Camping can be daunting. There’s a lot missing in the way of creature comforts, and sometimes it may not seem worth the trouble of loading up the car, packing up your food, tracking down those AA batteries for your headlamp, etc. Camping can seem even more unappealing especially if some of us have a bit more “gear” to carry around than others.
- A General Guide to Having Fun Camping While Fat
- How to Hike Safely
- Tips for Staying Cool
- Choosing the Right Tent
- The Right Gear for Sleeping
- Ditching the Tent for a Hammock
- The Right Gear for Sitting
A General Guide to Having Fun Camping While Fat
Camping is for everyone, though–and as the years have gone by, the gear has improved, making camping more attainable for all.
Being fat doesn’t mean that the beautiful outdoors are closed off–it just means having to adapt and be prepared. Which is similar to how you would have to prepare differently and pack differently if you knew that there would be snow, or if it was going to rain your entire camping trip.
The main items of preparation are as follows:
- Hiking: Ensuring you have the right gear, maintain the right form, and communicate
- Staying Cool: Beating the heat and staying safe
- Sleeping: Tips for a good night’s rest and pitfalls
- Sitting: Getting into and out of chairs is no joke–which chairs are the most practical and comfy?
How to Hike Safely
By far, the most common way people have injured themselves in any park is involved with hiking. In fact, over 20% of all non-fatal injuries for Search and Rescue Events involved broken bones or sprained ankles (source). Safe hiking requires some preparation.
If you want to see what the most dangerous aspects of camping are, I did a lot of research from data collected by the National Parks System. You can check out my article here.
When you’re a heavier person, hiking can become even more tricky because of the greater stress on joints such as knees and ankles.
Hiking Poles, Hiking Poles, Hiking Poles
I cannot stress enough how important it is to get some hiking (also called trekking) poles.
I get it. My brother used to use hiking poles and I used to think he was a sissy. That’s until I started getting older and started getting knee pain. I decided to let down my pride and get some hiking poles.
The difference is astonishing. Hiking poles bring a lot more stability to your step, and they take some of that pressure off of your knees and other joints. I find that my knees and ankles appreciate the extra support, especially when hiking through uneven terrain (basically all hiking).
In fact, on one backpacking trip, there was a girl on our trip that was experiencing debilitating knee pain while going downhill. She was lent some hiking poles, and only with the help of those poles was she able to make it down the steep incline.
I find that hiking poles also help with stamina. You are now using all 4 of your limbs instead of just the 2, which helps spread some of the muscle fatigue of hiking.
If you want to increase your hiking stamina and save your ankles and knees, get a pair of trekking poles.
Here is an example of some trekking poles on Amazon–these have a 315 lb limit per pole.
Shoes with Cushion
From the Institute for Preventative Foot Health, those who are overweight are at higher risk for foot and ankle pain.
They further recommend getting shoes with inserts or orthotics as recommended by a doctor or foot health professional. (source)
Hiking means a lot of walking and a lot of friction. Feet and ankles are extremely important to a fun camping trip.
Shoes with Support and Durability
As recommended in the previous section, seek out a foot health professional or a doctor for finding the right kind of support for your particular shoe.
This section also is assuming you are planning on hiking more than a few miles. If you’re going for a short distance that you have hiked before, then you don’t have to worry about getting new shoes. But if you are prepping for a long backpacking trip, you should definitely look at getting some hiking shoes that will protect your feet and ankles.
Hiking has specific requirements to think about.
When you’re hiking, any pebble that you step on will be forced into the sole of your shoe. If your soles are soft such as with regular tennis shoes, that pressure will go through to your foot.
Perhaps you may not feel the first 20 rocks you step on, but by the time you step on thousands of pebbles over your hike, your feet will definitely be aware of what they are stepping on.
Make sure and choose shoes that are tough on the bottom, such as hiking shoes, boots, or trail runners.
Hiking Boots vs Hiking Shoes
This is a debate that could go on for days. Some argue that having too much ankle support can be detrimental to your ankle healths and some argue the opposite. I can only say that if you’re planning on hiking long distances that finding good shoes that can support your arches and your ankles will make a much better time of your hiking trip.
Take your time experimenting with different shoes on shorter walks, and try and gauge what type of shoe works best for you.
Choosing a store that has an excellent return policy will help save you some money during your shoe experimenting process.
Chafing is awful. With some fat and some extra folds, the chafing can be much worse!
Everybody is different in this respect, different people seem to chafe in different locations, but you don’t want to be that person in any case! Because it’s awful! Trust me if you haven’t experienced this.
