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Scott Huntington

How to Cook Over a Fire

By | Camping | No Comments

There’s nothing quite like cooking over the blazing flames of a campfire. Whether you’ve roasted marshmallows or charred hot dogs, they seem to taste a bit better when you fire them this way.

This food-preparation method appears to be pretty intuitive — you light a fire, then cook over it. But it’s not always that simple, especially if you plan to prep something more involved than a s’more. So, keep these five tips in mind before your next camping trip to ensure your campfire cooking pursuits are successful.

1. Wait Until the Fire is Perfect

As soon as you see orange, you might think it’s time to start cooking. However, the right fire for cooking requires some patience. In general, you want a base of smoldering coals with just a few logs on top to keep the flames burning. If your fire just started, you might have to wait anywhere from a half-hour to 45 minutes for it to calm down to cooking temperatures.

2. Don’t Rely on an Open Flame

That vision of roasting a marshmallow by plunging it directly into the pyre is a cooking method that works for that type of food only. The rest of your campfire-ready eats will require more careful preparation, or they’ll quickly burn and char. In many cases, you can place a camping grill over the flames, a perfect resting spot for burgers and hot dogs so they don’t touch the fire directly. The same goes for pots and pans in which you’ll heat up or cook meals. You can also set aside some hot coals over which to roast veggies or other roast-ready foods.

3. Planning Is Key

Even if you’re camping in the woods and therefore have trees and logs surrounding you, you might not be able to use any of them in your campfire. SSome campgrounds prohibit you from using the resources around you as kindling. So, be prepared and bring along high-quality firewood. Not only will this ensure you’ll have the resources to start a fire, but it’ll also make life so much simpler for you — these logs will easily and safely light up and burn for a long time. You’ll have plenty of time to cook your meals and stay warm around your campfire.

4. Build It Slowly and Steadily

Some fire-starters will dump all their logs into the pit at once and light them up. But this won’t start a sustainable campfire — it either won’t light, or it’ll burn out all of your resources rather quickly. So, pace yourself and build your fire correctly by using only a few logs with plenty of kindling beneath them. This method gives you a nice, hot base for your fire, and you can continue adding logs on top as you go to keep it burning. Plus, the temperature will remain steadier, making cooking simpler, too.

5. Add In Rest Time

Finally, you need to remember the foods you prepare over an open flame will cook at a higher temperature for longer. In other words, when you pull your foodstuffs out of the flames, they will continue cooking because they have taken in so much heat. So, take everything out just before you normally would if you were cooking with traditional appliances. Then, let your food rest and finish cooking. Finally, you can serve breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Campfire cooking is certainly an acquired skill, but these five tips will make it easier for you to become a skilled outdoor chef. And, with that, you’ll be eating well whether you’re at home or in the middle of nowhere with only a small fire to help you.

How to Build a Bunker

By | Survival | No Comments

Nuclear holocaust may not be the threat today that it was 50 years ago, but a well-stocked shelter is still one of the best preparations you can take against any major disaster. The sturdy construction and simple nature of these structures make them useful for a multitude of disaster situations, and while initial investment is high, a finished bunker provides peace of mind with relatively little maintenance.

Purchasing a prefabricated bunker might mean compromising on features and quality, and having someone build you one can get expensive fast. Consider undertaking a DIY bunker project — you’ll have full control over the costs and amenities, and as construction projects go, bunkers are relatively easy to build.

Choose a Location and Layout

Your bunker is a living quarter just the same as your above-ground home. If you’re building close to your home, there’s a good chance you’ll have infrastructure such as electrical lines and plumbing to compete with for space. Make sure to survey the area and choose a spot to dig where you have a good knowledge of what you’ll encounter underground. Also, make sure you’re legally permitted to begin the project. You may need to check your city ordinances or complete paperwork before beginning.

Smaller bunkers will only accommodate a bare-bones layout. However, if you have enough space, you can incorporate multiple rooms. You should create a blueprint that details the floorplan of your proposed shelter as you begin to identify the bunker’s infrastructure needs. How will you plumb the structure, provide access and even install things like cable and internet?

