Montana has a reputation for its natural areas and public lands, for a good reason. And one of the perks of living in the state is having easy access to all the outdoors has to offer, especially when you know what to do to stay safe and healthy when you get outside. Take these steps to have a safe, fun trip when you head out camping.
When you’re heading out into the woods, planning will serve you well. Some items you might be able to do without, but be sure you have your food, water, and shelter plans well covered. Even as you plan, acknowledge the need to have a backup in case of emergency, unforeseen weather, or active wildlife.
You don’t have to be intimately familiar with an area before you go camping. But if you’re not in the know, a bit of research into weather, terrain, and safety concerns is probably in order. Contact the land management agency in charge of a spot for the best insight, whether that’s the Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, or Montana Fish, Wildlife, and Parks. Sometimes it’s as simple as calling or stopping into the nearest ranger station with questions. And remember that you likely won’t have cell service or a working GPS while camping, so having an old-fashioned map can be incredibly helpful.
In Montana, bears should always be a point of consideration. Whether you’re heading into the backcountry and need a bear-proof storage container and a way to hang your food, or you’re staying in an established campground with food storage available, read up on how to properly stash attractants ahead of time so you’re not caught without a storage option. Plus, bear spray is always a must-have.
Fire danger varies depending on the time of year and the local conditions. If campfires are permitted, be sure to burn safely and put them dead out before leaving your site. And if fire danger is high, know how you’ll be cooking and what types of stoves or heat sources are permitted in the area.
You might be an experienced outdoorsperson, ready to conquer summits and do some ultralight backpacking with only a protein bar and the clothes on your back. But if your camping buddy isn’t at the same level as you, or vice versa, it’s important to recognize that in the early stages and find a trip that will work for both of you. Safety comes from knowing when to push yourself and when you’re in over your head.
Typical camping food consists of a lot of sodium, processed meat, and sugar. And sure, if you’re burning lots of calories in the great outdoors, you don’t want to go light on your meals. But consider if you have room for some veggies alongside your brats, or maybe a sugar-free nut mix for snacking. You can also find pre-made meals that just need water to cook, but won’t load your system up on sodium. If you’re hesitant about how to cook when you’re camping, resources like backcountry cookbooks and inspiring Instagram accounts can get you going.
When you’re heading out camping, some of the biggest benefits come from just getting into nature and taking a few deep breaths of fresh air. But it doesn’t hurt to incorporate some movement into your plans. If you’re backpacking, add in some time for gentle stretching on top of your hiking. And if fishing is your main objective, take a short walk in the morning to scope out the best spots for the day. But above all, make it a priority to inhale, exhale, and enjoy the time for disconnection.
To find your way to a healthier lifestyle in Montana, get in touch with a medical professional at CHP. Contact your nearest neighborhood clinic to make an appointment and receive affordable care.