As a beginner, it is advised that you choose a camping site that has many available amenities to save you the trouble of setting up shelter, building a crude fire and looking for potable water. Unless, of course, you really want to immerse yourself in nature. In which case, you will need a guide.
Nevertheless, it is always best to over-prepare, which is why you still need to develop some basic camping skills. These skills will come in handy in case the resources that you brought from the city are running low (which, hopefully, will not happen). Since shelter, warmth and drinking water are three of the most basic needs that you need for survival, you will now learn how to use limited resources in order to satisfy these needs.
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How to Set Up a Makeshift Tent
You will need:
- Large rocks for holding your tent down
- A sharp pocketknife.
- Heavy duty rope.
- 2 large sheets of tarpaulin or 4 to 6 heavy-duty garbage bags and some packing tape.
- 1. Look for a spot with low elevation and is between two strong trees. Low elevation will protect your from the cold at night.
- 2. Decide how high your tent will be. The rule of thumb is that you will not be hunched over while you are in it.
- 3. Tie one end of the rope to one tree tightly. Loop the rope around the trunk as many times as possible and knot it several times. While keeping the rope taut, tie the other end to the other tree using the same procedure.
- 4. Get rid of any rocks, pebbles and other natural debris from the ground on which your tent will be.
- 5. Lay out one sheet of tarpaulin on the ground with the center directly underneath the taut rope and smooth it out. Hold down the corners with rocks to keep the wind from blowing it away. This will serve as your floor.
- 6. Hang the other tarpaulin over the taut rope to create your roof. With four pieces of heavy duty rope, tie the corners of the roof tarp with the floor tarp. Do not remove the rocks to keep the floor secure.
- 7. This type of makeshift tent can help shield you from both sun and rain.
How to Build a Fire (without a lighter or a match)
You will need:
- Dry wood
- Dry leaves and bark
- Batteries and steel wool or metal paper clips (option 1)
- Dry piece of wood, pocketknife, and sturdy wooden stick (option 2)
Procedure - Option #1
- 1. Dig a shallow hole in the ground and place the dry leaves and dry bark in it. This will be your tinder nest; it will be used to catch the flame that you are going to produce.
- 2. Take out your batteries, preferably 9-volt, and identify the terminals (ends with the positive and negative signs).
- 3. Rub the steel wool (or metal paper clips) on both terminals continuously. This will create an ignition, the same way toaster ovens work. Make sure to do this while you are very close to the tinder nest.
- 4. Once the steel material starts to glow, blow it gently to feed the flame. Then carefully and swiftly place the steel material to the tinder nest as you continue to blow gently. Keep feeding and blowing the small flame until you have a steady fire.
Procedure - Option #2
- 1. Place the piece of wood on the ground, close to the tinder nest. Cut a tiny, V-shaped hole in the center, just large enough for the end of your spindle stick to fit.
- 2. Place pieces of bark and dry leaves beneath the hole to catch the heat from the friction caused by the dry wood and the spindle stick.
- 3. Place the end of your stick into the hole in your piece of wood. Hold it between your palms and spin it as rapidly as you could in a motion similar to rubbing your hands together.
- 4. Once the wood starts to glow, continue to spin the stick and blow gently to feed the flame. After that, transfer the small flame to your tinder nest.
- 5. Feed the little flame by placing larger pieces of bark, and eventually dry wood. Soon enough, you’ll have a fire!
How to Make Water Potable (using water-purification tablets)
You will need:
- A pot (preferably with a lid)
- A fire or stove
- Several clean pieces of cloth
- A funnel
- A container for carrying water
- 1. Filter your water by stuffing your funnel with clean pieces of cloth, then positioning it over a pot. After that, slowly pour the water that you have gathered from your carrying container into the filtering funnel.
- 2. If the water is murky, change the cloths at least one more time to filter it twice. You will need yet another container to catch the water that you will pour from the pot.
- 3. Place the pot full of water into a burning fire and let boil for 20 minutes. This will destroy most of the bacteria and chemicals.
- 4. Carefully remove the pot from the heat. Read the instructions on the water-purification tablets carefully. Drop the tablets into the water and then stir until the tablets dissolve.
- 5. Set the pot full of water aside to cool and settle for 30 minutes. Make sure to keep it covered.
- 6. You will see sediments on the base of the pot. Be careful not to disturb them as you pour the purified water into your cups. Now you can drink!
How to Send a Distress Signal
There are several ways to send a distress signal. Hopefully you will never have to resort to any of them while camping, but then again knowledge is power and it may save your life one day.
You will need:
- A flashlight or strobe light at night or a mirror during the day
- A whistle or horn
- Large rocks and/or tree limbs
- 1. Use your flashlight/strobe light (if it’s nighttime) or your mirror (if it’s daytime) to send 3 short flashes, 3 long flashes, and another 3 short flashes. This is the international S-O-S Morse code and it can be seen from as much as 70 miles away. You can use this technique for catching the attention of a helicopter, airplane or a ranger from far away. Make sure to practice.
- 2. Make some noise to attract attention by blowing your whistle or blasting with your horn. Create short, sharp sounds quickly and repeatedly.
- 3. Start a fire if you can. Choosing an elevated and clear area, create three fire pits that form a triangle to serve as an international distress signal. Try to make thick smoke by placing green foliage or rubber to the fire.
- 4. Form a large S-O-S or a V or an X sign in a large, clear area using tree limbs, big rocks and so on. Make it big enough to be visible from the sky in order to catch the attention of a plane or helicopter.
For good measure, you can practice doing some of these basic skills at home before going camping. That way, you will already be familiar with what to do if ever the situation demands it.
How to Ward Off the Mosquitoes
Mosquitoes can be annoying and can ruin a restful sleep during any camping trip. There are actually many ways to keep yourself safe from these pesky critters. Here they are:
- 1. Keep yourself covered. Protect your skin by covering it up. Wear hiking pants and shirts with long sleeves and cuffs so that mosquitoes have no chance of getting access to your skin.
- 2. Shy away from black and blue. Mosquitoes love these colors and are attracted to them. Avoid wearing clothing in these hues.
- 3. Choose a campsite which is away from the water. Bodies of water and even puddles can be breeding grounds for mosquitoes. If you spend the night near a creek or river, expect these blood-suckers to swarm on you in no time.
- 4. Make a fire. Fires can be very helpful in driving these pests away. Mosquitoes hate the smoke and they don’t want to be near fires. A campfire does not only make eating and talking fun, it is also a natural way to repel mosquitoes.
- 5. Apply insect repellant lotion on your skin. These lotions are available in all drugstores and can last up to a few hours per application. Prepare for your trip by making sure you buy yourself one of these.
- 6. Eat up on the garlic. Other campers start taking garlic supplements or add garlic to their diet a week before they go camping. The smell permeates into the body and becomes a natural repellant.
- 7. Rub on some lemon balm. If you find yourself without any protective clothing and without repellants for some reason, don’t worry. Find lemon balm leaves on your trail. Crush the leaves then rub them all over your exposed skin.