Breaking Ground

Now you’re ready to begin digging! You’ll want to rent an earth mover for this job unless your project is on a multi-year plan. Most people choose concrete as their bunker-building material because of its strength, molecular stability and low cost. You can use poured material — however, this can pose some challenges in an underground setting.

Concrete blocks make an excellent building material for bunkers because you can purchase them in several shapes and sizes, allowing you to construct virtually any basic structure with them. They’re also available hollow or solid, allowing you to add strength to the structure’s load-bearing walls. You should consider adding multiple passages from your home to your shelter, because in an emergency, relying on a single point of entry and exit could make a difference for you and your family.

Finishing Your Bunker

It might feel cool and comfortable now, but your bunker will quickly become stuffy and unpleasant without a steady supply of fresh air. You can’t leave the door open all the time, so most shelters use an air pump to pull fresh air down into the bunker and provide continuous circulation. The size of your shelter and number of people it needs to accommodate will determine what size air pump to use.

In addition to air, you’ll need to add water and electricity lines, internet and essential radio communications equipment. Finally, be sure to stock food and water ahead of time. In a crisis, you won’t have time to run to Costco. Make sure to supply the shelter with nonperishable items and fresh water, as well as water purification equipment. Keep a log of expiration dates so you can refresh your stores before they spoil.

It’s no small project, but in terms of being prepared, nothing will deliver more value than a well-planned shelter. It’s an investment in something you might not use, but if it gives you peace of mind, it’s well worth the spend.

How to Clean a Boat

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Cleaning a boat might seem kind of silly — do you need to clean something that spends all or almost all of the time in the water?

The answer is yes. Boats need regular cleaning to ensure barnacles and other oceanic life don’t cause damage to the hull. If you’ve never cleaned a boat before, don’t worry — we’ve got you covered. Here are some easy steps to make your boat cleaning less of a hassle.

1. Get It out of the Water

Unless you’re secretly Aquaman or have gills, your first step will be getting your boat out of the water. The hardest part of the cleaning job stays hidden below the waterline, so to make your job easier, put your boat in dry-dock before you start your work.

For small boats, this is easy — drag it up onto the dock and flip it over. For larger vessels, you will need the assistance of a professional dock.

2. Rinse

You don’t generally want to wash your boat with the water it’s been sitting in, especially if you spend a lot of time in the ocean. Saltwater can cause a lot of problems for your vessel if you don’t take the right precautions.

Start by giving your boat a good freshwater rinse. This will knock off any loose debris and give you a better idea of how big a job this is going to be.

3. Start Scrubbing

This is probably the hardest part of cleaning your hull. If you spend a lot of time in the ocean or any salty body of water, you probably have barnacles growing on your hull and other portions of your boat. You’ll need a plastic putty knife to remove large barnacles, and a steel scrubber to get rid of smaller ones.

Once you’ve gotten rid of the barnacles, break out the soap and sponges and give the keel a good scrubbing. This part of the job is just like washing your car — add soap, scrub until clean and then rinse.

4. Clean the Deck

The keel of your ship isn’t the only thing that needs some attention during your annual deep clean. Make sure you clean the deck as well. Only use cleaning materials that are safe for your boat. If you’re cleaning an inflatable, for example, traditional cleaning products like bleach, acetone and ammonia can all damage the material.

Even if it doesn’t look damaged, using the wrong cleaning products could leave your deck’s surfaces more susceptible to salt or UV damage the next time you head out on the water.

5. Do Any Necessary Repairs

If you notice any damage to the hull or deck while you’re cleaning, this is the time to repair it. Don’t let minor damage become a big leak that will have you calling for sea rescue. Do the repairs now, or have them done professionally if you’re not comfortable doing it yourself.

Make sure you’re done with any necessary repairs before you move on to the next step.

6. Add a Coat of Wax

Once everything is clean, and you’re ready to head back out on the water, you’ve got one step left — adding a coat of wax to your keel. This works much like a wax coat does on the car in your garage, protecting the fiberglass beneath from water and sun damage. Break out a microfiber cloth or a buffing wheel for your power drill and go to town, making sure the entire vessel is coated from stem to stern.

