Are you looking to get away from the crowds and back into nature? Camping is the way to go. This hobby covers a range of skills and dates back to the very lifeblood connection of humans to the wild, where gathering food, collecting water, and improving means of shelter was not an option. Fortunately, most of the today’s society has access to everyday comforts and knows the luxury of choosing how intimately it would like to be connected again with nature. In general, camping is the act of leaving the entrapments of social life and spending time outdoors in more primitive circumstances. Whether this means leaving town and staying at an recreational vehicle (RV) park, kayaking several miles along a river to set up a tent and fish for your dinner, or taking a several-day sabbatical on a secluded mountain shelf, there are probably enough outdoor opportunities (and equipment merchants) to cover your every need to make your escape a reality.
Camping describes a range of activities. Survivalist campers set off with little more than their boots, whereas recreational vehicle travelers arrive equipped with their own electricity, heat, and patio furniture. Camping is often enjoyed in conjunction with activities, such as: hiking, whitewater kayaking, hill walking, climbing, canoeing, mountain biking, motorcycling, swimming, and fishing. Camping may be combined with hiking either as backpacking or as a series of day hikes from a central location. It does not, however, apply to cultures whose technology does not include sophisticated dwellings.
Other than the original scouts and fur traders who carved their way into the wild unknown of the early frontier, scouting today pretty much refers to the Boy Scouts. Originally founded in 1907 by Robert Baden-Powell in England, the organization for boys (and later Girl Scouts also), his work was loosely based on his past experiences in the British Army as Lieutenant General. Today’s worldwide movement employs what is known as the “Scout Method,” emphasizing important life skills such as camping, woodcraft, hiking, backpacking, and sports.
The Scout Law and Promise embody the joint values of the Scouting movement worldwide, and bind all Scouting associations together. The emphasis on "learning by doing" provides experiences and hands-on orientation as a practical method of learning and building self-confidence. Small groups build unity, camaraderie, and a close-knit fraternal atmosphere. These experiences, along with an emphasis on trustworthiness and personal honor, help to develop responsibility, character, self-reliance, self-confidence, reliability, and readiness; which eventually lead to collaboration and leadership. A program with a variety of progressive and attractive activities expands a Scout's horizon and bonds the Scout even more to the group. Activities and games provide an enjoyable way to develop skills such as dexterity. In an outdoor setting, they also provide contact with the natural environment.
The sense of confidence and competence that results from the scouting experience, especially as it relates to outdoor and camping skills is unique and valuable. Other than the one-on-one training that can pass from parent to son or daughter, joining with a pack or troop allows first-time campers to learn with ease and benefit from a group experience that might not be found anywhere else. Scouts learn how to safely build and start campfires and tie various types of knots. They learn about wildlife and about what to do when confronted with a wild animal. They learn how to prepare food outdoors, pitch tents, canoe and kayak, do rock climbing, fish, go caving, and shoot with bows and arrows. Many have their first experience with rifles while in the scouts (this is a real advantage, since they’re learning that safety principles are for everyone at all times). A large number of the available merit badges are for one sort of survival skill or another.
Survival skills are techniques a person may use to help other people or a person in a dangerous situation such as natural disasters. Generally speaking, these techniques are meant to provide the basic necessities for human life: water, food, shelter, habitat, and the need to think straight, to signal for help, to navigate safely, to avoid unpleasant interactions with animals and plants, and for first aid. In addition, survival skills are often basic ideas and abilities that ancient humans had to use for thousands of years, so these skills are partially a reenactment of history. Many of these skills are the ways to enjoy extended periods of time in remote places, or a way to thrive in nature. Some people use these skills to better appreciate nature and for recreation, not just survival.
Our ancestors were in reality survivalists because they were self sufficient. They were responsible for one’s own self and family, protection, health, and sustenance as well as shelter. This is what our ancestors knew and lived every day. They were prepared for what life brings through planning, learning, and preparing for any possible future. Through education we can teach people how to survive more than one day at a time. We can teach them how to feed themselves and their families for life, be prepared for future unknown and the basic art of human survival to be pasted on for generations to come. Such skills are presented as useful in situations such as storms or earthquakes or in dangerous locations such as desert, mountains, and jungle. Every different situation or location is said to present a different range of dangers. Though different sources assign varying numbers of most important elements for survival, most will agree on the following: the order of priority of survival needs shifts according to the immediate situation faced.
