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Ultimate Guide to Camping - How to Stay Prepared and Protected

Ultimate Guide to Camping - How to Stay Prepared and Protected

Camping is one of those activities that never go out of style. Whether you plan to go on a road trip in an RV, drive cross-state while camping in a car, or want to enjoy tent camping in your favorite national parks, it’s one of those things that guarantee a good time, provided you consider these useful camping tips for seniors to ensure an enjoyable and safe camping experience. RV camping RV life can be exciting and an excellent way to travel by bringing the comforts of home with you. That said, living in a constrained space, adapting to different environments, being on the go, and maintaining an RV can all be stressful. You must have enough information about this peripatetic lifestyle before taking on life on the open road. While selecting an RV, planning your itinerary, and looking for campsites, you need to consider your health and safety and ensure they are never compromised. Here are a few tips for making your RV camping journey as a senior memorable and trouble-free. How to pick an RV Your RV will be your home on the move for the entirety of the trip. So you need to choose a vehicle with which you are comfortable. You must familiarize yourself with the various RV types available before you pick the one that meets your needs. Types of RVs Class A These are perfectly spacious, with sizes ranging from 26 feet to 45 feet. Class A RVs are equipped with a shower, toilet, and kitchen and can accommodate an air-conditioner, a heater, a TV, built-in recliners, and more. The starting price is around $50,000, and ultra-luxury variants start at approximately $400,000. Class B These campervans, as they are commonly known, start at around $90,000 and are much smaller at just 20 feet. This means you get to enjoy the luxuries of a small living room, kitchenette, and toilet without having to bother maneuvering it and finding large parking spaces for an overnight or a pit stop. Class C These have more space than a class B RV and are perfect if you are new to RV-ing. They have a toilet, extra storage, and a sitting facility that you can pull out during a pit stop. The price ranges between $50,000 and $100,000. Additionally, there are several tow-along options available, such as truck campers, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, and pop-ups. Except for the pop-ups, all the others come in various sizes to fit two or more people. Tips for picking an RVHere are a few tips to help you pick the right RV: Rent first, buy later Buying a house is a big commitment, and it holds true for an RV. Rent an RV before buying it so you know its pros and cons and are sure to live and travel in it. Renting an RV will help determine the size, amenities, and layout. You will get a feel of driving, maneuvering, and parking it before you make the big purchase. Look for a floor plan that works for you Most larger RVs have different floor plans; some have the bedroom in the front, while others have it in the rear. So consider how you prioritize your daily activities, such as sleeping, cooking, or using other facilities. Based on this, pick an RV with a floor plan that works well with your daily routine. Check for accessibility features This can be as simple as having every cabinet and utility feature within your reach. If the RV has steps, ensure they are skid-proof and have handrails for support and safety. Ensure the RV has holding bars and handrails in the shower and toilet to avoid accidents and strain on the knees or back. Ensure there is ample lighting Ample lighting for better visibility inside is a must-have RV feature for senior campers. So when you rent out or buy an RV, check whether the toilet, kitchen, and seating arena are well-lit. Make sure it is inspected and serviced If you are renting or purchasing an RV, ensure that it is completely safe to travel long distances. After all, you don’t want to encounter an unexpected issue when you are miles away from a service station. How to pick the routesThe next step after choosing an RV is planning an itinerary for your favorite spots. Here are a few tips that can help: Decide the length of your trip While you may feel tempted to traverse the length and breadth of the country, it is best to start slow. So draw an itinerary by determining the shortest distance you can cover successfully. Make a list of popular RV routes Once you have finalized your trip’s duration, list the routes that match the total distance you have fixed. Then pick a route that covers the places you have always wanted to explore. Shortlist the stops After finalizing a route and destination, list down all the stops you want to make, such as gas stations, hospitals, supermarkets, and tourist places. Ensure there are hotels or stays you can easily check into around these stops in the case of an emergency or if you want to drive for a few days. Make a note of parking spaces You will want to park your RV overnight since