7. Enjoy the Fruits of Your Labor

Once you’ve finished all these steps, pat yourself on the back. All that’s left to do now is crack open a cold one and enjoy the fruits of your labor. In general, you only need to deep clean your boat once or twice a year, but pulling it up into dry dock once in a while to rinse it off and remove any barnacles can make your job more relaxed at the end of each boating season.

A Little Regular Cleaning Goes a Long Way

Even if your boat is in the water all the time, it will occasionally need to be cleaned. Set aside a day or a weekend to do the job right and keep your boat in top condition.

How to Go White Water Rafting

By | Boating | No Comments

The feeling of gliding over the water with the cool breeze blowing across your skin and the melodic movement of the waves beneath your raft is breathtaking. White water rafting attracts extreme sports enthusiasts and adventure-seekers all the time with its exciting rapids and wild nature. It’s relatively simple to do, and there are offerings all around the country. But if it’s your first time going white water rafting, here are some tips that can help.

1. Pick an Appropriate Trip

Some rafting adventures are more advanced than others, with larger rapids and waterfalls. Choose a course that you’re comfortable with and that meets your adventure level.

2. Wear Sunscreen

Being out on the water and under the sky for long periods puts you in sight of the sun at all times. Even if the sky is cloud-covered, sunburn happens. Packing sunscreen and applying it before you set out on the water will save you from burns and later discomfort.

3. Have the Proper Clothes

What you wear matters. You don’t need to buy a fancy wetsuit, but you shouldn’t just wear a swimsuit either. With water, there’s always the chance of getting wet, so you want to wear something that will fit under your lifevest and also cover the skin. Long- and short-sleeve tee shirts are always good options. Be wary of cotton though, as once it’s wet, it can take a long time to dry.

Sneakers work if you’re in a pinch, and they’re better than flip-flops, but the best footwear options are sand shoes and strapped sandals.

Sunglasses will shield your eyes from the sun, but they can also easily fall off. If you decide to bring sunglasses, make them a pair you’re okay with potentially losing.

Among all the questions people ask before going rafting, what to wear might be the most integral to your enjoyment on the water.

4. Balance Yourself in the Raft

To stay seated and balanced as the raft bounces over the waves, be mindful of your seating position. Your feet should be tucked under the side of the air tube that runs around the raft, and you should be sitting on the outer edge. Sitting this way will keep you and the raft balanced.

5. Listen to the Guide

Guides are experts and have been rafting on the river longer than you have. They know its quirks and curves. By following their instructions, you can ensure that you’re prepared with the knowledge of how, where and when to paddle. They’ll be instructing you throughout the trip on how to navigate the turns and rapids, and they’ll show you how to stay in your seat. If you don’t listen, you may find yourself in the water.

6. Paddle With the Team

To get anywhere on the trip, you go with your team. Paddling faster or harder won’t help if it’s not in sync. The guide will teach you how to row at points throughout the trip, but it’s up to you and your fellow rafters to match your strokes.

Strokes should be even with oars, dipping far enough down that enough water is moved and pushed back by the paddle.

7. Be Prepared to Swim

Even when you listen to the guide and paddle perfectly, rafting doesn’t always go according to plan. If you find yourself out of the raft and in the water, it’s important to know what to do. Your life jacket should keep you above water, and your helmet will save your head from knocking into anything solid after you fall in. Once you’re above water, look for a rescue line or paddle that you can grab to get back on the raft. If none is near, just keep swimming.

If someone else falls out of the raft, you should know how to help them. Be ready with your paddle or rescue line to pull them back to the raft and to safety.

Embrace the Adventure

White water rafting is an adventure not many people get to experience. By keeping an open mind and an open ear, you can make sure your first trip is a great success. You’ll be planning your next one in no time!

6 boating tips for beginners

By | Boating | No Comments

Whether you’ve just purchased your first boat, or want to get a feel for being out on the water before you sign on that dotted line, everyone starts as a boating beginner. It can be intimidating – piloting a boat is just like driving a car, except it’s completely different. If you want to start your captaining journey, here are six boating tips for beginners to get you started.