For this reason, I only go on long hikes after applying some kind of chafing control.
Gold Bond or Baby Powder
*whoosh* goes the Gold Bond!
Gold Bond is a powder that is applied by squeezing the container and letting out a fluff of powder that can be applied to your skin. (I’m sure a “fluff” is an actual unit of measurement)
I’ve used Gold Bond for many years before biking or hiking. It contains some zinc oxide and menthol which dries up some of the moisture and acts as a lubricant. Baby Powder contains similar ingredients and is applied similarly. Don’t inhale this stuff, though.
The one downside to using an anti-chafing powder is that powders can be a bit unwieldy to apply.
Diaper Rash Ointment for Hiking
Yes, I mean that stuff that’s used for babies bottoms–if you’re not experiencing luck with the Gold Bond, I recommend trying some of this stuff.
One of the more well-known brands is called “Desitin”.
Desitin’s magic also primarily comes from zinc oxide, except Desitin is in a liquid paste form.
I actually prefer Desitin (or other brands) because you can apply the paste directly to the area that needs it.
Find Your Limitations
When I say “find”, I don’t mean leap to your limitations. If you’re not currently physically active (this applies to both skinny and fat), then jumping into a hike that’s 20 miles long is likely going to push you in ways you aren’t ready for.
I’m not saying you can’t do it–people do it, but oftentimes our bodies don’t respond well. Jumping into physical activity can even be dangerous.
If you have a hike coming up–go on a 5k hike, and then a 10k. Create a habit of going on small hikes frequently as you work up to your trip’s hike. This isn’t just for safety–your body will get used to these stresses and will be more physically prepared for the bigger hike. In other words, your hike will be a lot more enjoyable. Try not to make your hike in the wilderness the first time you’ve hiked that distance.
Hike for Fun, Not for Speed
It’s easy to get wrapped up in the metrics, but ultimately there’s no point of walking outside if you don’t enjoy the nature you’re walking past.
You might need to take more breaks, and you might need to walk slower than others–be kind to yourself and try to focus on finding a pace that works for you.
Communication and the Long Hike
One of the rewarding parts of hiking is the camaraderie with your friends. Working and sweating together to reach the same goal is fun. But the fun of this can easily be hampered by a few common pitfalls.
Lead the Pack
I don’t know what it is, but I think ingrained into our beings as humans is the need to be first.
As I’ve hiked, especially with younger kids, the desire to be first is so strong that kids will push each other to hike faster than they normally would just so they can be in 1st place.
Don’t let this happen to your group.
Being last, especially by a wide margin is demoralizing. I seem to take this place, often–I’m just not a fast hiker… nor a fast runner, nor a fast swimmer.
Gather in all hikers before starting and communicate your needs. Experienced hikers know that it’s important to put the slowest hiker in front to set the pace. This has many important benefits:
- The group is kept together, this makes the trip more fun and adds to the camaraderie
- This prevents one of my biggest pet peeves: When the faster people in the group feel they need to wait up for the slower people, they will do so, and they also will get a nice rest in. Then, when the slower people arrive, they turn around and keep walking, thus preventing the slower people from taking a break! If the slowest people are in front, everyone gets a break.
- When we’re hiking, we can regress emotionally. Hiking is physically challenging so our patience can be thinner than we’d like it to be. Distance adds resentment, both from the people in front and from the people in the back.
Sometimes this is hard for others to understand, but you are working your muscles and bones harder than everyone else, and it can be downright challenging. If you say to the rest of the group up front that you may need some more time and rests, then that will help set expectations for everyone.
This can be a tricky conversation… and you may have to choose the friends you want to go hiking with carefully–you don’t want to be tolerated, you want to be enjoyed!
Tips for Staying Cool
Being fat means having some extra insulation. This works great in your favor on those colder nights while super skinny beanpoles shiver, you may be sleeping comfortably.
But what about those hot days?
If there’s no AC to turn to, there are only a few things, basically, that you can do on a hot day to cool down:
- Evaporative Cooling
Shade is massively important–if you are going car camping, then make sure you have good shade. In fact, in some parts of the world and times of the year, shade can lower the temperature you feel by well over 14 degrees Fahrenheit!
14 degrees may not sound like a lot, but the difference between 90 degrees and 76 degrees Fahrenheit is tremendous.