driving after dark is unsafe. So make a list of RV-friendly parking spaces with adequate security and basic amenities like washrooms. How to find senior-friendly RV parksFinding a place to camp with your RV is the most fun part of the trip. However, RV-ing has become intensely popular, and most well-known parks and camps for seniors are booked ahead of time. So to make your journey as easy as possible, follow these tips to snag that coveted space in your favorite camping locations: Plan ahead of time Reserve a spot in your favorite RV park weeks and months in advance. You can reserve a spot as soon as the online booking window opens. Use multiple booking platforms Like hotels, there are several websites and apps, like Recreation.gov, ReserveAmerica.com, RV Parky, Kampgrounds of America, and AirBnB, for RV campsites. Use these to book a spot. Scan for openings frequently If you missed the booking window, you could frequently check the websites and apps mentioned above for new availability. While this may seem time-consuming, you never know when someone else might cancel their booking. Spread out your search area You may not find a camping space where you want it. Therefore, being flexible and expanding your search area can help you find spots close to where you initially planned. Book for shorter stays Staying a week or more at a campsite gives you enough time to restock your supplies and relax. That said, you might not find a spot for a long duration, say eight days; however, the same spot might be available for five days. So try this hack the next time you go on a road trip. Check the amenities there When you stop at a campsite for a few days, you might want to restock your supplies, get medical checkups done, dispose of the trash, or do laundry. So, before you book a campsite, confirm whether the park you have shortlisted has the necessary amenities. Look into the security Whether you are stopping just for a night or a week, you want to be in a secure place to get a good night’s sleep. Therefore, ensure the campsite or park has enough security measures in place. Essentials to carry on an RV camping tripPreparing for a trip can be exciting and overwhelming in equal measure. After all, you are living in a downsized version of your house and traveling across the length and breadth of the country. To help you stay organized, here’s a checklist of essential items you must carry on your trip: Cooking and kitchenware Medicines and medical aids Food Toiletries Clothing Outdoor gear Sewer hose Black tank chemicals Drinking water hose Water pressure regulator Electrical cord and adapters Surge protector Extension cords Wheel chocks Leveling blocks Tire pressure gauge Shovel Motor oil and transmission fluid Fire extinguisher Emergency road kit Jumper cables Safety precautions to keep in mindNow that you have the checklists and essentials in place, you can embark on your RV trip. While you do that and everything in between, from hiking and camping to driving, keep in mind a few things you need to be cautious about. These are as follows: Maintain your RV and check its air pressure, oil, other fluids, windshield wipers, and brakes. Follow the 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 rule, which is to drive 200 to 300 miles daily, stop every two to three hours, reach a campsite between 2.00 pm and 3.00 pm, and stay parked for two to three days at each place. Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Ensure you set up camp in a spot with at least four to eight other campers. Don’t venture out after dark if you set up camp in a desolate park. Examine the spot where you will be parking your RV for any ditches, uneven elevations, and bumps that can make it hard to maneuver your camper. Keep additional lighting equipment, such as solar lamps, that you can place around your RV. Share copies of your detailed itinerary with your family or friends and check in with them regularly. Hike with a walking stick to prevent falls. Keep water bottles and a first-aid kit handy when hiking or walking to nearby towns. Car camping Car camping is nothing like in the early 1900s, when travelers moved around in vans equipped with basic necessities and sleeping bags. Now, your car can provide enough space; plus, you can sleep comfortably in a drive-in campground while you travel around and explore new places. You might think this isn’t the same as traveling in an RV. So the answer is, “Not really.” Car camping is a great idea for exploring the great outdoors on a short trip to the nearest national parks. It is a perfectly safe and inexpensive alternative to buying or renting an RV! So before you hit the road, you must be fully prepared for the adventures ahead. On that note, here are a few tips for car camping as a senior. How to pick the right carSince you will spend a lot of time in a car, you must ensure it is comfortable and safe enough to sleep in. Moreover, check whether it is fuel-efficient and secure enough to drive on and off the road. If not, you can upgrade your existing car to make it suitable for