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iBerkshires.com Columnist Section

Sue Bush
More articles from Sue Bush

Camping and Hiking : Good Tips For Good Trips

By Susan Bush
12:00AM / Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Clarksburg State Park is just one of numerous Berkshire region camping areas.
Mixed among Berkshire region museums, summer theater festivals and outdoor concerts and community events are camping venues that appeal to novice, expert, and family camping aficionados.

An abundance of hiking trails add to the area's outdoor dimensions, and a public campaign to generate physical activity among adults and children has led to growing interest in outdoor excursions.

The idea is to enjoy the camping or hiking trip and avoid incident and injury.

Talk About The Trek

Jeff Kennedy of Williamstown has been an avid backpacker and hiker since he was about six years old. In past years, he was involved with searches and rescues of lost hikers. He is currently the health inspector for Williamstown.

Kennedy shared helpful backpacking and hiking tips during an interview last week.

First and foremost, "let people know where you are going," Kennedy said, and noted that if a hiker becomes injured or lost, having an idea of the area that was being hiked can greatly aid searchers.

A backpack should hold light insulating garments, Kennedy said, even if the hiker set off on a hot day.

"At any time of the year you can get cold and wet," he said. "And what you want is warm and dry."

Shine Some Light, Carry Something Bright, Sit Tight

A flashlight is another essential hiking tool, he said.

If a hiker becomes lost, there are general guidelines that should be followed, he said.

"Don't keep stumbling around if you don't know where you are. If you are in an open area, stay put."

"Staying put" in an open area such as a field or woodland clearing may make it easier for aerial searchers to see a person, Kennedy said.

Those planning a hike in dense areas can help themselves be more visible, he said.

"Whenever I go hiking, I carry something bright," he said.

Kennedy recommended a www.backpacking.net Internet web site for hikers of all experience levels.

"The Lightweight Backapcker"

According to the site's "The Lightweight Backpacker: Ten Essentials Plus Four" page, the items necessary for a backpacking trip are a map [and the know-how to read it], a compass [and the know-how to use it], a flashlight and/or a headlamp, extra rations, extra clothing, sunglasses, a first-aid kit, a pocket knife, waterproof matches, a "firestarter," [something that can be used to start a campfire], water, a whistle [for alerting searchers as to your location], insect repellents, and sunscreen, or hats and other clothing that can reduce sunburn.

The web site offers additional helpful information about the essential items, such as selecting flashlights that are water-resistant and also seeking flashlights that are equipped with extra bulbs and have an on/off function that is utilized by turning the flashlight head. Whistles made of plastic and that do not have a "pea" inside are recommended for hikers and backpackers.

The site also notes that extra rations should require no cooking; if the extra food does require cooking, extra cooking fuel will likely be needed as well.

Kennedy noted that carrying a cellular telephone can be helpful if there is a signal and a lost or injured person is able to place a call. Some phones have GPS capabilities; if the GPS system is activated and a hiker becomes lost while carrying the phone, searchers are likely to have an easier time locating the person.

Camping

Campers may be traveling with fully-equipped campers or large home-on-wheels vehicles, but those who choose to experience the great outdoors from a tent, rustic cabin or "under the stars" will need to know how to survive their trip.

Kitchen Patrol

According to a http://camping.about.com Internet web site, camp cooking areas should be selected with some care. The site information recommends setting up a campsite cooking area in shade if possible.

All cold foods must be monitored to assure its' safety. Coolers should be kept in shaded areas and ice levels must be checked on a daily basis and replaced as needed. When checking in at a campground, ask if ice is available on the premises and where to find ice supplies.

Wash dishes in water that has been heated to boiling, and wash the dishes immediately after a meal, according to site information. Washing dishes and putting them into their storage spot immediately is not only good camp hygiene but also helps reduce the incidence of pests and vermin at the campsite, the web site information said.

Uneaten foods, bread crusts, other foods and pan scrapings that are not being saved should be immediately tossed into a plastic bag and placed into any campsite dumpster or trash collection area.

All Around The Campfire

Campfires are a camping tradition. But fires of any kind pose risks and the site offers tips to reduce the risk of burns and a fire that gets out of control. It is advisable to ask campsite officials what restrictions, if any, the premises may have in place about campfires. If camping at very primitive or on private property [with property owner permission], a call to local fire officials or forest wardens is advisable.

Fires should be started with paper, matches, and kindling, and not with lighter fluid or other flammable liquids, according to the site.
Campfires should be kept small, and therefor manageable, and bonfires should be avoided, according to the site.

Campfires are not useful as cook stoves unless campers have outfitted themselves with the appropriate type of cookware and utensils, as well as the skills to build a proper cooking fire, according to the site.

Campfires should not be left burning unattended or if campers have gone to bed for the evening. If leaving a campsite or turning in for the night, douse any fire with water and stir. If any burning embers are detected, use more water.

At The End Of The Trip...

The end of a camping trip is as important as the beginning. Break camp with respect and courtesy, advises site information. Whisk brooms and rags may be used to wipe down camping gear as it is being packed.

Pack dirty clothing separately from any clean clothing. Clean out coolers and replenish them with fresh ice if needed. Be certain that all campfires are completely extinguished. Pick up all trash and "leave no trace" of the visit, according to site information.

Brooms and leaf rakes may be used to groom the area once tents and gear are packed, trash has been removed, and fires are doused.

Additional information posted at the web site includes bedding advice, how to select a tent, and how to handle any campsite critters that may seem to be enjoying your company or your food choices.

The backpacking web site offers detailed information about many backpacking situations, including backpacking with children.

Information about state parks and campsgrounds in the Berkshires may be acquired at a www.mass.gov/dcr Internet web site.

Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at suebush@iberkshires.com or at 802-823-9367.

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