Spending Your Nights in the Great Outdoors? Here are the Top Things You Need
Spending time in nature is always good for your soul, but some of the best magic is reserved for after the sun goes down. From starry skies to fascinating nocturnal wildlife, there is plenty to see and do in the great outdoors at night.
Planning an overnight camping adventure is a great way to log off from the various daily screens we can never seem to take our eyes off. There are plenty of ways to get your digital detox in nature’s darkness and we’ve gathered some of the top things we recommend you take to make sure you stay comfortable, safe, and entertained during your night in the wild.
Thermal Imaging Cameras
Not to be confused with night vision devices, thermal imaging cameras and monoculars can be used to spot nocturnal wildlife in nearly any light conditions. Night vision devices actually need some light to be effective so moonless nights in the wilderness where very little light is present can render them almost useless. They are also not very effective during twilight hours since too much light causes images to get washed out.
Thankfully there are thermal options when it comes to spotting animals in the dark. Thermal imaging cameras spot animals by reading the heat they give off, meaning light isn’t a factor. Thermal cameras were once quite expensive but now they have become much more affordable.
Thermal imaging cameras and monoculars can be used by wildlife enthusiasts to spot often nocturnal animals like raccoons, coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, and owls in America. You can also use them while travelling to observe animals like Tasmanian devils and quolls in Australia, or aardvarks, hyenas, and big cats in Africa.
Hunters often rely on thermal imaging cameras and infrared camera rifle scopes to locate game and nuisance predators. Not all jurisdictions allow hunting with thermal imaging devices so it’s always wise to look into local laws. When they are allowed, thermal imaging devices can be great for detecting animals that otherwise are well-suited to staying camouflaged. They can also be used to easily locate animals you have shot that aren’t killed immediately. This greatly reduces the chances of game running far from the hunt location and never being found.
Thermal imaging cameras may also come in handy during emergencies if someone gets lost, and they have been used in many disaster response searches to locate injured or lost people in the wilderness. You may have noticed a feature on your phone’s camera or through available phone apps that say infrared camera or filter, but these are simply simulations that produce the effect or look of an infrared image and don’t actually work as a heat sensor. There are, however, devices available that can connect to your phone to transform your phone into an actual all-purpose thermal camera.
One of the best things about sleeping under the stars is actually seeing the stars up close. What better way to take advantage of being in the wilderness far from light pollution of the city than to observe the stars and planets up close with a telescope. There are plenty of portable telescopes on the market now which can be easily packed for your overnight wilderness trip.
Today’s telescopes are easy to operate and often come with a whole range of fun features. Many telescopes allow you to connect your smartphone via an adapter which then allows you to take photos and videos of whatever the telescope observes. Many also come with sturdy tripods, wireless camera remotes, and astronomy software that with educate you on what you can expect to see and where and when to look for various celestial subjects.
You can always search for dozens of different constellations and depending on the time of year there may be specific planets in close range or a meteor shower taking place. You can also search for moving satellites in the night sky. Stargazing is a great activity the whole family will enjoy.
Tents and Sleeping Gear
It goes without saying that you’ll most likely need a tent, unless of course you don’t mind sleeping in the dirt and braving whatever elements may be thrown your way. Most of us will greatly welcome a nice comfortable tent and sleeping bag when it comes to calling it a day in the wilderness, and today’s tents come in many different varieties. How many people you have and what type of outdoors experience you are planning will determine which tent you should get.
Families can look into multi room tents which offer plenty of space for your family to spread out and gives everyone a bit of privacy. They sometimes even have a small kitchen or common area and places to store gear.
Trekkers wanting to travel lightly during multi-day hikes will want to look into a simple backpacking tent or swag as it is known in Australia. These are basic waterproof canvas tents that are designed for one person and they usually come equipped with a foam mattress. Depending on the weather, you may also need a sleeping bag as well when using a swag.
Of course the most common tent used for camping trips is the dome tent which uses two collapsible poles that get fed through the tent’s fabric shell layer and criss-cross each other to create two downward arcs that create a dome-like shape. Dome tents are usually quite portable and easy to set up and take down.
