For many folks, Pennsic is their first and/or only camping experience. When camping, the standard rules of hygiene apply. There are also other, camping related, practices to be aware of that help make camping safer and more fun. It does not take much to turn camping from fun into a nightmare. Many of the of the causes for discomfort can be linked to disregarding some sensible rules.
This topic is an old one. I had it from my parents, in the Boy Scouts, and in High School Gym class, but it is still important. If these precautions seem trivial and unnecessary, think again. The heralds have cried these through the camp and published them at Pennsic. These include:
- Put the lid down on the privy when you're done. It reduces the smell, and keeps the flies from spreading illness.
- Wash your hands after using the privy.
- Wash your hands before handling food, especially if you are preparing it for more than yourself.
- Use clean surfaces for food preparation.
- Store food correctly. This means meats and milk products in a cooler, bread in plastic in the shade, et cetera. All meat should be kept in a cool place, even sausages. Sausages with a high fat content, even if smoked, can go rancid.
- Cover or close your garbage container. This makes it harder for flies to spread diseases.
Camping also requires some special provisions for hygiene beyond those above. Looking through my Scout manuals reminds me of several that were so ingrained that I take them for granted. I was also reminded of some safety and courtesy rules that make camping more pleasant. Some of these are:
- Keep your cooler(s) closed tightly. The ice lasts longer, the food stays cooler, and the chances of an insect invasion go way down. Another good thought is to keep drinks in a separate cooler than food. Update - your coolers will stay cold longer if you keep them covered with a cloth, or in the shade. Remember that shady areas will shift as the sun crosses the sky!
- Check yourself occasionally for ticks and rashes. Poison ivy is no fun, but can be contained if you catch it early, as can Lymes Disease (which has been reported in the area).
- Wash dishes completely and carefully. Get them clean!
- Wipe off excess food before you start.
- At least use a basin of soapy water and a hot rinse. Use a final rinse with a sanitizing solution if you can, especially if someone in your camp is sick.
- Change the water (especially the rinse water) if it starts getting dirty.
- Air dry dishes on a clean surface. This may seem odd, but it is less likely to spread disease than using a towel.
- Wipe off excess food before you start.
- Dispose of waste water carefully. Under normal circumstances, this means keep it away from the fresh water supply, but it also applies to not dumping dirty water around the spigots. After a day or so, the area around the water spigots becomes a quagmire from people washing dishes and performing their personal ablutions there. Put the water in a bucket and do your washing elsewhere, please.
- Use a sump hole or grease pit to dispose of waste water and liquid waste (e.g grease). This is your home for a while; would you pour out dish water on the kitchen floor? This hole can be sited either near the fire pit or in some area that will not be used as a walk way. Mark it to keep people from stepping in it in the dark.
- Use a fire pit. Cut away (and save) the sod and dig a pit larger than your fire and surround the outer edge with stones or piled dirt from the hole. This non-green barrier reduces the chance of grass fires.
- Never leave a fire untended. If you are leaving the area for a while, or going to bed, bank the fire carefully. If you do not know how to bank a fire, put it out.
- Do not throw refuse in the fire. Most common plastics release toxic fumes when burned, glass bottles can shatter (explode), and cans will still need to be disposed of after the fire is out.
- Leave the campsite cleaner than you found it. Clean up as you go (this really makes the whole trip more pleasant). When you are leaving, cover your fire pit and refill any other holes you have dug (replacing the sod is a nice touch). Note from the Cooper's: Mark your filled-in holes and ditches with flagging tape on a stick, or something else that can be easily seen. This helps us fix your campsites so you don't have divots the next year. If you don't have enough dirt to fill a hole, please come to the War Room and we'll help you.