Camping season is possibly the greatest time of the year, but unfortunately it is plagued with critters, rain, wounds, infections and bears. Thankfully all of these things can be dealt with whether you go camping in provincial camp sites or out in the woods.
Dealing With Bugs
I live in Alberta, Canada where mosquitos, ticks, brown recluse spiders and a plethora of other pests live. Mosquitos are actually the most difficult to deal with out of all of them, but a steady smokey fire, deep woods bug spray, long sleeve loose shirts and denim can reduce your bug bites to nearly zero from those pesky buggers. Ticks in my province now carry lime disease so ensuring they don’t settle into your skin is essential. To reduce exposure to ticks, walk in the centre of paths, avoid brushing up on foliage, wear loose long sleeve shirts, full length pants and shoes and socks that cover the gap between your pants and feet. Before settling in for the night, do a tick check! Their bites are not always noticeable as they do numb the area they bite so double check and remove them before sleeping. It is also essential that you check your dogs paws, coat and mouth throughout the day as they easily get between the pads of their feet and into their coats. Brown recluse spiders are not usually an issue, as they do not like to be around people or loud noises. Should you run into one of them, leave it alone and walk away. (We were lifting up our boat to pack it onto the back of the truck and found a nest of them that had settled in the boat overnight, we wound up flipping the boat into the sand and leaving it for a while before checking it again and actually loading it.) It may be annoying to walk away from what you are doing, but their bites are nothing to laugh about. Both my mother and I now have permanent holes in our limbs due to their nasty little venom. Seek medical help immediately if you are bitten, as people react differently and the time lines change with each individual. Bears are a well known hazard up north, but not one many people are actually trained to deal with. I’ve had to take two separate courses on bears, and I have personally had a few run ins with them. The best course of action with bears in PROACTIVE ACTION. Carry bear bells, talk loudly, air seal food, don’t leave scraps out, burn all food packaging or store it in bear proof garbage cans. Play music, have fires, use the buddy system and never approach a bear. Black bears are generally curious of humans and frighten easily, unfortunately they tend to attack when scared so avoid sneaking up on black bears. Grizzlies are much harder to type cast in their behaviour, the best advice I can lend is to take every precaution not to come into contact with one, and if one is spotted, leave the area.
Keeping Food Cold
We all know that an ice chest is only efficient while closed and out of direct sunlight. To keep your food cold, freeze any item you can before packing it (freeze all your meats), fill any empty space with ice or ice packs, store it in a dark area and open it as little as possible. If you are bringing foods and beverages that should both be cold, keep them in separate containers and opt to fill the beverage container with more ice as it will be opened more often. If you can cool the ice chests in the fridge over night before leaving, do it!
Camping First Aid Kit
When going into the bush, hours away from medical care or even to organized camp sites in the country, first aid is essential. You should have a full first aid kit, which you can purchase at Cabelas, Walmart and most outdoor stores. Added to that, have a bag with After Bite, Polysporin, a sharp blade, burn cream, sterile water (multiple bottles), a lighter, matches, a needle, medical grade suturing thread, anti inflammatories and (if applicable) an epi pen. Yes I realize that list is an investment, as all together it isn’t inexpensive, but it is the basic supplies to perform first aid. A first aid book would also be advisable.
We all love fireworks, and camping is a great opportunity to enjoy them, but taking a moment to plan out to ensure you do start a forest fire is important. The best place to use them is over a river or lake, as the shore where they are being lit is already a moist environment where the bodies of the fireworks won’t cause issues, and any misfires from the body that may not reach where it’s supposed to will harmlessly fall towards the water. If a body of water is not a possibility. Please ensure you are not shooting towards dry forests and that the local fire hazard signage is reading low possibility of forest fires.
I’ve taken a lot of pride in my ability to start fires without accelerants, because my family tends to quick start fires with diesel and I wanted to do it the old fashion way, and to this day I continue to build fires the low tech way. The advisory here, is should you chose to use an accelerant, please chose a slow burn and not an explosive like gasoline. Diesel fuel and two stroke oil and citronella oil are all good slow burns fire starters. I give this advice as I have watched a few men blow off their eyebrows starting fires with gas.
I love camping, it’s been an essential part of every summer of my life and I appreciate the years of patience my family had teaching me how to get by in the woods. Let me know your favourite camping spot in the comments!