Friday, October 19, 2012


Camping, activity in which people live temporarily in the outdoors. History is filled with examples of soldiers camping out, as at Valley Forge during the American Revolution (1775-1783), and of nomadic peoples throughout the world who move their campsites from place to place. But today camping is primarily a recreational activity.
Camping provides an opportunity to experience nature firsthand. Campers participate in fishing, hunting, swimming, plant study, bird and wildlife watching, and nature photography. Just as importantly, camping helps people escape the stress of city life. It provides physical benefits when it involves hiking to, from, and around a campsite, and many outdoor enthusiasts believe that camping instills confidence in youngsters and offers older campers opportunities to challenge themselves in unfamiliar surroundings. Recent improvements in camping gear and a growing number of organizations that teach people wilderness safety have made it easier to spend several days or even weeks in the outdoors.
Camping takes many forms. In the 19th century American naturalist and explorer John Muir would set off into the woods with little more than a sack of food and a journal in which to write his thoughts. In the early 20th century American conservationist and philosopher Aldo Leopold paddled a canoe and rode horseback through the wilderness of the Midwest while taking notes for his books, including Game Management (1933) and A Sand County Almanac (1949). The works of Muir and Leopold, as well as writings by Americans Edward Abbey and Henry David Thoreau, have inspired others to spend time in the wilderness.
Modern enthusiasts may share the emotions of earlier naturalists, along with their desire to experience nature, but they usually camp in a different manner. Backpacking most closely resembles the type of camping practiced by Muir and Leopold. Other campers drive to a campsite, setting up camp near their car or camping in a recreational vehicle.
People throughout the world enjoy hiking to wilderness campsites, usually on established trails. This activity is called backpacking because it involves carrying such essential camping gear as a tent, food, clothing, and sleeping bag on the back in a bag called a backpack. Backpacking is best suited for those who are in good physical condition as it may require walking several miles. Moreover it is sometimes necessary to climb steep paths on mountainsides, cross small streams, and spend long days on the trail to reach a secluded, quiet, and solitary campsite. The reward for this effort can be a serene mountain lake, beautiful views of the surrounding wilderness, and wildlife seen along the way.
In most of the world, government agencies regulate camping activities by overseeing park systems, wilderness areas, and protected land. Some countries, however, have few regulations, and enthusiasts are allowed to camp anywhere on public land. In the United States, camping options for backpackers are abundant because of the hiking trails that crisscross lands managed by the National Park Service (a bureau of the United States Department of the Interior), the U.S. Forest Service, state parks, and the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM). Some land management agencies, such as the National Parks Service, require that backpackers register and obtain permits (called backcountry reservations) before entering wilderness areas. Others simply require that backpackers set up their campsite away from the trail and at least 30 m (100 ft) from lakes, rivers, and streams to avoid polluting sources of drinking water.
Car Camping
Car camping is a favorite pastime of families with young children, senior citizens, and those who do not want to backpack. Instead of hauling everything on their backs, car camping enthusiasts carry their gear in a car or van. Car campers can bring along as much camping gear as their vehicle can hold.
Car camping sites typically include an area for a tent, a ready-to-use fire pit or grill, and restrooms. Some sites also offer showers and a nearby convenience store. Many campsites in national or state parks are located near bodies of water and trails that campers can enjoy during the day. Car camping is not for those seeking remote or solitary locations, but many people enjoy the social aspects of meeting fellow campers and camping in larger groups. Many first-time campers try car camping to become familiar with wilderness areas and to bolster their confidence through short day hikes on nearby trails.
Recreational Vehicle Camping
Camping in recreational vehicles (RVs) is similar to car camping, except that people can sleep in most types of RVs. They also can bring along such leisure items as lawn chairs and bicycles and park in designated campsites. The fanciest RVs provide a home away from home, complete with a bathroom, kitchen, living room, and bedroom. More expensive RVs are motorized and can be driven from campsite to campsite. Other types of RVs are towed behind a car or truck. Some models open to create a tent at the campground. An RV gives campers the freedom to tour a large geographic area without worrying about accommodations.
