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.

Avoiding Bear Problems 2
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.

Avoiding Bear Problems 3

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:

 

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.

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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

 

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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

 

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

Preparing for a Quest to Conquer Kilimanjaro

Kilimanjaro 1

By Mary Lyons

Kilimanjaro is the highest peak on the continent of Africa and thousands of people summit Uhuru Peak at 19,300 feet every year. My dream to summit Kilimanjaro was born about ten years ago after I had been living overseas for a year. For the first time in my life, I actually had a disposable income to use for travel. For some reason, my dream to summit Kilimanjaro got put on the back burner for several years, perhaps because it is an expensive venture and I also wanted to include a safari and a trip to Zanzibar.

Kilimanjaro 13
Sign at our first camp – Every camp has a sign like this

About two years ago, I decided to bite the bullet, or break the bank I guess, and go to Tanzania to conquer Kilimanjaro. I booked the trip in May 2015, but my departure date was January 2016. The travel company I used in the UK had told me a year before when I contacted them, that I needed to book early because January is peak season for climbing because of the optimal weather.

After I booked the trip, the tour company sent me all the information I needed to prepare, but there were some things that were not clear to me, like who was going to carry what. I was used to carrying everything myself and their info made it sound like I would carry my own clothing, but that wasn’t the case. Other things were abundantly clear, like the bill! High altitude trekking does not come cheap, no matter what company you book with.

Kilimanjaro 5
Day 1 Starting our climb at 9000 feet – Everyone was thinking, -This is easy!-

Here are some tips that I hope will help you to prepare for any high-altitude trek should you decided to undertake such an adventure. I feel I should include a disclaimer here. I actually did not make it to Uhuru. Altitude sickness got the best of me, as did lack of sleep due to a snoring tent mate and headaches due to altitude. I did make it to Gilman’s Point, at 18,500 feet, and I’m proud of that, although it wasn’t my goal.

Getting Your Gear On

One of the things I needed to do in the States was buy clothing. I lived in Kuwait during the school year, and it’s impossible to find adequate gear there for such cold temperatures. Temperatures on Kilimanjaro are at zero (Celsius) or below once you get above 12,000 feet, and during the big push on the last day, it’s about -20C. I spend my year between two deserts where I can wear flip flops in winter. I was not prepared for -20C!

This is a list of what I took with me, based on recommendations from the travel company. I did the Rongai Route which was advertised as five days, but the 19km descent from 12,000 feet on the last day meant it was actually 6 days.

CLOTHING AND GEAR

Kilimanjaro 3
Me with Meru in the distance on Day 2

Four season Gortex coat with removable fleece inside from North Face (Gortex is NOT necessary! It’s just what I already had.)

Pullover fleece

Long-sleeve Climadry shirt for hiking during the day

Patagonia thermal underwear – 2 pairs, one for hiking on the last 2-3 days + one for camp and sleeping

Short sleeve Climadry shirt for hiking on the first day, starting altitude 9000 feet

Patagonia zip-off leg trekking pants

Marmot rain jacket and pants (you’ll need the pants to keep warm on the last day)

Fleece pants (for the last day where you have four layers on bottom, five on top, ski pants also work)

 

2 pair Smartwool socks (I wore both on the last day)

2 pair sock liners

2 pair Exofficio underwear

2 sportbras

 

Kilimanjaro 9
Mustafa and Jonas, both amazing guides – Mustafa got me to Gilman’s Point

1 wool scarf (only used it for the final climb, but actually took it off halfway up)

1 wool hat (in addition to the hood on my North Face coat)

1 pair thin gloves

1 pair insulated ski gloves (only used during the final climb)

Vasque hiking boots (again, Gortex is NOT necessary, do not spend the money on it)

 

Rented a sleeping bag from The African Walking Company for about 40 dollars

Therma-rest ¾ length ¾ inch thick mattress (most companies do not rent mattresses)

 

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Unique vegetation on Kili makes for great pictures

Headlamp

Rain cover for my day pack

Journal and pen

Nikon pocket digital camera (with extra battery – sleep with both to prevent batteries from dying, and carry close to your body during the day)

Two bandanas

Quick-dry pack towel

Facial wipes/toothbrush and toothpaste/sunscreen/night cream and eye cream (Hey, I’m a woman in her 40s! Gimme a break!)

