18 April 2008

Smart tips for camping enthusiasts

Give your camping trip a little more thought and effort, and you’ll eliminate many of the lurking dangers,

SIX years ago, a heavy downpour at Sungai Chiling in Selangor caused the river to flood its banks. A group camping nearby was hit by the rushing wall of water – tents were swept away by the force and six campers drowned. Barely a year later, at the same spot, five people attending a church adventure camp went for a swim and drowned.

n 1999, two students from ITM Kota Baru died on Gunung Korbu in Perak as a result of inhaling toxic gas. They were believed to have cooked inside their tent before they went to sleep, and kept the gas canister inside before closing up their tents for the night. The carbon monoxide which killed them could have leaked from the canister.

More recently, in May last year, lightning struck a group of campers on Gunung Rajah in Pahang, killing two and injuring over 20. Rescue operations took almost two days, and campers had to be airlifted by helicopter off the peak.

Every year, hundreds head to the beautiful forests, mountains and beaches of Malaysia to picnic or camp. To a few of them, camping is a mere walk in the park; to others, camping connotes leeches, insects, snakes, wild animals and other icky stuff. Too many, however, go without being mentally nor physically prepared, and this makes them susceptible to injury and mistakes.

What to pack

The Big Seven when it comes to camping are:

  • a map and compass

  • water or water treatment kit

  • extra food

  • extra clothing

  • a first aid kit

  • a knife

  • waterproof matches and a fire-starter

    Basic gear includes a sleeping bag, groundsheet, tent with sealed seams and a rain-fly sheet, complete with all poles, stakes and cord.

    For short excursions (e.g. day trips) you should pack extras such as a headlamp, raincoat and a first-aid kit. Trekking poles will also help you keep your balance, and save your knees!

  • Setting up camp

    You might have to trek to your campground, so a good pair of shoes is essential. Break them in before the trip, and wear sock liners to help with moisture and prevent blisters. Where possible, trek on rocks or solid stony ground instead of mossy-covered jungle floor, which is not only slippery but could also give way.

    Stay to marked trails, and do not create your own “shortcuts”. This helps to prevent erosion and preserve vegetation. More importantly, it means you’re less likely to get lost.

    Camp on bare ground wherever possible, not on vegetation. The site should be away from trails and dead trees. Avoid slopes (which may erode), high ridges (which may be prone to lightning strikes) and wet sites.

    When near water, camp at least 100ft (30m) away. Your choice of campsite may be limited by terrain, but it is not advisable to camp closer than 25ft (7.5m) to water. Make sure you do not camp below the flood level, such as in a valley or depression which can be a lethal water trap.

    Food, cooking and campfires

    Bring enough food to last the trip. Food can be fresh, dried or canned – instant, pre-packed provisions such as noodles and drink sachets are especially popular. Bananas, chocolate, glucose sweets, energy bars and “gorp” (a mix of nuts, dried fruit and candy) are also good sources of energy. Don’t forget your can-opener.

    Avoid bringing any food with a strong smell, as this may attract animals. If you do bring it, store it carefully – ditto other strong-smelling items, such as soap or garbage

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