Wilderness Survival–Increasing Your Chances If You Get Lost

Hiker in wilderness
Do you know what to do to increase your odds of survival if lost in the wilderness?

Wilderness survival is a mandatory thing in our family.  We don’t go overboard, but we all know–even the kids–what to do if we find ourselves lost in the woods. Most of the time, this is information that never needs to be used. We’re all pretty vigilant about staying together and within earshot.

But what about the few cases where it might become necessary? What if you discover you’re lost? Do you know how to increase your odds of survival? Remember these tips:

the very first thing is to sit down.

  1. Stop. Control your breathing. Sit down.
  2. Think. Are you really lost? Where did you come from? How much daylight is left? What can you do in the next ten or fifteen minutes that will help you survive?
  3. Have a drink of water and/or a snack bar. Calm, calm.
  4. Once you are calm and have had a drink of water and/or a snack, check to see what you have on you that will help you survive your situation. Make plans.

three. three. the rule of three.

  1. Three fires, either in a row or a triangle, is the international sign for help.
  2. Three minutes without air, three hours without shelter in an extreme environment (such as winter conditions in the wilderness), three days without water. You can also survive three weeks without food if you have the other three.
  3. Three minutes of severe bleeding before loss of consciousness and death. Stop that blood flow.

try these emergency shelters.

  1. Look for shelter from wind, rain and snow.  Underneath a large fallen log, rock outcropping, or cave (though they may not be empty). Underneath a huge pine or spruce tree is an option if there is nothing else; usually the ground is springy and thick with pine or spruce needles, which also insulates to some extent.
  2. Try building a debris hut; make a depression in the snow or clear to the ground, depending on what there is in the way of snow. Make a teepee out of longer branches. Shore up the sides with shorter ones. Pile branches, shrubbery and debris over it.  The hut should be just big enough for you to fit into. This will conserve body heat. Make a bed of debris to insulate you from the ground.  An excellent article that actually argues against a debris hut for a shorter term emergency shelter is written by Wolf Camp and the Conservation College. It makes for informative reading. You can access it here. 


  1. If nothing is available for a shelter and it’s cold at night, walk in small circles, do jumping jacks, do push-ups–anything to keep moving and stay as warm as possible. It will be a long, miserable night, but you won’t freeze to death.
  2. If you can build a fire, create a firewall behind it to reflect the heat back to you in front of your shelter.
  3. Many survivalists recommend the best way of starting a fire is a magnesium-and-steel firestarter.  It is the most reliable way of starting a fire in the cold, even more reliable than matches or a lighter, because you can get a ton of spark to start a fire even in windy or wet conditions. Carry some waxed cotton balls with you as tinder and you’re good to go in nearly every situation. If you have a knife with you, peel the inside of tree branches for dry shavings for tinder.  Cut kindling.  All these things will help you build a fire in adverse conditions.
  4. Get as much firewood as you think you’ll need to get through the night, then double the amount, at least.  Campers will tell you–it takes a lot of wood to keep a fire continuously burning for hours.


  1. Boil your water if you can. This will kill any pathogens in it and aid in keeping you warm.  If you have nothing to boil the water with, and you have the supplies, you can make a water filter with a plastic drinking bottle or bag. Instructions can be found here.
  2. Of course, the best thing to do is to be prepared. You can get something called a Life Straw, and that’s kind of what it is–a straw with a filter in it to drink directly from water sources. Keep it in your backpack or even a back pocket when you go running or on hikes.

signal for help.

  1. As mentioned before, three fires is the international call for help.
  2. If starting and keeping a fire going is difficult, consider building a smudge fire instead–a hot blaze with green branches to give off smoke.
  3. If lots of tree branches, logs or rocks are available, create an SOS in a clearing nearby your location.  Make it as large as possible.
  4. Use reflective surfaces to signal for help.  Glasses, a mirror, even a dead cell phone face, can all be used. Take a whistle with you.
  5. Stay put! In wilderness survival, you can worsen the chances of being found if you wander off.  It’s all too easy to go deeper into the bush, thinking you’re going the right way, putting you further and further away from the area searchers think you might be.

Of course, the best thing to do is to be prepared for getting lost in the woods, even if you’re sure you won’t. Take a cell phone with you. Tell someone where you’re going, or better yet, go with someone. Don’t veer off the trail or the route you said you would take. Pack a fire-starter, tinder, water, a Life Straw or purification tablets, snack bars, an emergency medical kit, a tarp or emergency bivvy (check out this one.) Take that whistle!

Take the time to build an emergency survival kit and take it with you, even if you’re just going out for a walk. You can get ideas for building a good one here.

Don’t be one of the hundreds of people that disappear in the wilderness and are never found alive, each and every year. It can happen even if you just go jogging one day. Don’t think so?  Check out this gripping–and sobering–true story by John Billman.

And then go and build your survival kit.


Urban Hiking–When You Can’t See The Forest Or The Trees

urban hiker

Urban hiking has always been around, more or less. People have been walking the city streets since there have been cities.  But it never really became a movement until author and columnist Dan Keoppel showed us it was possible to rethink our urban surroundings. He organized a two-day event in L.A. called The Big Parade in 2009, which encouraged neighborhood walks in and around the area. A few articles later and the concept of urban hiking became an actual thing to do. It’s hard to say if the event will occur this year, but they do have a Facebook page you can access to find out.

