Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Quick Camping Tips

The goal for this post is to be a short and packed with wilderness tips.  Some may be fairly common, but hopefully you will pick up a few tools that you will find useful.

Simple tricks to use in the woods:

1)  To wash a pan, use mud and sand to scour the pan, then rinse (NOT dumping the water into the stream), and reheat the pan until it is hot to kill any germs.  Additionally, a sprig from a pine tree makes a fantastic scouring pad.

2)  Pine sap is non-polar.  That means that water will not dissolve it.  Rubbing alcohol will take it off in a jiffy.  If you are in the woods without alcohol, then rub dirt into the sap.  It will not take it off, but it will take away the sticky.  Also, you can use sand and mud to remove it with a little scrubbing.

3)  Pine sap and ashes will make a nice epoxy.

4)  For fire starting, the inner bark of a cedar or cottonwood rubbed between your hands will make a nice ball of tender.  So will milkweed fuzz.

5)  If you know what time the sun rises or sets, you can tell the time by measuring "hands" held at arms length from the sun to the horizon.  Each finger is 15 minutes.  Each hand (excluding the thumb) is an hour.  This is quite accurate.

6)  Flashlights cause night blindness.  On all but the darkest nights, leaving the lights off will extend one's vision considerably.

7)  A bit of smoke from a fire will help to keep mosquitoes at bay.  Mud rubbed on exposed skin will also provide significant protection.  But try not to scare the tourists!

8)  Polaris, the north star, is easy to find and always indicates north.  Simply find the Big Dipper (Ursa Major).  Many confuse this with Orion, so it is worthwhile to distinguish the two.  The two stars in the pan that are opposite the handle point out of the top of the pan straight to Polaris which will be the brightest star in that part of the sky.  If the big dipper is under the horizon then it helps to know that Cassiopeia is on the opposite side of Polaris from the dipper, and the "W" opens generally toward Polaris.

9)  If you get caught without a coat and the temperature is falling, tuck your pants into your socks, and your shirt into your pants.  Stuff your clothes full of the lightest and driest material around (grass, cattail fuzz, leaves, etc).  This will provide amazing insulation and might save your life.

10)  A "can do" attitude is the number one survival skill when faced with challenges.  Consider threatening circumstances to be an adventure that you know you will learn from.

11)  To get more sleep, wear a stocking cap that is long enough to pull over your eyes.  Not only will it keep you warm, but it will keep the five AM light out of your face.

12)  A bandanna has many uses in the woods:  sun shade for your neck, hankie for your nose, wash cloth for cleaning up, signal flag for getting noticed, hot pad for cooking, bandage for first aid, a pouch for collecting, etc.  It only weighs a ounce or so.  Always have one on hand.

13)  When making a fire, know that a stick needs a buddy to burn.  Stack sticks "log cabin" or "tepee" style with about an inch between them, and the heat from each stick will help it's neighbor to burn.  Stack them closer and you will choke the fire of needed air.  Stack them farther apart, and the fire may not maintain enough heat to easily burn.  I find "log cabin" stacks to be better for starting fires and "tepee" stacks good for adding to fires.

14)  Insulation is much better for staying warm than a camp fire.  If you are using a fire, then make sure you are between the fire and a back drop that will help reflect the heat.  Better yet, use a small fire for cooking (with a 180 Stove of course), a medium fire for fun, and a sleeping bag for warmth.

15)  Stay hydrated.  Drink before you are thirsty, especially in winter.  Dehydration not only causes heat stroke but also makes it difficult to stay warm.  Drink, drink, drink.

And last and MOST important.  Make love-based decisions when alone or with a group.  Leave the earth better than you found it.  Encourage others.  Be forgiving and lead by example.  Don't mistake ignorance for intent and seek to share rather than to criticize.  We go to nature to recharge our batteries.  Don't be a drag.

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