Others in my group carried mosquito repellent. IMO, it is not necessary. The altitude is too high, you’re fully clothed all the time, and malaria is not a concern in Tanzania.

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Kilimanjaro in the distance – I believe this was taken on Day 3 of our climb

2L water bladder with insulated tube to go inside my daypack – In my opinion, there is a significant advantage to carrying a bladder as opposed to water bottles. There were 8 people in my group, and everyone except me carried bottles. Every time they wanted water, they had to take their packs off. I didn’t. During the climb on the last day, their water froze in the bottles. Mine didn’t because it was in my pack next to my body, even though I had five layers between me and the bladder.

 

Weighing In

It sounds like a lot of weight, but your porter will carry everything except your day pack which contains your rain coat and pants, camera and batteries, gloves, hat, scarf if you want, sunscreen, snacks, water, and I carried my journal and a small book.

Kilimanjaro 4
The porters passed us every day carrying 27kg each – Here they come!

You will most likely be limited to 15 kg total, not including your day pack contents. I left clothes and anything I didn’t need at the hotel. The hotel where you stay the night before your climb is the same hotel you will return to after you finish.

 

Kilimanjaro – The Air Sure Is Thin Up Here!

Preparing for altitude sickness is foremost on everyone’s mind before they climb Kilimanjaro, but there is no way to predict how your body will react. That said, I do think there are some things you can do to prepare. There was an expert climber in my group who was preparing to climb Mt Everest. I talked to him a lot about altitude. He was also a spinal surgeon from New York. You never know who you’ll meet in Africa. He was also married 🙁

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Kibo Hut at Day 4 Camp

One way to prepare yourself for high altitudes is to expose yourself to them. If you have access to an area with peaks above 12,000 feet, climb them and see how your body reacts. If camping is available at those high elevations, spend the night. I had the worst headaches at night.

Mustafa and Me at Gilman’s Point

To prevent and combat the effects of altitude, drink at least 3 – 5 liters of water a day. Ibuprofen was my friend and when my headaches were persistent, I took 2 every 4-6 hours. Drink when you’re not thirsty and eat when you’re not hungry.

I lost my appetite completely on Day 4, before our midnight ascent on Day 5. I ate some soup at our early dinner, and went to sleep at 6PM, but by midnight, I was running on empty and couldn’t get anything to go down. If I were to attempt it again, I would ask for plain white rice and maybe take saltine crackers with me to eat before ascending at midnight.

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The descent from Gilman’s Point at 18000 feet, looking down at camp at 15000 feet

There’s a medicine called Diamox that is supposed to help with altitude sickness. Make sure you investigate this option thoroughly before deciding whether or not to use it. There’s a reason a prescription is required to take it. It can also have the same side effects as altitude sickness, which is ultimately the reason I decided not to use it.

Most companies offer the option of using oxygen for the final ascent only, for an extra cost.

 

Let’s Make This Happen!

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We saw several of these on our last day after we got back down to 10000 feet
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Jonas was our contemplative guide with a smile like the sun

Peak season for climbing Kilimanjaro is January to March and June to October. January to March means you have a better chance of seeing snow, although you likely won’t see snow until your final ascent. The glacier atop Kilimanjaro is shrinking at an alarming rate. There’s also less chance of rain during these months I have mentioned.

Peak season means it can get crowded on some of the routes, although I didn’t think the Rongai 5-day route was crowded in January. It was busy, but not crowded.

Booking several months in advance is critical if you’re going during either of these peak seasons. If you are planning to hike the Coca-Cola route (Marangu Route) it is especially important to book many months in advance. This is the most popular route, partially because sleeping huts with dormitory style accommodation are used for accommodation along the way. People who prefer not to camp (and not use a camp toilet!) choose this option, but they book up many months in advance.

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Hans was voted most photogenic out of all the guides. You can see why.

Choosing a tour company can be daunting and some people feel it isn’t necessary. I have met people who just went to Tanzania and hired a guide and porter, and started trekking. It can be done and can cost a lot less than booking through a tour company. However, you won’t know what you’re going to get, or how qualified and experienced those guides and porters are. I wasn’t comfortable doing that, especially when I had never hiked at such altitudes before.