Urban hiking is hitting the concrete trails instead of the dirt paths, to explore the city or neighborhood you live in.  It is just as strenuous as hiking in the wilderness; one of the goals of an urban hiker is finding as many stairs as possible to climb. Ultimately, though, it’s just a way to get out and hike when regular hiking isn’t possible. And it has great side benefits.

you don’t need to pack your backpack full of stuff.

Urban hiking means that you are generally well within reach of a store or place where you can get food and drink.  An although you can’t pee outside like you can on a regular hike, you can make sure your route has public washrooms along the way. Which generally means you can wash your hands. Just saying.  Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need for a day hike in an urban setting:

  • An extra pair of shoes and socks–your feet will get tired and sweaty. Refresh them with a new pair of socks part way through and a change of walking shoes.
  • A bottle of water. Any more can be purchased during the hike, along with food.
  • A snack or two. Just to keep you going if you don’t want to stop.
  • A map with your route marked out.
  • Your camera!
  • A notepad and pen. You’re going to discover things! Stores, buildings and restaurants you want to check out, a library you didn’t know about, a little urban park you’ll want to revisit. Mark these things on your map and record the details in your notebook.
  • A rain jacket. (Rain always shows up at the least convenient time.)
  • A bank card or credit card. For that water and those snacks, and maybe even an impulse buy or two. Also, if something happens like a sprained ankle, you can call a cab and get home.
  • Your cell phone. For obvious reasons.
  • Small first-aid kit with aspirin and blister packs.

You don’t need to travel far to start your hike.

Out your front door. Literally. If you find it’s exciting and fun, you can make plans to travel to nearby cities and urban areas for new hiking adventures. But it’s not necessary, making urban hiking one of the most convenient adventures you can take up.


Ever wish you had the “oomph” to exercise regularly, maybe get in better shape that you are now? Urban hiking will do that for you. It’s absolutely free, and you can make it as long or as short as you want. Like any hiking adventure, it’s exercise you’re not really aware of doing, because you’re too busy enjoying the surroundings.

the joy of discovery.

Perhaps the coolest thing about urban hiking is the fact that you find areas and corners of your city or neighborhood that you had been completely unaware of.  You learn about the structure of it, become familiar with it in a way that intrigues and inspires you. My nephew and I urban hike while we geocache. We discovered that some of our neighborhoods have Little Free Libraries set up–and if you don’t know what they are, you really should find out about them here. Free books 24/7? Yes please! The point is, we never would have known had we not discovered them urban hiking. Parks we never knew about, too. Amazing ones. Some not so little!

you don’t have to depend on anyone to urban hike.

You can go with a group (just type in “urban hiking groups” and your area to find out where they are), or you can go with friends, or by yourself.  You’re not dependent on anyone else’s time schedule or fitness level unless you want to be.  Granted, this is also the case with standard hiking, but urban hiking gives a person the opportunity to hike safely when on their own; they just have to map their hike in busy, populated, well-lit areas, which is what most of urban hiking consists of.

a few things to remember.

  1. If your route takes you into areas where you may not feel safe, or if it takes you into even temporarily isolated areas, obey the rules of safety and common sense and take precautions. It may be going with others, taking your (big) dog, keeping pepper spray on your person, or talking on your cell phone with someone as you walk. And if it is a place that looks dangerous and isolated, don’t travel it alone. Ever. There are predators in the city and your neighborhoods, just like in the wilderness. They may walk on two feet instead of four, but they’re there. Don’t take chances.
  2. Tell someone your route, when you are going to leave and when you are going to be back, even if it’s just for a few hours.  You can never over-plan safety.
  3. Mark out rest stops and stores on your route, so if you get tired, you’ll know how far away you are from the nearest one.
  4. Check the weather before heading out.  Prepare for the weather that is, and that might be.
  5. Take lots of pictures!
  6. Plan a circular route, that is, a route that won’t have you back-tracking. That way the whole trip will be fresh.
  7. Start small and work your way up. If you rarely hike, or don’t hike at all, begin with a small route. Plan it as if it was a large one, but keep the overall distance easy to cover. That first trip will tell you if you can do a longer one, and you’ll gain confidence and experience as you go.

Although urban hiking isn’t as huge as other outdoor adventures, it is easy to find groups and you can find trails already mapped out in most urban areas. You can also find information about urban hiking gear and all sorts of advice to help you along.

So don’t feel down about being unable to get to the wilderness to go hiking.  It’s as near as the street you live on.

Camping Essentials–Fixed Blade Camping Knife

boot knife
Your camping knife should look like it’s for camping, not for a member of the Black Watch.

One of the most important camping essentials you can purchase is afixed-blade knife.  From whittling wood to field-dressing a deer, that knife on your belt can be a constant source of joy or a huge disappointment.

but how do you choose a camping knife, with the sheer volume of knives that are available? Here are some quick tips:

take a moment to decide what your knife will actually be doing.

Are you just going to do a little carving of sticks or grilled steaks? Or will your knife be a real worker, in use for hunting, fishing and camping?  Invest in a good knife no matter what, and invest more money if you want your knife to do more. Once you decide how hard-working your knife is going to be, follow these guidelines to narrow down the field.

