Camping for Women
Making Camping Fun
Women are different than men. Our bodies are built differently and we have totally different attitudes about many things, including camping and hiking. Though some guys have no problem running off into the wild without even a toothbrush, most of us women wouldn't feel too comfortable with that.
Since many of the camping books and guides are written by, and often for men, I thought I'd help the wanna-be camper women out, and share a bit of what I learned the hard way on my many camping and hiking trips.
I love camping and want camping to be as fun for you as it is for me, so read on to discover some of the ways we can make our trips as enjoyable as they can be.
Consider Your Personal Needs
Your Version of Camping
First of all, consider what's important to you.
This article has tips that are for the average woman, many of these camping tips I consider important based on myself and other women I've hiked and camped with on my numerous trips.
No one is ever exactly the same though. If something isn't necessary for you, don't bother with it, and if you know of something that I didn't list, but it bothers you, make sure to take it.
Consider, what bothers you the most when camping. Think about things that dilute your joy and make you uncomfortable. Don't just deal with a bunch of nuisances, find solutions to those issues.
Camping is different for each individual, and we all have to learn our own style. Things that bother one person, won't bother another. This article will help you learn to have more fun camping, and while this is aimed at the women that typical camping guides neglect to assist, most of these tips really are good for men too :)
Save Your Skin While Camping
Sunburns Can Ruin a Camping Trip
You'll Be Exposed to the Elements
While camping, hiking, or just enjoying the outdoors, you'll spend a lot of time exposed to the elements.
Women's skin can be sensitive and need extra protection, though of course everyone, not just women should take care while outdoors.
Entire trips can be ruined if you get too sunburned or your lips crack and bleed. Just a few simply things can make a big difference.
Moisturize your skin. Put on sunscreen. Apply chapstick. Look for lightweight clothes that have a good SPF rating.
A good, wide-brimmed hat and stocking cap should be with you too. Any regular camper knows they are a must, and they'll see you through storms, sunny weather, and cold days. Bring both since weather can be unpredictable, and while the days may be warm and sunny, the night may get cold, and wearing a stocking cap to bed will keep you a lot warmer.
Hot, cold, dry, or windy, the weather may make your skin get chapped and rough, make sure to bring good lotion.
Being in a different environment than normal may make even less sensitive skin hurt, and since many of the best camping and hiking areas are at high elevations, you'll be even more vulnerable to red and rough skin.
Cold mornings at a mountain camp can be beautiful and stunning, but it can be hard to enjoy it if your skin feels raw from the cold and wind.
Don't Get Burned
You have to have sunscreen.
No matter what shade your skin is, anyone can get burnt from the sun when they spend more time outdoors than normal. And while camping, you're usually outside way more than usual. We don't realize how much time we spend indoors at home.
Apply sunscreen every morning before going out and reapply often. Areas that get rub against can have sunscreen removed quicker than normal, so keep an eye on the edges of your shirt sleeves, the tops of your ears, and where the backpack straps sit on your shoulders. Reapply extra often in those places if necessary.
Keep in mind that a sunburn doesn't even require a sunny day. Cloudy, overcast days can cause worse burns than others, so no matter what weather is predicted, make sure to have some sunscreen along, just in case.
Make sure you use a high enough SPF too, going too low can still allow you to get burnt, and sunburns are not fun while trying to enjoy nature.
Wear Clothes with Sun Protection
Sunblock works on exposed skin, but what about under your clothes? Some clothing lets rays of sun right through, letting you get burned through your clothing. Many camping experts suggest wearing long-sleeves when hiking and camping, to prevent your skin being exposed to the sun and wind. It makes sense to make sure these pieces of clothing actually block the sun.
Look for clothing with an SPF rating that will keep more sun away from your skin. It will reduce the amount of sunblock you have to use, as well as keeping the wind from chafing your skin.
They even have shirts that are embedded with bug repellent as well, so less chemicals need to be on your skin.
Bye-Bye Cracked Lips
Lips are one of the most sensitive areas on a body, and when they are exposed to hot and dry conditions or too much wind, they can crack and bleed.
Circumvent any problems by bringing lip balm and applying it regularly. Make sure it the type with built in sunblock, so your lips stay safe.
I need to put on chapstick about every hour, so I usually put the chapstick in my outermost pocket or the easiest place to get at it. I've been thinking of making a small bag to wear around my neck, so I can have something to put the chapstick in. Or attaching a necklace to the top of the chapstick so it's always handy.
Also consider getting a stronger chapstick to put on right before bed so your lips have time to heal overnight before being exposed to the outdoors once again.
Hats are a Must!
You really really need a good, wide-brimmed hat.
A hat that keeps some of the sun off your face is incredibly important.
The right hat will shade you, keep the rain off of your face, and keep you from getting overheated. Some people like the ones with a part that hangs down and covers their neck to keep the sun off.
