For many, spending time in Mother Nature can be daunting and intimidating. Being outside comes with its own set of rules that differ entirely from everyday living. While Bear Grylls has made it seem easy—the outdoors can be scary. And the messages we see and hear in the media can provide an unrealistic idea of what it actually takes to survive comfortably out-of-doors (disclaimer: having a pet volleyball doesn’t really do anything productive in ensuring your survival outside, except maybe give you peace of mind, if you’re Tom Hanks).
There are LOTS of false tips and tricks out there, and it can be hard to decipher what works and what doesn’t. That’s where your friendly Outward Bound Instructor is stepping in to help.
Drinking your own pee is the latest trend in rehydration, right?
Wrong. Not only does this not rehydrate your body, but it’s disgusting (duh). As this MSR article describes, urine is a byproduct of liquid and soluble waste in your body. Though it’s mostly water, the waste products it contains—nitrogen, potassium and calcium—could cause a buildup of toxins in your body if consumed and expedite the process of dehydration, and ultimately expedite your eventual demise (along with your pride). If no other liquid is available, you could use your urine to wet a piece of clothing to help cool you off in hot environments—but don’t drink it!
Sleeping warm: Should I sleep naked or wear every single layer of clothing to bed?
It turns out that neither works very well. When it comes to staying warm in a sleeping bag, you want your baseline of thinking to be just that—a solid base layer. Look for a top and bottom that is made of a breathable, lightweight polyester, and then layer up according to your own body needs. For example, if you’re a hot tamale sleeper, leave it at that base layer. If you’re a cold cucumber, throw a few more layers on.
According to Outside Online, the key is to manage your temperature so you never sweat in your bag. Sure, you can go to bed with a few extra layers on if you’re cold, but as soon as you warm up, take that heavy down and beanie off. Extra pro tip for the cold cucumbers out there—pee before bed. A full bladder consumes more of your body’s heat, and peeing before bed will help conserve that heat, making you feel warmer.
Is garlic just as effective in warding off mosquitoes as it is vampires?
When applied to your skin, garlic has proven to be very effective in warding off mosquitoes. Some other repellants that can be just as effective and a little less smelly are well-known repellant brands like DEET, or oil of eucalyptus for a natural repellant. Apply that anti-bug gold anywhere where the body is exposed and be thorough, but do avoid your eyes and mouth.
Is bug hour every hour? It doesn’t have to be. Bugs are a big bummer for many people, but just as it is for all other critters and creatures, the outdoors is the home of insects. It’s possible to respect that fact while also respecting your need for personal space from the creepy crawlies. In regards to bug hour, many insects fall into the category of crepuscular, which means they are primarily active at dawn and dusk. Prepare well by packing loose-fitting, long-sleeved clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Keep these bug layers accessible so you can throw them on when the biting gets bad. Long socks, head bug nets, and scarves or buffs may make you look ridiculous, but you can bet your skin will thank you from protection against mosquito bites!
And a final tip for keeping the bugs at bay: gather around the evening campfire! Smoke is a natural insect repellant. Most insects, including mosquitoes, prefer to avoid it. So pile on the logs and let ‘em burn (assuming you’re in a place where there is an established fire ring and fires are okay to build). Speaking of…
Can you start a fire with Doritos?
Due to their excessive oiliness, Doritos or other corn chips are great fire starters and burn for some time.
Other fire starters to use in a pinch include:
- Hand sanitizer
- Cotton balls + petroleum jelly (throw a few jelly-soaked cotton balls in an Altoids tin for a handy fire-starter kit)
- Twisted and tied pieces of newspaper/paper of any variety
If you’re collecting wood at your campsite, always collect downed, dead wood—never break off branches from live trees. And start small; branches no bigger than the wrist are usually sufficient in keeping an adequate-sized fire going. For handy tricks on different fire-building techniques, check out this article.
Always do your research before you head out for your trip to see if fires are allowed in the area you’re in. Call the campground or the local ranger office in advance. Fires can be an extremely complementary part of an outdoor experience, and should, by all means, be enjoyed, responsibly.
There are SO MANY aspects to spending time out-of-doors, and it can be overwhelming to plan for it all. So start early, and do your research! Pop into your local gear shop or Cabela’s/Academy/REI, call your local ranger station, or hop online and do some reading—there are lots of resources available, including our blog, to help you plan well and prepare for your next outdoor excursion.
Remember that time spent outside shouldn’t be a stressful lost-in-the-woods survival experience. Take the time to do your research and prepare, and you’ll set yourself up for success. So get out there and get amongst it!
About the Author
Rachel Veale is an Instructor for the North Carolina Outward Bound School. With a degree in Electronic Media and Communication from Texas Tech University, Rachel thrives at the intersection of content creation and outdoor spaces. Her go-to road trip snack is black coffee and donut holes. When she isn’t on course, you can find her running down a trail in western NC or chasing golden hour with a camera in hand.
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