camping or rent one. Whatever you choose to do, keep these tips in mind to make your trip enjoyable: Ensure the seats are comfortable Sore knee joints and back pain can ruin your trip. Therefore, you have to check that your car seats are comfortable for long drives. Ensure the seat is firm, supports your back, and is comfortable. You can also buy lumbar support back cushions for additional comfort. Look for plenty of cargo space Ensure your car has enough cargo space, as you will use it to sleep in and carry your essentials. It should be big enough for you to lie down comfortably and roomy enough to fit everything along. Check the weight capacity Check your car’s weight capacity, as you need to bring many things with you. Here’s how you can estimate the weight capacity: a typical SUV can carry around 1,100 pounds or less of combined cargo and passenger weight. So based on this, check whether your car has enough capacity to carry the weight of everything you bring on your trip. Look for foldable or removable rear seats Ensure that seats in the rear can be folded down to be flat or removed. This way, you can lie down comfortably when you have to sleep. If you have a flexible budget, you can get a van that has been converted to fit a portable bed! Check if the windows are covered Unlike an RV, your car will not have a private space. But all is not lost. You can still cover up your windows to ensure privacy when you unwind. For instance, you can get tinted windows. You can also buy sunshades to cover the car’s windows. These also work as insulators and keep the temperature inside the car at an optimal level. Check for essential accessories and entertainment features You will want to listen to your favorite music while driving or watch your favorite movies when relaxing in your car. So having a reliable audio-video entertainment system is great for enhancing your car camping experience. In addition, check whether the car has an in-car charger, mobile phone holder, iPad holder, and Bluetooth receiver so that you don’t have to carry extra gear for your essential portable electronics. Essentials to carry on a car camping trip You don’t need to carry as many things on a car camping trip as you would on an RV trip. That said, you will need some essentials to make your trip fuss-free, safe, and enjoyable. Here’s a checklist that you can refer to while packing for your trip: A portable solar charger Use this to charge your devices when you stop for the night. Don’t forget to place it outside your car during the day to recharge it. A good mattress Your camping experience depends majorly on how well-rested you are. So, invest in a sturdy and comfortable camping mattress. This is especially important if you have back problems. You must also look for the best camping beds for bad back pain. Pop-up portable tent This will come to your rescue on days you want to camp outside your car. You can set it up by opening the rear end of your car. Portable stove This allows you to enjoy delicious home-cooked meals when you halt at a campsite. Car cooler You can connect this to one of the car’s charging ports to keep food and beverages cool. Portable trash can You can easily fashion this out of a cereal container or any other large container and line it with a plastic bag. Collapsible sink This will come in handy when you want to do dishes or wash clothes. Clear bins You can keep your belongings neatly organized and visible in these bins. Rooftop cargo carrier This can come in handy when the cargo space cannot accommodate more things. Make sure you get one that is water- and sun-resistant. Solar-powered camping lantern Always keep this handy and within reach for emergencies. Medical kit Carry separate medical kits for everyday medications and first kit supplies. Also, don’t forget to pack any medical devices that you use. Blankets and duvets Carry lightweight blankets that will keep you warm when the temperature drops at night. Fleece blankets are quite suitable for camping for these very reasons. Comfy chairs You will need these when you wish to unwind at a campsite. You can buy a couple of the best camping chairs for older adults that are compact, lightweight, and foldable. Extra tarp This is for emergencies when you want sun or rain protection. Tool kit Ensure it has all the essential tools you might need during an emergency. Safety precautions to keep in mindAs exciting as a car camping trip is, it can come with its own set of challenges. This is especially true if you are new to living out of your car, even if it is for a few days. So to be safe, it is best to follow a few precautionary measures as senior campers to make the trip as trouble-free as possible. Check them out: Don’t leave your car engine on overnight You might think of switching the AC on and charging your devices by keeping the car engine on when you wind down for a nap. This mistake can put your life and health at great risk. A car engine that is on for a long time can release dangerous exhaust fumes containing carbon monoxide. These fumes can build up