you have a question or issue you want covered

All you need to do is to send a message to AskNatalieColumn@gmail.com and your email will go directly in Natalie’s inbox.  For reasons of privacy and respect, no one else sees the email or its contents or your email address.

Once Natalie receives a question, she then responds after conducting any related or required research or enquiries.  Each person then receives an emailed response before the issue is covered in the written column or appears on the Ask Natalie program.

Unless individuals specifically state otherwise, each woman’s identity is never revealed and their privacy always professionally respected.  The focus of the program of course is on addressing the topic or issue and offering a number of possible options that women in a similar circumstance can take in these types of situations.

 

 

No Limits

This video program is all about addressing any matters that concern women in the outdoors.  If you have something that is troubling you, or simply want to know more information on a particular subject, then this show is definitely for you.

Not all matters are those that people sometimes feel comfortable in confronting.  Ask Natalie seeks to remove any limitations people might feel go beyond limits of the usual video show.  So long as the matter is genuine and you want an answer, the program does not back away from any issue.  Essentially it is one of the primary reasons the program was established.

Ask Natalie is all about making women feel comfortable in raising issues in a supportive setting and being taken seriously in a helpful, respectful way while maintaining their privacy.

 

 

Grounded in reality

Ask Natalie is a program that is all about ‘keeping it real’.  It is filmed privately by Natalie and not in a commercial studio.

Natalie tackles sometimes tricky or delicate questions in a very practical and down-to-earth way.  The intent here is to offer information that can be useful and provide pointers for viewers to maximise their time outdoors.

 

 

Ways of getting involved

Most people communicate with Natalie via email.  However, aside from emailing written questions, viewers can also explore the option to appear on the show if they wish.  This can be done either by sending in a recorded video via email or skype or even in person if you happen to be in the neighbourhood of Oregon, USA, where Natalie is based.  Using Skype, anyone can get involved on camera.

 

 

Ask Natalie Facebook page

In addition to the new video program and the written column, there is now also a brand new Ask Natalie Facebook page.

The Facebook page is being directly managed by Natalie and it is a great place to share and discuss any matters also with other like-minded women.  All are welcome here.

 

 

Tweeting Ask Natalie episodes and issues

Ask Natalie has also just put together a Twitter page, again being managed directly by Natalie where subscribers, readers and viewers can connect and stay in touch via tweets.

 

 

Who runs the program

Magretha Palepale
Magretha Palepale

The Ask Natalie Program is a joint venture between Adventure Some Women (run by the charismatic Magretha “Mo” Palepale ) and Camping for Women.  Both Magretha (Mo) Palepale and Nicole Anderson are the program’s producers.

This program is being produced and shared weekly on the Camping for Women Channel hosted on YouTube.  The dedicated playlist for Ask Natalie is set up within the Channel where a new episode will be added each week.  The playlist which has just commenced can be seen by clicking here.

 

 

Ask Natalie episodes have now started

The first episode was just posted in the Ask Natalie playlist today.  The first topic that is being addressed is the stigma associated with older people being on the trails.  Check out this very first episode here:

 

 

This is just the first of many episodes to come.  Next week’s episode deals with ‘finding a crew’ which is responding to a question about how to connect with other like-minded women to adventure with who also love the outdoors.

The topics and issues that will be covered in upcoming episodes are as broad as they will be interesting.  With no issue being off limits, there is bound to be some fascinating discussion and information that will be covered.

 

So come join us and don’t miss out!

Make sure you subscribe to the free Ask Natalie program videos being hosted on the Camping for Women Channel.

You will immediately be notified each week as a new episode is posted and you can even raise your own issues as well.

To get subscribed, just click on this link to the Channel and hit the subscribe button, following any prompts.

 

I am so excited to be a part of this fabulous program and hope to see many of Camping for Women’s subscribers, visitors and readers enjoy and benefit from the program as well.

Best wishes to all

Nicole Anderson

 

Three ways to enjoy Natural Bridge Campground in Oregon

Natural Bridge Campground 1

By Rita Myers

I think there’s something extremely magical about the world around us that it never seems to run out of beautiful places to see or exciting things to do. Just when you think you’ve “seen it all,” a new thing comes along to surprise you.

