Fend off a camping catastrophe with the proper wilderness tool kit

By Davis Hill, Staff Writer


Now that it’s getting nicer outside and we’re getting nearer to the end of school, you want to spend more time outside. You want to walk on rough-cut trails, smell fresh alpine air and dive into crystalline mountain lakes. You want to go camping.

This is about as far in the thought process as most people get before they decide to pack up the car and head into the wild. But camping isn’t as simple as you think. You need to decide: should you bring your smart phone for entertainment, or your Gameboy?

I’m just kidding, of course. One of the best things about camping is that you get to leave digital technology behind. Out in the wilderness, there are no calls, no notifications and no funny cat pictures—just the pure, joyous beauty of nature. (Seriously though, consider consider bringing your Gameboy. Mountain lakes get boring pretty quickly).

I’ve been on lots of camping trips. Some of them have even ended without serious injury. Follow my tips, and you’re sure to have a camping experience.

  • Know how to build a fire. 

Here are some general tips for fire building:

First, you need some kindling. Newspaper, napkins, dried out shrubbery or plastic wrappers all make good kindling. Worthless scraps of paper, such as receipts or pages from any of the “Hunger Games” novels, also work well.

Second, you need to create a flame. Light the kindling with a match, lighter or pair of reading glasses. If, after several tries, this doesn’t work, consider soaking the kindling with lighter fluid until it is virtually unrecognizable.

Third, put on the wood. It’s best to put all of the firewood on at once so that the flame is deprived of oxygen. This makes it last longer.

Do not worry about putting the fire out. Smokey Bear is actually a clever ploy designed by the firefighting industry in order to enable firefighters to continue receiving government subsidies without doing their jobs. Fires extinguish themselves naturally.

  • Bring a camp stove.

You couldn’t get the fire to start, could you? Well, at least you brought your camp stove. Light it quickly; otherwise, gas will collect around the stove. By the time you light it, instead of a little flame under your nose, you will get a gigantic fireball over your face.

  • Camping with a Boy Scout may be less of a good idea than you think.

Most of the boy scouts I know spent all the time they were supposed to be learning first aid and wilderness survival looking at dirty magazines and stabbing each other with their pocket knives. Never trust a scout with anything camping related. If he offers to start the fire, run.

  • Know the flora and fauna.

What’s the difference between a deadly rattlesnake and a harmless garter? Can you eat those mushrooms, or not? Is that nighttime rustling a bear or a squirrel?

When I’m in a pickle, I just remember the old rhyme, “Red and white, you’re not all right; red and yellow, you’re a fine fellow,” which tells us which kinds of snakes we should avoid. Or something.

Fill this full of useful things. Photo credit: Sam Sargent
Fill this full of useful things. Photo credit: Sam Sargent
  • Dress appropriately.

For camping attire, remember that: The bigger your boots, the more comfortable your feet will be; the shorter your hiking shorts, the farther you will be able to walk; the longer your socks, the fewer your blisters; the larger and floppier your hat, the better you are able to resist sunburn. You should wear the biggest boots with the longest socks with the shortest shorts and the largest, floppiest hat possible.

I hope I haven’t made you overly worried. Camping is one of the safest and most wholesome activities you can do. After just one weekend of sleeping in a tent by a mountain lake, you’ll feel refreshed and ready for anything.

Speaking of which, I hope you don’t mind ticks in your shorts. There’s no way to avoid that.

Views expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the views of The Easterner.