The campfire: it is the center of the outdoorswoman's universe; people have stared into flames under a starry sky for a millennia. The campfire represents all that is good and awesome about camping — not to mention the best food is cooked over the flames fueled by logs and twigs collected from the woods. But these days it's a bit of a lost art. So here's your ultimate guide on creating the spiritual center to your camping experience.
Create your own firestarters
Although purists would demand that you start your campfire with nothing but two sticks and some kindling, we at the OBC are a little more practical. Here are some of my favorites (gleaned from Pinterest):
Burn, baby, burn
Now that you've got your firestarters, it's time for the good stuff. First, you need head out and gather as much firewood as you can. Got it.
Great. Now go out and gather three times more. Seriously. Unless you've been building fires for awhile, you will never have enough wood. The info graphic to the right helps you figure how much of what kind of wood you need. Basically, you need three types - all of which should be dry. (Hint: Sometimes finding dead branches attached to a tree, rather than looking on the ground, are your best bet):
Second, decide how you want to structure the wood for maximum air flow. I like both the teepee and the log cabin methods (sometimes a hybrid of the two works best):
The trick is to push a few sticks in the ground to act as a support for the the remaining kindling.
Log cabin campfire
Use the same kinds of fuel, except now you want to place two large sticks parallel to each other on the ground, then turn 90 degrees and lay two more on top (like a log cabin). Add another layer in each direction, but use smaller sticks, moving them closer to the middle. Add your tinder in the middle, kindling on top (you can add a large piece of bark over the top of everything to make it burn even better). Light the tinder/kindling in several different places. As it burns, make sure you don't add any large logs until there's a strong flame and a few coals.
Whatever method you choose, don't make the mistake of smothering the tinder with too much kindling, which prevents air from getting to your flabes, and usually results in too much smoke. Always leave airflow gaps in the kindling, light the fire at its lowest point, and blow gently if needed. Once it starts to take, sit back, relax and enjoy one of the oldest pastimes of human beings (I once heard a contestant on Survivor call it "Survivor TV").
And don't forget to have some way to put out the fire should it somehow get out of control - most people use a bucket of water, but heavy dirt or sand will work as well. Make sure you spread the coals around before you put the fire out for the night - a tedious job if you're tired and cold, but it's the most responsible thing to do. (And we're all about being responsible when out in the natural world.)
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Whether it's bad weather, unsavory bad guys or wild animals, some women think that camping alone is only for the very brave or very crazy. But that doesn't have to be the case. If you've got the right gear, right preparation and the right attitude, camping alone can provide just the right combination of adventure and much-needed alone time.
Why spend time outdoors by yourself?
Camping by yourself is a great way to spend some quality time with the one person who probably needs it the most: you. The simple act of being around trees, rivers, lakes and the woods can take you from being a burned out, over-stressed crazy lady to a zen, bring-it-on kind of Wonder Woman. There's nothing that will build your self-esteem and sense of accomplishment faster than throwing all your gear in the back of your car and heading outdoors by yourself. (Plus you'll have the best story on book club night — which brings me to the best reason you should get outdoors: uninterrupted reading time!)
Here are seven tips to help you feel safe and relaxedwhile camping by yourself:
7 solo camping tips for women
1. Prepare mentally.
Take some time t channel your inner Katniss Everdeen or even Cheryl Strayed. Imagine yourself as strong, capable and a total total badass, ready to take on whatever challenge the outdoors can throw at you. Then minimize risks by following the rest of my tips to give you even more confidence.
2. Test Your gear.
Don't over pack, but make sure you have everything you need (this can be a hard balance for many women to strike). Bring a first aid kit, and know how to use it. Also bring bear spray or mace (something that should be in every woman's standard hiking/camping gear) for emergencies, and understand how it works. Practice setting up your tent and cooking stove before you leave.
3. Let someone know your plans.
It's always a good idea to let several people know where you're going and when you'll be back. If you're going to be hiking or camping somewhere remote, leave your information on the front seat of your car, where someone can easily see/read it. It should include the following:
4. Pick a well-worn route.
Pick a trail or area that you're familiar with, and have visited before — barring that, pick a destination that's known to have good cell phone reception.
5. Know your limits.
Start small, with a day hike so that you can become familiar with the area. If you're going to be gone for more than one night, make sure you're physically (okay, and mentally) capable of taking on a solo trip - be honest when it comes to your limits. Build up to what you'll be taking on through walking, running and lifting weights, and make sure you have the appropriate food, water and gear (including good shoes, a warm sleeping bag and the ability to pee in the woods) before you go.
6. Bring your dog.
A canine companion will provide just the right amount of company, though make sure you know the rules of the campground or area where you'll be bringing your pooch. Also make sure you pack extra gear and food so that Fido is comfortable and doesn't become more of a burden during the time when you're supposed to be re-charging your mental health.
7. Bring a great book.
This is your chance to have some amazing reading time - make sure you take advantage of it! Whether you spend the whole time holed up in your sleeping bag in a tent with a book in front of your face, or intersperse your reading time with some strategic hikes or cooking some gourmet meals for yourself, novels make great camping companions.
Camping by yourself isn't difficult or hard — it just seems that way if you've never done it before. Take the leap and you'll find it truly rewarding. What other tips or questions do you have when it comes to camping alone?
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Over the years several myths have developed surrounding women traveling alone. Whether it's "traveling alone is dangerous" or "it's prohibitively expensive to travel by yourself," somehow these myths and untruths have developed into full-blown warnings. But the truth is that traveling by yourself as a woman is one of the most rewarding activities you can participate in. After all, it takes some moxie to decide that you're going to step out into the unknown with just your instincts to guide you.
Top 5 myths of women traveling alone
It's only for spinsters or losers.
Only if you're an AWESOME spinster or loser. When you join a tour or pre-planned trip with strangers, chances are that others on the trip share a common interest with you - whether it's the book or the destination. This gives everyone in the group an immediate bond.
You'll get hurt, murdered or kidnapped.
At Outdoor Book Club, we provide the right gear and expertise to our clients, so you don’t need to worry about traveling somewhere unfamiliar without a safety net. We've got your covered.
It's hugely stressful.
Traveling by yourself is actually very relaxing and freeing. No email, no Facebook, no kids and no men equals a very zen like experience. Also, since all you bring is your personal gear, there’s very little prep before the trip (as opposed to if you had planned the whole trip yourself) and clean up after the trip is over!
You won't know what to do with yourself.
Novelty and adventure keep us smart and young. When you try new things in a supportive environment, and the trip has a good mix between planned activities and personal/free time, you'll wonder where the time went. With our trips, you'll also go to places and have experiences the big tour groups cannot.
We've negotiated discounts and repeat booking bonuses give us access to first-class packages at economy prices. And our prices are a great deal, when you consider everything, including your food, drink and fees, are included in the price.
Traveling alone in an all-female entourage is actually one of the most empowering things you can do as a woman. It's fun, it's educational and it's empowering — in fact, we're not sure why more women don't do it more often!
Jill Hinton Wolfe