Camping is a timeless activity that allows Black travelers to unplug, unwind and immerse ourselves in nature. Falling asleep under the stars, waking up to the sounds of birds and chilling around a campfire are just a few of the joys that camping offers. Some people characterize the experience as something that is not for Black people. However, Black campers worldwide, including organizations like Black People Outside, are turning that notion on its head.
Black People Outside was created by Chicago natives Chevon Linear and Kameron Stanton as a way to raise the visibility of Black people who love the outdoors. The beauty of nature in Grand Teton National Park inspired the duo to highlight outdoor spaces.
“We realized we didn’t see anyone that looked like us,” Stanton said. “It was so beautiful, and I could not accept that most people from urban areas would never see stars, trees and nature like this. It became my mission to show my people what it was really like out there.”
What started as comical TikTok videos soon turned into so much more. Stanton and Linear began receiving messages from people asking for suggestions on where to explore in and around Chicago. Then, they discovered a community of people that wanted to join them on their adventures.
Last year, Black People Outside began hosting free group hikes for anyone to attend. They have provided guides, gear and transportation to various locations to help introduce more people to outdoor adventuring.
While camping and exploring the outdoors is a rewarding and enjoyable experience, there are also many benefits that come along with it. For one, Stanton says spending time in nature can reduce your risk of mental health issues.
“Nature helps reduce stress, uplifts your mood and gives you a sense of adventure,” he explains. “We also learn valuable life skills when we camp, like how to build shelter, how to survive with minimal resources and how to solve problems one step at a time. It gives us the experience and courage to push ourselves further and further out of our comfort zones.”
If you’ve been wanting to try camping, but aren’t sure where to begin, Black People Outside provided a few tips for the novice camper. Here are seven of their top tips to keep you safe, prepared and ready to enjoy your first time camping.
Make a List, Check it Twice
Stanton suggests making a list of all the items that you will need when camping.
“When we first started, we checked different websites and apps to figure out what we needed to bring to be comfortable,” he said. “We recommend using local gear banks, borrowing from friends, buy nothing, sell nothing groups, REI Garage Sale and even Amazon. Don’t sweat it too much. It takes the average person years to accumulate the right gear.”
Organization is Key
Stanton and Linear keep their gear organized into four main groups: food, shelter, bathroom and personal items. They keep their things stored separately in bins, so they can easily grab what they need.
In their food box, they keep their cooking and eating utensils, camp stove and fuel. In their shelter box, they keep their sleeping bag, tent, tarp, sleeping pad and lighting. They keep their tissues, wet wipes and other toilet necessities together and call it their toilet kit. For personal items, they’re sure to bring the proper hiking clothes and gear to fit the terrain and weather.
Use Quality Gear
Though the duo believes in obtaining affordable gear, they still recommend researching and selecting the most trustworthy brands.
“Having the most sturdy and reliable gear can make a camping trip go far more smoothly,” Stanton warned. “You don’t want to worry about your tent leaking or your backpack chafing your neck as you hike test your gear.”
Buy the Best Hiking Boots
For their first big investment, Linear and Stanton purchased hiking boots, and they firmly believe they would have stopped hiking if they did not have the best footwear.
“Our feet are everything when it comes to hiking,” Stanton said. “You want to pick boots that are light, have ankle support and will keep your feet dry and comfortable. We suggest going to an outdoor store to talk with the associates and try on shoes with wool socks. Keep in mind some shoes come in a wide or even double wide.”
Have a Map for Navigation
Since most places do not have Wi-Fi, Black People Outdoors suggests you download maps to be used offline.
“You should already have a plan in mind before leaving the house, but we understand things change. We suggest having a paper map as a backup to the one on your phone. We also recommend packing a compass to help you figure out directions if you get lost. To avoid getting lost, try to stay on the trail at all times. You should also tell at least one person your detailed routes and when to expect you to return.”
Check and Prepare for the Weather
Always check the weather and be prepared. If you do not have the proper gear for rain, don’t hike or camp when rain is in the forecast. In the mountains, weather changes quickly, so bring layers, like moisture wicking clothes, rain jackets, windbreakers, hats, and gloves.
Stick to Your Abilities
Make sure you are hiking and camping according to your skill levels. When researching trails and campsites, read the reviews, difficulty rating, trail/campground conditions and elevation changes. This will keep you out of bad hiking situations.
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