quickly inside the car. Open the windows for ventilation The car’s windows tend to fog up overnight, and moisture collects in places you don’t want to. To avoid this, open the sunroof or a window just a bit to allow cross-ventilation. Don’t open the window too wide for an animal or person to enter. You can buy a mesh and fix it around any openings you would like air to come in. The mesh will keep insects and bugs out. Sleep with your head facing toward the front of the car Parking your car in a perfectly leveled space can be difficult, and you might have to park it on a slightly inclined slope. When this happens, park the car in such a way that your head is inclined above the feet. Also, when you sleep with your head toward the front of the car, you get more elbow room to move around. Plus, you will find breathing easier as you sleep. Get the national park pass for seniors This pass, also known as America the Beautiful—the National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Pass, gives you free access and multiple discounts at national parks and other campsites managed by federal agencies. With it, you don’t have to worry about hunting for reliable and secure campsites. Park near public facilities You might not always reach the nearest national park or campsite on time. In these instances, you will have to find a parking spot to avoid driving at night. So make a pit stop at highway rest stops, truck stops, nature trails, or malls where public facilities like showers, restrooms, and electricity are easily available. Park only where it is legal Set up camp in a spot where no one will question you. National forest areas, Bureau of Land Management (BLM) areas, public rest stops, and truck stops are the obvious choices for setting up camp. But what if you can’t find them? To find out where to stay overnight legally, you can use apps and websites like HipCamp, Allstays, The Dyrt, Recreation.gov, iOverlander, and Freecampsites.net. Make a list of important phone numbers Keep several printed copies of important and emergency phone numbers of your primary care doctor, the roadside assistance company, and friends or family who live along the route you have taken. Keep these copies in different compartments and in your pocket. Charge your electronics Have you heard of Murphy’s law? It states, “Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.” While this is plausible, to ensure it doesn’t happen to you, charge all your essential electronic devices. These include your phones, medical aids or devices, iPads or laptops, and battery-operated emergency lamps. Don’t use a propane heater inside your car Carrying propane heaters on your camping trip, provided you don’t use them in enclosed spaces. This is because they rely on an open flame and consume all the oxygen available in the space, increasing the risk of suffocation. Also, it is a fire hazard waiting to happen. Besides, heaters that have incomplete combustion can cause carbon monoxide poisoning. Tent camping Glamping or glamorous camping might be quite the trend now, but if you like to enjoy being in the midst of nature the old-fashioned way, tent camping should be on top of your list. All you need is the right tent and a campsite that offers delightful views and amenities that make your stay comfortable. Here are a few tent camping tricks to help you plan a safe and pleasant trip: How to pick the right tentYou need the right gear type if you want to go tent camping as a senior. What you pick will make all the difference between having a great experience and an awful one. After all, you have finally gotten the chance to tick off your most-awaited trip. So make sure you have quality gear that will keep you comfortable. These are a few tips to help you out: Buy high-ceiling tents A high tent allows you to move freely. Moreover, high ceilings make it easier for you to get in and out of a tent. They also make it easy for you to change clothes without crouching. Large canopy tents or instant tents are ideal choices to look out for. Choose one that’s easy to set up The best tent for seniors is simple to set up and take down. Several brands, such as Coleman, Kamp-Rite, and Eureka, make high-quality tents for seniors. These can be assembled effortlessly in ten minutes. Practice setting up the tent at home before you head out. Practice setting up the tent at home before you head out. Opt for a dome-shaped tent This is more stable than other tents, as flexible poles that cross and connect over the top part of the tent holding it. Dome-shaped tents also have enough headroom, given their shape and structure, allowing free movement inside. Plus, you won’t feel claustrophobic. Choose a versatile tent Most tents are available in two categories: three-season and four-season. Three-season tents can handle fall, spring, and summer and are perfect for the best camping seasons. They are lightweight, allow ventilation, and have roof canopies to keep rainwater out. On the other hand, four-season tents are made with sturdier materials to handle snow and extreme