I really like the ones that are crushable, since I can shove it in my bag and it pops back into shape when I pull it out. Having a chinstrap is also important to prevent the hat from flying away.
It's also a good idea to have a stocking cap along.
Even if the weather is warm, it can get cold at night and in the morning, so a stocking hat can give you a bit of extra warmth. They're good to sleep in too to prevent your head getting cold as it pops out of your sleeping bag.
I really like a stocking cap with a visor since it can be cold and windy, but still the sun can burn you quickly.
Staying Warm in My Stocking Cap
Protect Your Hands
Setting Up Tents Tears Up Your Hands
Life while camping and hiking can be a tad rougher than normal.
Hiking often entails scrambling over rocks, maybe through a few bushes. You might grab at some rough granite to pull yourself up a boulder pile. Or perhaps you'll pick up stuff coated in sand. Setting up camp means putting up the tent, ground cloth, and stakes, then later pulling them up and putting them away, as well as dealing with many other things.
Skin exposed to the elements becomes more delicate and easier to abrade. Abraded skin hurts and can get infected. Save time and effort by just caring for your skin a little extra while camping--especially your hands.
Your hands will be doing a lot of unaccustomed work, so protect them. Wear gloves, put lotion on them, keep them a little protected.
Trim Your Nails
Trim your nails before the trip. I trim mine as far down as possible since otherwise they break off below the skin or bend backwards while I'm carrying things.
Bring along some nail clippers while on camping. You might need to cut them a little lower which can help prevent nails from ripping off or getting hangnails that can easily become infected in the unsanitary conditions that can arise while camping.
A small manicure set can be a handy addition to your camp set anyways, tweezers and other items in them are invaluable when you run into trouble. And really, it takes almost no room. Even if you almost never use them, having them tucked into the corner of your toiletry kit when you do need them is worth having them around.
This may sound like a bit of a prissy addition, but your hands will be doing far more than you'd think, and it really is important to keep them in shape.
Splintery Wood is Not Good for Hands
Tough gloves can be a valuable asset when camping.
Camping often involves setting up a tent, hammering in stakes, and carrying around gear. Doing things like that can leave your hands raw in next to no time. All it takes is pulling up one deeply embedded tent stake to make your hands raw and hurting.
Leather gloves or other tough ones can protect your hands from all the sharp and sandy things you need to grab.
I tear up my hands especially when camping because I like to find rocks and climb around, which rubs my hands raw in no time.
Wear Latex Gloves
Some people like to wear gloves to keep their hands protected, but allow them to feel a bit more. Latex gloves work great for this. You can handle the tent and things around camp with dexterity, while having a protective layer between your skin and danger. If leather gloves with bad seams irritate your hands, you can always layer a pair of latex gloves under the leather ones to get some relief.
Latex gloves also help keep your hands clean. So you can set up camp and then pull them off for clean hands.
Make sure you use a latex alternative if you have a latex allergy.
Keep Away Bugs
Creepy Crawlies Go Away
Bugs and other creepy crawlies can make you miserable, and can be health hazards in areas with lime disease.
Check for ant hills or animal holes before setting up your tent.
Wear bug repellent that will work with the bugs in your area. Some areas have blackflies, others have midges, and others have mosquitos. Make sure your bug repellent will work with what bugs you're expecting. Spray the repellent on your clothes, not your skin preferably since some can be dangerous.
Lots of people have had good luck with Avon's Skin-So-Soft as a safe bug repellent.
Be aware that bug repellent sprays can damage plastics or affect materials.
In areas that allow camping with open flames, when used safely there are a lot of different bug-repellent candles and torches, most with Citronella in them which readily works to keep mosquitos away.
Some electronic noise machines work to repel bugs without chemicals. Most people can't hear the high-pitched sound they emit, but the bugs can. I've used them, but since I can hear the sound they make I'd rather deal with bugs and so haven't tried many of them.
They make hats with drop down mosquito netting that come in pretty handy to keep bugs away from your face.
when you walk through the brush ticks hanging out can catch a ride. Tucking your pant legs into your boots or taping them down with duct tape can keep any bugs from brushing on to you and crawling inside. But it is still a good idea to stop every so often and check everyone for ticks. Do it with someone close and hot, and you'll see why this was a fun enough activity to have a song written about it ;-)
Always turn your shoes over and tap them to make sure nothing is inside before putting them on. The residual heat and cozy holes can be appealing to creatures.
Also, shake out your sleeping bag before sliding in to make sure nothing has wandered in.
Most likely you won't be bothered by more than some minor nuisance bugs. Even as much camping as I've done I've never found anything dangerous or scary other than a scorpion paperweight we used to prank the person in our camp scared of bugs.