That’s how I felt when my family and I first set foot in Natural Bridge Campground in Oregon.

Oregon is filled with an incredible landscape of mountains, lush forests, extensive farms, crystal blue coastal shorelines, and stunning beaches. It is one of the places in the US that I consider an outdoor haven.

Whenever we visit this Pacific Northwestern state, we make sure to visit Natural Bridge. It is a great place full of fun outdoor activities that’s perfect for the family.

I’ll be giving you a list of three things that you can do in Natural Bridge Campground.

 

AT A GLANCE: NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND OREGON

NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

 

THINGS TO DO AT NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

  1. Enjoy The Water
  2. Explore The Mountains
  3. Erase Your Troubles

 

CONCLUSION

 

NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

Natural Bridge Campground 5
Wild and Scenic Rogue River in Southern Oregon in Fall

 

The Natural Bridge Campground is located in the High Cascades District, and it rests beside the beautiful Rogue River in southwestern Oregon. The river flows 215 miles west from the Cascade Range to the Pacific Ocean.

The river is very popular with lots of different campsites positioned along it, including Natural Bridge.

What I love about Natural Bridge Campground is that it is very simple, not crowded, and huge – and I mean, huge. The fact that 17 campsites fit inside Natural Bridge should be a pretty good indicator of just how big it really is.

 

THINGS TO DO AT NATURAL BRIDGE CAMPGROUND

There are a few activities that you can do in the campgrounds. Here are three things my family and I enjoy doing while we are in Natural Bridge Campground.

1. ENJOY THE WATER

Natural Bridge Campground 6
Water Falls on Upper Rogue River in Oregon.

 

Since the campground is found along the Rogue River, it’s only natural to take a dip in it. A great way you and your family can enjoy Rogue River is through boating, kayaking, or rafting.

The river encircles the entire campground, so you won’t run out of space even if there are a lot of people.

The waters in the Upper Rogue River are stronger, which is where you can do your rafting. You can rent out boats, paddles, and life jackets from the staff there.

RAFTING TIPS: Remember your safety when rafting! Dress appropriately, always wear your life jacket or flotation device, hold the paddle properly, stay in the boat, listen to your guide, and don’t panic!

There’s a pretty cool video of some visitors rafting through Rogue River and Natural Bridge. Check it out below!

 

 

If you have your own fishing poles, you can go fishing in the river.  The water is calm by the main area of the campground where a lot of rainbow trout like to hang out.

Whenever we are here, my husband loves to teach our sons how to fish by the river while I prepare our picnic or relax in the water.

If extreme watersports or fishing isn’t your sort of thing, you can always just go swimming instead.

But since I love all of you and love sharing all my experiences with the outdoors, I’ll let you in on a secret. What my family and I like to do is bring our own inflatables like a swim ring, floating seats, and floating beds.

Since the water near the main part of the campsite is calm, it’s a great place to just lay back, float around, and relax.

 

2. EXPLORE THE MOUNTAIN

 

Natural Bridges Campground 4

I’m a strong believer that a camping trip isn’t complete if you don’t go exploring the surrounding mountains or forest through hiking, climbing, or even biking.

In Natural Bridge Campground, you’ll find mountains on both sides of the river that are trail-less and great for hiking or climbing. Of course, there is a trail you can take as well, but sometimes I like to explore other areas.

The hiking loop around the river is an easy one that’s great for kids or beginners. Despite the fact that most of the trail is near the river, it’s eerily peaceful and quiet while you walk through the trail.

One of the reasons why I love hiking is that it helps me clear my mind. There’s nothing more relaxing to me than spending time staring out into the wilderness and just silencing my mind, even for just a few moments.

If you’re curious as to how the trail looks at Natural Bridge, you can check out this short video.

 

Since the campground is really huge, you can also go biking. Besides fishing with their dad, my sons enjoy biking in the campgrounds. But bring your own bike because there aren’t any for rent.

 

IMPORTANT REMINDER: There are no garbage cans in the campgrounds. So if you see any trash while out in the trail, please pick it up and take it with you. The same goes for your own trash – keep it until you find proper disposals.

 

3. ERASE YOUR TROUBLES

Natural Bridge Campground 2

 

If you really think about the reason people go out camping in the first place, it’s probably because they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or the stresses of being an adult.