Begin By taking a look at fixed blade knives that are, you know, carriable.

“Carriable” sounds odd but trust me, it’s a real word. Begin by looking at4″ blades.  Go to camping and hunting stores and actually feel the knife in your hand, how it balances, whether or not it’s something you’d be comfortable not only using but carrying on your belt. A huge knife like Crocodile Dundee (I know I’m dating myself) carries may be impressive, but it’s not going to be something the average camper can use or even want. Start with 4″ blades, the size most campers and hunters use. Go from there, if you want.  But a 4″ fixed blade will do everything you want it to. Promise. Here a few you can look at if you need a starting point.

Use online research as a starting point, but go further.

There is nothing like online research!  You can quickly get an idea of what you want, what you have to pay, and what others think about certain brands.  But if you possibly can, ask someone you know about their knife. What they like about it. What they don’t. What they would choose as a knife next.  Trust me, campers are eager to talk about their essential gear. They love their knives!  Once you get one for camping, you will too–if you do your homework.

Do you have a camping knife? What kind is it? Where did you get it? Share your expertise with our readers by commenting below!

An Organized Tent

It can be difficult to stay organized even in a small tent like this one.
This is what my first tent looked like, only mine was bright orange. Barely fit a single sleeping bag. I loved it.

Do you need help to organize your tent? The first time I went camping, I had no problem with keeping an organized tent. I slept in one of those tiny, orange pup-tents that barely fit a twin-sized mattress and sleeping bag. All my clothing and toiletries fit into a backpack. The only shoes I had were the ones on my feet. It was high summer, so I didn’t take a jacket. There was a space at one end of the air mattress that the backpack fit into, with no room for anything else. Perfect.

Now, decades later, I sleep in an instant-up tent they say is made for ten but is merely comfortable for me. I have a queen-sized mattress and sleeping bag, a folding table and chair, and a Luggable Loo in one corner for the middle of the night. My tent has enough room for my iPad, my camera bag, my gym bag and my backpack, both full; it also has a place for me to put my shoes, hiking boots and laundry bag. With all this space, you would think staying organized wouldn’t be a problem. But it is, unless I follow these rules:

1.  Contain, contain, contain.

Especially your clothes!  When you’re out camping, it’s easy to just throw your stuff anywhere because you’re not sure where to put it or can’t be bothered to stuff it back in your duffle bag, but that is disastrous.  I carry, now, a cheapo tote that has plastic grocery bags in it–the ones they pack your groceries in at the store. Don’t get a new tote or gym bag, even–go to the second-hand store and buy one with a working zipper that doesn’t look too beat up. Wet clothes goes in one plastic grocery bag, dirty clothes another, maybe  muddy shoes in another. It all goes into the cheapo tote bag. This keeps your tent clear of clothing, and makes it easier to pack up when you’re ready to go home.

2. A side table.

Depending on the tent you’re in, this could be a folding storage box you brought camping supplies in, your folding chair if you don’t have room for a table and chair both, or an actual table. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as it’s a stable, flat surface to lay your glasses, reading material, camera, etc. on and that it’s about the same height as your sleeping area. If your tent has gear pockets use them too, but a side table will enable you to put small items within easy reach, and they won’t get lost, kicked aside or stepped on. You would be amazed how hard it can be to find your keys when they are mixed up in a sleeping bag/liner/deflating mattress (this is experience speaking here).

3. Organize by use.

Keep items organized by their use. Toiletries get packed in with towels, face cloth, mirror and makeup. Underwear, socks and long underwear are put together in the same spot in your tote. Depending on how long you are staying at the camp site, keep your jeans, tee shirts, over shirts, etc. packed and stacked together in your tote. Larger gym totes generally have outside pockets. Use these for extraneous gear–flashlight, small personal medicine kit (in case you need anti-heartburn liquid or analgesics at midnight), an unbreakable eyeglasses case, etc. If you like to write or text, you can keep your writing or electronic supplies there too. When you know all your stuff for a particular activity is in one place, you won’t tear your gear apart looking for it.

4. bags in bags in bags.

Ziploc bags, all sizes, is the best tip I can give you. Place your makeup in a ziploc bag and pack it. Place your toothbrush, toothpaste and mouthwash in a ziploc bag and pack it. Put your solar charger, phone and iPad in one. Your socks in one. Your hairbrush, comb, and hair accessories in one. Put your soap, shampoo, cloth and towel in one. Ad infinitum. If you have them packed like that, you can just reach in and grab a bag before you head for the river, lake or camp showers. Not only that, but if a wet disaster happens, like rain or flooding, your important stuff stays dry. And as was mentioned before, you’re not rummaging around in your bigger bags looking for certain items, and messing everything up in the process.