  1. Start with Training

You wouldn’t get behind the wheel of a car without some training, so why would you do the same with a boat? The best tip that we can give you is to get some training first. This doesn’t have to be official training – you can just as quickly learn what you need to know to safely pilot a boat from a friend who spends a lot of time on the water. The critical point to take away from this tip is that you shouldn’t head out onto the water alone with no training.

Make sure you check what your state’s boating rules and regulations are. Some states require you to have a boating license while others only need a valid drivers license to be able to pilot a boat.

  1. Don’t Forget to Check the Weather

There’s nothing worse than heading out on the water on what appears to be a sunny day, only to find yourself trapped in a squall. Check the weather every time before you head out. NOAA is an excellent resource for boaters because they provide weather information on land and the water. Check things like water temperature, weather forecasts, and wind speed to help you determine the best time to head out and explore your local waterways.

  1. Practice Loading and Unloading Your Boat

Driving with a boat trailer attached to your car or truck can be easy – if you’re driving forward in a straight line. Learning to back up your trailer down a boat ramp is tricky and requires practice. The last thing you want to do is damage your boat or back your vehicle so far down the ramp that you end up stuck in the water and need of rescue.

Practicing loading and unloading your boat can also keep you from making enemies at the boat ramp. Everyone wants to get out on the water as quickly as possible, and if your inexperience is holding up the line, you won’t be making any friends.

  1. Properly Tow Inflatable Boats

Depending on the size of your boat, you may not be able to get everywhere you want to go – especially if your boat has a deep keel. Inflatable boats can provide you with extra mobility if you find an island or a river mouth that you want to explore while you’re out, but you need to know how to tow them properly to prevent damage to your boat, your inflatable craft or even yourself.

An inflatable should always be attached to at least two points on your main craft. It’s recommended that you have d-rings on the port and starboard sides to keep the inflatable stable and prevent it from drifting in your wake. Three-point connections are better – they add another D-ring in between the other two points for added stability – but not every boat is equipped with all of these tie-down points.

  1. Don’t Skimp on Safety Equipment

There’s no way to avoid it – purchasing and maintaining a boat is an expensive hobby. You might be tempted to cut corners to save a few dollars here and there by buying used equipment or financing parts that you can’t afford outright. One thing that you should never skimp on is safety equipment.

Even if you can swim, life jackets can save your life. Drowning is the number one cause of death in boating accidents, and 83 percent of those who drowned after an accident weren’t wearing life jackets. Make sure you have life jackets on at all times – and have enough of them for everyone who boards your boat.

  1. Make Sure You Have Everything You Need

If you leave something on shore, especially if you’re heading way out in the ocean, getting a replacement can be nearly impossible. Write out a checklist before you leave the ramp to ensure that you have everything you need to enjoy your deep-sea exploration. Include things like food, water, clothing, towels (if you’re planning to go swimming), a first aid kit and of course, sunscreen.

We all started as boating beginners once. Don’t let that keep you away from the water. Start by finding someone to teach you the basics and move forward from there.

10 Must-Have Winter Survival Items

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We’re in for a strong El Niño winter this year, meaning lots of snow and lower temperatures across many of the states. While that’s no cause for panic, it is crucial that you stay prepared during this time of year. The following 10 items are at the top of the list for winter survival — keep them on-hand to stay safe and warm during a severe weather event.

1. Snow Shovels

Starting off the list is perhaps the most essential item for winter survival: shovels.

While anyone in an area that gets snow will almost certainly own a sturdy shovel, it is essential that you keep yours in good shape, especially during winter weather advisories. Also, be prepared with a backup shovel or two, just in case one of them breaks. Shovels are your most reliable way of excavating your house, keeping the driveway and steps free of snow and ice and creating an easy escape route during an emergency.

2. Car Blanket

Some of the worst winter emergencies can occur when you’re driving. It’s easy to hit a patch of black ice or catch your wheel on a snowdrift. Even if the incident isn’t too severe, there is always a chance you could be stranded far from help and need to hunker down in your car for a while. Keeping a warm blanket in your vehicle for these occasions is the best way to stay warm until help arrives.

