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What you need to know about high-altitude camping

  • Dec 29, 2014

Whether it's the Colorado Rockies, the Himalayas or the Alps, some of the best places to explore on every continent are at high altitudes. While these locations can provide plenty of challenging and rewarding exploration experiences, high altitude also means more difficulties with breathing, cooking and even hiking. So, if you're about to head out for a camping excursion some place where the altitude is higher than you've ever been, follow these tips to stay safe and thrive. 

Avoid illness 
The first thing you need to know when camping at high altitude is just how high you are. You can use maps, GPS or even a watch altimeter that will help you know your exact level. The Mayo Clinic defines three levels of high altitude: High Altitude between 4,921 and 11,483 feet; Very High Altitude from 11,483 to 18,045 feet ; and Extreme Altitude above 18,045 feet. 

Knowing your altitude range will help you know what you're risking. Acute Mountain Sickness, High-Altitude Pulmonary Edema, and High-Altitude Cerebral Edema are among the most serious High-Altitude Illnesses. Minor symptoms, which are most common, include difficulty sleeping, dizziness, slight fatigue, digestive issues and headaches. If you or someone in your group experiences severe fatigue, difficulty walking, trouble breathing when resting, constant coughing or mental state change, it may one of the more serious issues, the Mayo Clinic explained.

The health organization recommended people who are about to go on high-altitude excursions educate themselves, get proper medication, stay hydrated, rest beforehand, ascend slowly, keep fit and visit a doctor prior to the trip for a check up. 

Be prepared for the elements 
It's not just the barometric pressure and oxygen levels that make camping and hiking at high altitudes more difficult, as the weather presents a number of difficulties as well. Weather can be unpredictable and severe. Use reports and research as best you can, but prepare for snow at high altitudes year-round. This includes proper temperature regulations for sleeping bags as well as tents and clothing. 

Be prepared for sun and wind to be much more intense and unfiltered than normal as you ascend. Wear proper eye and skin protection based on the environment. But it's not just you who needs to be prepared for the wind: your tend does as well. Frequently, you won't be able to drive stakes in to anchor your tent, and you may need to use rocks, unusual guy lines or even snow-mounting methods to secure your tent in the high winds. 

Adjust your cooking 
Depending on how high you're camping, cooking may take a bit longer or it may require all new equipment. In fact, the higher you go, the lower the boiling point for water becomes. As the U.S. Department of Agriculture explained, the boiling point of water drops from 212 degrees Fahrenheit to 208 degrees as low as 2,000 feet above sea level. Although the water boils at a lower point, the USDA advised that people extend their cook time to make up for the difference. For example, a egg will require less time to cook in 212-degree water and more time 188-degree water. 

Also, at very high levels, matches may not light because of the lack of oxygen. At these heights, wood is also hard to come by and difficult to burn. Consider investing in a specialty high-altitude gas grill to do your cooking. 

High-altitude camping and hiking can be fun, but it's very different than exploring at sea level and presents real danger. Make sure you take the proper precautions. 

If you plan on going high altitude camping make sure you pick up an altimeter before you head out. The PRG270-1 is a perfect choice for the trip. Among it's many useful features, there is an altimeter. Knowing how high you really are is important when it comes to your health. Grab one today and enjoy your trip safely!

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