Every year, more than 30 million Americans leave the comfort of their homes to sleep in a tent, RV, or simply under the stars. There are lots of reasons to rough it on a good-old fashioned camping trip, from physical health benefits to stress relief. (Who needs a Tempur-Pedic mattress when there's a sleeping bag?) In order for a safe, comfortable, and exciting experience with Mother Nature, learn all the camping dos and don'ts to fully enjoy the Great Outdoors!
Nature-Made - The Need-to-Know
Forget stress balls and screaming into pillows: Just being in the presence of plants can be therapeutic. The word's biophilia, the term for humans' desire to connect with nature. (Yep, it's science!) And camping isn't only the perfect way to get outdoors; it can also be great for our health. Trekking to a campsite with the sun beating down provides a healthy dose of vitamin D, plus walking is a lower-impact exercise that may help burn off some of those campfire S'mores. Embracing that inner Yogi Bear may help reduce stress, too: Levels of serotonin naturally rise when we're outdoors, which can help improve mood. Who said only five-star hotels were relaxing? But don't hit the trail without these pro tips.
Now Camp It Out - Your Action Plan
To ensure a memorable stint with nature and stay out of harm's way, follow the guide below - perfect for any neck of the woods!
Figure out what to bring based on how much room you have and how long you'll be gone.
Backpack: Choose a backpack based on how long the trek will be. The volume of the pack is measured in liters. Multi-day packs are 60 to 80 liters and are perfect for two- to five-day hikes.
Sleep well: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad (for extra cushion!), and pillow. The size of the tent depends on how many people are squeezing in. And make sure that thing's weather resistant! A light-weight "three-season" tent is made for spring, summer, and fall conditions - designed to keep people dry during light snow or rain while keeping the bugs out! If camping in the winter, go with a mountaineering tent that can withstand harsher weather conditions.
Fire up: Charcoal (for campsite grills), fire starters, wood, newspaper, matches, propane stove, skillet, pot, utensils, and cups/bowls/plates. Always check to see if the site allows campfires, and use fire rings if available. Keep sand and water nearby in case the fire needs to be put out quickly.