Spending some time in nature, whether you’re hiking, backpacking, or taking part in another activity, offers many benefits. Backpacking, for instance, offers excellent exercise. It also gives you some time to enjoy the quiet of the outdoors, which can be a major change from the stimulating noise of the television, radio, and social indoor environments.
If you’re typically the indoor type, getting out and spending time in nature may be surprisingly enjoyable, but only if you’re prepared. Camping, hiking, or participating in other outdoor adventures in the midwest requires the right equipment and knowledge to keep you safe and to make for a fun outing.
Consider Taking an Outdoor Survival Skills Class
If you’re a first-time camper or hiker planning a big outing in the woods, you’ll benefit from some survival skills and basic outdoor knowledge. An outdoor survival skills class can give you this valuable information, preparing you with skills such as how to handle severe weather, how to keep yourself safe from wildlife, and how to handle a medical emergency in the outdoors. This class may make you aware of risks and preparation tips that you wouldn’t have otherwise thought about, and can increase the chances of your first camping or hiking trip being a success.
One particularly important skill that you should learn is how to use a compass and read a map. Because the midwest doesn’t have the same mountain ranges and visual markers that you’d find on the West and East coasts, being able to monitor and identify your location is particularly important. Additionally, it’s a good idea to purchase a GPS tracker to have as a backup.
Local camping and outdoor outfitter stores should be able to advise you about upcoming outdoor survival skills classes. Your local town hall or community college may also have information on available resources and classes. Take a class with anyone who will be joining you on your outing so that you’re both well-equipped with outdoor skills and knowledge.
Be Prepared for Health Challenges
The outdoors can pose some health challenges, so be aware of these issues and plan ahead for them. If you wear contacts, dealing with allergies can irritate your eyes and make wearing contacts painful. To prevent this, bring along allergy medication and try to plan your trip during a time when the pollen count is lower. Plan a shorter day trip that will allow you to get indoors at the end of the day so you can get some relief from your allergies.
Ticks are another potential health threat that you will probably encounter when spending any amount of time outside. Ticks can carry diseases like Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, so take steps to prevent tick bites and remove ticks promptly if you are bitten. Wearing light-colored pants and socks can help you to quickly spot ticks if they do transfer onto your body. If you’re ever bitten by a tick, use tweezers to grasp the tick by its head and pull it out. It’s a good idea to keep the tick’s body and seek medical help if the bite becomes irritated or if you develop a rash around the bite site.
Mosquitoes can also carry harmful diseases, like Eastern equine encephalitis. When humans are infected with this disease, about a third of the cases are fatal. Take steps to protect yourself from mosquito bites, like wearing light-colored long-sleeved shirts and long pants and using an insect repellant. Avoid being outdoors at dusk and dawn, when mosquitoes are most active. Avoid wearing scented perfume, which can attract mosquitoes, and try to stay away from standing bodies of water, like ponds. Watch the weather and choose to go outdoors on a cool, breezy day.
If you’re camping, keep your tent’s doors and windows zipped up to keep mosquitoes out of the tent. You may also want to bring some citronella candles along for your campsite. Refresh your mosquito repellent often, too. Or, if you don’t want to deal with mosquitoes at all, plan your trip for later in the fall when the weather is much cooler and mosquitoes are mostly gone for the year.
Bring Some Comforts From Home
You don’t have to “rough it” entirely just because you decide to spend time outdoors. In fact, bringing along some comforts from home can enhance the time you spend outdoors. Fitness trackers and smartwatches can help you to feel more invested in a hike or other outdoor activity. Plus, bringing along your smartphone is a must if you want to capture some great photos.
Remember, your first outdoor trip will be an adventure, so try to keep an open mind. You may find that you love spending time outdoors. Who knows, maybe you’ll decide that an outdoor-oriented career is for you? Or, maybe you’ll just make an effort to go hiking, biking, or kayaking more often.