5. A couple of little tools make it easier.

Pack with your stuff the following things to stay organized:

  • A small dustpan and whisk
  • A damp, bleachy cleaning cloth in a (yes) ziploc bag, or wipes
  • Extra grocery bags for garbage or miscellaneous things
  • Some extra, smaller bungee cords (sometimes that tent or sleeping bag or air mattress just won’t fold up as tight as it should)
  • A small emergency repair kit for your air mattress. Include duct tape for other emergencies.

one last list of tips to stay organized:

  1. A large mat outside your tent entrance helps to keep the dirt, leaves, pine needles etc. outside where they belong. Shake it out every day.
  2. If you have a luggable loo in your tent, carry all the supplies for it in the bucket part for transport. Pack toilet paper, hand sanitizer, biodegradable deod0rizer that also helps break down sewage, and a small bottle of earth-friendly disinfectant for cleaning it out at the end of the trip. Place it all in the bucket. Take it out of the bucket when you set it up for use in your tent. If you put it all in a (yes again) large ziploc bag before stuffing it in the bucket, it will make it easier to take out and put in, and contain in the tent.
  3. Some people have found a hanging organizer to be handy for inside their tent; I never could see the sense in it.  For me it was just one extra thing to pack. It never held what I wanted it to hold without it looking messy in and of itself. Depending on your gear and tent, though, it may be just the thing for you. You can get them at second-hand stores or dollar stores if you want to give them a try.
  4. Make your bed in the morning. Shocking how tidy this makes a tent, and how good you feel about going inside your tent when you do. Not kidding. Plus it is then a handy surface to lay things out on when you’re packing for a hike or whatever.

Any organization tips you have that you want to share for keeping your tent clear of clutter or mess?  Share them in the comments below!


Camping Comfort Food–5 Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Chocolate cheesecake pie
5-Chocolate Cheesecake Pie! You can have a decadent chocolate pie, made at the camp site, with very little fuss.

Of all the comfort foods out there, chocolate consistently figures in the top ten. This is hardly surprising, considering the variety of things you can make with it. So Chocolate Cheesecake Pie was something we wanted to share with you for your next camping trip.

Why “5 Chocolate Cheesecake Pie”? Because you start with a chocolate crumb crust, pour in a layer of chocolate cheese cake, top it with another layer of dark chocolate pie filling, top it with chocolate whipped topping, and finish it all off with shavings of very good 60% dark chocolate. This pie is delicious, rich, satisfying, and easy to make! You can make it at home and take it with you, or make it at the camp site.  It’s up to you. This is the third recipe in our Camping Comfort Food series; Camping Mac n’ Cheese was our first one (you make it all in one pot), and last month’s was Low-Carb Zucchini Enchiladas (you would be shocked at how easy they are to make!)

5-Chocolate Cheesecake Pie
chocolate pie ingredients
It doesn’t take many ingredients to make a chocolate pie at the camp site.

Cook first package of pie filling according to directions. Set aside for 15 minutes, or until no longer hot (can be warm). Mix in softened cream cheese. (If cream cheese seems a bit hard, place in a ziploc bag, seal it, and put in water that is hot not boiling, for about ten minutes.) Blend with a spoon or wire whisk.  When it’s well blended, pour into graham cracker crust. Set aside.

In a clean pot, make the dark chocolate pie filling. (You can use chocolate pudding and melt a dark chocolate chocolate bar in it when cooking, if you like). When filling is done, pour over chocolate cream cheese layer. Cover, cool and then chill by placing in a cooler for a few hours or overnight. When ready to serve, take 2 cups of whipped topping and mix in 2 tablespoons sifted cocoa. Once well mixed, top pie with it. Take your good dark chocolate and shave chocolate over pie with a vegetable peeler. Serve.

Your Camp Kitchen–Buttermilk Salad Dressing

three types of buttermilk salad dressiing.
Left to right: Suggestions for buttermilk salad dressing: Avocado, Lemon-Dijon with Cilantro, and in front, Parmesan Feta.

On the last Wednesday of every month, we’ll be introducing recipes, ideas and techniques for the camp kitchen that will elevate your food from ordinary camping fare to food that is out of this world! This month, Your Camp Kitchen would like to introduce Buttermilk Salad Dressing.

The great thing about this recipe is that it’s not only cheaper to make, but it’s tastier, too. You can make it at home and bring it to the site, or make it at camp. And the recipe is spectacularly versatile. Once you have the dressing made, you can add anything you like to it. Blend an avocado into it. Crumble some feta cheese. Add some Dijon mustard and grated Parmesan. Your creamy taste sensation is limited only by the imagination. Try mincing some dill pickle in and add a 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill. Really, anything goes. Your salad–and your camping companions–will thank you.

Buttermilk Salad Dressing
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (we find Balkan yogurt great because of its creaminess and slight tartness)
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon crushed garlic (1 clove)
  • salt and pepper to taste (about 1/4 teaspoon each)

Place ingredients in a bowl and whisk until well blended. Pour into a bottle or simply spoon from bowl on to salad. If dressing is too thick for your taste, just dilute with a little more buttermilk.

In addition to the suggestions in the paragraph before the recipe, here are a couple more ideas:

Ranch:  Add 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill, 1 tablespoon minced chives, and 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard.

Creamy Russian:   Add 1/4 cup ketchup, 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce, 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard, 1 teaspoon onion salt.

Roasted Red Pepper:  1/2 cup roasted red pepper, minced; 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar.

Spicy Mexican:  1/4 cup hot chili-garlic sauce (a good substitute is Frank’s Red Hot Sauce), the juice from one lime, 1/4 teaspoon extra salt.