Natural Bridge Campgrounds can provide you a place where you can erase your troubles by simply relaxing.

This is also a perfect place to go out on a retreat because the campground offers both single and group tents. There are also picnic tables and fire pits for you to cook your fresh catch of fish.

This means it’s also a great place for a group of friends. You can grill some burgers, enjoy a bottle of beer, and play some camping drinking games by the fire. Really, the place is great for anyone.

 

CONCLUSION

 

Natural Bridge Campgrounds 3
The Rogue River near the Natural Bridge

If you want to spend some quiet time with nature or to hang out by a river, the Natural Bridge Campgrounds in Oregon is the place to go.

There is nothing better than watching your sons fish with their dad, or spend time sharing stories with your friends around a campfire.

Even though there isn’t a load of activities to do in Natural Bridge compared to other campgrounds, it’s still a great place to go where you can enjoy the river, explore the mountains, and erase your troubles.

 

 

If you’ve enjoyed this list, feel free to share it with your friends! If you’ve visited Natural Bridge Campground lately, tell me how it went, I’d love to hear from you!

As always, stay safe and have a happy adventure!

 

7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping

7 surprising benefits of camping 1

By Rita Myers

Camping trips are a great activity for both family and friends. Often it’s what we do when we feel like we need to “take a break” or “get away from it all.”

Personally I sometimes plan sudden camping trips when I feel like my family and I are overworked or stressed from our daily life. And the results are wondrous! We usually come back home refreshed and recharged.

From personal experience as well as a bit of reading, here is my list of the 7 surprising benefits of camping. I hadn’t really thought of these before, even as I definitely felt the positive effects camping has had on me and my family. Benefit #3 definitely surprised me!

7 Surprising Benefits Of Camping In A Nutshell

Benefit #1: More oxygen – Because there are less pollution and fresher air in campsites and countryside!

Benefit #2: More physical activity – There are more opportunities for physical activity!

Benefit #3: Better nutrient absorption – Being under the sun does more than give you a good tan!

Benefit #4: Sleep – Nature has a way of helping us fix our sleeping patterns!

Benefit #5: Unplug from the world – There won’t be any electrical sockets where you’re going, and that’s a good thing!

Benefit #6: Destress – In the middle of nature, everything is just so much simpler!

Benefit #7: Bonding with family and friends – What else are you going to do on a camping trip?

 

Benefit #1: More oxygen

If you’re used to an urban environment, then you’re used to air that is polluted and quite low on oxygen. But out in the countryside, away from busy streets and factories, the air is a lot cleaner and fresher. More importantly, the air has much more oxygen than you’re used to

Additional oxygen intake helps trigger the release of serotonin in our bodies. Serotonin is the “happy hormone,” which prevents depression and stabilizes our mood.

7 surprising benefits of camping 8

More oxygen also improves our brain function. Our brain uses up a lot of the oxygen we breathe in – up to 20%! The oxygen-rich air help enhance alertness and quick thinking.

 

Benefit #2: More physical activity

Between unloading your camping gear, pitching your tent, gathering wood for your small campfire, and setting up your supplies, you will be engaged in a LOT of physical activities . And that’s just from the time you arrive up to the time you’ve finally set up camp!

Physical activity helps you burn calories and gives you the chance to stretch your muscles, especially if you work on  an office chair throughout the week.

7 surprising benefits of camping 3

There are many other physical activities you can do while camping, such as hiking, biking fishing, and even some exercise sessions. Be sure to plan out your activities so you can bring the necessary gear!

 

Benefit #3: Better nutrient absorption

This one surprised me when I discovered it. It turns out that being under the sun does more than give you a good tan!

Sunlight always feels great on your skin. That is no accident. Sunlight bombards your body with Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps you absorb more calcium and phosphorus for your bones and teeth. Vitamin D also boosts your immune system!

7 surprising benefits of camping 4

Of course, throughout your camping stay, you’ll be out in the sunlight while walking, resting, even eating. That entire time, your body is soaking up Vitamin D. Imagine: just by being in sunlight, you’re already reaping the rewards!

 

 

Benefit #4: Sleep

One other benefit of sunlight is that it keeps our bodies from producing melatonin. Melatonin is a powerful antioxidant hormone. Its key function is to help regulate our sleeping pattern.

