Archive for the ‘Camping Article Of The Week’ Category

Backcountry Camping Can Be A Stressful Pursuit

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

When I was 24 years old I had a quarter-life crisis. I was working as a reporter for a small newspaper in Upstate New York at the time. It was a wonderful place to live, surrounded by thousands of acres of wilderness. Camping and hiking opportunities were ubiquitous.

But one day it hit me like a punch to the gut: I was trapped. Aside from the occasional walk in the woods, or overnight camping trip, I had settled into a comfortable and routine life without much in the way of excitement. I was too young for that, I thought. Yikes. Suddenly, the quaint mountain town was suffocating. I had to move on.

So I quit my job, broke up with my girlfriend, sold a few things on Craigslist, and, in a drastic attempt to find adventure, loaded up my Subaru wagon and pointed it west. A week later I was in Montana, where I had signed up for a six-month long AmeriCorps position with the Montana Conservation Corps. Along with swinging an axe, wielding a chainsaw and digging in the dirt for eight hours a day, the job entailed 21 day stints in the backcountry.

I was nervous.

I had been backpacking a few times, but most of my experience was in the luxury of car camping. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that!) Questions often raced through my head. Twenty one days without a shower? No toilet or outhouse? How am I going to poop in a hole for three weeks? No cell phone, TV or free Wi-fi? Guess I’ll have to go cold turkey on Internet consumption. What about bears, mountain lions, giant mosquitoes and Sasquatch? Am I going
to make it?

I made it.

Three weeks is a little extreme, but for a lot of people getting into backpacking and primitive camping can be stressful. There are certain adjustments in attitude that need to occur before getting the most out of a wilderness experience, and they don’t always come easy.

To curb self doubts and insecurities I would recommend reading up on camping and backpacking manuals and tips. Maybe check out an online forum or two. That will get you started if you’re not sure how to pack your pack, what gear you should bring, if you’re looking for suggestions on where to go, etc. But the best way to get into backpacking is to go out with someone who knows what they are doing. For my first true backcountry experience it was a staff member of the conservation corps who taught me the subtleties of cooking over an open flame, the allure of knowing animal tracks, and why the Spork is man’s greatest invention.

Stress about being in the backcountry can come in many forms. One summer I went camping at a primitive site in Maine and took along a friend who considers herself to be a ‘city girl.’ It was her first time camping and I was surprised to find that the thing she was most worried about was not having her coffee in the morning.

“We do have coffee,” I said. “We brought a French press.” (That’s not really an option while backpacking, but there are some instant coffees out there that are actually pretty good.)

She was also worried about bears, naturally, but was happy to find out that there aren’t any Grizzlies in Maine.

The list of concerns for first-timers in the backcountry is a long one, everything from . The trick is to be prepared. Do research, ask questions, plan ahead, but remember why you’re doing it. It’s fun! It can be life changing. Kneeling over a trickling mountain stream and pumping every ounce of water you use though a filter can really change your perception of turning on a faucet. In the same vein, nothing is more satisfying than creating a delicious and savory meal over a fire with minimal ingredients.

Being with a group in the wilderness is about camaraderie and adventure, feeling physically exhilarated and mentally at peace. Don’t take it too seriously. But certainly do your homework.

Here are just a few tips that address common apprehensions before taking the wonderful plunge into backcountry camping:

Bathroom etiquette in the backcountry

There’s at least one book out there, probably more, devoted entirely to this topic. It is uncomfortable to talk about at first, but nature is bound to call when in nature.

It’s not that big a deal.

I’d recommend buying a small camping trowel. Dig a hole six inches deep, do your business, and then bury the waste and toilet paper. Don’t forget to enjoy the solitude as you would in your own bathroom, and try to pick a safe place with a good view.

No shower, no problem

Baby wipes equal a shower in a box. They’re always a good purchase before spending time in the woods.

Rinsing off in streams or other bodies of water is also an option. Just make sure you are aware of any dangers that would be present. It is not usually considered “leave no trace” to put biodegradable soaps directly into a water source, but filling a water bottle and lathering up over the ground can be just as satisfying.

