The dictionary definition of addiction is “the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming.” That describes my obsession with being in the wilderness quite well. I periodically need an escape from the day-to-day affairs of modern, civilized living manifested in a pure outdoor adrenaline injection. Perhaps some of you can relate. At any rate, I figured it might be fun to piece together a few bits of wisdom I’ve picked up along my many wilderness adventures and color them in with a few anecdotes. So, without further adieu, I give you 10 things wilderness camping has taught me.
10. Look Out For… Pine Needles
I’ve discovered nature’s mattress and it’s not a pile of straw. Fallen pine needles are by far the best thing to set up a tent on top of. White pine, red pine, it doesn’t matter! They’re soft and they form a dry barrier between your tent floor and the muddy forest floor. I remember camping in Virginia one time and hiking an extra mile just to reach the section of the forest that was mostly pine trees. It was like upgrading from a Motel 6 to the Crowne Plaza.
9. Nature Is Bigger Than Me
The sheer size of the wilderness becomes truly apparent when you’re in the middle of it alone. I’m no scaredy cat but I’ve heard somethings at night that I would prefer to never hear again. Shrieks, howls, and thuds are pretty common, particularly in the woods. The only remedy I would suggest is hiking in a few beers or a bottle of vodka to make the night a little more forgettable.
8. Electronics are Worthless
You want to talk about dead weight? It’s that DSLR camera you’re lugging around or that smartphone you can’t part ways with. Chances are, the thing you want to photograph is already a print for sale on Amazon.com and Twitter can wait until the car ride home. There’s a saying among backpackers that goes something like this: in the morning ounces feel like ounces and pounds feel like pounds, but in the evening, ounces feel like pounds. Choose your digital companions wisely.
7. Love Thy Feet
This may come as a shock, but your feet do a lot of work on a wilderness expedition. I learned very early on that it was important to invest in the proper footwear to ensure that you maximize your wilderness-enjoyment level. You don’t have to invest in a badass pair of $400 glacier boots that would make Sir Edmund Hillary blush, but you ought to get something nice. I’ve always worn a good pair of boots and consequently, I’ve never had a blister while out in the bush.
6.Food Belongs In A Tree
Bringing some bananas? Let them get in touch with their origins too! If you’ve ever had your food supply pillaged by a furry felon, you know to put your crap up high. How high you ask? Well let’s just say you’re gonna want it to be taller than anything walking around in that forest, Sasquatch included. I had my meal tampered with by a raccoon once. Let’s just say I’m wiser for it.
5. Improvise, Improvise, Improvise
In this day in age, there’s a lot of nifty gear and gadgetry you can buy from online retailers that are supposedly going to help your wilderness experience. News flash, you don’t need it. Nature is full of things you can use in place of gear. Need rope? Vine. Need a pencil? Burnt Stick. Need a hammer? Rock. Need a pillow? Rock. Need a salt lick? Rock + Pee. In all seriousness, I think you get the idea.
The nice thing about the wilderness is that you can be as loud as you want. Guys, this means you have full permission to scream whatever you want at the top of your lungs. The next time you’re in the bush, go ahead and scream “You Shall Not Pass” in your best Gandalf voice as loud as you can. You’ll enjoy it, I promise.
3. Enjoy Your Fire, In Moderation
Fire is an amazing gift. I’ve found that getting a fire going can be a huge morale booster when I’m out in the woods by myself. Unfortunately too many idiots have burned down entire forests with their blazes and most wilderness areas ban fire. But if you do find yourself in a situation where an open fire is totally permissible build that baby up. Enjoy it, but don’t go burning down a forest. I’d still like to have one on my next camping trip, if you don’t mind.
2. Check Yo’ Water
This was one mistake I made that I swear I will never make again. I was hiking a part of the Appalachian Trail and I realized about a mile down it, I had forgotten to fill up my water bottles to get me through the next 24 hours. So, I had to hike back, fill up my water and retrace my steps. It would have been fine other than the fact that it was October and daylight was precious. I ended up setting my tent up in the dark, which isn’t fun to do alone in the middle of bear country. Next time, I’ll be making sure those bottles are full.
1. People Are Man’s Best Friend
The number one thing I’ve learned from all of my adventures is that man wasn’t meant to be out in the world alone. Sure I’ve gone on camping trips by myself, but at the end of the trip I’m always glad to reconnect with my friends and family. Regardless of how stress out I am before I go on a trip, I always come back wanting human interaction. Quite frankly, it’s something all of us should treasure.