We've all done it! Made mistakes, forgotten things, and maybe even made bad decisions. We hopefully learn from all these things. I know I have. In fact, I think the best lessons learned, are through our mistakes. The problem is, we are often a little embarrassed by some of the mistakes we make......I KNOW I am!!!
I wanted to talk about this, because I think sharing our bloopers helps us all learn and reminds everyone, that we are all human and even very experienced campers can do some pretty stupid stuff......I have a personal list lol.
Here is just one of the dumb-a@# things I have done in my short time since beginning camping in 2012.
My very first solo backcountry canoe trip brought with it a lot of learning opportunities, but this situation is probably the best lesson I have learned. As you can imagine, I was VERY freak out, being on my own for the very first time in the backcountry. I had little experience car camping, so this adventure was a huge challenge. I had planned and prepared, I had the right gear, but I didn't have experience. I made sure to bring two pieces of protection that I still carry, a hunting knife and bear spray. I was terrified every time I went back to the woods to get my food bag from the tree where I had hung it using some cheap rope ( lesson learned, I have GREAT rope now ). I would walk back, knife in one hand and bear spray in the other, both ready for action because I was sure there would be a bear standing under my bag, licking it's lips while longingly eyeing my bag which hung just out of it's reach. To clarify, to this day, I have NEVER heard or seen a bear anywhere near my bear bag hang! But on that day I pulled down my bag, my knife unsheathed in the right hand and my bear spray, with safety unlocked, in my left hand. As I dropped the bag to ground, I deployed my bear spray, which shot like a canyon into the ground!!!!! A yellow plume of dust rose from the ground and I can tell you, this girl jumped 6 ft back in a nano second, turned on her heal, and beat it back to camp! All I could think was, "I am sooooooooo glad that the can was pointing away from me", or this could have become a medical emergency. I decided I would wait a half hour for the dust to settle before returning for my bag. When I did go back, all was well, but I was still shaken from the near miss. To this day, my safety stays on my bear spray and It stays on my belt AND I keep my knife in it's sheath. Another lesson learned from this, and I want everyone to know, is that once you discharge a bear spray, the cloud of spray will settle on anything around it. Pepper spray in it's gaseous state, is an effective deterrent if the bear inhales it, which means it must be used when it is not too windy ( you don't want it blowing back at YOU ). The spray must be shot into the face or airway of the bear so the bear must walk into the cloud. But once deployed the pepper spray will settle on your tent, the ground, clothing etc. Once it settles it is effectively "pepper". Bears like pepper! It is now an attractant. Dispose of your bear spray once you get home and purchase a new one because the can may not have enough contents left to use in a future bear encounter. In my case, the ground under my bear bag was now FULL of pepper and the following day when I went back to the woods to make a final visit to the little girls room before heading home, I turned around to head back to camp where all my belongings sat with the canoe ready to launch, I heard the very distinctive sound of a bear..........huff, huff, huff!
OK!...... I lied!..... I have HEARD a bear around my bear bag but that was the only time and I know why and I have never made that same error in judgment since. I never saw the bear and I got out of Dodge............fast!
For more information about bear spray, check out this article at
If you, or anyone else, are ever unfortunate enough to come into contact with pepper spray, here is some advise for backcountry first aid to cleanse the oleoresin capsicum ( that's the hot stuff! ) off your skin and eyes. This active ingredient irritates the eyes, nose and lungs, causing severe but temporary blindness and breathing restriction.
remove the affected individual from the area as soon as possible and ensure ventilation
do NOT rub skin or eyes just gently pat area to remove excess spray
do NOT apply lotions or creams to effected area but rinse skin with cool water followed by mild soap ( non oil based if possible ) and rinsed again with water
to flush eyes, remove contact lenses, if necessary, and place face or head under water and open eyes every few seconds
if effects of the spray do not subside in 30-45 minutes, or breathing is restricted, seek medical attention