Tips and Advice for the Outdoors

Camping and Hiking – Tips & Advice


Swiss AlpsIf you’re new to camping, you are to be envied. There’s nothing like starting one of the world’s great adventures fresh and full of excitement. There are expert campers who can tell you everything there is to know about sites, what to pack, what to wear and what to watch out for. But even with a very modest amount of knowledge you can get started on the road.

You’ll want to spend some time investigating gear. Having a good sleeping bag and a lightweight, sturdy tent is a must. Modern materials and design give you plenty of unbeatable options. These days you’re not limited to sleeping in a tent, however. You may prefer a local motel or even want to stay in your vehicle.

Larger SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicle) make for great ‘hard shell tents’, but RVs (Recreational Vehicle) are another great option. They come in a range of sizes with some that can function as a permanent mobile home. Smaller ones can still sleep two comfortably, yet have a stove, running water and a TV for those who just can’t leave it at home.

Take some time to research stoves and lamps. Cooking outdoors can be a challenge, but it’s made a lot easier with a two-burner propane or Coleman fuel stove. Lighting has reached a highpoint with LED lamps and flashlights.

You may or may not have wireless Internet or cell phone access where you’ve selected, so be prepared. Getting lost can be a concern, too, so look into a good GPS unit. Learn to use it before you leave and get familiar with maps of the area so you’ll recognize what you’re looking at.

Do a little advance planning and you’ll save yourself a lot of headaches. Decide where and when you want to go, then make reservations far in advance. Camping is more popular than ever! When you’re doing that research, do more than just find a place. Check the weather, look into the local wildlife you’ll encounter and find out about any toxic plants to watch out for there.

Tamul Waterfall - San Luis Potosi, MexicoYou don’t have to restrict your choices to just the U.S., if that’s where you live. There are great campsites around the world. Canada has some of the most impressive lakes, forests and mountains anywhere. But even the North American continent doesn’t have a monopoly on great campsites. Europe has been a camper’s paradise for generations.

Whether you like sunny Portugal or Greece you’ll find plenty of options. Maybe you prefer the Black Forest of Germany or the same-named area in Russia. Either is a great choice. The UK has a hundred different sites in a half-dozen countries. You can visit the wild seas of the Orkneys or the calm ones in wild Wales. Or, you can head inland to the Midlands. The UK has some of the most diverse scenery of any country.

Don’t wait until you’re an expert to get going. Learn the basics, then head out and get some practical experience. After all, it’s not a classroom assignment – it’s an adventure!

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Plaine Morte Glacier


Hiking. Ever tried it? Maybe you have visions of dusty trails on steep slopes. Or, possibly you think it’s an experience filled with just insect bites, blisters and sore legs. Sounds pretty unpleasant, doesn’t it?

Well, hiking can involve those things. But, with the proper techniques, equipment and guidance you can enjoy all the many positives that are inherent in hiking: fresh air, beautiful scenery, healthy exercise, soul-refreshing solitude and joyous companionship. You can also avoid those unpleasant things listed earlier.

Just to get started on the right foot, so to speak, it’s a good idea to say what hiking is not.

Hiking is not mountain climbing, even though you can hike up some mountains. Mountain climbing involves using gear or special techniques to scale steep inclines. Mountain climbing is potentially dangerous, even lethal.

Puente de Dios - San Luis Potosi, MexicoAbout the only time hikers confront anything serious is when they get lost in wilderness areas or accidentally suffer a snake bite. Both those fates are easily avoided with a little bit of expert guidance and some common sense.

Hiking can be part of kayaking, fishing and other outdoor activities. But those, along with cave-exploring, canyoning and a dozen other exciting outdoor activities are not the same as hiking. Most of those other things are much more vigorous and require specialized guidance or training.

All you need to get started hiking is some good boots, the appropriate outdoor clothing and access to an area that allows you to enjoy the experience.

You can find good boots at hundreds of places online, and later we’ll talk about how to select the right pair. Similarly, outdoor clothing in every price range, style and purpose can be had on a hundred sites. Picking out the right socks, pants, shirt and jacket isn’t hard if you keep in mind the area and weather. A few hints in the right direction will go a long way.

Lots of other gear can help make your experience more enjoyable. Poles, GPS units and/or a compass, backpacks, containers and an array of other items like bug spray, burn cream, bandages can make life on the trail a lot more pleasant.

You’ll want to consider a few common sense safety guidelines before you go very far beyond your local trail-lined hills. It’s possible to get lost even in very small patches of forest. Snakes and other wildlife can turn a refreshing outing into an adventure you should only see on TV.

But after some modest instruction and preparation, you can quickly be ready for some stellar hikes. With a little more expert guidance and a bit of experience, you can soon branch out into overnight or longer hikes. Within a few months or less, you can tackle even the toughest trails.

Get ready for the adventure, because it’s all there waiting for you at the head of the trail. Walk on!

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