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Day 4 trek – Looks easy, right- Clean, flat. Ha! We were near 15000 feet and moving at a snail’s pace

Do thorough research on tour companies before deciding. Prices and departure dates can vary, although not as much as you might think. Tour companies outside of Tanzania are well-connected to companies within Tanzania. You pay the tour company, say in the UK, and they pay the local company who in turn, pays their guides and porters.

The cost of a Kilimanjaro climb will vary, but to give you some idea of costs, they could run from between $200 – $500 a day for a climb depending on season, route, number of people in your group, and the tour company you choose. Mine was expensive, but the quality and level of service cannot be beat.

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This is both a starting and ending point, depending on which route you take. It was our end.

 

It’s Not Glamping, But It’s Pretty Darn Close!

Accommodation on Kilimanjaro can vary widely, depending on the route and tour company you use. But overall, unless you book the Coca-Cola route, you’re going to be sleeping in a two-man tent with a tent mate. Most tour operators will try to discourage one person in a tent because porters are limited to carrying 27kg. They carry these tents from camp to camp, so when someone books a private tent, they actually put a burden on the porters.

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Our tents were the orange ones, spacious and functional

The tents are spacious, and the porters will carry your air mattress and sleeping bag. When you arrive at camp, your tent, mattress, and sleeping bag will be all set up for you and any personal belongings they carry will be inside the tent. Now that’s service! The African Walking Company also provided a toilet tent so that we didn’t have to use the gross park toilets. This was much appreciated!

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Me with our Chief Guide, Florence, who was so charasmatic and born to do this job

Tour operators also provide a dining tent. The meals are amazing. Three hot three-course meals a day are standard with most tour companies. They want you to eat as much as you can because it helps ensure your success in reaching the peak. We were also served tea and coffee in our tent in the morning, but I have some tent rules I follow that I also made my friend follow. They are:

1) no shoes inside the tent

2) no trekking poles inside the tent

3) no uncovered liquids in the tent!

We kept our tea and coffee outside the tent for the most part, but I eventually declined it altogether.

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Meru Peak was visible for much of our trek up Kilimanjaro and was just as photogenic

Tipping the People that Helped You Get There

One of the things I liked most about this adventure was that we were given an actual guide to tipping the guides and porters. There are different levels of porters and guides, as well as the cook and chief guide. The tipping scale gave us a range of how much to tip and luckily, we had a mathematician in our group who could figure out how much we should all put in the pot. These 33 guides and porters were so amazing, we gave them the maximum amount.

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All 33 guides and porters as well as my group of 8 at the tipping ceremony on the last night

I want to include a word about over-tipping. Over-tipping is not beneficial to those who receive it or to climbers who come after you. It instills unrealistic expectations in the guides and porters, and disappointment when the group after you doesn’t over-tip. Please stick to the guidelines supplied by the tour company.

Now You Know

A good tour company will provide you with all the information you need before making a decision about whether or not to book a tour and climb Kilimanjaro. It’s a serious endeavor that takes planning and preparation. Hopefully my two cents worth can help you do just that. I’d love to hear from you! Leave comments and questions below and I’ll be sure to answer them!

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View of Meru Peak from our camp on Day 3

 

How To Start Backpacking and Be Fearless in the Wilderness

backpacking 1

 By Lucy Gomez

Imagine leaping into a fresh-water stream, feeling the icy shock as you plunge in and the buzz as you warm back up again… the most energizing feeling in the world! Stepping into the wild opens the opportunity to discover the world’s stunning beauty, and maybe even encounter rare wildlife too! On top of that, it’s proven to boost your body and mind. So what are you waiting for?

OK, so maybe that all sounds terrifying. Don’t worry though, it did to me once too, you’re not alone!

That’s exactly why I’ve gathered all the useful tips that we here at getcampingwild.com have learned so far about how to start backpacking. So, before you know it, your inner intrepid-explorer will be unleashed!

backpacking 2You’ll need:

  • A Trail Map
  • A Compass

Before grabbing your backpack, pick up the map instead. The easiest way to work out what you’ll need is to know where you’re going.

