Camping and Hiking

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The call of nature is very strong. Even before the weather gets warmer and the kids get out of school, people begin to pack their backpacks  and lace up their hiking boots . Lock up the house, say goodbye to air conditioning, and put the "Gone Fishing" sign on the door. It's time to go camping!

Where to Go Camping or Hiking

Even if you're looking to enjoy some wild camping, you can't just stumble around the countryside, looking for adventure. Even the most daring outdoorsmen have a basic plan in place. Here are some ideas for where to go camping or hiking.

  • Your own backyard: If you live in a suburban or rural environment, oftentimes this is a great place to camp out (or even go hiking if you live near woods). Kids who may be too young to handle camping without a nearby bathroom or their trusty nightlight  would be better off camping out in their garden. Try building a small campfire and roasting marshmallows  with your children, or tell scary (but not too scary!) ghost stories.
  • Wild Camping: Considered by some to be a bit dodgy, it is possible to safely enjoy camping in non-commonly owned areas. Always ask private landowners for permission and leave no trace of your presence behind when you're done.
  • National parks, hiking trails, or mountains: Feeling adventurous? Check out some fantastic national parks within the UK and take in some local culture. Try places like Bryher, the smallest of the inhabited Isles of Scilly, if you want to get off the beaten track but still be close to a few amenities. 
  • Global backpacking: If you have the means, try trekking the globe! Backpack across Europe, see the Great Wall, or go to the outdoor markets in India.

Outdoor Essentials

A camping holiday requires a lot of preparation. Whether you're looking to keep everyone in your group comfortable, or you'd rather travel light as you explore all nature has to offer, you will need some basics.  Besides the absolutely necessary canteen of water , you'll need the following.

Basics

Bedding

Sleeping bags  are popular among campers but they're not the only option.  You can also look for:

If you've got room to spare, as with car camping or caravanning, extra blankets are also a good idea.

Toiletries

Grooming doesn't cease just because you're on holiday. Even if you're in a caravan, it's handy to have:

Shelter

Tents  have their appeal, especially for those who really want to rough it . You may need:

Clean Up

An experienced outdoor explorer knows you leave your location the same way you found it. That means cleaning up after yourself, and leaving at little trace of your presence as possible. 

Periodically clean your supplies with anti-bacterial wipes  to keep from getting ill while travelling.

Tools

Enjoying the splendour of the natural world requires a few tools to make the experience less difficult. No one said nature was convenient.

The smart camper will also bring along a range of clothes. Unless you're planning to take a trip to a warmer region, plan for cool temperatures, especially at night. You need a base layer , which should fit well and breathe nicely; an insulation layer may also be needed, preferably in flannel  or fleece . Finally, a waterproof outer layer  will protect you against the elements, even if it's something as light as a jacket .

You also need to be prepared for an emergency; you never know when someone may become injured or ill while travelling. Even if you're spending your holiday by a public campsite, you should have some combination of the below; most camping first aid kits  will come equipped with all you need. A separate pocket first aid kit  is a very good idea for backpackers and those who like to go off trail.

Emergency Supplies

First Aid Kit 

Wind Up Torch 

Wind Up Radio 

Emergency Blanket 

Food

So what kind of food do you take along on your camping holiday? It really depends on your level of activity, and how much weight you can carry with you. Backpackers and hikers need lightweight foods that contain high amounts of protein; they should seek out protein bars ,instant noodles , dried fruit, jerky , and trail mix . If you'd prefer something sweeter, Kendal Mint Cakes  were taken on the first successful trip to the top of Mount Everest; if they're good enough for explorers, they're good enough for you.

The potential menu for camping and hiking expands with the amount of weight you can carry (or leave at a base camp). Some food items you should consider:

 
Cooking Tools

Ice Chests 

An ice chest is a necessity if there are medications or perishable foods you must have, even while camping. If you're going on a longer camping holiday, look for a five-day ice chest . You can also look for backpack coolers  for shorter trips.

Food Containers 

Food storage containers  help keep your food fresh and prevent nearby animals from rooting through your supplies when you're asleep. If you want to avoid carrying too many of these, see about obtaining some fresh, locally grown food near your campsite.

Dishes 

If you have a weight limit to observe, plastic dinnerware  is light and portable. It's easy to clean, too--a plus in the bacteria-laden wild. Non-stick cookware  is similarly a good idea; a kettle , skillet, and saucepan  are the minimum required. Lastly, skip the plastic flatware and go for a metal set .

Food Preparation 

Avoid starting a campfire unless space has officially been sanctioned for one. A camp stove  is a much better fit for families and groups, not least of all because you can set food to simmer as well as boil. You will need some fuel tabs , but they tend to be easy to carry.

 

How to Plan Your Hike

  • Find out as much about your route before you go.  In particular, you should analyse the terrain you will be hiking on and make sure it's not too difficult for your skill level. Don't push yourself to master really difficult trails; it's better to play it safe if you are just starting out. Some other tips:
    • Make sure to analyse a recent map  of your route.
    • Don't make the mistake of calculating distance based on a 2-D map. A mile long trail could take you hours if the terrain and weather conditions are terrible, while a ten-mile hike could be enjoyable and refreshing if it is flat and well-maintained.
    • Ask local authorities how the trails are affected by seasons and weather conditions.
  • Don't take the weather for granted.
    • Find out the forecast for that area, and pack a poncho  just in case.
    • Call local authorities and ask for any information on how the trails are affected by weather conditions.
    • Remember, in most cases the temperature decreases as altitude increases.
    • Take note of any clouds or colour changes in the sky, or better yet, bring a barometer  and check for changes in pressure. Tingling on your hairs or skin can mean a lightning storm is headed your way!
    • Keep a radio  on hand (with spare batteries ) so you can stay up to date with any sudden weather changes.

  • Pack as lightly as possible, but take as much water as you can. You'll need at least 3-4 litres a day. Food will be another 1.5-2 pounds.
  • Always let someone know where you are. Beginners should go hiking in a group or with an instructor. For longer trips, leave a trusted friend or family member with the location you plan on reaching each day. This will make it easier for help to reach you in case you get lost or have an emergency.
  • Be realistic with your plans. If you'll be handling easy terrain and weather conditions, and you've gone hiking before, an eight-day trip is realistic. However, don't expect to last eight days in the freezing cold or on rocky terrain if you are a beginner.
  • Plan your packing around what sort of terrain and weather conditions you are likely to encounter. Longer trips generally require more food and water rations, so if you aren't ready to carry extremely heavy bags while walking or climbing rocks for over a week, don't try it.

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