One widely circulated concept to help set priorities is called the "Rule of Three." Employed a mnemonic device, the Rule of Three states:
1. Humans cannot survive more than three hours exposed to extremely high or low temperatures.
2. Humans cannot survive more than 6 days without water.
3. Humans cannot survive more than nine days without food.
The Rule of Three is often otherwise formulated and is viewed by commentators as a rough guide. An aircrew reportedly lasted 8 days without water in a life raft. People have survived without food for over twenty-one days. In 1998, Alaskan fireman Robert Bogucki survived for 12 days without water and 36 days with nearly no food in the Great Sandy Desert, Western Australia. The Boy Scouts, in addition to listing seven priorities, use a mnemonic device, "STOP," to address the mental aspects of survival. "STOP" stands for "Stop, Think, Observe, Plan." Following are some of the very basic wilderness survival terms and how they might be accommodated.
Shelter is anything that protects a person from his/her environment, including dangerous cold and heat, allowing for restful sleep (a human need). A shelter can range from a "natural shelter," such as a cave or a fallen-down (cracked but not split) thickly-foliaged tree, to an intermediate form of man-made shelter such as a debris shelter, a ditch dug next to a tree log and covered with foliage, or a snow cave, to completely man-made structures such as a tarp, tent, or house.
The ability to start a controlled fire is recognized as significant in increasing the ability to survive physically and mentally. The skills required to light a fire without a lighter or matches, such as by using natural flint and steel with tinder, is a frequent subject of both books on survival and in survival courses. There is an emphasis placed on practicing fire-making skills before venturing into the wilderness. Fire is presented as a tool meeting many survival needs. The heat provided by a fire allows the body to be warmed, wet clothes to be dried, water to be disinfected, and food to be cooked. Not to be overlooked is the psychological boost and the sense of safety and protection it gives. Fire may deter wild animals from interfering with the survivor, or wild animals may be attracted to the light and heat of a fire. The light and smoke emitted by a fire can also be used to work at night and can signal rescue units.
A human being can survive an average of three to five days without the intake of water, assuming sea-level altitude, room temperature and favorable relative humidity. In colder or warmer temperatures, the need for water is greater. Need for water also increases with exercise. A typical person will lose 2-3 liters of water per day under ordinary conditions, and more in hot, dry, or cold weather. Four to six liters of water or other liquids are generally required each day in the wilderness to avoid dehydration and to keep the body functioning properly. The U.S. Army survival manual recommends that you drink water whenever thirsty. Other groups recommend rationing water through "water discipline." A lack of water causes dehydration, which may result in lethargy, headaches, dizziness, confusion, and eventually death. Even mild dehydration reduces endurance and impairs concentration, which is dangerous in a survival situation where clear thinking is essential. Dark yellow or brown urine is a diagnostic indicator of dehydration. To avoid dehydration, a high priority is typically assigned to locating a supply of drinking water and making provision to render that water as safe as possible. Many sources in survival literature, as well as forums and online references, list the ways in which water may be gathered and rendered safer for consumption in a survival situation, such as boiling, filtering, chemicals, solar radiation + heat/SODIS, and distillation. Such sources also often list the dangers, such as pollutants, microorganisms, or pathogens which affect the safety of back country water. Recent thinking is that boiling or commercial filters are significantly safer than use of chemicals, with the exception of chlorine dioxide. The issues presented by the need for water dictate that unnecessary water loss by perspiration be avoided in survival situations. To thus avoid these problems, culinary root tubers, fruit, edible mushrooms, edible nuts, edible beans, edible cereals or edible leaves, edible moss, edible cacti and algae can be searched and if needed, prepared (mostly by boiling). With the exception of leaves, these foods are relatively high in calories, providing some energy to the body. Plants are some of the easiest food sources to find in the jungle, forest or desert because they're stationary and can thus be had without exerting much effort. Also, many commentators discuss the knowledge, skills, and equipment (such as bows, snares and nets) necessary to gather animal food in the wild through animal trapping, hunting, and fishing. Some survival books promote the "Universal Edibility Test." Allegedly, one can distinguish edible foods from toxic ones by a series of progressive exposures to skin and mouth prior to ingestion, with waiting periods and checks for symptoms. However, many other experts, including Ray Mears and John Kallas, reject this method, stating that even a small amount of some "potential foods" can cause physical discomfort, illness, or death. An additional step called the scratch test is sometimes included to evaluate the edibility of a potential food. Focusing on survival until rescued by presumed searchers, The Boy Scouts of America especially discourages foraging for wild foods on the grounds that the knowledge and skills needed are unlikely to be possessed by those finding themselves in a wilderness survival situation, making the risks (including use of energy) outweigh the benefits.