My best advice for getting started is to stay local, because discovering how easily you can access the wild wonders on your doorstep instantly gives you a native feel for how to start backpacking! If you still need some more inspiration, check out our post on The Most Famous Seasonal Campgrounds and see if you can spot one near you.

We’ve been asked a lot of questions about how to start backpacking over the years, like….

 

Backpacking – will it be hot or cold?

In the wild, this decision is totally up to Mother Nature, and she’s famously unpredictable. But you can get one up on her, and here’s how…

  1. Check your weather forecastbackpacking 3

We bet you’re super familiar with the seasons in your region, but keeping an eye on the forecast means you’ll be aware of any freak storms threatening your trip!

  1. Use your map to estimate your altitude

The temperature drops 3.5°F for every 1000 ft you climb, and mountainous areas are known to have a climate of their own, too. When a warm sunny day becomes a hailstorm in minutes – don’t get caught without a raincoat, it’s not fun!

 

So, What should I wear?

When you are a five-hour trek into the wilderness, there is no hiding from the elements. If it’s cold, you need to stay warm in it, and if it’s boiling you need to be able to cool down. The solution? It’s all in what your wear…

  • backpacking 4Base layers – long johns and thermal vests are designed to keep your body heat in and the cold out. They’re cheap and easy to find in the underwear section of your closest shopping mall
  • Sports shirts – made from lightweight, breathable and fast drying fabric, you can get a bargain in discount sports stores
  • Long pants – either jogging or light trekking ones to protect your legs from stings, scratches and bites.
  • Small sweater – one of your ‘layers’ for intricate temperature control
  • Fleece – as warm and cosy as four small sweaters!
  • Raincoat – make sure it’s a strong, lightweight and breathable one
  • Plastic poncho – yep, just like those ones you get at waterparks and festivals, they’re unbeatable in sudden downpours!
  • Hiking shoes – you’ll need fairly firm ones to tackle the undergrowth, but don’t get the heaviest, as they’ll slow you down
  • Socks – specialised walking socks are vital for your first backpacking trip because they’re made from a silky fabric, so they keep your feet both dry and blister-free
  • cotton undies/sports bra – your most comfy pairs!
  • Swimsuit – ready for that freshwater dip!
  • Hat – be sure to protect your head in sun or snow!

How can you actually carry your whole life on your back though?

backpacking 5None of us are secretly snails. The trick is to simply bring all that you need and ABSOLUTELY nothing more. No really, or you’ll regret it – this is one of the biggest and hardest decisions for how to start backpacking! Especially when experts recommend carrying 30% of your body weight with you. For me, 30% of my body weight is 42 lbs, which is 19kg or litres, and I know I’ll be whining if I walk for five hours carrying that much! So I usually aim for just 15%.

Top tip – weigh your bag after you pack, then weigh it again when you’ve repacked!

Another mistake beginners make is shouldering all their weight. If you do that, we bet you’ll never want to go backpacking again! For a happy and healthy hike, make sure your backpack has a waist strap to carry the load, and an adjustable back to fit you.

Top tip – borrow from a friend for your first trip to keep costs down!

What do you eat and drink?

Bear Grylls might be happy to tuck into meals of bugs and berries, but we reckon you’ll be craving something a little less squirmy! After all, you’ll be burning plenty of calories, so make sure you get three square meals a day, plus a few snacks to sweeten your rest stops!

Here’s our team’s top trail menu, and all you need is a mini campstove, a metal cup with a lid, and a spork…

backpacking 6Breakfast: Instant oatmeal (add honey and raisins for extra goodness!) and a sachet of instant coffee

Morning snack: packet of mixed fruits and nuts or cereal bar

Lunch: Saltines, spread with Nutella or peanut butter, plus your favorite chips and a piece of fruit (apples and oranges have good backpack survival rates)

Afternoon treat: your favorite sweets, whether it’s gummy bears or fizzy worms, they’ll give you the boost you need (marathon runners do it!)

Dinner: Freeze dried packet meals are available in camping shops and just require a little heating, but a packet of instant noodles or pasta will also replace those much-needed carbs!

Top tip: Whatever you decide to bring on your first how to start backpacking trip, and every trip after that, make sure it’s sealed, lightweight, packed full of nutrients and doesn’t need refrigeration. Check out our post 7 Easy Foods For Camping’ for more ideas!

