Outdoor Tips to Help Enjoy the Great Outdoors

If you’re new to spending time in nature, but want to be a good sport, here are a few easy steps you can take to overcome your fear of crawly things and really enjoy the great outdoors.

1. Confront the Critters Head-on: To avoid ticks, apply Permethrin, a derivative of crushed dried Daisy Chrysanthemum flowers, to all garments, shoes, socks, hats and backpacks. If picnicking apply it to the tablecloth before you pack up. Permethrin also keeps chiggers and other biting insects away. Bears, raccoons, snakes – in fact, most wild animals will avoid you if they can. In the summer, I do not grab any handholds while climbing without looking first, just in case a snake has decided to sun itself on the trail. Accidental encounters are always possible. Don’t run; that will encourage a predator to chase you. In most cases, if you stand your ground, yell, wave your arms and make a racket, the animal will run away. Never, ever feed wild animals – and never try to touch or pet a wild animal – EVER.

2. Fashion Sense: Fabric Do’s and Don’ts. Fabrics for outdoor wear are lighter and more comfortable than ever. My personal favorite is wicking, because it is soft, machine washable (air dry to avoid static cling) and does not harbor body odor. Garments are different thicknesses for different seasons. You can be active and still be fresh as a daisy. Whether you perspire or there’s a sudden rain shower, wicking dries out quickly. Hypothermia occurs when your body temperature suddenly plummets; being soaked is the most dangerous risk in outdoor activities. Seriously, it could kill you. Avoid cotton, because if it gets wet, it never dries. I’m still fond of wool; merino wool is soft and not itchy, but it is pricy. While silk is lovely, it’s not durable and requires special laundering.

3. Footwear: Do’s and Don’ts: If you’re hiking rough terrain, riding mountain bikes, having a picnic, or strolling the beach, the right footwear is the difference between fun and frustration. For most outdoor activities, the appropriate footwear can be rented. But you’ll want to purchase your own hiking boots. If you’re hiking under five miles, a sturdy, three-season boot with ankle support that lets your foot breathe is sufficient. I hike all year round, so my own Italian leather, Vibram sole, wicking-lined boots are the most expensive equipment I own. They fit beautifully from the first day and I’ve never had a blister.

4. Carry the Right Bag: I typically carry a bookbag-size day pack when I’m not staying overnight – and sometimes even when I am. It holds all of my pocket survival kit essentials, plus an extra layer of clothes, water, binoculars, snacks and whatever else I choose to carry. That leaves my hands free to use my binoculars, camera or notebook. Also, when I stop for a break, my pack makes a useful backrest.

5. Accessories: Hats and Belts: In winter I wear a balaclava, which covers my head and neck and can be pulled over my face. Ninety percent of body heat is lost through the head, so I wear a lined wool balaclava. If I wear a hat in other seasons, I want it to shield my eyes from the sun, cover my neck, have holes for circulation, and fit properly. Belts can come in very handy, but I typically do not wear one.

6. Eyewear: I just started wearing eyeglasses on a full-time basis. In the winter, they were an obstacle. In the summer, they’re an effective pollen and insect barrier. Sunglasses can reduce glare and they also offer your eyes protection.

7. Hair and Makeup: If you have long hair, a braid, bun or ponytail keeps your hair neat and out of your way. The older I get, the shorter my hair gets. I depend on a PABA-free 30-SPF sunscreen to cover my face, ears, neck, and hands – even in winter. Sun reflecting off snow can be very damaging. I typically do not wear daytime makeup, but if I did, I would use the sunblock as my base.

8. Water: When I hiked in the desert I carried a bladder bag, which is a pliable water bottle with a tube extending from it. The bag fit in my daypack, carried 1.5 liters of water and I could suck on the tube whenever I felt thirsty. This is another really useful hands-free, affordable device. The only drawback – this is not designed for beverages other than water.

9. Gadgets: If you enjoy new gadgets, GPS units, binoculars, cameras, and other devices that make exploring the woods, the parks, the beaches or the deserts fun will add a dimension to your experience and give you something to do if you don’t feel quite ready to put a worm on a hook or rappel that cliff.

10. Win Big: Attitude is 99 percent of any situation. Anything new takes time to really experience. You may be inspired to use your camera to photograph clouds, diffracted sunlight on a spider web or the bud just about to open. The sound of moving water always makes me feel rested, even on a very long hike. I never tire of the sounds of birds calling or singing. I’m determined to learn bird language. There is nothing quite like the smell of a pine grove or the view from a mountain ridge. And the infinite and endless variety in the texture of tree trunks and bits of rock can keep me occupied for hours.

JJ Murphy, is a nature writer, blogging hiker, curriculum creator and tree-hugger currently based in Harriman, NY. Visit http://www.writerbynature.com for more information, including JJ’s favorite places for gear and supplies.

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