by Bob Carter

1. If you are a new or experienced camper, it's best to test out new equipment at home before leaving on your trip. Practice pitching your tent and using lanterns, axes, and cooking equipment. Be sure all equipment is in good operating order.

2. Purchase or borrow one of the many national campground directories available at bookstores and libraries. Campground directories provide comparative information on nationwide locations, seasonal fees, and facilities.

3. Write to travel and tourism bureaus and request free camping information for areas you want to visit. Most states and many community chambers of commerce and/or visitors bureaus have toll-free 800 numbers. Many are accessible on the internet and fax.

4. Choose high ground for your campsite--although not likely, a summer heavy rain could cause flash flooding in low-lying areas. It's always wise to exercise reasonable caution whenever selecting a camping site or hiking trail.

5. Contact individual parks, forests, or other public lands for information about campgrounds within their boundaries and jurisdictions. Check the front of telephone directories. Many of them list federal and state government and public land agencies and provide their telephone numbers and addresses.

6. If you are a member of an automobile club, check with them regarding outdoor camping and recreational information they provide. Internet users have access to travel destinations and opportunities on several websites.

7. To safely extinguish your campfire, let it die down, then breakup the coals and logs. Spread the partly burned pieces, soak them thoroughly with water, stir and soak them again. When the fire appears to be completely out, cover the fire area with dirt or sand.

8. Unless water sources are certified safe by a competent authority, travel with your own drinking water. Most camping and sporting good stores have water treatment gear that's easy to take along on trips.

9. Don't attempt to touch or feed wild animals, no matter how cute and friendly they seem. Keep your food in your closed vehicle or in a cooler place far away from your tent. As tempting as it is, feeding wildlife makes them overly dependent on humans and reduces their ability to forage on their own.

10. If hiking in the woods, wear long pants and high socks to protect against scratches, insect bits, and poisonous plants. Shoes or boots should be sturdy and cover the ankle. Always break in walking shoes and hiking boots well in advance of your vacation. Sore feet and broken blisters have ruined many an otherwise successful holiday.

11. Be sure to notify someone of your intended hiking route and return time. Take along a compass, a small first aid kit, a canteen of water, a large garbage bag, and a whistle. If you become lost, the trash bag will help keep you warm and dry. The whistle may enable rescuers to find you faster.

12. Allow enough time to make the any return hike during daylight hours. If hiking after dark take a high-powered flashlight and slow down your pace, being extra alert for hazards.

13. Some campgrounds and hiking trails place restrictions on pets. National parks do not allow dogs on hiking trails or paths, for example. Most all campgrounds require that dogs always be leashed and that owners clean up after their animals. In order to avoid problems, it's always wise to check in advance with local authorities regarding pet restrictions and requirements.

14. Most campers and hikers subscribe to the philosophy of leaving nothing but footprints and taking nothing but memories. It's a motto that should be shared and discussed with family members, traveling companions, and loved ones before heading out to rejoice in the outdoors.

15. Whether your idea of enjoying the outdoors is camping with modest equipment or traveling with all of the comforts of home, it's time to plan on taking part in one of America's all-time favorite vacations.

ęCopyright 1999 by Bob Carter. All rights reserved. May be duplicated for personal use only.

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