Bug Repellent Shirt
Wear Bug Repellent Clothing
Instead of having to constantly spray your skin with chemicals, consider getting clothing with bug repellent built in. Most of these pieces of clothing are made for camping and hiking and being in the outdoors, so they tend to be comfortable and sturdy as well as keeping bugs from bothering you.
Products vary, but usually they keep away mosquitoes, ticks, black flies, and gnats.
Most bug repellent clothing repels bugs through many washes, and they are easy to put on even when too windy to apply spray repellents.
Keeping Clean While Camping
Surrounded by Dirt
You'll Be Getting Dirty
Camping is a dirty business.
You'll be out in nature, not a place known for being clean, hiking and walking and setting up camp and doing all sorts of things that will make you come in contact with dirt, and on top of that, showers and bathrooms can be hard to come by.
Even if you aren't a neat freak, being completely filthy and climbing into your sleeping bag can leave you feeling a bit icky.
Cleanliness isn't just about aesthetics. Dirty feet will get blisters. Sweat drying on your skin will irritate it and cause rashes. Simply washing your face with a damp cloth can make you feel wonderful and refreshed after being in the hot sun.
Hair can be a huge pain while camping. I like to have my hair cut shorter before camping season so there's less to deal with, or alternatively keeping it braided and out of the way. A lot of small braids pinned back work great for longer camping trips such as when I go to Burning Man. Beware hairstyles that leave portions of your scalp exposed as they can make you get some real bad sunburn. If your hair is pulled away or shorter than normal, make extra sure that you apply sunscreen well to your scalp, neck, and the tips of your ears, and wear your hat!
Contains Tea Tree & Eucalyptus Oil to help kill germs too!
Baby Wipes Work Great!
There is one thing no camper should be without --> baby wipes. This is my number one requirement while camping. I can't do without my baby wipes when outdoors and playing in the dirt.
Mothers know how handy baby wipes can be, half-eaten food on your kid's face? A swipe and it's gone. Playing in the dirt? Quickly running a baby wipe over their hands cleans at least the worst of it off and keeps everything a bit neater. Well, imagine campers as big kids, playing out in the big sandbox of nature...baby wipes come in handy.
You can quickly and easily have a little sponge bath in your tent before crawling into your sleeping bag, and they'll even be nice for a quick wipe of your hands before cooking.
As long as my hands and face are clean, I feel much better. Also, I like baby wipes for a quick swipe when I feel overheated, it just helps so much.
Baby wipes can help you clean off a bit, and leave you feeling clean. This may not sound important, sitting at home, all nice and clean, but it makes a dramatic difference while out camping.
You can even use them to wipe most of the food gunk off of dishes before properly washing them. This is handy when you don't have a lot of access to water and want to conserve what you do have. Or when you cooked something really messy that doesn't clean up easily like the classic camp foods of spaghetti or bacon. Wiping out the worse of the grease before washing the dishes can get them much cleaner and save a lot of trouble.
Don't forget to dispose of used wipes properly once back from camping though, no one likes littering campers and baby wipes don't break down as quickly as toilet paper.
It feels so good to be clean
There are some campgrounds with showers, but many times they aren't available. It seems like all the best places to camp have no bathrooms. You can still get clean though with some handy camping items.
Portable showers can vary from simple bags of water which you hang in the sun to absorb sunlight, called solar showers, all the way to complete little rooms you put up like a tent. Most of them rely on gravity to send a small stream of water flowing over you, washing you clean. What you use depends on where you are camping and how much hassle you want to deal with.
There are also machines that heat up water using propane so you can even have a hot shower at a moment's notice. Any version feels like heaven when you've been camping for a while and just need to hose off.
Rocking Out Is Fun But Dirty
Baby wipes work great for wiping off easily, but hair can be a hassle on a camping trip.
Dry shampoo can make things much easier. It is super easy to sprinkle it on your hair, let sit for a few minutes, then brush out the powdery shampoo, taking all the dirt and oils with it. A lot of people are starting to use these at home as well since it's less harsh on your hair than regularly shampooing every day and it good to alternate.
There are also no-rinse shampoos that are sprayed on or are liquids as well.
The dry shampoo I like the best is the one in little shower caps. It comes with the dry shampoo already inside and you can just put the shower camp on your head and rub it in, then remove the cap and all the dirt. It's far less messy.
Going Potty While Camping
An Actual Bathroom While Camping?!
Be Prepared For No Bathrooms
In my opinion, going to the bathroom while camping is the worst part.
If there are bathrooms at the campground they are usually gross and icky, and if there aren't bathrooms, squatting behind a bush is not always the easiest thing to do.