Winter Camping
Winter camping is a specialized form of backpacking that is becoming increasingly popular. Because hiking in deep snow can be extremely tiring, winter campers use snowshoes, skis, or a vehicle such as a snowmobile to reach secluded areas. Campsites near natural hot springs are a favorite of many winter campers. To enter the wilderness safely during winter, campers must be experienced and physically fit. They may face temperatures below O° C (32° F).
Many tents do not shield against fierce winter winds, so winter campers build shelters called snow caves by burrowing into deep snow drifts with specially made snow shovels. Some winter campers even build igloo-like shelters from blocks of snow and ice. Total and incomparable silence and a pristine, snow-covered landscape make the added effort worthwhile for most winter campers.
Just as there are several types of camping, there are also various types of campsites where campers can make their temporary home. Campsites are found in forests and deserts, on high plains and mountains, and along lakesides and ocean beaches. Most campsites fall into three general categories: commercial, front country, and backcountry.
Commercial Campgrounds
Commercial campgrounds serve as campsites for RV and car campers on the outskirts of national and state parks and along highways throughout North America. Owners of commercial campgrounds charge campers on a daily or weekly basis, and provide campsites equipped with hookups for electricity and water. They may also provide such amenities as showers, laundry facilities, or a swimming pool. Many commercial campgrounds belong to a club or network that allows its members to reserve campsites in advance. These groups also provide social activities, such as dances, card playing, and craft seminars.
Front Country Campsites
Front country campsites occur in areas that have a woodsy or wilderness character but are easily accessible. Many of them are located near a lake, river, or stream. They provide car and RV campers with restrooms, a place to build a fire, and a spigot for drinking water. During the summer, many national parks charge campers a small fee for each night they spend in a front country campground. These campsites offer the flavor of backwoods life accompanied by the convenience of nearby gift shops, restaurants, and grocery stores.
Backcountry Campsites
The backcountry, or wilderness, offers the most remote campsites, reached only on foot or horseback. Backcountry campsites are found in national parks and forests, state parks, federally designated wilderness areas, and BLM land. This is where backpackers go to watch animals in their natural habitats, to flee all signs of human development, and to enjoy a rudimentary lifestyle. The increasing popularity of backcountry campsites has led the National Park Service to limit the use of sites it maintains and to minimize campers’ impact on these sites. Backpackers are required to pitch their tents only on designated campsites and to use a rustic restroom, such as an outhouse or pit toilet. Other methods of minimizing impact on campsites include communal cooking areas at a safe distance from tent sites, and devices to hang food out of reach of animals.
In many national parks backpackers must make a reservation at a regional ranger station to use a designated campsite. The reservation system helps the National Parks Service maintain the backcountry’s wilderness qualities, set guidelines for interaction with backcountry wildlife, and rescue backpackers should they become lost or injured.
Many backcountry campsites are not maintained by the National Parks Service, however, and it is the camper’s responsibility to follow guidelines for minimizing impact on the wilderness. The goal of guidelines for low-impact or no-impact camping is simple: After campers leave a wilderness area, it should appear as if no one has been there. Campers should take out of the backcountry everything they brought along, plus their trash.
Selecting and Conserving a Campsite
Several simple guidelines for selecting a campsite promote safety and help minimize impact on the backcountry.
Camp off the trail to stay out of the way of other campers, and camp away from water sources to avoid polluting them with wastewater or trash.
Pitch the tent in a flat spot free of rocks, roots, and spiky plants. Forest duff, a mat of decaying leaves and branches, is the most comfortable groundcover to sleep on, followed by sand, then gravel. Avoid damp, vegetated areas, and do not crush existing plants. (Many backcountry plant species take three to four years to recuperate from a camper’s carelessness.) Where there is an obvious tent site that others have used, pitch the tent there to minimize the impact of a stay.
