A beginner’s guide to surviving a week in the woods

Don’t pack only jeans


There’s a lot to be said for spending a week in the woods. You get to sleep under the stars, sit around a roaring campfire, and sometimes even see some wildlife. But there can also be some downsides, especially as a female.

I attend a hiking camp that’s based in New Hampshire for one week in July. The weather can be unpredictable, the nights can be cold, and there aren’t any flushing toilets. That being said, it’s also a blast. Here’s how to make the most of such an adventure.

Bring deodorant (and other necessities). Then put them in your car.

When you’re in the woods for a week with few bathing opportunities, you’ll be glad you brought deodorant. However, after using it, you’ll want to keep it somewhere other than your tent, along with your toothpaste, soap, and any other scented toiletries you brought along. These things can attract all sorts of animals, from raccoons and squirrels that will tear up your tent to get to whatever is smelling so great, to bears, which might pose a slightly greater threat.

Also FYI, tie-dye is great for hiding sweat marks on your shirts

Speaking of keeping clean, facial wipes can be a lifesaver. Not only will face washing opportunities be limited, but they can do double duty and help keep the rest of your body feeling sort-of fresh.

Don’t bring jeans

Or at least, don’t bring only jeans. Embrace the opportunity to wear sweatpants 24/7, and, if you end up hiking, bring some athletic shorts too. Denim can look great, but it’s also great at getting wet and staying wet, which can be a pain if you get caught in a rainstorm. Polyester and other synthetic materials are key, as cotton retains water and will chill you to the bone pretty quickly on a windy summit.

Embrace the athleisure aesthetic and you’ll be much more comfortable

Don’t forget the hair ties and bandanas

After a week with minimal opportunities for hair washing, your hair might get a little greasy. Now is the time to master how to French braid, both on yourself and on other people. (Trust me, one of the easiest ways to make friends at hiking camp is to know how to French braid.) Bandanas are great multipurpose items, and they can double as headbands to keep stray hairs out of your face while also covering up your less-than-clean hair.

In the end though, no one will notice your crazy hair with views like this to admire

Travel safely

The idea of hiking and camping alone can be alluring, but it can also take a dangerous turn very quickly. There’s something to be said for the phrase “safety in numbers,” as increasing the number of people on your trip means that it’s more likely that someone will be able to help if there’s a problem.

Whether or not you hike and camp in a group or go by yourself, it’s always a good idea to let at least one person at home know where you plan on going. Also, be sure to have a backup plan, and don’t be afraid to turn around if the weather turns bad. Hiking above tree line can be especially dangerous since it’s so exposed, so it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Leave the phone behind and enjoy the moment

I love cell phones. My iPhone makes my life ten times easier, and I like the feeling of being connected to the world around me, with my family and friends only a few taps of the screen away. That being said, there are times and places for cell phones, and the middle of the woods isn’t one of them. Practically speaking, you aren’t super likely to get cell service, so it won’t be too much help to you anyways. Additionally, there aren’t a lot of places to charge your phone in a campsite.

The main use I’ve found for my phone on camping and hiking trips is for taking pictures, so I can’t say that it would be entirely useless to bring your phone along. However, just remember how special the area around you is, and take some time each day during your trip to breathe it in. Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter will all be there when you return from the woods, but the views and memories you make can last a lot longer.