If you happen to be camping in the western United States, chances are there’s Sagebrush nearby ( The spicy, lemon scented plant makes for a great deodorant. Hang some in your tent to keep things smelling fresh, or better yet, vigorously rub some in your armpits. You just might get a few compliments around the campfire.

Sleeping easy

This isn’t a post about gear, and I am not going to recommend brands. But when it comes to getting comfortable in your tent getting a good sleeping pad is worth every penny, both for comfort and warmth. I’d say save up and spend a little extra.

Leave no trace

Leave No Trace ethics deserve a whole post, but the philosophy is simple: Take only pictures, leave only footprints. It’s important to learn about having a low-impact in the wilderness and backcountry so it can remain for all to enjoy.

About the author: Eric Voorhis is a journalist, photographer and blogger living on Long Island. As a reporter and freelance writer he’s covered everything from education and local politics to recreation and the environment. He has been camping in nearly every state of the contiguous U.S., from the backwoods of Maine to the beaches of California, and hates it when people burn marshmallows

Coleman “Continue Exploring” Contest

Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

For those involved with non-profit organizations, the Coleman ‘Continue Exploring’ Contest may be something worth looking into:

Attention Outdoor Enthusiasts!

Coleman, a leader in the outdoor industry, is officially announcing the launch of the Coleman “Continue Exploring” Contest where one Grand Prize winner will receive up to $5,000 in Coleman camping equipment for their organization!

The contest is open to nonprofit organizations whose mission is to teach children, 18 and under, about the great outdoors and participate in group camping activities.

Group leaders can enter by visiting the Coleman Facebook page now through October 31st. In addition to filling out the online entry form, your readers must submit one photo of your group in the outdoors as well as what the outdoors means to their group (50 words or less please!). In addition to the Grand Prize winner, there will be four second prize winners who will each win a prize package consisting of Coleman? camping equipment with a retail value of $2,000.

Starting November 5-11, Coleman Facebook fans will vote for the Grand Prize winner. So encourage your followers to log on and let us know what the great outdoors means to them.

No purchase is necessary to enter, for official contest rules, please visit The contest opens at 4 p.m. CDT on October 20, 2011.

Unnecessary Camping Equipment

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Like just about industry, the camping industry is ripe with products for sale that you don’t really need in order to camp. Sure, the manufacturers of these products will try to convince you that you need it to camp, and in some cases they’ve succeeded rather admirably at this, but if you’re looking to keep a few extra bucks in your wallet before your next camping trip, consider doing without the following:

Portable Grill

Part of the fun of camping is being able to cook a meal over an open flame. Why take the easy way out by bringing a grill with you? With your campfire and some basic equipment, you can cook just about anything!


The RV lifestyle has become very popular and is great for persons wanting to do some serious, long-term camping while enjoying some of the amenities of a home. But one is hardly necessary for a single camping excursion. It’s okay to camp the old-fashioned way by sleeping in a tent.

Air Mattress

It’s rather common for people to bring along an air mattress to sleep on in their tent. While this does add some comfort versus sleeping on the ground, isn’t the whole point of camping to reconnect with nature and escape the world of modern amenities? Unless you’re prone to serious back pain, a couple nights of sleeping on the ground won’t kill you. Think of it as a chance to reconnect with human history where sometimes sleeping on the ground was the only option.

Space Heater

If humanity survived thousands of years of evolution and sleeping outdoors without an electric space heater, you can too. Prepare by bringing adequate clothing (several thin layers is better than just a couple thicker layers) and sufficient blankets and sleeping bags. By doing this, you can leave the space heater at home.

Power Generator

If you’re going to go all the way out into the wilderness just so you can fire up a noisy generator and enjoy electricity, why not just stay at home? It’s entirely possible to sufficiently prepare for a camping trip that requires zero help from external electrical sources. You can do without a power generator on a leisurely camping trip.