So your friend/significant other/local knife enthusiast has invited you on a camping trip and you, harboring a totally rational fear of nature and especially bears, have never spent the night under the stars unless you count that one sick rooftop party that nobody would come down from. You need help. So we’ve rounded up the most important things to remember on your first time in the great outdoors. Not included, have fun!
Don’t keep food in your tent
It may seem like a good idea to keep a ration of goldfish and rosé in your tent just in case the craving strikes, but critters love a convenient meal just as much as you do, so those snacks might as well be an open invitation to the rest of the animal kingdom. Keep your food in a separate area from your sleeping area whether it’s in your car or, if you’re in a particularly badass mood, in bear cans suspended from a tree.
Unclip your backpack over water
If you’re wearing anything bigger than a day pack while heading over a body of water, make sure to unhitch any waist or shoulder clips before you take your first step. You don’t want to be that guy or gal who went whitewater body rafting because they couldn’t stand to lose their lucky underwear.
Wool is your friend, cotton your enemy
Whether you’re heading into the high Sierras in the dead of winter or a southern stretch of the Appalachian Trail in August, wool is what you want on your back. Finer wool like merino will keep you cool on brutally hot days through evaporation, while thicker weaves will keep you insulated against the chill. Cotton, on the other hand, is a deadly textile spun from the fields of Hades itself: it dries slowly, which can be downright dangerous if you get caught in the rain and the mercury starts to fall, and will stink to high heaven if you’re out there for more than a few days.
Drink LOTS of water
There’s a disgusting albeit salient axiom to keep in mind on those long hikes on hot days: “Mine’s clear and copious.” So, yeah. Make sure you’re peeing a lot and make sure it doesn’t resemble a sports drink.
This is going to sound like it’s coming from Smokey the Bear but building, maintaining, and extinguishing fires properly and safely is exceptionally important. The U.S. Forest Service has a great, step-by-step guide to building a safe campfire site; the most important points to note are how to dig a proper fire pit with a dirt buffer surrounding it, never leaving the fire unattended, and making sure that the fire is completely dead before you knock out for the night. These rules are especially important when camping out in drier areas where a shoddily-made campfire can do a lot of damage.
Scare the bears away with the Bose Soundlink Mini II, powerful enough to rock the campsite and portable for those weekend getaways.
Cover your dome
Even if you’re blessed with a head of luscious locks, your scalp is still a major burn risk and you better believe sleeping with a sunburn on top of your head is pure agony. Cover up whenever the sun is shining and there’s not a ton of shade. For all you closet bandana lovers: now is your time to shine!
Make peace with stank
Animals can smell deodorant and cologne from a mile away and will want to figure out where that mysteriously alluring scent is coming from, just in case, you know, there’s a bunch of food (or people) there to eat. Bottom line: don’t bring that can of deodorant with you because a bear will eat you.
Get bigger than the bear, back away from the cats
If there’s a curious bear sniffing around your campsite and you’re unlucky enough to be caught outside, your best bet is to make yourself as big as possible and trick the furry interloper into thinking you’re a terrifying beast. Mountain lions or their feline ilk are another creature you may encounter in the wilderness; the best solution to avoid trouble with these cats is to make sure you’re paired up with someone much slower than you.
Pack out what you pack in
If you want to impress the rugged guy or gal who invited on this adventure you can score major crunchy bonus points by leaving no -- absolutely zero -- trace of your presence as you break camp. We’re just going to leave this one up to your imagination.
Get acquainted with the map
Buy a compass and learn how to use it. This sounds like something you doomsday prepper uncle Brent told you to do at Thanksgiving but it’s one of those analog skills that can really come in handy when things go pear-shaped.
Hope for the best, plan for the worst
This is your koan. This is the pearl of wisdom you chant softly to yourself as you’re falling asleep under your nylon ceiling for the first time. This is the difference between a great weekend excursion and a miserable slog through the wilderness. Keep it in mind when you’re thinking about leaving that first aid kit at home because you want to bring sandals or something.