Check for hazards. Cast a glance upward for dead branches before setting up the tent, as they can sometimes break off during high winds. In mountainous areas, avoid avalanche and rock chutes (identified by rock piles at the base of a slope). Burrowing into trees and rocks protects a camper from wind. Pitching the tent with its back to the wind creates a calm area at the tent’s door, where campers enter and exit. It also takes advantage of the tent’s structure, as the back wall is made of a single piece of fabric and can best absorb gusts of wind.
Hang food, soaps, clothes worn while preparing food, and other fragrant items in a bag from a tree limb at least 3 m (10 ft) off the ground. This precaution keeps raccoons, bears, and other animals with excellent senses of smell out of a camper’s food and away from the campsite during the night.
The key to any enjoyable camping trip is planning. A decision on where to camp hinges on personal preference, but planning the trip before leaving helps campers avoid preventable mishaps and gives them options should something unexpected occur. Many situations—bad weather, injury, or simply a crowded campsite—are less alarming if campers are prepared.
Getting Information
Travel guides and magazines, state tourism boards, and Internet sites are just a few of the places that can provide information needed to plan a camping trip, whether to a favorite mountain lake or an unfamiliar river gorge. Local stores that sell camping equipment are also valuable resources. Many stores provide bulletin boards that note weather forecasts, trail conditions, tide tables, and other useful information. Talking with other campers is a way to learn more about camping and about a particular region. Many backcountry veterans enjoy relating information about local camping areas and their camping mishaps.
Maps and a Compass
After selecting a destination, campers need to decide what to bring. A map of the area and a compass are two of the most important items to pack. Knowing how to use them before leaving home is essential.
Experienced campers who intend to spend several days in the backcountry always carry a topographical, or topo, map of the area. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) produces topographical maps that show not only roads and rivers but also detailed information about such landforms as cliffs, mountains, ridges, and ravines. Topo maps help backpackers predict how strenuous a trip will be and what obstacles, such as streams, swamps, or mountain passes, they will encounter. Maps made by the USGS are accurate and up-to-date, and can be purchased at many locations, including Forest Service ranger stations and stores that specialize in camping gear.
First-Aid Kit
Whether a camper plans to make a short day hike from a front country campground or spend a week in the backcountry, a first-aid kit is a must. Many campers make their own, but outdoor stores offer kits that contain the essentials. Besides pain relievers, Band-Aids, and antibiotic ointment, store-purchased kits also include sanitary swabs to disinfect a wound, ointments to relieve the pain of insect bites, and water purification tablets. Moleskin, a cotton adhesive fabric used to cover a blister, is recommended by many campers. Some veteran backpackers wrap duct tape around their heels to prevent their shoes from rubbing and causing blisters. The farther into the backcountry campers plan to travel, the more extensive their first-aid kit should be.
Campers should know how to use items in a first-aid kit before leaving home and should be familiar with basic first-aid techniques, such as how to construct a splint or sling. Knowing how to treat burns and care for cuts, scrapes, muscle strains, sprains, and fractures is also important. The American Red Cross and various camping organizations provide training in basic first-aid procedures. Many books are also available to familiarize campers with wilderness medicine or with specific medical problems that may occur in the backcountry.
Physical Conditioning
Another aspect of planning overlooked by many first-time campers is physical conditioning. Stretching, doing sit-ups and push-ups, and walking several miles a day are just a few ways campers can prepare. A medium to high level of physical fitness helps campers avoid injuries and accidents that can result from fatigue.
Equipment used to hike and make camp in the backcountry includes a backpack; clothing and boots; a tent and sleeping bag; and food, water, and a stove. Because types of camping vary, campers should select appropriate gear for their trip. Deciding what is the appropriate gear can be confusing, but magazines, books, veteran campers, and sporting goods stores can provide advice.