This dressing can be used on other things as well. Keep it thicker for burger toppings or to jazz up your baked potato. Add some to scrambled eggs, or drizzle over a casserole. This dressing is a great basic to add some wow to your camp cooking!

Next Wednesday we’ll be doing another camp comfort food. Stay tuned!


Protect Yourself During Hunting Season

Gun set up for hunting season
Are you safe during hunting season?

Something you need to think about right now is how to protect yourself during hunting season. As a hunter, camper, hiker, or adventurer, hunting season is well upon us. With that adventurous time comes great stories around a camp fire, and tales that get taller with the passing years. Each year, though, there are other stories–news stories of accidental shootings, animal attacks, and the consequences of insect bites from problem bugs like ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. How do we protect ourselves if we are hikers? Campers? Other hunters? Here’s a quick, common-sense run-down on what to do.

protect yourself from hunters.

If you are a hiker or camper that doesn’t hunt, you may be concerned about heading out into the wilderness for a little bush camping or hiking during hunting season. Most hunters are extremely aware of the dangers that accidental encounters can pose. For the most part, they are out to get food for their families, enjoy the great outdoors, and connect with nature in a way that is very unique and personal to each one.

So how do you co-exist in a way that keeps you both safe and happy?

  • Be aware of what hunting season means in the area you will camp or hike in.  This means knowing whether or not hunting is even allowed in that area, what the animals are that are being hunted, and when the hunting season is open and finished for that area. Remember that just because you are in a provincial or national park, it doesn’t automatically make you safe. Some parks allow hunting, some don’t. Check and be sure.
  • Wear a blaze-orange-colored vest or hat (or some other item) to make you very visible to hunters.  Even bright-colored clothes work. Stay away from white and earth tones, and any color that might be confused with the animal in question (such as blue and red during turkey season).
  • Make noise! Like warning off bears, shouting, loud talking and whistling will help alert hunters that you are, in fact, a walking, talking human being, and not this season’s back strap on the  barbie.
  • It’s not just you. If you go hiking or camping with your dog, invest in one of those bright-orange blazers for pup, as well. You can find a selection here.

Protect yourself from moose and deer.

There are usually four things that prompt a moose or deer to attack: 1) Mothers protecting fawns, 2)mating season, 3)territorial control, and 4) high population.

  • Cervidae (moose, elk, caribou and deer, among others) can get bat-poop crazy. They have been known to do things that defy logic, such as attacking already dead “rivals” (and if you don’t believe me watch this YouTube video), lawnmowers, gardeners, hikers and the like. Agitation is the key. If they are agitated, for whatever reason, you can rightfully assume they will attack. So–
  • Do not spray your body or anything else near you with elk/deer scent. 
  • If you encounter a deer, moose, elk, caribou or any other cervidae in the wilderness, watch its body language. Stomping and huffing is a clear signal to back away slowly and put something between you and it, such as a tree or large rock or outcropping. Wave your arms and make loud noises (but not for moose; see below) as you back away. Do not turn your back.
  • If it attacks, climb a tree if there’s time. Curl up in a fetal position if there isn’t. If it won’t stop attacking you, an extreme solution is to grab the antlers and wrestling it to the ground, but this is rare and dangerous.
  • For Moose, you need to talk to them softly, not loudly, while slowly backing away. Like you are trying to calm them down. Don’t panic if they make a few bluff charges. Just keep backing away, hands in the air, speaking to them as if they were are suicide bomber who’s not sure they want to kill themselves.

protect yourself from bugs.

The main problem bugs during hunting season are ticks, mosquitoes and chiggers. Some areas don’t have this problem at all; others have a brief storm of them before colder winter sets in and solves the problem, particularly in North America.

  • Treat hunting season like it’s tick season. Avoid tall, grassy areas where you can, wear long-sleeved, long-legged clothing with boots, and treat your gear and clothing with permethrin, which kills ticks.
  • Walk in the center of trails, to avoid ticks on grassy stalks.
  • Be aware that ticks may drop off recently killed animals. If you’re a hunter, when you dress or transport animals, know that ticks are looking for a new host.
  • Chigger bites are most common in the spring and fall months. They are very tiny members of the arachnid family that live in tall weeds and grass. Wear long sleeves, and long pants. Add insect repellent to the tops of your boots, shirt neck, cuffs, and your waistband.

Turkeys hunters?

Yes, turkey hunters. They are a whole ‘nother situation to protect yourself against. These basic rules also work for hunters of other flying creatures and tree-born animals:

  • Make human sounds. Most turkey hunters are focussed on the blue and red colors, and the gobbling and wing sounds turkeys make. But don’t assume they will recognize you, even with bright clothing. Sing a song, yell, shout; make any sound absolutely different from that of a turkey. Play your iPod!
  • A Note About Etiquette: If you find yourself hiking or camping in an area that hunters are allowed to hunt in, and you have identified yourself as a hiker or camper to them, don’t make noise that unnecessarily disturbs wildlife. In that area, they have the right to hunt.

hunters vs. hunters.