Ordinarily, our bodies produce melatonin during the evening, after the sun sets, because exposure to light inhibits melatonin production. However, with modern technology, our bodies are exposed to artificial light even during the evening, and this interferes with our melatonin production cycle.

7 surprising benefits of camping 2

That is why a camping trip, far away from artificial light and relying only on the natural day and night cycles, can help us greatly in fixing any sleeping problems we might have such as insomnia.

On top of that, you’ll naturally be tired after a day of nearly non-stop physical activity. What better way to cap off your day at camp than by getting some quality, restful sleep?

 

 

Benefit #5: Eat Fresh

This benefit will require some advance planning, but is well worth it. Camping trips take us away from the usual conveniences of fast food and quick-fix meals (unless we bring them with us).

Light a fire and cook your meals over it for less fat and less oil in your dish. Some campsites allow fishing in nearby lakes or rivers. Take advantage of those for some of the freshest meals you’ll ever cook up!

7 surprising benefits of camping 5

Aside from these, fresh fruits and vegetables make for versatile camping food. They stay reasonably fresh throughout the trip and require very little additional preparation. Fruits can be eaten as-is, while vegetables can be eaten raw, steamed, boiled, or even roasted over the campfire.

 

Benefit #6: Destress

Our daily lives are a constant source of pressure and stress. Even at home, we receive work emails with follow-ups for deadlines or pending work. Children have schoolwork to worry about. Even social media, which is supposed to connect us to each other in positive ways, can also be a source of stress and anxiety.

That is why a camping trip is such a welcome respite. The opportunity to just unplug from the rest of the world and focus on yourself and your family is uncommon by today’s routines. Camping trips offer such opportunity, along with so many other great benefits along with it.

7 surprising benefits of camping 6

To maximize this period of rest, I highly recommend switching off your gadgets – there’s a good chance your campsite can only make emergency calls anyway. Some campsites do offer WiFi access, but I sincerely advise against using it. It will be difficult to enjoy nature and your company if you are bringing your sources of stress and anxiety along with you.

 

Benefit #7: Bonding with family or friends

Camping trips are the absolute best time to bond with family or friends. There’s just so much to do.

There are many camping games to choose from that are fun and offer an opportunity to get to know your companions better.

You can take reasonable hikes to nearby locations for the sights.

If you camp near a lake or river, you can fish or even take a swim.

7 surprising benefits of camping 7

The best part is, any activity you can think of doing, you’ll be doing with family or friends. Getting to socialize with your companions while having fun activities helps to deepen your bonds.

 

Take That Trip

How did you like this article? I always look forward to camping trips with my family because these trips allow me to spend more uninterrupted time with them, away from things that demand our undivided attention such as work or school. As someone who loves the outdoors, I also look forward to getting a bit more sun each time. It doesn’t hurt that there are all these great benefits to camping too!

One thing I noticed, in hindsight, is that I sleep better during our camping trips, and my sleep is always more restful and energizing. It turns out that there’s a whole lot of science and nature working in the background, helping me fix up my body as I sleep!

7 surprising benefits of camping 9

What other benefits do you get from your camping trips? Let us know what you think in the comments below, and share the article if you enjoyed it!

 

Anarchy and Otter Pops in East Jesus

East Jesus 1

By Emily Pennington

What do you do when one of your best friends invites you to a debaucherous birthday weekend at an off the grid artist commune deep in the California desert near the Salton Sea? Attend whole-heartedly and experience EVERYTHING you can, of course!

East Jesus is a non-profit, off the grid intentional community founded by the late Charlie Russell in the ass-crack outskirts of Slab City. If you’ve never heard of Slab City, well, it’s known as “the last free place,” and is basically a makeshift town made up of people in RVs and trailers who are, essentially squatting on government land about 4 miles outside of Niland, CA (85 miles southeast of Palm Springs). There’s no water, no power, and no resources, just a bunch of abandoned concrete slabs left over from a WWII base, Camp Dunlap. Oh yeah, and it’s 110 degrees during the daytime in the middle of October.