Proper clothing protects campers from plants, hot sun, and inclement weather. In summer many campers wear shorts and a cotton T-shirt to stay cool on the trail. While hiking on trails enclosed by bushy plants, however, hikers will occasionally wear lightweight pants to protect their legs from nettles, poison ivy, and spiny plants that can irritate the skin. They also pack warm, comfortable clothing such as a light jacket and pants to wear during the evening.
In spring, fall, and winter, temperatures can be unpredictable. Experienced campers layer their clothing to stay warm. Layering typically starts with insulating long underwear or a thermal shirt next to the skin. Many campers prefer long underwear of a synthetic material instead of cotton because once cotton becomes wet or damp, the material takes a long time to dry. Moisture also lowers body temperature and can cause chills. The next layer consists of a shirt or sweater that insulates the body. Wool, goose down, and heavy polypropylenes are excellent insulators. The outer layer is a shell, or jacket, that keeps out wind and rain. Shells should be large enough to accommodate several layers of clothing underneath.
The advantage of layering is efficiency. Campers can peel off or add on layers of clothing to suit the weather and for personal comfort. Layering also allows moisture (usually perspiration) to escape. Wearing layers permits air circulation and helps keep the body dry: the drier the body, the warmer the camper. For this reason, campers should always carry rain pants and a rain jacket. Stocking hats, made of wool or polypropylene, also help retain body heat. Many campers take a small hat to wear at their campsite or while sleeping.
Two recent advances in outdoor apparel are Gore-Tex and fleece. Gore-Tex consists of several thin layers of fabric glued together. It allows perspiration to move away from the body and keeps out rain and moisture. These qualities make Gore-Tex an excellent outer layer. Many outdoor stores carry jackets, gloves, and hats made from the material.
Fleece is a soft, puffy synthetic fabric that comes in various densities. It provides a level of warmth equal to that of wool because it traps the body’s warmth. Campers also like fleece because it dries very quickly and is lightweight. Fleece does not stop wind, however, and therefore is best used as a layer beneath a shell.
Whether campers are spending weeks on the Appalachian Trail or taking day hikes on nature trails, boots are probably their most important piece of gear. There are three types.
Heavyweights weigh about 1.8 kg (about 4 lb) per pair. They are constructed of heavy-duty leather and are very durable and water-resistant. Although heavyweights offer maximum support for feet and ankles when hiking over rough, rocky terrain, they have two disadvantages. Because of their durable construction, heavyweights require a long break-in period and can cause blisters in the process. Many campers also find the weight of the boots tiring.
Lightweights weigh around 1.1 kg (2.5 lb) per pair. They are usually constructed of fabric and leather, and they combine the support of a heavyweight boot with the comfort of a running shoe. Lightweights break in quickly and cause few blisters. While ideal for smooth trails and dry conditions, lightweights do not stand up to rough or soggy conditions. Their thin sole also allows rocks and other hard items on the trail to bruise the bottom of the foot during long hikes. Many campers pack lightweights or sandals to wear at the campsite. Lightweights allow the foot to breathe and cause less damage to plants around the campsite.
Midweights weigh from 1.1 to 1.8 kg (2.5 to 4 lb) and combine the best aspects of heavyweight and lightweight boots. Midweight boots are generally constructed of leather and are therefore highly water-resistant. They are extremely durable, but tend not to fatigue campers as much as heavyweights. Many midweights are considered all-purpose boots and are the best choice for first-time backpackers.
Exact fit of any boot is crucial. When trying a pair on in a store, campers should wear the same socks they plan to wear on the trail. Unlaced, the boot should have enough room so that a finger can be inserted tightly between the heel and back of the boot when the toes are scrunched toward the front. When laced, the boot should allow little or no heel slippage, and the toes should be able to wiggle freely. If possible, when testing a pair of boots in the store, walk up stairs and down a ramp, to check fit, and kick the toe against a wall to check shock impact.
The two types of backpacks most commonly used are external frame and internal frame. Use, trail conditions, and personal preference help determine which backpack is right. Each type has several distinct characteristics.