If there are no bathrooms the proper way to potty is to find a secluded spot far from any water source. Make sure there isn't any poison ivy or animal holes. Dig a small hole, go, then cover it back up. Trying to do it where no one will step is important, so right next to bushes and off the path is a good idea. Also, if you are on even the slightest slope, remember that liquids roll downhill--even if your feet are in the way. If just peeing, I usually just drag my heel in the ground to dig out a small hole. A garden trowel is handy otherwise. Toilet paper should go into a sealable bag, something like a freezer bag that is thick is the best. Apply a little duct tape on it to make it non-see-through. There are also bags specifically made for used bathroom items, that cover the scent as well.
While some women pull down their pants and try to bunch them out of the way, others prefer to take them off completely to prevent any possible danger. Some girls I know wear skirts camping or wear skirts over their pants to make it easier to keep covered when squatting. Just make sure everything is tucked out of the path before peeing.
If camping in a sensitive area there may be rules regulating how you go to the bathroom. Really popular hiking trails on areas above the treeline have restrictions because things don't biodegrade fast enough. Read through your paperwork when registering to visit these areas and see what is recommended. Usually they;ll want you to pack out 'everything' you bring in, and will have advice on products to do so.
Being a woman also means there are extra hassles to deal with, especially since our periods usually strike at the worst possible times and doing things like hiking and camping can trigger your period, even if it wouldn't normally happen yet.
The right gear can make going to the bathroom outdoors a bit easier, so make sure to bring what you need. Hand sanitizer is a must. Toilet paper is important even if going to a campground. Portable potties are a good idea if someone in your group has problems squatting or the weather will be too chancy to rely on going in the bush. Portable peeing devices can be handy. And tampons and pads are important even if just in case.
How to Pee in the Woods
Stand Up and Pee
There are a few products coming out on the market that allow you to go pee standing up. Honestly, this is probably the only thing worth being a guy.--not having to squat to pee is so nice when necessary.
These products are great for areas with no bushes, you can easily just turn around and go without flashing everyone. Maybe your balance sucks or you have injured your knee. Now, if you can't squat down to pee, you don't have to. Maybe your camping trip is in the snow and you can't constantly be getting out of your snowsuit. Maybe you're going boating. Or use one of them where the bathrooms are so gross you just don't want to sit down. You can also use it with a jar in areas without bathrooms or when you have to go pee in the middle of the night.
It can actually be dangerous to remove too much clothing when it is really cold out and no one likes a frozen tushy when camping in snow. Some girls have gotten so good with them they can just slip them in their pants and aim out without removing a bunch of clothes. There are extensions you can add to the tip to make that easier, though some people just use an appropriate piece of tubing.
Pee-splatter can be a problem when squatting if you have a heavy stream, a pee funnel can aim away from you and prevent splashback.
Go Girl is the most common and popular device and I know friends who take them all over, especially at music festivals or where there will be porta-potties.
If you get one, practice in the shower at home before you go camping. There are different brands and different versions because not everyone is shaped the exact same way. There is a little bit of a learning curve, but they are so handy once you get used to using one and find the one that works best for you.
Some pee funnels are softer, made to conform to our shapes and create a tight seal. Others are a harder material to make it easier to hold in place. Each girl is different and has a different preference, so if you feel really comfortable with your girlfriends, get together for a pee party with a bunch of different brands so everyone can find the one that works best for them.
Various brands include GoGirl, Shewee, PizWiz, P-Mate, SmartWay, and others. All are essentially a funnel, usually of silicon so it's easy to rinse clean. You place the funnel in the proper area, trying to get a good seal around your parts. Pee. Then rinse it clean and put it back in the travel pouch or ziploc baggy. There are also disposable ones which can be handy, but aren't as sturdy and need to be packed out when camping.
No more sitting on disgusting toilet seats in dirty public bathrooms or doing that hovering things that makes everything even messier. Simply stand and go.
Female Urinary Diversion Device (FUDD)
Bring Toilet Paper
Toilet paper is something you should always bring with you camping. It's a good idea to bring single-ply toilet paper when camping since it breaks down better and doesn't clog porta-potties.
Even if you are staying at a campground with bathrooms, expect them to be out of toilet paper to prevent unexpected hassles. This is something you really don't want to be without, so bring some toilet paper just in case.
I really like the little, portable containers of tp. They're nice and small and easy to put in your pocket. If you want to just bring a regular roll, keep the toilet paper in a large Ziploc bag. Or use the plastic containers that coffee comes in, the tp fits right inside and the handle makes it easy to carry or ziptie to the toilet.
Even if you're not due to have your period, sometimes the stress of the trip or your activity can trigger it, so it's a good idea to bring along some tampons.
It's far better to have tampons with you and not need them than it is to need them and have to go without and try to deal with it.
You might want to bring pads on the camping trip as well.
It's quite normal for some women to tend to leak a little on strenuous hikes, and a pad will help prevent accidents. Many pregnant women leak a bit when hiking too.