What about water?

backpacking 7Well, it’s a fact that you’ll need to drink much more than you can carry on day one, and another reason why your map is so important. When planning your route, trek via water sources like fresh springs or streams, then purify the water before you drink it.

Top tip: Boiling water for at least a minute kills the bacteria and saves you carrying a fancy filtration kit!

 

How does the sleeping part work?

There aren’t likely to be organised campsites in the wilderness, so you get to decide which patch of nature to call home for the night!

Step 1.    Choose a spot

It is generally advised to sleep near the trail, but not on it – about 100 yards away should be fine. Make sure you don’t block a water access point!

backpacking 8Step 2.    Check the terrain

There’s nothing worse than bedding down on spiky rocks, so choose somewhere peaty or leafy

Step 3.    Pitch your tent

Be sure to check you have all the parts before you leave home!

Step 4.    Get out your sleeping gear

Don’t leave home without a sleeping pad (I use my yoga mat). I’ll let you into a ‘how to start backpacking’ secret; although this is the most important insulating layer between you and the cold ground, some experienced campers don’t realise it!

You should also take a small pillow and sleeping bag to cosy up in. They come in sizes for each season – but the warmer the bag, the heavier it is. When choosing, estimate your nighttime temperature and match it to the range of the sleeping bag. Sleep tight!

Need to know

Now that you’re bursting full of top tips about how to start backpacking, there are a few more things to bear in mind (get it?!)

Did you know that you should:

  • Always give way to people going uphill
  • Never light a fire unless it’s allowed in your area
  • Bury your poop with a spade
  • Know the phone number for mountain rescue
  • Let others know your planned route
  • Pick up any rubbish you see, to save the landscape for future visitors, and for the creatures who call it home

For your first ever backpacking trip, we recommend going with a friend or a guide who knows their fauna from their flora. But if you go it alone and you get lost – don’t panic. Retrace your steps to the last place you recognise.

It’s also really important to make sure you’re in good shape before the trip – going running, swimming or working out in the gym is great for you anyway, but it can also be the difference between a good trip or an incredible trip!

And finally, you’ll be glowing with the accomplishment of having earned every single one of those fantastic views! So, take these steps towards how to start backpacking, and get out there to begin your own fantastic original adventure!

backpacking 9

 

Tips to Prepare for Fishing from a Boat

By Jameesa Alvin

Preparation

Preparation begins well before your hit in the water and involves everything from normal boat repair to servicing rods and checking all your terminal tools. Essentially, you should undergo a complete check of everything; test your engine, check the battery and electronics are working, and rods are performing well among other things.

How regularly do you see someone at the edge of the water with engine failure or your friend, who realizes that his/her rod has gone just as he/she tried to catch a fish? These are little facts that occur far more regularly than some of us would like to admit.

All in all, everything must be in place and ready before heading out. Bad planning and preparation can destroy a fishing trip. Do it well prior and you will not waste precious time preparing when you should be catching fish.

Focus on detail

Better fishers always do it right. At the end of the day, you only have yourself to take the responsibility. It is good to inspect all your tools before going in the water thoroughly.

When it comes to everything being in working order, some think it is best to often change rods. I should say that this is might be good depending on how much wear and tear you have. Braid, can last more than a year, but should still be checked regularly.

Check the leaders by running your fingers over them as well as physically checking them for wear or nicks. Then, test all joints and lastly have a swift look at the hooks. Do not be afraid to test your joints, flexibility on them to make sure they are completely sure. If I have any doubts about any part, change it.

Have your target

Fishing truly has shifted over the years, and as fishers get more and more skilled, their procedure has developed into more of an expertise. If you are beginner you can take essential fishing tips from many guidelines. Nowadays, if you want to fish, you have to select a certain focus species and set yourself up well.

Even temporal fishers head out looking for certain species, spinning for bream in a branch offshore. Paying attention to all your resources and efforts on one type, then utilizing the shotgun way and hoping for anything that occurs to be around, will make you more efficient.