3. Food

Getting to the store during a snow-in can be nigh impossible, especially if the plows haven’t arrived your street yet. Make sure you have a supply of canned or nonperishable food that doesn’t rely on electricity to eat. Trail mix, beef jerky and canned veggies and beans are all excellent options for this type of situation. Be careful to eat the perishable food in your fridge first, as there is a high probability you will lose electricity during a storm.

4. First Aid Kit

Accidents happen. When they do, and there’s no reasonable way to get down the road to the hospital or doctor’s office, you need to have the materials necessary to make it through in your own house.

Having an extensive first aid kit will help you in any medical emergency you may run into when you don’t have any assistance. Be sure to secure extra medicine for any of your family’s pre-existing conditions or allergies. You can’t prepare for everything, but stock up with the essential bandages, antibiotic creams, scissors and a needle and thread.

5. Rock Salt or Sand

Your second step to shoveling should always be laying down a layer of salt or sand to keep yourself safe when heading out the door in the morning. More than 800,000 people are hospitalized due to slipping and falling each year — and that gets a lot worse if there are no usable roads to the hospital.

6. Flashlights

Like shovels, most people have a flashlight somewhere in their house. However, many people don’t know where exactly that flashlight is, and — ironically — could have trouble finding it once the lights are out.

Always have multiple flashlights stowed around your place, and keep plenty of extra batteries on hand, as well. A long-lasting flashlight with a good grip is your best option, as it won’t slip out of your hand and get lost in the snow. The Flateye is an excellent choice, as it fits well in the hand and has an excellent LED light. I personally have one of these, and it’s like having a car headlight in the palm of your hand. Super powerful, but also lightweight and easy to hold.

7. Winter Boots

Again, almost everyone has them, and almost everyone can benefit from maintenance and extra pairs.

Most people don’t go through the process of waterproofing their boots, which is a huge mistake once it becomes necessary to walk long distances through the snow. The heat from your feet and the friction of walking will cause snow to stick and melt on your boots, inevitably soaking your feet if your boots aren’t proofed. Walking to get help for an emergency or going into town after you lost your car in a ditch or snowbank is a lot harder when your feet are wet and freezing.

8. Water

There’s plenty of water around you when it snows. However, unless you want to go through the process of boiling and decontaminating all that snow, it’s a much better option to have bottled water or to fill up your own bottle ahead of a storm. Pipes freeze, and losing your supply of fresh water can be a deadly inconvenience.

9. Books

Part of surviving a winter event is dealing with the boredom and cabin fever that inevitably comes after hours of being cooped up inside without electricity. Luckily, if you have plenty of candles and flashlights available, a book or two will last you through the worst of the event. Even people who aren’t big readers can peruse some magazines or other forms of old-fashioned entertainment. Board games are also a worthy investment.

10. Ice Scraper

Keeping your car in good working order is essential, especially if a real emergency arises. Make sure you have a sturdy ice scraper for removing the worst of the snow and ice from your windshield and door handles.

With another rough winter coming on strong, you’ll want to stay prepared for the worst mother nature can throw your way. Keep these 10 items in mind as you gather your supplies to ensure personal safety, warmth and comfort through the worst winter times.

How to Get Ready for a Major Snowstorm

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Winter is coming on, and many areas of the U.S. are already hunkering down through their first major snowstorms. Many of us are new at snowstorm prepping — having just moved from a city, down south, or into independent living for the first time — and snowstorms can pose a daunting challenge to the unprepared. However, prepping for a foot or two of snow is actually much easier than you might expect. Here are a few ideas.

1. Snow Removal

Snow is an obstacle: it clogs up your driveway, covers your steps and otherwise prevents you from going about your day. Having a plan — and the proper tools — for getting rid of the snow should sit near the top of your prep list. Check your weather channels and have an understanding of how much snow is expected, both for the specific storm incoming and for the region throughout the year.