Also, many people are allergic to all sorts of things in nature, and we know what happens with long bouts of sneezing sometimes.
Bringing pads can be helpful in case you have little accidents.
Having your period while camping sucks, but especially if there are no bathrooms.
Dealing with the used toilet paper and sanitary pads or tampons means you'll need something to put them in. No, you do not leave them out there. That's disgusting and it utterly ruins the spot for everyone. It's bad for the environment, the animals, and anyone else in the area, especially if you are in a mountainous area that doesn't allow easy burial.
Just take a disposable bag to place used items in.
You can use whatever will work for you, if you have some smallish zippable bags around the house that will probably be fine. You can also use the bags designed for diaper disposal, they're usually treated so they won't let smell out, are colored so you can't see through them, and are the perfect size.
Another cheap and easy option is to cover a freezer ziploc bag with duct tape. It'll make it not see-through and since you can seal it, it will prevent any smells from escaping.
There are also disposal bags designed specifically for camping in areas that don't have outhouses and are too sensitive for you to dig a cat hole to go to the bathroom in. These of course are the best way to deal with the inevitable.
What I usually use are tampon and pad disposal bags. They're simple and easy to use and are usually scented.
Bring a Toilet
Often it seems like the best places to camp are those without even pit toilets or porta-potties. If you are going to go camping somewhere without a toilet you can either take to the bushes or bring a portable toilet.
These are nice for those who can't squat properly, maybe someone has a knee injury or you have children. Or they're just nicer than having to go through all the trouble of digging holes.
Making a portable toilet it fairly easy. Just take a 5-gallon bucket, line it with a couple heavy-duty trash bags, then add a scoop of kitty litter. You can even cut a slice into a pool noodle and slide it on the rim to add a cushion. Some people add toilet seats instead. The handle of the bucket can be unhooked and a roll of tp slid on it to keep everything together.
If you don't want to use a bucket, just get a portable potty already made to use for camping.
Portable toilets can even be set up inside one of those little pop-up shower stalls for an easy private way to go potty.
Prevent Chafing While Camping
Hiking Through the Sand Dunes
Too Much Rubbing Can Really Hurt
Anytime you have to parts rubbing against each other, you will eventually have chafing. This could be shoes rubbing against your feet, backpack straps rubbing against your shoulders, or your thighs rubbing together. And eventually, the chafing will cause a rash or blisters or even welts.
Most women have hips that curve in such a way that their thighs press together. This is perfectly normal and a part of women's bodies that is to be expected. It also means we have a tendency to end up with thighs rubbed raw from friction when we hike a lot. Even wearing pants to add a barrier doesn't always help. There is a solution.
Since I'm fat, have sensitive feet, and usually carry a backpack while hiking I almost always ended up sore and hurting by the end of the day, and usually my bra would even rub me raw. Then I found something called chafing cream, I absolutely love the stuff! Not only does it help prevent rashes caused by rubbing, it even helps get rid of ones that are already there. It's safe for all over and really does help prevent friction burns.
Preventing friction burns is especially handy while camping and hiking, because you'll be moving a lot, and areas will be rubbing that don't usually rub. No matter what, on your camping or hiking trip, there will be an area or something that will rub you wrong, and chafing cream will help prevent that. After all, you don't want to be too sore to walk while hiking.
Before you start, rub a little chafing cream on any areas you expect to get rubbed raw. It lasts a long time, but if the areas start feeling tender again, simply wipe off the area with a couple baby wipes to remove any sand or sweat that may have built up in the area, then reapply. It really does make a huge difference.
It's good for runners and hikers to add a little dab to their nipples as well since shirts rubbing constantly can cause some painful chafing. And moving your arms while walking can cause some uncomfortable chafing in the pit area. Add some chafe cream there too.
Keep the cream handy in your pack and put it on when you start feeling even the slightest bit uncomfortable so you don't end up raw and hurting. Remember, it may just seem bothersome, but it can ruin your trip and anything that ends up as an open sore invited infection.
Use the Right Backpack
Not all backpacks are equal. Men's backpacks are not shaped correctly for women and so can chafe and rub you wrong, as well as make it harder to carry. Women carry loads differently than men, so we need a backpack that will balance the load properly for us.
Get a good women's backpack that fits you well since if it doesn't fit you, it will just cause trouble. Make sure it has a sternum strap to go across your upper chest, and another strap to go around your waist. It will fit better and be closer to your body mass, improving your balance and keeping you safe as well as making it easier to carry the load.
It's a good idea to make sure it is capable of containing a hydration bag as well. Keeping hydrated while camping and hiking is difficult, and you will be far more likely to drink water if you have a hydration pack built into your backpack.
When you find the perfect backpack for you, get used to wearing the backpack early, don't just put it on the day of the trip and expect it to wear okay.