Schedule your attack

Once you understand which overall areas have been giving fish; the next step is to get more specific about your game plan for the day. This truly is key to being a better fisherman/lady. It does not matter how good you are; there are daily changes that require taking account of, like tides and weather. Tidal data is important and shows the motion of water. It is always good to fish within the tide shift. Hence, if there is an early morning tide shift, it is well worth waking up early to catch it.

Spinning Rod and Reel

If you have not bought your spinning reel, you should first assess what kind of reel will go well with your needs. There are good websites and bass pro shops and cables to get you started. You should also visit Cabela’s, bass pro shops, or Gander Mountain and discuss with their fishing department to get an idea of which rods might be good for you.

Final Thought

With the best preparation, you will have the best fishing activity and hence success since preparation ensures that you are in a good mood to carry out fishing.

Overall focus on the tools you be using in the water and the prevailing weather of the water mass you will be doing your fishing.

Lastly, have the right confidence and mood to facilitate the same. Above all, you are going to be the best fisherman/lady ever – and above all, have a great time!

 

7 Quick Camping Drinks To Make For Your Daring Companions

Camping Drinks

By Rita Myers

Even if you’re going to give me all the luxuries in the world, nothing beats the great outdoors. After a long hectic week, I always try my best to bring my two sons and husband for a camping trip.

Sometimes they show up, often they’re unavailable. But I make sure to treasure my moments with them and make it as memorable as I can with camping drinks.

As fellow outdoorsmen – and women – I want you to experience the time of your life with your friends and family through drink-induced conversations.

A Simple Wrap Up!

Drink #1. Beer

Drink #2. Old Fashioned Pioneer

Drink #3. Sex On The Beach

Drink #4. The Fisherman’s Friend

Drink #5. The Backwards Forest Crawler

Drink #6. All American Mule

Drink #7. Wine

 

Our 7 Camping Drinks:

Drink #1. Beer

Camping Drinks 1

No matter where you are, beer is always an obvious choice to start with camping drinks. Although it “hits the spot” when camping, it’s not the most transportable to bring.

As a camper, keeping it light is one of the golden rules. Beer, however, isn’t light. It’s going to add a few pounds in your backpack. Of course, you’re not only bringing one on the trip (that would be lame).

Pro Tip: Bring beer cans over bottles. They’re lighter to bring along, greatly reducing the weight of your package. At the same time, you can crush them right after drinking.

If you think it’s still a hassle, you can always go for a powdered beer! Although it isn’t yet “conventional” it’s ideal for backpackers. You may refer to it as “freeze dried beer.”

Don’t even think of bringing a cooler and ice, it’s not going to help you on your travels. Ideally, you should be able to sit back and enjoy the surroundings in a stream.

Usually, after my husband and my sons have emptied our cans of beer we utilize the empty cans to make a smartly-made camp stove.  Take a look at this video to give you an idea:

 

Drink #2. Old Fashioned Pioneer

Camping Drinks 2

You can spice things up by kicking it old school. People may call it as a “copy” of the standard bar stable. When it gets down to it, Canada is the place to be when it comes to Maple leaves.

It’s not too far of a stretch to connect breakfast and campfires with maple leaves. My husband really likes the idea of joining the two together.

If you happen to be going on an adventure in a campsite which has maple syrup, then this is something you should try. I honestly think everyone should make their own Old Fashioned Pioneer at least once in their life.

It doesn’t take a lot of preparation, you can do it by mixing few shots of bourbon whiskey. After which, add in some syrup and grab some club soda – you’re good to go!

 

Drink #3. Sex On The Beach

Camping Drinks 3

At least that’s how city folks know it for. But for awesome campers like us, it’s called as Sex on the Bank. The name is pretty self-explanatory.

Sex on the Beach is a timeless drink which is often found in bars. In addition, it’s available in nighttime drives worldwide. However, we don’t have much access to a bartender, unlike our city friends.  Unless bars have their bartenders “For Rent” but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  We always make our own drink by bringing our nifty camp cooler.

Here’s what we usually do, just get a bit of vodka, orange juice, and cranberry juice to get things heated.

Hey, if you don’t mind bringing along red wine, it doesn’t hurt to mix it up. If anything, it only gets this more interesting. My eldest son loves to bring wine along with our trips. You should try it as well!