An external-frame backpack is ideal for hiking on established trails and is less expensive than an internal-frame model. The pack bag, where campers store their gear, is attached to a plastic or metal-tube frame and typically has lots of pockets for easy organization of gear. This type of backpack is cooler to wear because the frame keeps the pack off the back, allowing perspiration to evaporate.
In an internal-frame model the frame is hidden within the pack bag. When properly fitted, the pack hugs a camper’s back. Because the weight is close to the back, campers have better balance and control when scrambling over boulders, negotiating tough up-and-down terrain, or moving quickly. Because internal-frame models remain close to the back, campers can become very damp from perspiration.
It is important to try on a pack before purchase to make sure it fits. A bigger backpack is not necessarily better. In fact, campers who buy big packs usually find that they carry too much unnecessary gear. Salespeople are trained to match the weight a camper wishes to carry with the proper pack size. Pack frames and hip belts, which keep the pack close to the body, come in different sizes, helping to assure the right fit.
Many campers are tempted by packs with extra loops, straps, zippers, and other options. But a simple, well-made backpack suffices on most trips. Camping equipment stores may rent packs for weekend trips, enabling people to try different models before purchase.
When packing an external-frame pack, it is important to place heavy items at the top of the pack and close to the back. With an internal-frame pack, heavier objects should be packed toward the bottom, so that they are near the small of the back. Both methods distribute the pack’s weight over the hips and allow the leg and abdominal muscles to carry most of the load. Otherwise the weight pulls against the shoulders, causing discomfort.
Tents are portable shelters made of lightweight fabrics. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes. The most popular shape is the dome, or freestanding model. This model is easy to set up and does not require support from tree limbs or other objects.
Many tents are designated two-person, three-person, and so on, according to how many adults can comfortably sleep inside them. Tents range from small models that sleep just one camper to larger models that can accommodate groups of 12.
Manufacturers also provide a rating based on function. The most common ratings are three-season for tents that can be used in spring, summer, and fall, and four-season for tents that can be used throughout the year. Four-season tents usually have thicker walls for better insulation and stronger poles to withstand winter winds and accumulations of snow on the tent’s roof.
Before purchasing a tent, campers should decide when and where they will use it. Summer-only camping does not require a tent built to withstand intense mountain winds. Camping in areas where it often rains calls for a tent with a watertight exterior, or rainfly, that keeps those inside it dry. A tent for warm weather camping should have plenty of vents for air circulation. A cover of netting over those vents prevents insects from entering. A ground cloth—a piece of waterproof material placed between the tent floor and the ground—helps protect the tent from damage and keep moisture out.
After buying a tent, practice setting it up. Practicing at home makes pitching the tent in windy or rainy conditions much easier.
Sleeping Bags and Pads
Sleeping bags come with a variety of fillings and temperature ratings. Campers should choose a filling that best suits their needs. Goose down works best in dry cold. Bags stuffed with down are incredibly warm but lose their insulating capability if the down becomes wet. Synthetic materials, on the other hand, dry quickly and can still keep campers moderately warm even if they become damp.
A temperature rating is displayed on the tag of most sleeping bags. A sleeping bag with a rating of 0° C (32° F) should keep a camper comfortable at temperatures above 0° C. But ratings can be misleading because they vary among manufacturers. Campers who normally become cold when sleeping should buy a bag with a rating 10° to 20° lower than the anticipated temperature. They might also consider a so-called mummy bag, which has a flap covering the neck and head. Mummy bags are close-fitting, compared with rectangular bags, leaving less cold-air space within the bag. It is a good idea to crawl inside the sleeping bag at the store and make sure it fits before purchasing it.
A sleeping pad, or mattress, can be another part of a camper’s bed. Sleeping pads insulate the camper by creating a barrier between the bag and the cold ground. They may also provide cushioning. Solid, closed-cell foam pads are inexpensive and extremely lightweight. They provide good insulation but not much cushioning. An open-celled, or self-inflating, pad inflates to a thickness of as much as 2.5 cm (1 in). When this pad is unpacked and rolled out, air slowly enters the open foam cells within the pad through a valve. These pads provide more comfort and insulation than closed-cell pads but are more easily punctured.