Wear it around the house, see if it fits well, then start adding weight until it's actually heavier than the pack you expect to carry. It will build up your muscles and give you a chance to learn if it chafes anywhere.
Wear Good Shoes Hiking
Camp Shoes are Important
Wear Good Shoes
One of the most important things while hiking and camping is to wear good shoes. If your feet are hurting, it will make every part of you feel rotten and no one wants to admire pretty scenery when all they want to do is get off their aching feet.
Blisters are one of the worst things to get while hiking. They're dangerous because they can easily get infected, and if you can't hike to help, then you're stuck.
Find a good pair of shoes. They shouldn't bother your feet at all. Then wear them around everywhere. Break them in and see if you develop any hot spots.
Do not wear new shoes hiking and camping!!!
Blisters can develop almost immediately and new shoes will have dyes and harshness that will ruin your feet for weeks. Break them in before hiking!
No matter what type your main pair of shoes are, bring a spare pair in a different style. Even if your shoes are the most comfortable thing ever, you may need to alternate when you get out there running and jumping and hiking. Being in the same pair of shoes the entire time may not work out, and you need an alternative just in case.
Also, bring along some bandaids, pieces of moleskin, and chafe cream so if you do start getting a blister you can keep on top of it.
A lot of people like boots for hiking and camping.
They give good ankle support. Laced properly and slightly snuggly they can help prevent twisted ankles and if you do get an ankle injury they can provide support for you to hobble somewhere if necessary.
Boots that cover your ankles also help prevent wildlife injuries. If you step on a snake it will help prevent you from being bitten, especially paired with jeans. A lot of hikers duct tape their pant legs to their boots to prevent ticks from accessing their flesh.
Boots are sturdy and tough for climbing all over everything.
Boots can also be heavy and hard to break in, so start early getting your boots ready and your feet used to them as soon as you get them. Don't wear new boots hiking!
Sports sandals are shoes made for clomping around on trails, wading through streams, and going from kayak to hiking to camp.
They drain easily and dry quickly, making it easy to go through most any terrain with ease.
Their openness allows sand particles to slip in and irritate your skin, and they can be problem if there are biting creatures around. But for some people the issues they have are worth it.
Sport sandals are my favorite thing to wear while camping and hiking, in fact I wear mine nearly ten months out of the year, even while swimming instead of swim shoes.
A simple pair of slip on shoes is great to have around your campsite.
They even help keep your tent cleaner. Boots should never be worn into the tent itself but it can be a hassle to pull them on and off each time. Take off your heavy boots at camp and simply slip on shoes when you go in and out of the tent.
Waking up in the middle of the night is not nearly as much of a hassle when you can just slip your feet into some shoes instead of having to lace them all up and wear socks.
And getting up in the morning doesn't have to mean instantly getting dressed, with slip-ons you can easily shove your feet in and go get coffee.
If you're hiking a lot, it's a good idea to have another pair of shoes to switch out with as well. It will give your feet some breathing space and helps prevent blisters.
I usually just grab a pair of flip-flops to bring with me, but they don't work really well. Some sort of water-resistant clog to help protect your toes would work better.
Whatever extra slip-on shoes you bring, try to find ones that are easy to clean and care for.
Keep Warm While Camping
It's Often Cold While Camping
Women are usually more sensitive to cold than men, so need to prepare extra well.
Cover your bases by expecting it to be cold at least part of the time. Camping is quite often colder than you'd think, especially at night after the sun goes down and you aren't surrounded by buildings radiating heat.
I've even been on several trips, including during late spring and early summer, where it has snowed on me all of a sudden. Be prepared to need warmth.
One of the most necessary, but oft forgotten things I see while camping are extra clothes. Popular camping places like the mountains or the desert can be especially cold, no matter how warm the day was. In fact, one group camping trip had me running out of clothes, simply because I was trying to keep warm all the people who thought the desert in late spring meant it would only be hot and so brought bathing suits and left jackets behind.
When camping, bring a warm jacket and lots of clothes to layer.
Layers are always the best while camping and hiking because you can remove any you don't need, or place one or two back on if necessary. This is especially handy on a hike where you start off cold and end up hot and sweaty.
I really like one of my layers to be a vest.
Vests keep your core warm, while allowing freedom of movement. They are easy to take on and off, and are often just the right amount of extra coverage you need. And you can unzip them if you start feeling too warm.
My vests are usually made of fleece because it packs so well and wears well while camping.
If it's really cold I'll start with an undershirt, layer a warm top over that, then add the vest, and maybe a jacket. If it's warmer I'll often just wear a tank top with the vest over it. It's so easy to add and remove layers as I warm up.
Ladies, how often have you been in bed chilled and your husband has the covers thrown off and is sweating? Women sleep colder than men usually, so need extra warmth at night.