Many areas experience only light snows and won’t require much more than a shovel and some rock salt. However, even light snow can be a huge nuisance if you aren’t able to remove it: it can ice your windshield, soak your shoes and make your normal path treacherous and slippery. So make sure you load up on the rock salt, shovels — or even a snow blower, depending on your geography — and car brushes well ahead of the storm.

2. Tires

It’s hard to overstate the importance of snow tires. The thing is, snow tires are not really location-dependent. Assuming you are in an area that receives any snow, tires are a good — and often necessary — option. Even an inch or two of snow can have cars sliding around the roads, spinning out into ditches, and otherwise causing mayhem.

Furthermore, areas that don’t experience much snowfall are usually the areas least prepared when the snow comes. Having a good pair of snow tires can be the difference between getting to work on time and spending your day waiting for a tow.

3. Emergency Prep

Those of us not living in metropolitan areas should spend some time preparing for the worst. While snowstorms are usually not life-threatening in and of themselves, the chance that you’ll be snowed in and unable to safely get to the store remains a looming possibility throughout the winter season. Again, this is highly location-dependent: those living in rural areas should implicitly understand the importance of stockpiling food when the flakes start to fall.

A few other things to keep in mind: power lines are susceptible to going down during large snowstorms, especially in rural areas. Investing in a generator is often an excellent idea. Rentals, also available for the days the storm is at its worst, may save you some money if you don’t expect regular snowstorms. Beyond this, it is also imperative to make sure your heating is in order and to go through the proper steps to make sure it is winterized and ready for the storm.

Road conditions are also something to keep in mind: even if your house is not buried in snow, poorly-plowed roads can stop you from getting to the store. Stock up on food before the storm.

Putting some cash and a few hours towards these three areas can really make the difference once the snow starts to build up. Personal snow removal helps you dig out from under the drifts and get about your day, while tires help you traverse the worst roads. Finally, when the time comes to hunker down, you want to make sure you are warm and safe and that you have plenty of food and water.

How to Survive a Winter Storm

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To quote a top-rated show and book series, winter is coming and with it comes winter storms. Depending on their severity, these storms can damage or destroy houses, knock out power grids, freeze water pipes and generally make life difficult. If you’re worried about getting through a storm, here are some tips and tricks to help you weather the winter.

Restock Your Storm Supplies

Getting to the grocery store in the middle of a blizzard might be possible if you’ve got the right accessories for your car, but even if you get there, chances are it will be closed. Take the time to restock your storm supplies before the temperatures drop. Ideally, you want to try to get to the store well before the panic sets in and the shelves are emptied of essentials like milk, bread and nonperishables.

A good storm supply kit should include:

  • Food: Nonperishables and things that can be prepared without the use of a microwave or oven are always good choices.
  • Water: If your pipes freeze or municipal water supplies fail, you will need to have water for each person in your house. Plan on having a gallon per person per day stored, or a way to purify water collected in the form of rain, sleet or melted snow.
  • Communication: Cellphones are only useful until the cell towers go out. Keep a battery-powered radio tuned to the local NOAA station for weather alerts.
  • First aid: Keep a fully stocked first-aid kit with your winter supplies.
  • Lighting: Flashlights, candles, and oil or kerosene lanterns are all useful tools to keep your home lit even if the power goes out.

Anything you won’t be able to access during the storm easily should be kept in your winter storm kit. This includes things like pet or infant supplies, and any prescription medication you will need for the duration.

Keep the Lights On

If you’ve got an electrical heating system in your home, it can be hard to stay warm during a storm that knocks out the power. Consider purchasing a generator or two for your home to keep power to your lights, heat and other appliances like your refrigerator running during the storm.

Make sure you don’t wire your generators into your home’s electrical system. It might seem like a good idea instead of running extension cords from the generator, but it can create dangerous feedback in the local electrical grid that could harm or kill linemen trying to restore power after the storm has passed.

Stay Warm

Brutally cold temperatures are one of the most dangerous things that accompany winter storms, so your primary focus should be staying warm. If you have a generator powering your home’s heater, keep it fueled. Also, keep your doors closed as much as possible. Every time you open the door to go outside, some heat leaks out — meaning your heater needs to work harder to keep the interior warm.

