Summer vacation is a great time for families to bond with camping trips to any number of camping venues in the Tampa Bay area or for rugged individualists to enjoy some downtime away from the pressures of civilization. For some people, the word "camping" conjures up images of relaxing days and nights out of reach of cell phones and the Internet in log cabins complete with electricity, air conditioning and indoor plumbing. For others, camping is a chance to "rough it" in the great outdoors with only the shelter and supplies you can pack on your back and scrounge from nature. Assuming that readers will pack plenty of food, we have asked an expert for five tips on how to "rough it" in style and with safety.
Matt Anderson, Program Specialist
Gulf Ridge Boy Scout Council
13228 N. Central Ave.
Tampa, FL 33612
Tip 1 - Don't Just Disappear
Matt Anderson of the Gulf Ridge Boy Scout Council says campers should never leave home without leaving a detailed itinerary comparable to a float plan for a boater or flight plan for a pilot. "Somebody that's not on the trip should always know where you're gonna be each day. And if that plan changes, you need to make sure you can let them know in some way." Knowing that you're overdue could be crucial if some kind of misfortune leaves you stranded in the middle of nowhere. A day or two delay could be fatal for an injured or stranded camper.
Tip 2 - Take Care Of Your Feet
If you're walking into a camping area, your feet are your transportation and should get the best care you can give them. Matt says at least one extra pair of clean socks is a must. Blisters can get infected by dirty socks and wet socks can quickly turn into breeding farms' mildew and mold that can lead to nasty foot infections. While light tennis shoes may be good, they must fit properly and be broken in to prevent blisters. Matt points out that boots do have their advantages. "There's roots and stuff out there, you can still pop an ankle."
Tip 3 - Hide Your Food
Human food acts like a magnet for animals in the wild. While raccoons and bears are nice to look at from a safe distance, Matt says leaving food in the open is asking for trouble. "Keep your food sealed up where it can't be smelled and away from animals." Proper food disposal is another must. To a wild animal, the leftovers from a meal can smell like gourmet cooking. Raccoons are notorious carriers of rabies and getting into a fight with one over your food can lead to a painful bite and even a rabies shots.
Tip 4 - Bring The Right Kind of Shelter
During the long, hot days of summer, even minimal shelter can help make camping much more comfortable. Plastic is light and easy to handle, but may not make a good sun shelter because clear plastic will create a greenhouse effect and dark plastic will absorb the sun's rays and radiate the heat to the camper. Matt says the first thing to look for when setting up camp is shade; "If you can get out of the sun and feel the breeze in some way, it makes a world of difference."
Tip 5 - Back Up Your Water Supply
The rule of thumb is that the average person in normal circumstances needs about a gallon of water per day, so taking plenty of water is going to be a must. Matt says that even if you have enough water for your needs, you should also have a "plan b" if your water runs out or you get stranded. "You can always get filters, iodine tablets or chlorine drops. You can also always boil water if you can build a fire to do it." Of course, to boil water requires a proper container and Matt recommends having a small mess kit or some kind of small pot that will stand up to high temperatures.
Camping supplies are available at any number of locations. Most of the big box stores such as Wal-Mart and Target have well-stocked outdoor sections. Army-Navy surplus stores are also good places to find military-issued equipment that's built to stand up to rugged outdoor use.
Related: Best Hiking Trails in Tampa Bay
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