When it comes to sleeping bags, be sure to purchase one that is rated for the temperature you will be facing. Cheaper sleeping bags may not be designed to keep you warm enough when sleeping in especially chilly weather. You also want to make sure they are always waterproof because leaks in tents do happen.
Don’t forget to bring a comfortable pillow, possibly an eye mask if you plan on camping in places during summer where the sun doesn’t really set like Iceland, and maybe some earplugs in case of loud nature sounds or snoring from your camping companions.
Food and Water
Engaging in outdoor activities definitely works up an appetite so make sure to pack plenty of food as well as more than enough water which you’re sure to go through. Be sure to pack food that doesn’t spoil easily like canned and dry goods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and breads are all great camp foods. Meats and dairy can be brought along for a few days so long as they are stored in a quality cooler packed with ice which is tested and proven to keep items chilled for the amount of time you will be storing them. If you plan on cooking food, make sure to pack fire making supplies or a butane stove/grill.
It’s always best to bring bottled water and refrain from drinking from natural sources like lakes or rivers unless you treat the water first by boiling or with something like purification tablets. There are many waterborne illnesses that can make you gravely ill.
Always securely store your coolers and food items to deter animals like bears and raccoons from causing havoc. Many campsites in bear country often provide specialized food lockers designed to keep bears out. And because what goes in must come out, make sure you know what the bathroom arrangements will be for your overnight experience. Many campsites will provide proper toilets but it’s always wise to pack some toilet paper in case they weren’t stocked well enough. Remote campsites may force you to dig a hole far from trails so bring a small shovel in such instances and make use of biodegradable toilet paper that won’t impact the environment as much.
Keeping Clean and Healthy
Camping in the great outdoors doesn’t mean you have to forgo hygiene. They make handy solar camp showers to rid yourself of dirt, sand, sunscreen, and bug repellent after a long day in the wilderness. Staying on top of your personal hygiene while camping is not only important for your health, but it’s also respectful to your fellow campers you would much rather have you smelling pleasant.
Bring along hand sanitizer which can be used before eating meals and after going to the bathroom or if running water is available you can bring along biodegradable soap which will be less harmful to the environment. You’ll also want to make sure to stay on top of cleaning any camp dishes you use to avoid attracting bugs and harmful bacteria as well as keeping your clothes clean if you’re planning on spending a long period camping outdoors. They make both biodegradable dish detergent and laundry detergent that are safer for the environment.
You may want to think about bringing along a portable camp kitchen with sink to make cleaning up easier as well as a camping clothesline to air-dry washed clothing.
Flashlights and Headlamps
We take for granted having the ease of simply flicking a switch for instant light whenever we need it at home, but out in nature you will need to make sure to pack flashlights, lanterns, or headlamps in order to complete various tasks once the sun goes down. A campfire will only provide so much light and isn’t of course portable.
Be sure to pack extra batteries for your flashlights or maybe look into solar powered varieties. Flashlights are nice and portable while larger lanterns may be more useful when it comes to illuminating larger areas around camp. Alternatively, wearing headlamps frees up your hands to make tasks like cooking, cleaning up, and going to the bathroom in the dark much easier.
Accidents can happen, so it’s always wise to prepare for them. Pack a well-stocked first-aid kit to attend to minor injuries and ailments like bug bites, cuts, and sprained ankles. Most overnight outdoor adventures will take place during the summer months meaning insects will most likely be out. Be sure to pack insect repellent to ward of mosquitoes and ticks.
Carry a GPS unit or download a navigation app for your phone to avoid getting lost and make sure you can keep your smartphone charged in case you need to make a call during an emergency. If you believe you won’t have cell service, you may want to invest in a personal locator beacon in case of an emergency that occurs in remote areas.
Spending the night in nature doesn’t have to equate to roughing it. With a little planning, you can enjoy a relaxing and entertaining experience. We hope our tips help you enjoy the best of what nights in nature can bring.