The type and quantity of provisions to take corresponds to the type of camping trip. Many RVs have a stove, microwave oven, and refrigerator. Car campers can carry gas stoves for cooking and coolers for keeping food cold. In the backcountry, however, campers must consider provisions carefully as they will be unable to replenish them.
Camping Stoves
Backpackers rely on small, lightweight, one-burner gas stoves. These stoves can burn a variety of fuels, but the most common fuel is white gas. White gas leaves less residue than other fuels and evaporates more quickly should an accidental spill occur. Experienced campers take slightly more fuel than they expect to use. A stove repair kit and extra parts can prove helpful.
Camping stoves have a small rack that holds a pot slightly above the burner’s flame. A small, lightweight pot with a lid requires less fuel and heats food and boils water faster than larger, lidless pots. Lids are especially important for conserving heat when camping above 900 m (3000 ft), because it takes more heat to boil water at higher altitudes. After buying a stove, campers should read the instructions and practice operating it at home.
Drinking Water
Water in the backcountry must be properly treated before drinking to remove contaminants. Microscopic water-borne parasites can cause giardiasis, an illness whose symptoms include diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramps. Boiling water for at least one minute kills these microbes.
Besides boiling, several other methods of purifying water are available. Hand-held, pump-action filters force water through porous ceramic or carbon-filled filters, which screen out tiny parasites and other debris. Iodine tablets, which are easy to carry, also purify drinking water, though some campers dislike the aftertaste. Filters and iodine tablets both allow campers to carry less fuel for boiling water, and therefore less weight. They also provide cool drinking water in a matter of minutes, which can be refreshing on a hot day.
Car campers and RV campers have the luxury of refrigeration for storing food. In the backcountry, however, campers must carry their food, and so lightweight, dehydrated, just-add-water meals are preferred. These meals also create less garbage for backpackers to carry out of the backcountry. Outdoor stores sell many varieties of dehydrated food.
Many campers augment their diet with fish from a lake or river, with berries growing near their campsite, or with other available foods. But they should be aware of local fishing regulations and be familiar with wild plants and their fruits, as many of them can cause illness.
The key to staying healthy and strong when backpacking is to eat large quantities of energy-rich foods. Carbohydrates, proteins, and fat all help a camper’s body produce the necessary energy for a strenuous trip. Carrying a pack consumes many calories—up to 4000 a day—that campers need to replenish in order to maintain energy levels. In general, 0.9 kg (2 lb) of food per person per day should be enough. In winter campers should consume 1.1 kg (2.5 lb) per day because staying warm burns even more calories.
Regardless of the time of year, always take enough food to last an extra day. Additional food makes it easier to deal with an accident, an injury, or simply a desire to stay another night in a serene location.
Safety should be at the forefront of every camper’s mind. Each year the National Park Service warns that sunburn and sprains are the most common injuries sustained in the backcountry. Being prepared is the key. A wide-billed hat and a lightweight, long-sleeved shirt offer protection from the sun. Proper sunblock or suntan lotion is also necessary. Frequent rest stops are important on the trail. Fatigue causes campers to pay less attention to the trail, their location, and their own body, leaving them more vulnerable to accidents or injuries.
Several potentially serious conditions can occur when camping. The most common are hypothermia, dehydration, and altitude sickness. All of these are preventable with proper planning and precautions.
Hypothermia occurs when the body becomes too chilled to generate enough warmth for vital organs. Most campers understand that hypothermia is a danger during cold weather, but it also can occur when temperatures rise well above freezing. Most cases occur when the outside temperature is between 7° and 10° C (45° and 50° F).
