Fact vs. Fiction In the Outdoors
By Karen Berger
Outdoors people are pretty good at spinning tall tales around a campfire, but sometimes they get their fact and fiction mixed up. Here are 10 often-quoted myths about camping.
1. One group of 15 creates more impact camping than three groups of five or five groups of three.
2. Moss grows on the north side of trees.
3. In cold weather, you don't have to drink a lot of water because you sweat less.
Second, you need to drink more than you think because inadequate hydration contributes to both altitude sickness and to hypothermia. Start your day of winter hiking with a bottle of hot liquid shielded inside an insulated carrier: This will be more appealing to drink than ice-cold water.
4. Lightning doesn't strike twice in the same spot.
5. Magnetic declination (the deviation between true north and magnetic north shown on maps) never changes.
6. Hypothermia is a winter problem.
Hypothermia is a particular danger to paddlers, especially when the combination of air and water temperatures adds up to less than 150 degrees. Prolonged exposure to cold waterwhether from water sports or rainis a prime risk factor for hypothermia, even in the middle of summer.
Remember, the best cure for hypothermia is prevention, and the best prevention is to stop exposure: Put up a tent or put on more clothes.
7. If you come upon a grizzly bear and it charges, you can easily outrun it to safety.
Stephen Herrero, author of Bear Attacks (Lyons Press, revised edition 2002), says the best thing to do in a grizzly encounter is to stand your ground or slowly back away and talk to the bear, letting it know that you aren't a threat. Avoid staring directly at the bear, which threatens it, but watch it closely.
8. Natural fabrics are the best choice for going out in nature.
9. You'll find the warmest campsites down on a valley floor.
10. An upset stomach in the backcountry is probably caused by giardia.
Other waterborne parasites can also cause intestinal distress, but backcountry stomach problems are often caused by careless sanitary practicessharing food dishes with other campers and improperly cleaning pots, pans, and utensils. Wash your hands thoroughly before cooking and eating, and wash your pots thoroughly afterward.
Karen Berger's newest book, Backpacking and Hiking (DK Publishing, 2005) is an illustrated guide to backpacking. Visit her at www.hikerwriter.com.
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