If you don’t have a generator and the power goes out, starting a fire in your fireplace can be a good alternative. Be careful and make sure your chimney isn’t obstructed by snow before you light a fire, or smoke and carbon monoxide could build up inside your home.

Be prepared to layer up with appropriate clothing if you don’t have heat. Again, keep the doors and windows closed. Your body heat will warm the room slowly, but only if you don’t open the door and let in cold air.

You can’t do much about winter storms other than being prepared for them. Restock your supplies before the storm hits and ride it out. Being ready is the best thing you can do survive a winter storm.

How to Stay Safe From Stinging Insects in the Woods

By | Hiking | No Comments

There’s nothing worse than heading out into the woods to enjoy a hike or a camping trip, only to end up stung by bees or wasps — especially if you’re allergic to the stings. How can you stay safe from stinging insects when you’re out in the woods?

Look for Signs

While bee and wasp nests might not be as obvious as other insect nests, you can look for some signs to indicate that there might be a nest in the area. Look for:

  • Large numbers of buzzing insects: Bees and wasps will frequently congregate around their nests, so if you see large numbers of either insect, avoiding the area is your best bet. You can often find the nest by watching the return flight of the insects.
  • Visible hives or nests: Some species of bees and wasps will build nests out in the open that you can easily spot. Look for piled mud with holes in it or papery constructions that could indicate the presence of stinging insects.
  • Wax or honey: Beehives often have a waxy appearance, and you may see honey as well.

It can take a keen eye to spot some of these signs — some bees and wasps make their nests in tree hollows, under the ground or in other less obvious spots, so if you’re not careful, you can stumble into one of their nests.

Listen for Buzzing

Take out the headphones and listen to the world around you when you’re out in the woods. When you’re getting too close to a nest, regardless of the type of stinging insect that calls it home, you’ll likely hear an increased buzzing sound. This noise is the insects’ way of warning you away before they come out in force to chase you away from their home — but it can only work if you’re able to hear the buzzing before it’s too late.

Identify the Insects

Some stinging insects are more aggressive and dangerous than others, so your next step is to identify the insect that you’re dealing with. Here are some of the possibilities:

  • Honey bees: Honey bees are small, often fuzzy, and may look yellowish from the pollen that they carry on their body. They aren’t very aggressive unless you’re dealing with Africanized honey bees, and they won’t sting unless threatened. Honey bees will actually die after they sting you, so they don’t like to sting unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Bumblebees: These bees are bigger than honey bees but just as furry. They may bump into you when you’re walking, especially if you’re wearing bright colors or perfumes that make them think you’re a flower. They’re not aggressive and won’t bother you unless you bother them.
  • Wasps: These insects are larger than bees and tend to have much slimmer bodies. They can be aggressive if they feel that their nest is threatened and can sting multiple times without stopping.
  • Yellowjackets: Yellowjackets are small — about half an inch long — and won’t become aggressive unless they feel like you’re threatening their nest. They tend to build their nests underground, though, and it can be easy to stumble into one if you’re not careful.
  • Hornets: Hornets are much more aggressive than yellowjackets, and they’re also very territorial — if they feel like you’re invading their territory, they will attack.

If you’re dealing with bees or bumblebees — or even some wasps and yellowjackets — all you need to do is avoid the nest. If you encounter hornets, your only option is to get out of their territory.

Run

If you inadvertently disturb a nest of stinging insects, you’ve only got one option — run! If they sting you, the stinging insect will release an alarm pheromone that will entice other bees or wasps to sting you as well.

Run, but don’t flail, and don’t swat at the bees, even if they’re stinging you. Dead bees release more pheromones that will call more insects to you. Instead, pull up your shirt to protect your face, then run and seek shelter. If you’re out in the woods, just keep moving until the bees stop stinging — this distance can be as little as a quarter mile or as much as multiple miles, depending on the species.

Whatever you do, don’t jump in the water — the bees or wasps will simply wait for you to come up for air, then continue stinging you.

