For me, the call of the wild buzzes loudly in my ears. Wait, no, that’s bees! Run!
OK, let’s try again. For me, the call of the wild echoes deep in my heart. Any chance I get to get out into nature, be it for a day hike, an overnight camping trip, or a multi-day excursion, I take. I find few greater pleasures than standing atop a mountain summit or sitting beside a crackling campfire, hiking through a forest of towering trees or paddling over the open waters of the bay.
For some people, however, I understand that the call of the wild is one usually sent to voicemail. Simply put, not everyone loves camping, hiking, climbing, or generally roughing it out there. And that’s fine, this is America, and everyone has the right to an opinion even if it’s wrong.
If you have a friend, relative, or special someone who is less-than-enthused by outdoor excursions (or if you yourself are a reluctant camper) yet you nonetheless want to get them out there, here are a few tips and tricks that can make roughing it a bit less rough.
Sleeping Bags Aren’t for Everyone
I’m more than happy to flop down in a mummy bag perched on a sleeping pad, but I understand that for some people, that’s just not the kind of bedding that’s befitting. If you don’t like tucking yourself into a sleeping bag, why not sleep with sheets and a blanket? And don’t worry, you don’t have to bring your fine linens from home. Instead, get some Camp A Peel peel-away sheets from Peel Away Labs and you can enjoy soft, waterproof, genuinely comfortable sheets that are 100% disposable. Sleep on the sheets for a few nights then, once you feel they’re getting a bit soiled, peel off a layer and reveal brand new sheets underneath. Nifty, right? Right.
As for your blanket, I recommend the Klymit Versa. It offers the warmth of a sleeping bag without the encapsulation many people dislike. Yet there’s a nifty built-in footbox you can use use if your toes get cold. And if you and/or your reluctant camping buddy wants to be up off the ground, just bring along a cot. The Helinox Lite Cot weighs about two and a half pounds and packs down small enough to fit into a duffel or large hiking pack, yet it can easily support an average adult’s body weight.
And while we’re talking about a cot…
Bring Great Camping Furniture
Whether you keep it extra lightweight with Helinox chairs and a packable table or you bring along full sized rocking camp chairs, make sure you have good campsite furniture so your hesitant backwoods buddy can take a load off in style out there.
And while I have yet to find a camping hammock in which I love spending an entire night, camp hammocks are great for naps or for simply using to chill out for a while. And they pack down so small that you might as well bring one along even if you’re not sure it will get much use.
Keeping It Clean In the Backwoods
The biggest hang up of many reluctant outdoorsmen and outdoorswomen is cleanliness. Back in civilization, I wash my hands at least five or six times a day, and I often shower twice daily. While out in the woods, on the other hand, I’m OK with getting pretty grimy for a few days. (Actually, I still like clean hands, which is why I self-apply much of this next advice.)
If you have a camping partner who can’t stand feeling less than fresh and clean, then be sure to bring along products like Action Wipes or HyperGo Wipes. These are essentially extra large baby wipes designed for use by adults and, with three or four of them used at one time, they approximate a quick shower. Combining a dollop of hand sanitizer with a large wipe can give you a decent backcountry hand washing, while using one with a bit of facial cleanser is almost as good as standing at the sink.
Then there’s always the ol’ solar shower, too. You fill these large pouches with water, leave them in a patch of sunlight to warm, then hang them from a tree and use gravity and a miniature shower head to give yourself a good cleansing. Or an adequate one, anyway, in my experience.
And of course it almost goes without saying that you bring lots of baby wipes with you! I usually grab a full 80 wipe packet of Made Of baby wipes even if I’m going for a one or two night car camp. You never know what’s going to happen out there…
Keeping It Cool In the Backwoods
When it’s warm out, tents tend to get hot. Like seriously unpleasantly hot. Like, even I was considering calling it quits and driving two hours home in the middle of the night this past summer because it was so damn hot.
Hanging a lightweight tent fan at the top of your tent can reduce the temperature inside by multiple degrees, making a shelter much more habitable. Or you could use a Zero Breeze battery-powered portable air conditioner that’s about the size of a retro boom box and that can lower the interior of a tent (or a vehicle or a small room) down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Not that you’ll need it that cold, but you could do it if you wanted.
Keeping It Warm In Your Tent
On the other hand, cold weather can be as much a deterrent to camping as the heat. You can keep your reluctant camper warm with a campfire and with good cold weather apparel, but once it’s time to move into the tent for the night, the fire has to stay outside, and sleeping in a parka isn’t much fun.
Strategically placed hand warmers are a good start, and a warm bottle of water tucked into a sleeping bag helps, too. But to get things seriously toasty, get a portable propane heater like the Mr. Heater Big Buddy and enjoy a tent that’s as warm as any room in your home.
To find your perfect tent, learn what to look for and how to choose one here.
Make Your Campsite a Bug-Free Zone
Yes, there’s a food chain, all living things are important, etc. But few things make a camp-out less enjoyable than armies of ants, buzzing bees, ticks, mosquitoes, and Goliath Birdeater spiders. Burning sage in your camp fire smells great and can help ward off some bugs, but I say you use science on the situation.
Pre-treat your tent and furniture with an insect repellent rich in Permethrin (spray it onto fabrics the day before you’re headed out and give the stuff at least four hours to dry) and treat your skin with a formula that uses Picaridin. Sawyer makes great examples of both. I know that because I used the stuff all summer long.
Finally, don’t skimp on the food. Serve feasts out there and your city-dweller might just be willing to join you in the wild again in the future.
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