You may have tons of ideas for where to hike and camp in Virginia, but do you know what to do when you get there? Whether you are a first-time camper or someone that takes the tent out every weekend, you can always learn a little more about safely sleeping in the Great Outdoors. Use these tent camping tips to ensure your trip is memorable in all the right ways.
Hiking or Driving?
There are two types of tent camping. The more primitive type involves packing up your gear and hiking to a campsite. Your pack holds necessary supplies and any additional comforts you might want to bring along. This type of camping requires more planning, as you must carry the weight of your goods for longer distances, and over packing can prevent you from reaching the campsite at your intended time.
For those that would like an easier form of tent camping, you can find campsites in the area that are reachable by car. By packing up your car with everything you need, you are less limited to the items you can bring along, and planning, while important, takes less time.
These tips are aimed at targeting both types of tent campers, but please take into account that primitive tent camping after a hike is for the more experienced outdoor fans.
1. Bring basic first aid items with you on your trip. If you are not very experienced and are hiking to a campground that is a few miles out, you need to be prepared for the possibility of blisters. Bring blister-blocking band aids and ointment to prevent infection. Sunscreen and bug spray are also imperative.
2. Pitch the tent on a level surface. Avoiding sharp objects like tree roots or rocks under where you will be sleeping. This saves wear and tear on your gear and help you get a better nights rest.
3. Bring a footprint for your tent. If you are driving to the campsite or have extra room in your hiking pack, consider a waterproof tarp. This comes in handy for covering the tent in case of a downpour.
4. Choose the right size tent for your needs. You don’t need a four person tent if you are hiking and camping alone. Carrying a bulky tent when hiking is guaranteed to make your trip less enjoyable, and smaller tents also give you more choices for where you can place it.
5. Don’t overpack—Pack smart and simply. If you are going to be camping in an area where there might be other campers, consider their desire for a primitive experience and leave gadgets home or in the car. If you must carry a phone, leave it off. Check your power supplies for your light source in advance. Make sure you have adequate battery life in your headlamp or flashlight, or spare fuel in your car for a kerosene lantern.
6. Do a trial run. Try out your gear in your backyard before camping miles from civilization.
7. Avoid leaving anything more than your footprints behind. Consider attending a Leave No Trace Program before deciding to go into the woods. You may think you are an eco-friendly camper, but brushing up on the rules can’t hurt!
8. Know what amenities are available at the site. Are there water and electric hookups? Bathrooms with running water? Grills or fire pits? If you are going to be hiking longer distances, consider bringing a water purification option. You never know what will happen when you are camping off the beaten path, and it’s better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your water source.
9. If you plan on starting a fire, you should know how to get it started, how to cook using fire, and how to properly put it out. Make sure you know the regulations on fire for the area you are camping. Sometimes, fires are not permitted or are not permitted seasonally. Cooking with wood does more than just fuel the fire; it acts as a flavoring for your food. Stay away from wood with a lot of sap, like cedar and pine, which can ruin the taste of your meal. Instead, look for oak, maple, or other hardwoods native to Virginia that are wonderful flavor-enhancing woods.
10. Virginia is home to a wide array of wildlife. While animals typically prefer to stay out of your way, they may be tempted to come over and visit if you have food improperly stored. Unless you want to get up close and personal with a black bear, make sure food is packed up in airtight containers where the bears won’t smell it. Hang food out of reach of bears if there are hanging poles set up in the area. Otherwise, store it in several layers of zip lock bags and leave it far from where you set up your tent. Don’t cook or clean dishes near your tent site. After you finish eating, bury all biodegradable scraps far from your campsite.
Camping is a cheap, interesting way to discover Virginia’s amazing landscape, and adhering to these tips in addition to individual site restrictions helps you stay away from many dangers in the wilderness.
Are you an experienced camper with a few more outdoor safety suggestions? Let us know your go-to rules in the comments below!