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How to Do Everything – Camping

Find water anywhere, make a fire in five minutes, learn secrets for battling mosquitoes, and more.
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Hiking | Packing & Planning | Camping | Gear | First Aid & Health | Cooking

Water 101 | Build a Fire | DIY Grommets, Windscreen | Master Three Knots | Set Up Camp | Beat Bugs & Bears | Two-Second Tips


  • Scout it Climb a hill and look for: stands of water-loving willows, cattails, sycamore, mesquite, Bermuda grass, or cottonwoods; large concentrations of birds in the morning; bug swarms; and cattle trails.
  • Dig a well Scoop out a one- to two-foot hole on the outer bend of a sandy wash and wait up to an hour for water to seep in. Dig several holes to improve your odds. Only getting mud? Dip your bandana and wring it out to extract the moisture.
  • Make a solar still Tie a plastic bag around heavily vegetated branches that are exposed to sunlight. Weight one corner with a small rock so all the moisture transpiring from the leaves will gather there. Or stuff a plastic bag three-quarters full with green vegetation (grass, cactus). Place it on a sunny slope with the vegetation at the top of the incline, so evaporated moisture drains to the bottom. Either way, a quart-sized bag will yield two to three tablespoons in average conditions.
  • Find tinajas These potholes or depressions in desert rock (called tinajas in the Southwest) can hold water for weeks after a rain. Check shaded areas and creek beds–but they can also be found in unlikely places, like the tops of cliffs or mesas. and mesas.

When a cloudy river is your only water source, try these methods before filtering or treating to keep the grit out of your teeth–and your pricey pump: 1) Strain through a bandana, or 2) let sit in a collapsible jug or cooking pot until sediment settles on the bottom.
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Video Tutorial: Learn how to filter water correctly with our step by step tutorial (80s style).

Slip a jumbo, nonlubricated latex condom into your first-aid kit: The super-strong multipurpose device can hold a gallon of water in an emergency without leaking.

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