Archive for January, 2009

Preparing for a Backpacking Camping Trip

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Backpacking isn’t for the faint of heart – instead of pulling into your designated 20′ x 40′ campsite and unloading your camping equipment from the car, you’ll have to be prepared to camp in uncertain situations, carrying everything you need on your back. Therefore, preparing for a backpacking camping trip involves a little more preparation than traditional campground camping. Read on for more tips on getting ready for a backpacking camping trip.

Invest in a good backpacking frame

Of all the places to scrimp and save, your backpacking frame isn’t it! Think about it – every day of your trip, you’ll be counting on your backpacking frame to hold all the gear you’ve brought with you. Therefore, it’s important to visit a specialty camping store with a knowledgeable staff that can help identify the best choice for you. And has some great ideas on how to pack ideally and avoid cramming unnecessary stuff. The ideal backpacking frame should be made of light, sturdy materials, and should be fit to your individual body type. A 5′ tall woman will need a different frame than a 6′ tall man, and choosing the wrong size frame for your body could result in serious injury on your backpacking trip.

Pack small and light

Obviously, a backpacking camping trip isn’t the time to bring along your three room pop-up tent or your heavy down-filled sleeping bag. Instead, invest in light weight equipment that’s specially designed to be carried in a backpack. Typically, these items will be made of durable materials and will be designed to fold up into smaller spaces. In addition, look for collapsible mess kits and cooking equipment that will easily fit into one of the pouches in your backpack. Take a good long look at everything you intend to bring and ask yourself if it’s really necessary, or if it’s a luxury you could live without.

Plan your route

If this is your first backpacking trip, consider trekking to a local state or national park that you’ve visited before. The familiar territory will help you to feel more comfortable about venturing off with nothing but the items on your back. Better yet, plan your first backpacking trip with a more experienced friend or guide, or take a class to help you prepare for your journey. Some adult education programs or specialty camping shops offer these classes to help introduce you to the sport.

Even if you’re a more experienced backpacker, it’s still a good idea to plan your route ahead of time, instead of wandering off on the trails on your own. Having a planned route will help you avoid any dangerous geographic features you aren’t prepared for – like rivers or ravines – and will help rescuers find you, should you become lost. On that note, it might be a good idea to invest in a portable GPS device that will help rescuers locate you, especially if you’re an experienced backpacker taking more challenging routes.

Practice makes perfect

Once you’ve assembled all your gear, practice unpacking and repacking it all several times before you head out on your trip. Your first night on the trails isn’t the best time to discover that it isn’t so easy to fit your tent back into the tiny bag it came in! Plus, it’s important to get used to the feel of the backpack on your shoulders before you embark on your trip. Try walking around the block a few times with your backpack on and loaded to be sure it’s adjusted properly to your body.

Great Campground Games

Sunday, January 18th, 2009

Camping can be a great family activity – but don’t expect your children to sit around and enjoy reading or relaxing like you do. If you’re tired of hearing the “I’m bored” chorus, consider trying out some of these great campground games.

Traditional sports

Many campgrounds offer traditional sports facilities like volleyball courts or horseshoe pits, and rent out the needed equipment from the main office. If your children are interested in playing, check with the office to see if there are any age restrictions on renting the equipment, or if they require a deposit to check out the gear. If the campground is located on a lake, the office may also rent out canoes or kayaks to interested campers. Just be sure to abide by any age or experience restrictions the campground has in place – lying about your children’s ages to check out equipment can have serious consequences.

Do-it-yourself games

If your campground is lacking in sports facilities, help your children to make up their own games to help keep them occupied. For example, you and your children could put together a campground scavenger hunt game, where the first one to locate a certain number of items wins a small prize. Possible items to find could be a shell from the beach, a pinecone, or even a red tent or blue car. Of course, if you do include items like tents or cars, ask your children to write down the number of the campsite containing the item, instead of actually running up and interrupting someone else’s trip.

Another great do-it-yourself game involves a little bit of preparation before you leave for your camping trip. This modified version of horseshoes is great for younger children that don’t have the strength to toss heavy metal horseshoes the full distance. Purchase several lengths of 1″ PVC pipe, a package of heavy duty rope and several small rubber balls. Cut the PVC to form a small ladder with three different rungs and ends that can be stuck in the ground, the cut 1′ lengths of rope and attach one ball to each end of the rope. The goal of the game is to toss the rope so that it wraps around the rungs of the ladder – you can adjust the difficulty by moving the ladders further apart or by assigning different point levels to each rung of the ladder.

Look into Junior Ranger program

If your children are looking for something to do, ask the main office whether they offer any junior ranger programs for kids. These programs typically involve several activities – which may be led by a campground staff member or self-directed – that teach children about the natural world. If your campground doesn’t offer a program like this, you can put together your own by asking your children to collect different types of leaves or to draw pictures of the different animal tracks they see. When you return home, you can visit the library together to identify the trees and animals they found on the trip.