East Jesus 2

In spite of the fact that the sun was actively trying to kill me and nearly every other living thing out there that weekend, I had a freaking awesome time. First off, I got to stay in the best hobo accommodations that money can’t buy – a hand-painted Totoro trailer with tentacles for a doorknob. I got a hand-picked tour of the sculpture garden when I first arrived (this is the only part of East Jesus accessible to tourists unless you’re visiting a resident), which features a hodge podge of assemblage pieces and art cars, broken glass and duck decoys, and a non-functioning Mercedes that has been lit on fire so many times that it is lovingly referred to as the “Car-B-Que.”

To be honest, the daylight hours at East Jesus are brutal. I mostly lay around eating Otter Pops, talking about art and trying not to get bitten by horseflies in between dunks in the cool pool that seriously saved my Scandinavian booty! But, at night… wow! I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I am not a desert person. But, something about the camaraderie of a group meal, the intense flickering of flames from a rusted out Mercedes, and the deep black of the night sky as the stars make their nightly, nomadic journey was truly magical. I giggled my ass off with new friends and ran, half naked, sprinting full force into the interminable blackness of the desert in search of Slab City’s famed hot springs. I soaked my tired bones and stayed up to see the sunrise.

East Jesus 4

Now, East Jesus does concern me a bit in the way that many intentional communities concern me, and that is this: I think that, too often, great ideas and experiments in off the grid living are executed in a way that is too far-out, too anarchic, and too poorly packaged for anyone of consequence to take note. The rebellion and chaos themselves seem to take center stage, which can serve to highlight the cracks and weaknesses of these spaces, rather than shifting focus onto some of the truly innovative strategies for clean living that they are implementing. Maybe it’s too much to ask, but I would sincerely love it if a solar-powered, leave-no-trace community sprung up within 30 miles of Los Angeles so that the impact of these ideals could be more easily shared with the population at large, since finding a wide reach and making the project feel accessible are the fastest ways to shift culture.

East Jesus 5

But perhaps their inaccessibility is precisely what makes these spaces special. Certainly, Burning Man is a bit more pure because of the massive amount of foresight a pilgrimage to Black Rock City takes. Maybe they are meant to serve as beacons for the brave as they journey across the long night, burning like “fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding,” as Kerouac so aptly put it. There is definitely a large amount of magic hidden in East Jesus; don’t let Wikipedia fool you into thinking it’s a roadside attraction. Have an adventure and see it for yourself.

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Camping Solo

Camping Solo 1

By Andrea Willingham

I’m a pretty outdoorsy lady. My whole life, I’ve found both my deepest solace and greatest entertainment under the open sky or a canopy of leaves; in the maze of a forest, or the wide grandeur of mountains and ocean horizons. I feel safest when I’m out “in nature,” safer than I do in city surrounded by strangers. Needless to say, I’ve spent a lot of time outside throughout my life.

Thus, I was somewhat surprised last year to realize that of all the outdoorsy things I’ve done, camping solo had not been one of them. When I told a few friends about my plans to do it, the responses were almost universally, “Alone? Wow!” One group brought up the fact that it’s usually more of a “guy thing” to camp alone. That does seem to be the case, but I wonder why? I certainly know a few girls who camp alone, but all of this does bring up interesting questions of why camping alone isn’t more of a thing, and furthermore, why fewer women don’t camp by themselves (besides the obvious arguments for safety).

So, one weekend last September, I dove in.

I knew I was ready – or at least as ready as I could be. Over the past few years, I’ve spent a lot of time day hiking alone, so at least I knew I was comfortable with myself, my solitude, and my ability to make smart “survival” decisions on my own. One of the best ways to start mentally preparing yourself for your first solo adventure is to play the “What if?” game with yourself: “What if… I startle a bear around this next corner?” “What if… some guys start following and harassing me?” “What if… I get lost out here and have to spend the night?” “What if… my car breaks down and I don’t have cell service?” These are some of the big, scary questions that we are not only afraid to ask ourselves, but I think we are even more afraid that we might not know the answers.

So, I challenge you to ask those hard questions, and think through your answers. Even better if you play this mental game while you’re out on a solo hike! Or ask your friends and talk though what you might do. The more you play this game with yourself and start devising your contingency plans, the more you begin to feel confident in your own abilities to handle any situation, and the more you’ll feel prepared and excited to get out on your own and prove it to yourself.