weather. But a spacious one The best way to judge if a tent is roomy enough is by checking whether it can fit an additional person. For example, if two people stay in a tent, there should be enough room for three. This is because the space for the third person will be used to store any belongings. Another easy way to calculate is by checking whether there is 30 square feet worth of space for each person. How to pick the right camping spotEven with the right tenting gear, you won't get much rest if the camping spot is bad. Also, you will struggle to set up your tent if the ground is too hard or soft. What if your camping spot is in the path of high winds? It will knock your tent around so much that you won't be able to relax. Therefore, pick a camping spot very carefully. These are a few guidelines that can help: Check the campsite for flat surfaces, where the chances of finding properly leveled spots are high. Look for spots that are naturally contoured according to your preferred sleeping position if you can’t find a leveled ground. Pick a spot that is dry yet in proximity to water sources. Avoid spots at the bottom of valleys or canyon-like structures since the air here will likely be humid and cold. Keep away from animal trails or prime habitats. This can lead to an unwanted visitor in the middle of the night. Don’t put up your tent near danger zones that can be in the way of flash floods. Stay as far as possible from waterlogged meadows, stagnant lakes, and possible insect breeding grounds. Check whether the ground is covered with natural materials such as pine needles, moss, leaves, or sand. These will keep the temperature inside your tent cool and comfortable. Essentials to carry on a tent camping trip A basic tent camping rule is to pack light. Since you will be keeping most of the things inside the tent, pack essentials that won't take up too much space, leaving you enough room to move around without any risk of tripping or falling. Here’s a checklist to help you remember what you must take on your camping trip: Pick a comfortable sleeping cot Instead of carrying a sleeping bag, bring along a sturdy cot. You won’t have to sleep on the ground, which means that you will be warm in cold weather and cool in hot weather. Plus, you won’t wake up with a stiff shoulder or back. Take a box to keep everything organized Buy organizer boxes specially made for the outdoors. These are usually lightweight and have multiple compartments to store all your camping supplies in one place. Moreover, they make it easy to carry everything together. Take a reliable camp stove The best part of camping is the campsite fires people build to cook and grill food. But you don't want to strain yourself and carry wood. So pack a reliable camp stove that is lightweight and easy to use. You can cook meals, heat water, make coffee, or even make s’mores! Carry high-capacity insulated canisters to store food If you usually eat specific kinds of foods that you cannot make on your camping trip, consider carrying it in highly insulated canisters. Most good quality canisters can keep food warm for up to 11 hours or help the food remain cold for almost 24 hours. Bring along lighting equipment Pack in at least a few lanterns, headlamps, flashlights, and tent lights. Make sure these use LED bulbs, which are brighter, more durable, and lighter than incandescent and halogen bulbs. Safety precautions to keep in mindStaying in a tent for a few nights is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. But the outdoors can come with its own set of risks. You need to take care of your health and avoid mishaps and injuries. Here are a few precautions you must take: Research and learn about the different types of wildlife, such as poisonous/non-poisonous snakes and insects, that you can expect to find in the area where you are going to camp. Check and recheck all your camping equipment to make sure it is in good condition before you start your trip. Get a medical checkup with your primary care doctor before leaving for the trip. Check the expiration date of everything in your first aid kit. Plan ahead to arrive before sunset so that you have enough time to check your camping ground and set up your tent. Always look around your camping spot for potential hazards, such as poison oak, ant beds, and ditches. Store and pack your food and other equipment to protect them from animals. Ensure that you use battery-operated lights in or near tents. Avoid using heaters or stoves that give off carbon monoxide inside your tent. A good safety measure is to set up your tent at least 15 feet upwind from fires and grills. Also, have at least a 3-foot clear area around the tent that is free from dry grass, leaves, or anything combustible. To avoid tripping and falling, mark the tent stakes and poles with bright ribbons or tennis balls. Camping can be a great way to enjoy some much-needed time off from everyday life. You can have some great experiences with precise planning and safety measures in place.

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