Sleeping at camp got so much more cozy after I started bringing down booties, a down jacket, and beanie cap to sleep in. Down is lightweight and packs up so tiny, that it takes almost no room at all and it's well worth bringing.
Sitting around camp in a nice down coat is so much better than sitting there shivering or huddling up to the fire and breathing in too much smoke. And when it's time for bed sometimes I wear the coat to sleep in for an added layer of warmth and to keep out the cold night air.
Always sleep in socks and booties to stay warm.
Do not wear to bed the socks you wore that day. That is one of the worse things you can do. They'll be dirty and damp with sweat which will make your feet blister and stay cold.
I prefer to wear down booties since they take almost no space in my bags and retain a lot of warmth. I even wear them right in my sleeping bag so my toes stay toasty.
The best camping item I've ever found was a relatively simple one called Hot Hands.
Hot Hands are single-use self-heating bags you can wear in your gloves or carry in your pockets. They are little bags of charcoal and some other stuff that somehow when you open the package and they are exposed to the air, they produce heat.
On cold mornings I open a pack and slide them into my pockets to keep my hands warm. My arthritis doesn't bother me nearly as much. And on cold nights I stuff a couple into my sleeping bag and it pre-warms the bag and is cozy for hours. My campmates fight over them when we wake up on cold mornings and everyone is freezing.
Slip some Hot Hands into your boots to warm them up in the morning.
An alternative to Hot Hands is to fill a bottle with warm water before bed, being careful to not melt the plastic. Or, set rocks close to the fire until they get warm, but be careful. If they have been damp lately the rocks can explode.
Hot Hands are just easier and stay warm way longer, but in a pinch the other warmers work okay.
If using Hot Hands act with caution. They get pretty warm when pressed directly to skin. People with circulation issues, the elderly, and kids should be watched over so they don't get burned. Putting them into your socks while you're wearing them can make them press too closely to the skin. I like to place them in places where I can move them regularly so one spot doesn't get too heated up. Inside a loose shirt or in pockets is really perfect.
Other Uses for Hot Hands
Hot Drinks Warm Your Heart and Your Hands
It seems like we always have a kettle of water warm or getting warm, ready to make some coffee or hot tea or hot cocoa. To make everything even quicker and easier, we have a little box that is filled with the drink packets and sugar and creamer, since it's often the last thing used at night and the first thing used in the morning.
Some campmates have to have their camping coffee presses with them, while others subsist on instant. Whatever your hot drink of choice is, plan on bringing lots camping. And don't forget the marshmallows for cocoa!
Cold Morning at Camp
Warm Breakfast Makes for Warm Bellies
Don't just look outside of yourself for ways to get warm, warm food in the morning or at night will keep you toasty.
Another reason we like having hot water going is for breakfast. Instant oatmeal makes a hot meal that will keep you going through hours of hiking.
Since I don't like oatmeal, I mix up my own hot cereal mixture that has dry milk already mixed in so it's easy to just add hot water and get a hot breakfast filled with cereals and berries and chocolate chips. We always have a bag in our chuck box and in our cupboard at home.
Make Some Hot Cereal for Camping Breakfast
- Hot Cereal Mix Recipe
Mix together your own cereal for a filling and warm start to your winter day or cold camp morning.
Sleep Better While Camping
Setting Up the Sleep System
The Ground Can Be Hard
Being well-rested means you'll probably have a fun trip, being sore and tired means you'll probably have a not so enjoyable one. All that fresh air and exercise while camping leads to sleeping harder than normal. Sleeping hard and deep on the hard ground means you are going to hurt if you just toss down a sleeping bag and try to sleep in it. If you're like me, you'll wake up cold and in pain the next morning, if you even manage to sleep that long.
So so what I do, and set up a good sleep system.
For me, I sacrificed for ages on my comfort, and guess what? I spent the night cold and uncomfortable, then woke up hurting and tired. Then I found out what works.
A good sleeping bag, with a good temperature rating made a huge difference. I'm claustrophobic, so I get an extra-large bag and tuck it under me. Mummy bags are warmer and better, but I personally just can't stand them. It's important to get a bag with a good temperature rating, but it's also important to keep that good rating. Washed improperly and stored in a stuff sack between camping trips can ruin even the best sleeping bags, so make sure you check how to wash your sleeping bag before doing so and store your sleeping bag laid out flat, maybe somewhere like the bed in your guest bedroom. This will keep the filling from shifting and bunching.
Under the sleeping bag I use a sleeping pad as a cushion between the cold ground and me. They roll up so small they're worth taking. And the insulation from the ground keeps you a lot warmer. Sleeping pads can vary a lot, there's everything out there from simple sections of cushion to pads that inflate when blown up or even just rolled out. Some sleeping pads are specifically made for women and have more padding in the areas we need it most.