These safety tips can keep hunters safe from what they are hunting, and from each other, and from themselves:

  • Take a hunter education course and get certified, no matter where you are. Since these courses have been introduced in the last 50 years or so, hunter-related injuries have decreased dramatically. Even if it’s not mandatory, do the responsible thing and take this course.  It teaches you ways to be responsible in the wild.
  • You need to treat every gun and bow as if it was loaded.
  • Don’t point at anything you don’t intend to shoot, even if you know your weapon isn’t loaded.
  • Wait until the game is in your sights and you are ready to shoot before you put your finger on the trigger.
  • Don’t just focus on the game you are going to shoot–check beyond the game and make sure nothing is there that you don’t want dead.

There are many more rules that make your hunting, hiking or camping trip safe during hunting season, but if you follow the rules outlined above, your time in the wilderness will be a lot safer. Most important of all–you’ll come home safe and sound, with a lot of great, great memories!


Things Campers Hate The Most

angry woman
What camping pet peeve makes steam come out of your ears?

The world of camping is an odd one. It is populated by two distinct groups–the genuine campers and the party people who just want to make noise and mess where the police won’t find them. There are varying degrees of each. The party people have peeves too, I’m sure. But I really don’t care about them. I do care about campers.

I decided to ask everyone I knew or tweeted what their pet camping peeve was, and this was the result:

noise–#1 most mentioned pet peeve.

This actually fell into a few categories.  For some it was loud music. For others (quite a few others) it was generators that went all night. A close third was a continually barking dog. Rounding out the reasons was chainsaws and ATVs.

This deserves to be number one. It’s inconsiderate, and it takes away one of the foremost reasons for camping–peace and quiet. Sometimes people have simply gone to the noise-polluter and asked them to stop, and sometimes that works.  Mostly, though, they won’t unless an authority of some kind puts a stop to it.

So–complain to the camp ground supervisor. Phone the police. Get a number of like-minded camping neighbors together and go and respectfully request a cease and desist. Suggest certain times when the noise is allowable. None of these suggestions are very effective, but they do work from time to time. If you are at a paid-for camp site, leave a polite but strongly-worded review on every site you can find if the camp site owners do nothing to help you. If you’re bush camping, try and camp during the week instead of the weekend, if you can. Noise makers generally prefer the weekend.

packing up to go home (and unpacking)

To my surprise, this was number two on the list of campers’ pet peeves. People hate packing up to leave, and they hate unpacking once they get home.  I don’t like it either, truth be told. You not only have to stop doing something you really enjoy, you have to work like crazy to get the stopping done. It’s so unfair! And then once you get home, there’s all that stuff to clean and tidy up and put away. Unfair! Unfair!

I actually wrote a post about what to do to make it not so horrible.  If you’re interested in a few tricks and tips, click here to read about it. And if you’re camping with a group, make sure everyone contributes in the common-area cleanup.  Taking down the kitchen tent, folding the tables, putting out the fire properly–everything goes a little easier if everyone helps.

Mud in the tent.

Tent among trees
Mats inside and outside the tent will help with mud and mess.

Or pine needles. Or sand. In fact, any outdoor stuff that messes up your tidy tent interior.  Whatever it is that leaves a mess, that’s the stuff campers hate to see tracked in.  One of the great truths about roughing it outside is that it is unbelievably easy to get dirty. The outdoors imposes itself on you and your belongings like dirt on Charlie Brown’s friend Pigpen.

It helps if you have a mat both inside and outside your tent door. Keep them both shook out on a daily basis. Make the outdoor one as large as you can comfortably pack.  Even a small tarp, with the edge tipped up so water doesn’t funnel under the tent, can help if you spread it out in front of your tent. But make sure it’s one you don’t mind throwing away–using a tarp as a ground cover to walk on wears it out very fast.

Another thing you can do is keep a dustpan and whisk just inside the tent. If you see any pine needles or dirt  you can just sweep it up and toss it outdoors where it belongs. If you have a vestibule or a tarp that acts as an awning over the front of your tent, put a small stool just outside the opening and remove your shoes before you enter the tent. Keep a set of slippers or tent slip-ons for tent use only if you want. Just don’t forget to bring your boots or sneakers inside before turning in for the night. That way they stay dry and no little creature will take up residence in it.

irresponsible pet owners.

This includes people who won’t shut their dogs up. People who don’t pick up their dogs’ poop. People who allow their dog to pee on your tent (yes that was actually mentioned as having happened. That definitely needs to be mentioned in an online review about that camp site). It’s really remarkable how often these things happen. The problem with this is that it puts a bad light on the majority of pet owners, who are responsible people. Just a couple of bad apples and the whole dang basket is ruined.

Speaking to the pet owners about a barking dog sometimes helps.  The other stuff is different–it generally happens when you’re not around.  If you think the site you’re going to will have a lot of dogs, it might be wise to invest in powdered cayenne pepper and spread it around your site where you think dogs will pee.  I would also keep some pet urine-odor and stain remover with you just in case.

forgetting something.

Oh, yes–how often has that happened with us!  From the can opener to my brother’s tent, forgetting an item can really put a temporary dent in your happiness. Here’s what we’ve learned: Make your first camping trip of the year a “shake-out” camping trip. Go somewhere close to civilization and see if everything is still packed in your gear. If you do forget something, you can replace it easily by going into town. Make a note of it for when you put your gear away. We also keep gear lists taped to the front of our storage bins. If something is missing we put a check mark next to it and replace it as soon as we can.