Avoiding hypothermia requires several simple precautions. Stay dry and do not wear cotton clothing next to the skin, as it dries slowly and sucks away precious body warmth in the process. Eat, drink water, and rest frequently. Food helps campers maintain energy levels and stay warm. Overexertion can make campers wet with perspiration and weak.
Dehydration, or the loss of bodily fluids, is a concern in both hot and cold weather. The condition may occur as a result of excessive sweating, overeating, vomiting, diarrhea, or heat exhaustion. It causes muscles to become weak and thinking to become confused. Campers need to drink large quantities of water before they become thirsty, because thirst is not a reliable indicator of the body’s needs. Drinking large quantities before hitting the trail helps provide the body with sufficient fluids.
Altitude Sickness
Altitude sickness, also known as mountain sickness, is caused by insufficient oxygen at high elevations. It causes such symptoms as dizziness, shortness of breath, and confusion, and can strike campers at relatively low elevations of about 2400 m (about 8000 ft). Campers who plan to backpack at higher altitudes often take a day or two to become accustomed to their new environment. They hike slowly when going higher—typically gaining no more than 300 m (1000 feet) in elevation a day. If they develop symptoms of altitude sickness, they should descend to a lower altitude quickly, before the condition becomes life-threatening.
Knowing Your Location
Many beginning campers worry about becoming lost in the backcountry. The key, however, is staying found. Registering at a ranger station and leaving details of the planned route and return time enable officials to rescue injured campers and locate lost parties with ease. Remaining on designated trails and carrying a map and compass help campers keep track of their location. Remaining in a group also helps campers stay found.
In 1995 about 7.1 million people spent the night in campgrounds operated by the National Park Service, and 2.2 million more camped in the backcountry. With so many people enjoying the outdoors, the impact on the land is great. All land management agencies encourage park visitors to practice an ethic that leaves little or no imprint on the environment.
Conscientious campers take out everything they carry in and stay on designated trails. They never take souvenirs, leaving rocks, plants, and animals where they found them. If they find a lost or injured animal, they remain at a distance and never touch the animal. Instead they report the animal to a ranger, game warden, or other official who is trained to work with wildlife. National parks request that visitors not feed wild animals. Some parks also prohibit dogs and other pets in the backcountry because they disturb birds and other wildlife. In the front country, campers should keep pets on leashes.
Many campers avoid building campfires in the backcountry, unless they find a metal fire ring or grill already there. Instead of breaking off branches or chopping small trees for firewood, they gather small pieces of wood that have fallen onto the ground. Washing dirty dishes and bathing in a stream, river, or lake can pollute water systems and should be avoided. Campers dispose of human waste by digging a hole 30 cm (10 in) deep at a distance of at least 80 m (250 ft) from any source of water. When campers finish their stay, they should cover the hole and carry out used toilet paper. These measures ensure that future campers who visit the campsite will find it clean.
Many organizations and groups can help beginning campers get started and provide useful information to experienced campers.
Campers can find out about commercial campgrounds and RVs in a variety of magazines and on the Internet. Several Internet sites provide RV campers with information about interesting destinations, campsite availability, and new developments and products.
For younger campers the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America provide a good introduction to camping and outdoor life. Young adults may prefer the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Outward Bound, and the Student Conservation Association. All of these organizations stress safety, education, and conservation.
In addition to such government agencies as the National Park and Forest services, many membership organizations in the United States provide useful information for campers. The American Hiking Society, the Adirondack Mountain, Appalachian Mountain, and Sierra clubs, and The Mountaineers are just a few that cater to campers of all levels, from the novice to the seasoned veteran. These groups offer their members introductory courses, activities such as group outings and conservation days, and lectures and presentations on many subjects. Besides teaching camping skills and keeping members informed of conservation efforts, these clubs and organizations provide opportunities for camping enthusiasts to socialize.
Several organizations in Canada also provide information for campers. The Environmental Management Service of Canada, the National and Provincial Parks Association of Canada, and tourism departments in each province are just a few.

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