 

Drink #4. The Fisherman’s Friend

Camping Drinks 4

After a long day of scouting around the woods, my family and I tend to get groggy-eyed first thing in the morning.

This is especially when we’ve trekked for quite some time, I always wake up my three of my boys (including my husband since he still acts like a child most of the time) by making Irish Coffee!

If there’s anything that forces them to get up and get ready for the day, the instant jolt of the “magical recipe” does the trick.

Put up some refreshing smiles on the faces of your friends and family by grabbing yourself bourbon and caffeine, combine those two and you have an awesome recipe to set you out for a jam-packed day in the woods!

Seriously, it works perfectly. If this added to our camping drinks worked for my three stubborn boys, it’ll work for anybody!

Drink #5. The Backwards Forest Crawler

Camping Drinks 5

You have to admit it, the name’s pretty cool among camping drinks. But I think the previous name was cooler. Before it was changed, the drink was known as “Death in the Afternoon.”

The legendary drink was created by none other than Ernest Hemingway himself. It’s a deadly drink that really knocks the light out of you.

During my youth, I had some unfavorable experiences with this one when drinking in the woods. I was with a couple of friends, and I was light-headed before I could realize why.

I wouldn’t want to give it your family – especially to your kids. Instead, I encourage you to try out the altered and safer version of the deadly drink.

Backwards Forest Crawler is a safer version of Death in the Afternoon. To make the altered version, you can mix absente with champagne.

The old one carries a heavy punch, maybe too heavy. It calls for absinthe, which I would never recommend.

It’s not being sold in most places as it is considered illegal due to its dangerous components. Stick with the generic, and you’ll do swell.

Don’t even think about trying out the original formula. Do me a favor and save yourself!

 

Drink #6. All American Mule

Camping Drinks 6

If you’re the type of person who’s a fan of mixed drink connoisseur, then it’s most likely that you might have heard of what the Moscow Mule is.

Just in case you haven’t, it’s the result of combining in vodka, spicy ginger beer, and lime juice. This is often being served with the use of a copper mug as it’s being referred to as “Vodka Buck.”

It was a couple of years back when I heard about Moscow Mule, my friends had invited me over for a drink. I was surprised to hear about its newer version as it’s intended for camping.

Surprisingly, it doesn’t ask you to fill up your backpack storage with mixtures and bottles. You just have to simply get a can of beer and pour in vodka. As camping drinks go, it doesn’t get too much simpler!

Most of the time, even if we planned on drinking beer, someone would always bring Vodka around. If my eldest liked wine, the youngest has a habit of adding in Vodka for an All American Mule.

Since I knew this was the routine, adding in a bit of ginger ale doesn’t hurt. It makes everything better. And for the last part, just pour a lemonade packet to your newly made mixture – then you’re done!

Preparation time only takes a few minutes. If you want to whip up something special for your daring companions other than “just” beer, you should give this a go.

Drink #7. Wine

Camping Drinks 7

If there’s anything we can agree on, it’s that wine is the best drink for camping when you don’t want to hit your head too hard. Don’t worry, I’m not encouraging you to bring in bottles of wine.

Initially, I thought that was the case as well. That was back in the year 2012 when my eldest son asked me if we could bring wine along on our trip.

Now, I thought he was crazy! Bringing in wine for the trip could mean broken bottles and potential injuries. However, he surprised me with wine in a pouch. WOW!

If your camping buddies haven’t heard about it yet, you can shock them in your journey. It really makes a great birthday gift surprise when you’re already out in the open woods.

You can go and search for a variety of boxed wine. Ideally, you can just get rid of the box (it’s just going to be a hassle) and only bring in the bag of wine.

In addition, if you want to kick it cooler, you can always go for canned wines. They’re ideal to bring along in any situations – a day hike or a week-long trek.

 

Let’s Grab a Drink!

There’s no rocket science on how to be happy. Sometimes going out on an adventure with your loved ones is all that you need. And maybe a couple of drinks, too.

I’ve already tried most of these camping drinks with my boys, and our goal is to try on new drinks every time we go camping.

I hope you enjoyed the article! Don’t forget to leave a comment down below if you have any questions or would like to let us know of any of your camping drinks. Share this with your friends and family to inform them of your next big exploration!

Camping Drinks 8