If you get to your site and your tent is missing, it really, truly isn’t the end of the world. Read about what my brother did when he forgot his tent one weekend by clicking here.

going with a group and everyone taking off to have fun, leaving one or two with no help in setting up camp or tent.

While this may be excusable because of high spirits and excitement that they are finally camping, it can be annoying to see them all run off without checking to see if anyone needs help.

Make certain everyone in the group is set up and the camp site itself is ready to go before deciding on fun. In every circle there is at least one person who is unable to set their tent up by themselves. Either the tent itself is to awkward for one person to set it up, or the person is new to the camping world. It doesn’t matter what the reason is. If your tent is set up and ready to go, check to see who is still setting up. You’ll be surprised at how good it makes you feel to help a fellow camper out.

taking three days’ worth of food and eating it all on day one.

I must admit I have never had this problem. My problem is the exact opposite–I go on a three day trip and take enough food for a week. For twice as many people as are going. My cousin did once, though. We let him look longingly at our steaks for a little while before telling him we had plenty.

About the only thing I can tell you in a case like that is: go camping with people like me. You will never, ever go hungry.

a quick list of the rest of the pet peeves, in descending order.

  • Neighbors who don’t put out their campfire properly
  • Camping slobs in your own group (For what to do about it click here)
  • Hikers who don’t stay on the trail
  • Visitors who overstay their welcome
  • People who help themselves to your booze/snacks/drink/food
  • City folk

So how about you guys? Got a pet camping peeve? I’d love to hear about it! Tell me in the comments section below!

Our Top Ten Camping Posts

camping tents
What concerns our readers the most?

Popular camping posts is something I’ve been considering for some time now. Camping and Hiking Ideas has been a blog for a couple of years, so when I was looking over archival content it occurred to me that there was a lot of really, really great stuff that maybe our newer readers didn’t know about. So here is a list of our top ten most popular posts, with a link to each one:

1.  The Instant Tent.

Cabin tents are roomier than dome tents, but bulkier and heavier to take camping.

Our most popular post ever was the review of three different family-sized instant tents. It still gets a lot of attention!  I think it’s because people are looking to streamline their camping experience, so that there’s more time for play and less set-up fuss.  This is especially important for families, who have double the work when camping just because they have to take care of kids when doing so.  For a single camper like me, an 8- or 10-man instant tent gives me the ability to set the thing up by myself in about fifteen minutes, with lots of room inside for comfort. A win-win all around.

2.  camping hacks that do not work, and why.

mosquito catcher bottle
This mosquito catcher doesn’t work at all.

Our second-most popular camping post was about camping hacks that don’t work.  I wrote it because I was sick of seeing these hacks all over the internet, trying them and finding out they were useless, for one reason or another. I’m debating a second one, but that’s in the future some time. Knowing what doesn’t work, and why, is often as helpful as knowing what does.

3. The Horror of a good rod.

This was a surprise to me when I looked at popularity.  It’s a post about my new fishing rod and the difference between it and the old beater I’d had for years. For some reason, the information about rods and reels, birds nests and trying to get the dang thing to cast correctly, from a beginner’s point of view, struck a chord with readers.

4. Choosing a chainsaw for camping.

A good chainsaw makes all the difference in the world.

This one didn’t surprise me at all.  It’s an interview with two very experienced chainsaw owners, and what they do to choose and take care of their chainsaws. You can’t find some of their suggestions anywhere else.  It’s good reading; not too long, but packed with usable information about selecting a chainsaw that’s right for a camper. Incidentally, we have a new article coming up where we talk to a gold-level tech who has been with Stihl for 20 years.  Should be fantastic! Check back over the next couple of weeks for that one.

5.  easy camping meals.

Good food is surprisingly easy to make while camping if you have a plan in mind.

This popular camping post garnered a great deal of appreciation from the fact that it began with a number of guidelines for creating and executing delicious meals for camp, without having to necessarily break the bank or depend on instant foods. It then gives you five suggestions each for breakfast, lunch and dinner, with recipe links to each. Not everyone likes to spend hours preparing meals at camp, but they still like to eat well-balanced, appetizing food. This teaches you how.

6. Carny bacon.

Deep-fried bacon and dipping sauce.
Camping Carny Bacon. Hog heaven.

Carny Bacon is a relatively new post, but has it ever taken off!  This top article is huge right now. When I developed this recipe it was with the intention of creating something that was sweet and salty and very self-indulgent. It’s a hit in our family, too–one particular nephew asks me to make it every few days. Because three pieces of bacon makes 12 pieces of carny bacon, it’s kind of frugal, too. Who would have guessed?

7. Dutch oven secrets.

Dutch ovens
Mastering dutch oven cooking is something you will never regret.

For campers, Dutch oven cooking is a revelation.  There’s something wonderful about this camping essential.  The article contains five secrets to successful Dutch oven cooking. Okay, there’s a bonus sixth one, too, but don’t tell anyone I told you. It’s supposed to be a surprise.

8. A Great night’s sleep while camping.

You can sleep great at night camping if you follow the guidelines in this post.

This article contains pretty much all you need to know about getting a great night’s sleep while camping. It was inspired by a comment from a busy (and fatigued) mother who hesitated to camp because she was afraid she wouldn’t be able to sleep. Well mom, (and anyone else who loves a good night’s rest) there you go!

