Three Tips for Summer Camping

Planning your next boondocking experience? Here are some tips to make it a great time!

1.Pack for the environment.

Know what type of fauna (ticks, bears or snakes, for example) and flora (such as poison ivy, oak or sumac) are commonly found at your intended destination and take appropriate remedies and precautions.

Websites such as Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center, Coyote Smarts, Western Wildlife Outreach and Mountain Lion Foundation provide safety tips should you encounter bears, wolves, coyotes or mountain lions. Slithery critters like holes, brush and log piles so be careful not to disturb their homes. Insects are everywhere, making insect repellant and citronella candles must-haves.

And don’t send out invitations to visit in the form of trash or food left where the animals can find them. Once the meal is over, pack up your food and put it in your camper or car, then clean the campsite to get rid of those enticing aromas.

As for avoiding everyone’s least favorite trio— poison ivy, oak and sumac—the old saying “Leaves of three, Let it be!” works for poison ivy and poison oak, but not for poison sumac, according to the CDC. That one has clusters of 7 to 13 leaves. (Check out the CDC webpage for images and tips for what to do just in case.)

2. Pack for the weather.

Summer means sunshine and storms—not to mention high temps and humidity. Pack your raingear for those unexpected summer storms, then know the National Lightning Safety Institute’s ASK (Avoid-Seek-Keep) strategy when lightning is expected or seen:

  • AVOID water, all metallic objects, high ground, open spaces and solitary tall trees.
  • SEEK clumps of shrubs or trees of uniform height, ditches, trenches or the low ground.
  • KEEP a high level of safety awareness for thirty minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.

Plan ahead by bringing a battery-operated NOAA weather radio, and downloading the Red Cross first aid and disaster apps. And don’t forget the sunscreen and sun-protective clothing. (Check out EWG’s guide to sunscreens to help you choose the one to fit your needs.)

3Pack for fun. 

Summer time is fun time so bring some outdoor toys for kids and adults, plus solar-powered items —essential if you’re boondocking. If you’ll be exploring, add a portable GPS (so you know where you’re going), a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger (in case you get lost) and a survival knife so you can cut, chop or open just about anything!

Need more tips? REI’s Camping Checklist and REI’s The Ten Essentials have more ideas on what to bring! ( has a printer-friendly checklist.) And check out the items in our Holiday Gift Ideas for Rv-ers for a few more RV essentials to bring along!

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