Be Prepared

If you’re allergic to bee or wasp stings, even if you’re careful to avoid any nests, it’s always important to be prepared. Carry an EpiPen with you to counteract the allergic reaction to the stings, and call emergency services for advice as soon as you’re safe.

Being prepared can quite literally mean the difference between life and death. You may still require medical attention after using the EpiPen, so make sure you’ve got emergency services on speed dial.

When you’re out in the woods, you’re entering the territory of bees, wasps and other stinging insects. Keep that in mind, and make sure that you’re aware of your surroundings. Avoiding nests and hives is the best way to avoid stinging insects on your next hike or camping trip.

Seven Tips for Camping by Yourself

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Camping with friends and family is a great way to enjoy the outdoors and connect with others. Sometimes, though, a camping trip by yourself is just what the doctor ordered. You can take more time to relax, experience nature, reflect on life and do the things you want to do — all without the stress of group disagreements and worrying about others.

Solo camping is a different beast than group camping, though. You have to do everything yourself, and you need to be more careful because if something happens, no one will be around to bail you out.

With proper preparation, a solo camping trip can be an ideal way to get away. Here are seven tips for going it alone on your next excursion.

1. Work Your Way Up

Going by yourself for your first camping trip is not a good idea. You should have some experience with others under your belt before you try to go solo. Reading camping books and other educational materials can’t prepare you in the same way that experiencing things firsthand can. Make sure you’ve logged some solid camping hours, have learned from someone with experience and are confident in your abilities before striking out on your own.

2. Brush up on Your Skills

In group camping situations, whoever has the most experience in something tends to take charge whenever that task comes up. If you need to navigate while hiking, for example, the person who knows their way around a map or compass best usually leads the group. Unless you make a conscious effort to learn the skill of navigation, you may have never really had to do it.

When camping by yourself, you’re going to need to take charge of everything. Brush up on your outdoors skills before you head out for your trip so you know you can do everything. Even if it’s something you’ve been around before, practice to make sure you can complete the task yourself with no direction or help from others.

3. Let Someone Know

You should never leave for a camping trip without letting someone at home know about the details of your trip. Tell a trusted friend or family member when you’re leaving, when you’re coming back and when you’ll be able to check in throughout your trip. You should also tell them your location, and if you’re hiking, give them a route plan. If you don’t check in when you said you would, that person can try to contact you and alert emergency services if necessary. Because they know your location, they’ll also know where to look for you.

4. Pack Light

When you’re out in the woods by yourself, there’s no one to help you carry your pack if it gets too heavy. Because of this, it’s especially important to pack light when going on a solo trip. Consider bringing a hammock rather than a tent, water purification tablets instead of a filter and other lightweight options.

5. Plan for Emergencies

It’s important to be prepared for emergencies whether you’re camping in a group or on your own. The difference when you’re solo is that you need to carry everything yourself. Don’t skimp when packing first aid materials and other emergency supplies — you don’t want to be caught without them. You should also bring a signal whistle and an emergency communication device such as a satellite phone or personal locator, so you can call for help if you need to.

6. Bring a Book — or Write One

When camping on your own, although you might strike up some conversations with fellow campers, you won’t reliably have someone to chat and share stories with. You might also end up with spare time, especially when the weather is bad. While one of the joys of camping solo is the time you can spend quietly enjoying nature and reflecting on life, sometimes you might want a break from that, especially when the sounds of nature get a bit creepy as you’re trying to fall asleep.

A good, uplifting book is the perfect remedy for all of that. You might even want to bring a journal to jot down your thoughts and some notes about your experiences.

7. Prepare Yourself Mentally

When camping solo, you’ll be spending a lot of time alone with your thoughts. And when you don’t have someone else to help calm you down, difficult situations can be even more stressful. Before you head out on your trip, it’s important to take some time to prepare yourself mentally for these challenges. Find something that helps keep you calm, whether it’s deep breathing, thinking about fond memories or whistling your favorite song, and keep that antidote in your back pocket so you can pull it out whenever you need it.

Camping by yourself is an experience that comes with different challenges than camping with others. With a bit of preparation though, you’ll be ready to clear those hurdles and experience the many joys that are unique to solo camping.