So back to my own camping trip: Despite the fact it was my first time going out camping alone, I did very little preparation (perhaps feeling a bit too confident!). In fact, by the morning of, I hadn’t even started packing. But in a matter of about 2 hours, I had my little car loaded with my tent, sleeping bag, ground pad, a bag of food, a gallon jug of water, hiking boots, a change of clothes, camera, a guide book, and my journal. The essentials, a few comforts.

It was cloudy with patches of misty rain on my drive up into the mountains. Eventually I found the free National Forest campground I had picked out from some Google searching a few days prior. The campground was quite a bit smaller and closer to the road than I’d expected, but I decided to go hike to some waterfalls I had been wanting to see, and come back closer to dark to stake out my spot.

The trailhead to the waterfall was packed; families, couples, retirees. The further I went on the trail however, the more it thinned out, and soon I found myself captivated by the gorgeous autumn colors emerging and the strange landscape of volcanic rocks through which the path was cut. The trail wound into the dense forest, and soon I could hear the roar of the waterfall in the distance. Then, all of a sudden, there it was, towering mightily off to my left. Even from far away, it looked massive. Of course, I had to get closer. I followed the sound and the flow of the water back until it led me to the base of the falls. Surprisingly, no one else was there. For a short time, I had the whole place to myself.

Camping Solo 2
Proxy Falls

Eventually a few people showed up, so I took my leave, and hiked around a while longer finding more waterfalls and exploring the trails. By the time I made it back to my campsite though, it was completely full. Sigh. Well, worst case scenario, I could sleep in my car, or just drive home. But with still a few hours of daylight left, I decided to continue driving further into the mountains to see what I could find.

Another 20 minutes later and a thousand feet higher in elevation, I found myself at another campground. It had plenty of spots isolated from one another, so I was sold.  I found a spot with a nice view of the lake, and I set up my tent just as the first of the night’s rains began sprinkling in.

One drawback of packing everything the morning of my trip was that I forgot to bring the food I had planned on for both dinner and breakfast, meaning, I was left mainly with bread and peanut butter and potato chips. No big deal, but it did mean that my lunch, dinner, and breakfast were all going to be peanut butter sandwiches. Yum.

So, I ate my peanut butter sandwich while sitting on a log as the rain started coming in more heavily.  I tried half-heartedly to make a campfire, but it was already too wet so I gave up and crawled into my tent to do some journaling and reading before it got dark.  The rain poured heavier and heavier. Fortunately, my tent kept me dry and my sleeping bag kept me warm, so I was quite the happy camper.  (Sorry, not sorry for the pun!)

The night was long and damp, but I managed to get some sleep and by morning the rain was a tad bit lighter. Unfortunately, though a sizable puddle had formed under my tent and leaked inside — I knew I should have brought a tarp! Rookie mistakes. Oh well. My spirits were still high.

Knowing the rain was supposed to last all day, I packed up and enjoyed a leisurely drive back home listening to the radio and letting my mind wander.

I think that’s one of the best things about traveling solo: you’re on your own time. I realized when I was hiking the day before that I had no concept of how fast or slow I was going. Normally I’m trying to keep up with my faster friends, or holding back to stick with those going at a slower pace. But here, whether I was hiking or driving or hanging out in my tent, it didn’t matter how long it took me to do anything.

In retrospect, I was far more cautious than I needed to be, but often that’s what keeps you safe on your first time out trying something new. So I figure, embrace your cautiousness. Take your time. Let mistakes happen, because they will: I failed to claim my first campsite. I failed to start a fire. I didn’t bring all my food. It poured down rain. My tent flooded. I didn’t even mention the fact that my car nearly ran out of gas on the way up the mountain the first time, and I had to drive back down 20 minutes to the nearest gas station.

It was far from a perfect first solo camping trip.

But the bottom line is, I’d camp solo again in a heartbeat (preferably next time not in the pouring rain!), and I think others should give it a try too. Listen to your gut, but don’t psych yourself out.  It’s so important to be able to find contentment and comfort in your own thoughts, and confidence in your own abilities and decision-making. And taking a simple trip out into the wilderness on your own is an incredible way to discover and develop that for yourself.

Camping Solo 3
My first solo camp