9. Setting up a camp kitchen.

Screen tent
Screen tents are great for setting up camp kitchens in

Setting up a camp kitchen that really works is the result of much trial and error on the part of my family and friends.  We essentially took the best and discarded the rest when it came to making a great camp kitchen. This is the most popular article on setting up a camp kitchen, but if you’re looking for a camp kitchen for a crowd, click on this link.

10. recipes for when there’s no fire.

cherry cream cheese on bagel
A breakfast so good, you won’t wait for no fire as an excuse. Good for you, too.

The article, “What Do You Eat When the Fire Goes Out?” gained some attention, but not like the link in it, which leads to all the recipes for all the menu suggestions in the post.  There are five suggestions each for breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert, and four suggestions for snacks, all prepared without a fire of any kind. I guess it’s because we’ve had a lot of fire bans this year. Either way, the food is wonderful!

I hope you take a quick look at these articles.  They have a ton of information for new and experienced campers alike. According to my analytics page, the majority of my visitors like them. I hope you do, too.

What To Do About Camping Slobs

litter at campsite
The spoor of jackass campers

Camping slobs–do NOT get me started. I hate it when I try my best to keep the camp organized and half the group drops crap everywhere. Or when I leave my camp kitchen immaculate, go on a hike and come back to food and dirty utensils on every surface. Or when the shovel, axe, chairs or jackets and towels are strewn around the site with no regard for possible rain or tripping accidents? It’s enough to make me double my beer intake.

It sure as heck bothers most people who like a modicum of order. So how do we avoid all that? Here are some ideas:

A place for everything.

One of the most effective preventative measures is literally having a place for everything.  Many times camping items get left in awkward areas because no one is sure where to leave it. If you have a stack of wood near the campfire, create a tool rack for the axe, shovel, hotdog forks and anything fire related. Just drive two sturdy sticks into the ground that are forked at the top end. Place another stick in the forks. Lean the tools up against it.  Rig a tarp so it protects the wood and tools from rain. You have a place for stuff.

If your covered camp kitchen is too small to put all the gear in, do what we do. Place the coolers in a tidy row along once side of the kitchen tent on the outside. That way it’s readily accessible for preparing food but keeps the kitchen area fairly clear of clutter.

Organize a wash station and keep soap, a wash basin, cloth and a towel there. Keep it near the camp stove so heating water is easier. Arrange drinkables on a table with glasses and utensils. Add condiments and sugar, salt and pepper. People can go there for drinks and flavoring throughout the day without getting underfoot. And everything has a specific place!


You can never have too many containers at a camp site.

Take along two pop-up laundry hampers, the ones you buy at the dollar store that fold down into a flat disc. Put a garbage bag in each of them. One is for garbage you can’t burn, the other is for recyclables. If you still have a slob that insists on leaving cans or bottles on the ground and walking away, direct their attention to the recycle bin.

Boxes that fold flat and open up for use can be great for small things. Fire starter, work gloves, extra tarps, kids toys, or anything else that has a tendency to spread out on a site can be placed in one.

Hang things up–cup hooks screwed into a tree works. So does a belt around a tree trunk with “S” hooks hanging from it. And good old fashioned clothes lines are great for getting things up and at eye level.

Small plastic bins for utensils and little items can be prepacked; just take off the lid, place it on the table, and put the plastic bin on top. At night you can replace the lid, and when you pack up to go home, just put the small bin in the larger kitchen bins you have. Small plastic containers like that keep the mess under control in the kitchen.


This is something I did a couple of years ago and I’m still wondering why I didn’t think of it sooner.

When you’re at home, invest in a laminator and laminating pouches. Then go sign crazy! Print out signs from your computer and laminate them. You can place them on trees using thumb tacks and tent poles using duct tape. It’s amazing what a sign will do to remind people to keep the area tidy. Some suggestions:

  1. Washing Station (Empty Water From Basin When Done)
  2. Pick Up After Yourself–Bottles and Cans In Here
  3. Get Your Drinks and Snacks Here
  4. Do Not Touch
  5. Please Put All Wet Towels On Line To Dry
  6. Return Tools To This Area When Done
  7. Chairs Go Here When Not In Use
  8. First Aid Kit
  9. Please Ask Chief Cook And Bottle Washer If (S)He Needs Help
  10. Never Leave The Site Without Telling Someone

–The ideas are endless, and they work.

The Final Solution.

Sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and speak to someone. Most of the time it’s not a problem–family members expect communication lines to be open–but when it’s a friend you’ve invited along it can be tricky. Decide if you will just pick up after them and then never invite them again, or if there is a tactful (very, very tactful) way of speaking to them about the mess they are leaving everywhere. Sometimes you can use humor to diffuse the situation. You need to ask yourself, though, if it’s worth losing a friendship over.  If you don’t do it exactly right, that pal you like enough to invite may never spend time with you again. Sometimes, as mentioned before, you may just decide to pick up after them. Put the onus on yourself if they mention something. “Yes, I’m very picky. I love a tidy camp site.” A worthwhile pal will try to stay tidier; maybe not perfect, but better.

Keeping your camp site clean and organized makes it easier to pack up when you go home, and when you leave a site as clean or cleaner than when you came, you’re doing everyone a favor. (More signage.)