What does it mean to be a greatist? We asked Mark Sisson, the voice behind Mark's Daily Apple and author of The Primal Diet. Read on for an inside look at his day-to-day routine.
Know Before You Go: Camping
Every year, more than 30 million Americans leave the comfort of their homes to sleep in a tent, RV, or simply under the stars. There are lots of reasons to rough it on a good-old fashioned camping trip, from physical health benefits to stress relief. (Who needs a Tempur-Pedic mattress when there’s a sleeping bag?) In order for a safe, comfortable, and exciting experience with Mother Nature, learn all the camping dos and don’ts to fully enjoy the Great Outdoors!
Nature-Made — The Need-to-Know
Forget stress balls and screaming into pillows: Just being in the presence of plants can be therapeutic. The word’s biophilia, the term for humans’ desire to connect with nature . (Yep, it’s science!) And camping isn't only the perfect way to get outdoors; it can also be great for our health  . Trekking to a campsite with the sun beating down provides a healthy dose of vitamin D, plus walking is a lower-impact exercise that may help burn off some of those campfire S’mores. Embracing that inner Yogi Bear may help reduce stress, too: Levels of serotonin naturally rise when we’re outdoors, which can help improve mood  . Who said only five-star hotels were relaxing? But don’t hit the trail without these pro tips.
Now Camp It Out — Your Action Plan
To ensure a memorable stint with nature and stay out of harm’s way, follow the guide below — perfect for any neck of the woods!
Gear up: Figure out what to bring based on how much room you have and how long you’ll be gone.
Backpack: Choose a backpack based on how long the trek will be. The volume of the pack is measured in liters. Multi-day packs are 60 to 80 liters and are perfect for two- to five-day hikes.
Sleep well: Tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad (for extra cushion!), and pillow. The size of the tent depends on how many people are squeezing in. And make sure that thing’s weather resistant! A light-weight “three-season” tent is made for spring, summer, and fall conditions — designed to keep people dry during light snow or rain while keeping the bugs out! If camping in the winter, go with a mountaineering tent that can withstand harsher weather conditions.
Fire up: Charcoal (for campsite grills), fire starters, wood, newspaper, matches, propane stove, skillet, pot, utensils, and cups/bowls/plates. Always check to see if the site allows campfires, and use fire rings if available. Keep sand and water nearby in case the fire needs to be put out quickly.
Chow down: Granola bars, peanut butter, beef jerky, canned beans and soup, trail mix, drink powders, and coffee and tea for starters. These are easy to pack, won’t spoil, and are filled with protein for added energy! Keep an empty water bottle on hand, too. Use the tap provided at the campsite to fill ‘er up — or boil and/or use purification tablets if collecting from a fresh body of water. Try to drink at least 16 ounces of water every hour if staying active.
Dress for success: Moisture-wicking clothes, synthetic or wool socks, raingear, hat, hiking boots, and swimsuit.
Grab the gadgets: Flashlight/headlamp/lantern, batteries, multi-tool, and phone-charger.
Keep clean: Soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, and toilet paper. Bonus tips: Use baby wipes to get rid of dirt, always carry hand sanitizer, try soap to wash hair, and bring garbage bags to separate clean and dirty clothes!
Stay safe: First-aid kit, creams for blisters, After Bite, sunscreen, and Band-Aids.
Extra, extra! Camera, binoculars, maps, books, folding chair, cooler, and chapstick. For even more ideas, check out these expert suggestions!
Pick a place: After everything’s packed up, the next step is figuring out where to park that tent! There are tons of campgrounds to choose from, like national parks, state parks, and other campsites around the country. Find out what amenities are provided; most sites have grills, and some have showers and even wifi! Remember to call ahead and reserve a spot, especially in the summer. Ask about wildlife, too (I want to spot a chipmunk, not a bear please!) and beware of campgrounds that are at high altitudes — this may cause altitude sickness.
Set up camp: Once at the campsite, find level ground to pitch the tent. Set it up (some extra hands will help!) and make sure to use a tent cover in case of rain. Pick a place that’s close enough to running water for easy access when cleaning dishes, showering, and filling up water bottles. And remember: Keep food out of the tent — place in bear food boxes if necessary.
Play it safe: Everything above should lend to a smooth camping experience, but remember that it’s best to camp with others so someone can always call for help in an emergency. With common sense, the right equipment, and a positive attitude, Mother Nature will quickly become your second home.
Proceed with caution: Camping often involves some rough terrain, so make sure to wear good hiking boots to avoid sprains and strains. Slip on the right socks and shoes to avoid blisters, and keep a first-aid kit on hand incase there are some cuts and scrapes along the way.
Stay safe in the sun: Slather on the sunscreen, and wear a hat and sunglasses to keep the sun out. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration, too.
Avoid ticks: Wear high socks, use insect repellent, and avoid high grass to keep ticks away. If a tick attacks, carefully pull it out with tweezers, making sure not to squeeze or crush the bug. Disinfect the area with soap and wash your hands immediately after!
Beware of bears: As for fending off our furry friends, make sure the campsite’s clean and remove all food from the tent. Keep in mind most bears don’t actually attack. In the unlikely event a black bear enters a campsite, remember they are generally more timid, so be aggressive and make noise, or fight back with sticks and rocks if it attacks. Grizzly bears perceive humans as a threat, so do not make any sudden movements. Curl up in the fetal position and play dead.
Break it down: Leave the campsite as you found it! Throw away any trash, make sure the fire is out, and pack your gear tightly into a backpack, trunk, or RV.
Now hit the trails as a happy camper!
Do you have any memorable camping experiences? Share your stories below!
- Biophilia: Does Visual Contact with Nature Impact on Health and Well-Being? Grinde, B, Patil, G.G. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2009 September; 6(9): 2332–2343.⤴
- Using nature and outdoor activity to improve children's health. McCurdy, L.E., Winterbottom, K.E., Mehta, S.S., et al. National Environmental Education Foundation, Washington, DC. Current Problems in Pediatric and Adolescent Health Care, 2010 May;40(5):102-17. ⤴
- Going outdoors daily predicts long-term functional and health benefits among ambulatory older people. Jacobs, J.M., Cohen, A., Hammerman-Rozenberg, R., et al. Hadassah Hebrew University Medical Center, Mount Scopus, Jerusalem, Israel. Journal of Aging and Health, 2008 Apr;20(3):259-72.⤴
- How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. Young, S.N. Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, 2007 November; 32(6): 394–399.⤴
- Randomized trial of physical exercise alone or combined with bright light on mood and health-related quality of life. Partonen, T., Leppämäki S, Hurme, J., et al. Department of Psychiatry, University of Helsinki, Finland. Psychological Medicine, 1998 Nov;28(6):1359-64.⤴