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Camping for Women
Making Camping Fun
Women are different than men. We're built differently and 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 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.
Your Version of Camping
First of all, consider what's important to you.
These are tips 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.
Camping is different for each individual, and we all have to learn our own style. And really, most of these tips are good for men too :)
Save Your Skin While Camping
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.
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 color you are, 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.
Also, a sunburn doesn't even require a sunny day. Cloudy, overcast days can cause worst 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Protect 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. 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.
Your hands will be doing a lot of unaccustomed work, so protect them a little. Wear gloves, put lotion on them, keep them a little protected.
Trim Your Nails
Trimming your nails before the trip (I trim mine as far down as possible) or bringing along some nail clippers while on it, 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.
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.
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.
Leather gloves or other tough ones can protect your hands from all 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.
They 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.
Keeping Clean While Camping
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.
Also, dirty feet get blisters, when sweat dries on your skin it can be irritating, and simply washing your face with a damp cloth can make you feel wonderful after being in the hot sun.
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.
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.
Don't forget to dispose of used ones properly once back from camping though, no one likes littering campers.
It feels so good to be clean
There are some campgrounds with showers, but many times they aren't available. You can still get clean though with some handy camping items.
Portable showers can vary from simple bags you hang in the sun, called solar showers, all the way to complete little rooms you put up like a tent. 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.
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 shampoo, taking all the dirt and oils with it.
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. You can just put it on your head and rub it in, then remove the cap and all the dirt. It's far less messy.
Going Potty While Camping
Be Prepared For No Bathrooms
Going to the bathroom while camping is the worst part in my eyes.
If there are bathrooms, they're usually gross and icky, and squatting behind a bush is not always the easiest thing to do.
Being a woman also means there are extra hassles to deal with, especially since our periods usually strike at the worst possible times.
The right gear can make it a bit easier though, so make sure to bring what you need.
Go Pee Standing Up
There are a few things coming out on the market that allow you to go pee standing up.
They're great for areas with no bushes, you can easily just turn around and go. If you can't squat, now you don't have to. Or use one 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.
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.
Bring Toilet Paper
Toilet paper is something you should always bring with you camping.
Even if you are staying at a campground with bathrooms, expect them to be out of toilet paper to prevent unexpected hassles.
I really like the little, portable containers of tp, but another handy way to handle it is to keep the toilet paper in a large Ziploc bag. Or use the plastic containers that coffee comes in, the tp fits right inside.
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 have to go without and try to deal with it.
You might want to bring pads on the camping trip as well.
Some women tend to leak a little on strenuous hikes, and a pad will help prevent accidents. Many women leak a bit when hiking while pregnant too.
Also, many people are allergic to all sorts of things in nature, and we know what happens with 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 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 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.
Portable toilets can be set up inside one of those little pop-up shower stalls for an easy private way to go potty.
Prevent Chafing While Camping
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.
I'm fat, have sensitive feet, and usually carry a backpack while hiking, meaning 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.
Use the Right Backpack
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 they need a backpack that will balance the load properly for them.
Get a good women's backpack that fits you well since if it doesn't fit you, it will just cause trouble.
Also, 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 back 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
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.
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.
A lot of people like boots for hiking and camping.
They give good ankle support. If you step on a snake it will help prevent you from being bitten.
Boots are sturdy and tough for climbing all over everything.
They can be heavy and hard to break in, so start early getting your boots ready and your feet used to them.
Sports sandals are ones made for clomping around on trails, wading through streams, and going on.
They drain easily and dry quickly, making it easy to go through most any terrain with ease.
They're my favorite thing to wear while camping and hiking, in fact I wear mine nearly ten months out of the year, even while swimming.
A simple pair of slip on shoes is great to have around your campsite.
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 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.
Women, 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, down jacket, and beanie cap to sleep in. Down 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 the socks you wore that day. They'll be dirty and damp which will make your feet blister and stay cold.
I prefer down booties since they take almost no space in my bags and retain a lot of warmth.
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 my arthritis doesn't bother me nearly as much. And cold nights I stuff a couple into my sleeping bag and it pre-warms the bag and is cozy for hours.
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 they can explode.
Hot Hands are just easier and stay warm way longer, but in a pinch the other warmers work okay.
Sleep Better While Camping
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.
So 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 just can't stand them.
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.
Inside the sleeping bag I use a fleece sleeping bag liner for extra comfort and warmth and to keep the sleeping bag clean.
Add in a pillow and I 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.
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. 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 keep you warmer and 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 stiff and with a headache.
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
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.
Bring a good attitude and no matter how your camping trip goes, it will be a memory to cherish.
A Happy Camper
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