Inside the sleeping bag I use a fleece sleeping bag liner for extra comfort and warmth and to keep the sleeping bag clean. These simple and cheap little fleece liners work wonders. When it's really cold out, they add an extra layer of warmth. When it is warmer out, you can sleep inside the liner and the bag with one or both unzipped. Hot nights are spent on top of my sleeping bag but inside the unzipped fleece liner for a comfortable snooze. And the fleece liners are much easier to wash than sleeping bags.
Add in a pillow and I now sleep like a dream while camping.
Don't take that icky old sleeping bag camping if you can avoid it. You'll most likely spend the night cold and wake up stiff and sore.
Having a good sleeping bag is important for everyone, but especially for women. We usually get cold easier so need a bag that will keep us warm, and one used for years and probably not laundered correctly to retain loft means the one you have laying around probably won't do work well.
There are also some wonderful new bags on the market, designed specifically for women and women's needs. Most are designed to be a bit warmer, and have more space in the hip and shoulder areas for curves to fit better.
They are so much better than your old bag, and you'll be amazed at the difference they make.
Sleeping Bag Liner
Since washing sleeping bags is bad for them and should only be done when absolutely necessary, sleeping bag liners come in handy.
These are small sleeping bag-style blankets designed to lay inside of your sleeping bag, keeping the sleeping bag clean from any dirt you have on you as well as any skin oils that might harm it.
Sleeping bag liners are also great for keeping you a bit warmer. Sleeping bag liners are usually made or fleece or silk, but you can occasionally find them made of other materials.
My favorite use for sleeping bag liners though, is when it's too cold to sleep with the sleeping bag zipped up, but too chilly to not have anything over you. The extra warmth and extra cleanliness is lovely to have.
Also, you can just pop the sleeping bag liner in any washer when you return from camping, you don't have to deal with washing the big bulky, slow-to-dry sleeping bag when you otherwise don't need to.
They're handy when not camping since you can use them when staying at motels you don't trust the bedding and they make perfect little sleep sacks for kids staying over.
For the most comfortable night, really think about your sleeping pad system.
Since women have curves, sleeping on the ground can really hurt our hips and shoulders. With my wide hips and smaller waist I would often wake up with a leg completely numb and it would take hours to get rid of most of the aches and pains. A sleeping pad will pad these areas to help prevent you from feeling like death warmed over the next morning.
Some pads, like Therm-a-rest, even have sleeping pads designed specifically for women with extra padding where we need it.
If you don't want or can't afford a pad, layering your extra clothing beneath your sleeping bag will give you a little cushion to prevent those morning blues.
Sleeping with something between you and the hard ground also has an extra benefit, it will keep you warmer. The ground stays cold, so it sucks the warmth right out of you. Extra padding means the cold ground doesn't make you cold.
Bring a Pillow
Don't forget a pillow when camping.
For ages I made due with some rolled up clothes for a pillow, then I realized that I woke up with a stiff neck and a headache each morning.
There's no point in making yourself feel bad when you can just take a compressible or blow-up pillow with you.
Pillows really take up hardly any room and you can wake up refreshed.
The Most Important Thing
The Most Important Thing to Bring with You
Really, the most important thing to bring with you camping, isn't a thing you can see, though you can see the effects. The most important thing of all to bring camping is a good attitude.
Things will go wrong. No matter how much you prepare and plan, something will happen that you didn't expect.
Those are the things you will remember most about your camping trip. They'll be the things you tell stories about months later. But how you act about the unexpected is how you decide whether they will turn into good memories or bad ones.
We still tell stories about accidentally camping in a cow field; the road trip where we had rain, sun, high winds, and even snow; and of course the trip with the Cheetos overdose. We laugh about the silly things that happened, but some of the people we've gone on trips with had trips ruined and will never go camping again because they didn't know how to let things not bother them. They fixated on the things that went wrong and missed all the things that went right.
Things that happen unexpectedly will be the things you remember and talk about. No one will remember that you arrived on time, that you had everything you needed, or that nothing went wrong. You'll remember that a herd of elk made you an hour late. Your kids will tell stories about how someone forgot the can opener. And you'll laugh with your friends about how the tent blew down around your ears. Things happen, and your attitude will make the decision about whether you laugh about it or bemoan it.
Bring a good attitude and no matter how your camping trip goes, it will be a memory to cherish.
A Happy Camper
Learn More About Camping
Read More About Camping
- Having Fun Camping
Whether you've been a camper for years or are just learning about this great fun, this page will teach you how to camp better.
- Burning Man Packing List
Burning Man is a great event and lots of fun - if you know what you are doing and pack what you need. There are no stores so don't forget anything, check out my packing list to bring what you need.
Do you go camping? Do you like it? What do you consider a necessity while camping? Talk to us and let us know down below!
© 2010 Alisha Vargas