First aid (wilderness first aid in particular) can help a person survive and function with injuries and illnesses that would otherwise kill or incapacitate him/her. Common and dangerous injuries include:
• Lacerations, which may become infected
• Bites or stings from venomous animals, such as: snakes, scorpions, spiders, bees, stingrays, jellyfish, catfish, etc.
• Bites leading to disease/septicemia, such as: mosquitoes, fleas, ticks, animals infected with rabies, sand flies, komodo dragons, crocodilians, etc.
• Infection through food, animal contact, or drinking non-potable water
• Bone fractures
• Sprains, particularly of the ankle
• Poisoning from consumption of, or contact with, poisonous plants or poisonous fungi
• Hypothermia (too cold) and hyperthermia (too hot)
• Heart attack
The survivor may need to use contents from a first aid kit or, if possessing the required knowledge, naturally-occurring medicinal plants, immobilize injured limbs, or even transport incapacitated comrades.
Opportunities for camping are only as limited as your imagination. You can choose your back yard or even your living room, if your tent is small enough. This is a good, controlled environment for testing your tent setup skills. You can experiment by sleeping outside to see what items you find yourself missing by the time your head hits the pillow (if you’ve remembered to bring your pillow). If you’ve chosen RV camping, do a bit of homework after you’ve chosen your destination but before you depart. Use the internet to research RV-friendly camp sites along your route, including price comparisons, amenities, and even what sort of scenery you can expect to see from your pull outs once you’ve hooked up. Consider making your first camping experiences short ones, preferably for just an overnight or two. If you have a GPS and maps, bring them along to help you navigate; compasses are great, but they are only as good as their users. Bring others with you the first few times, especially if they are seasoned campers—observation is a very effective mode of education.
Next, start branching out. Find an event—it can be anything, such as a music or arts festival, fishing derby, motorcycle rally, or dog show a few hundred miles from your home. See how well you do on your own. Or, if you are anxious to try your wings at solitary camping, study state park maps and customize your trip. Once you are comfortable, you can work toward more skilled camping, such as hiking or climbing several miles to get to your ideal camping spot. At this point, though, you should be willing to carry in water, food, and some of the crucial first aid items.
Some of the best-planned trips go awry when bad weather hits. These are the days of pouring rain, impasses of mud, fog, and cold that chills to the bone. To help alleviate the disappointment of such times, try to bring along a few “creature comforts,” if at all possible. This might be a paperback book or a deck of cards to use in your car or tent. Perhaps you might have travel brochures you picked up from the visitor’s center nearest the area you’re in. You can always be working on your “B Plan” for use when the weather clears up. If you’re doing social camping, this is the time to bond better with your fellow travelers and learn more about interests you have in common.
Whatever destination you choose as your next adventure, allow extra time for good things to come to you. If you’re alone, take time before you zip up the tent at night to look up at the stars you’ve perhaps not seen in as many numbers before. Listen to the sounds of life continuing in movement as you fall asleep. In the morning, peek out to watch for wildlife that might be lingering in the area to graze. Without doing these things, you’re only going through the motions of camping rather than experiencing it.