One extremely powerful way to cool down is already built-in to our bodies: sweat. Sweat, unfortunately, can be impeded by clothing and humidity. Adding your own breeze may become necessary through a hand fan or a battery-powered fan. (No, it’s not cheating to have a fan, it’s called being smart.)
I did a lot of research on ways to cool down without requiring an electrical outlet if you’d like some more ideas. I even found out that some parts of the body can make your entire body feel cooler! Check it out for more details.
Choosing the Right Tent
Maybe Goldilocks would have been satisfied with the baby bear bed. But you probably won’t feel the same way!
This gets into your own personal preferences, but I want to mention some things to think about when choosing a tent.
1-person through 4-person tents will often not be tall enough to allow you to stand up inside the tent. A 1-person tent will require you to crawl into the tent, while a 2-person tent may allow you to stand up halfway.
A 4-person will still not allow you to stand. For example, one of the most popular tents, the Coleman 4-person tent, stands at 4 foot 11 inches.
It’s not until you get into 6-person to 8-person tents where you can stand up without having to stoop.
Stooping in your tent makes it difficult to change and maneuver around.
Small tents are not a showstopper, but something to be aware of.
Tent Floor Size
Our family has a 2-person Kelty tent which has been a wonderful tent for us for several years. One drawback is that the tent floor size is small. It can barely fit the two of us along with some of our bags (like clothes we want to change into)
As a heavier person, you might want a bigger sleeping pad situation. With this in mind, many opt to go for an air mattress, which may or may not fit in a smaller tent. Try to give yourself a couple of feet as a buffer from the size of your sleeping pad or mattress to the tent wall.
Tent Examples of Convenient Size
Check out our tent prices guide to see examples of bigger 6-8 person tents for car camping. You can find bigger tents for backpacking, but you will likely have to spread out the tent parts among the crew since bigger tents are heavier.
The Right Gear for Sleeping
Sleeping comfortably can feel impossible for heavier people while camping–after all, you aren’t going to bring your mattress from home.
There really is nothing like sleeping in your own bed, especially after camping. However, there are some things that you can do to make sleeping more comfortable.
Camp Bed for a Heavy Person
Camping beds, also called cots, bring a strong advantage to the camping sleeping situation: They make getting into and out of bed much easier. Additionally, camping cots level the ground, so if you are sleeping on top of rocks that you can’t do anything about, a cot will make a much more comfortable sleeping surface.
Furthermore, you can put a sleeping pad or small air mattress on top of the cot to make it even more comfortable.
If you would like to see examples of camping cots, as well as tips on how to use one without damaging your tent floor, check out our article here.
Sleeping Pads for a Heavy Person
There are sleeping pads, and then there are sleeping pads.
Choosing between using a sleeping pad or an air mattress is a matter of preference and how much you want to deal with inflating or deflating a mattress.
Whatever you decide, I’ll tell you, the cheap blue foam sleeping pads will not bring you enough padding to make you feel comfortable while you’re sleeping.
I looked around at sleeping pads that can support heavier weights and I found the Therma-a-Rest MondoKing 3D Self-Inflating Foam Camping Mattress (see on Amazon). This is definitely a car-camping mattress–several reviewers say they put 300 lbs+ on the pad and slept really well.
Outside of using a sleeping pad, another option is to use an air mattress.
If you’ve ever wondered if it’s a good idea to use an air mattress for camping, I talk about all of the pros and cons in another article here. Sometimes people complain about how air mattresses can get cold, and our article has many ideas on how to counter that. Suffice it to say that many, many people use air mattresses such as you’d find in a guest bedroom while camping.
A strong advantage of air mattresses (especially of queen-size mattresses) is that they are very tall. This makes getting in and out of bed a lot easier, which can be a big deal! Furthermore, air mattresses are just much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.
If you’re concerned about how to inflate your air mattress while camping, I wrote an entire article with how to do just that.
Sleeping Bags… or Not!
Sleeping bags are good at keeping you warm, but they aren’t necessarily the most comfortable thing in the world to get into, especially as a heavier person. Mummy bags are the worst in this regard as you barely have room to adjust the sleeping bag once you are in it, and they can feel claustrophobic.
For that reason, remember that mummy bags are only really necessary for colder temperatures. If you are camping in 40 degrees + weather, then you can use other types of sleeping bags.
Try to find sleeping bags with a rectangular cut instead of a mummy cut.
Teton Sports makes a huge sleeping queen-sized (see on Amazon) sleeping bag if you like having the extra room.
In honesty, though, you would be best served to go to a sporting goods store and try the sleeping bags before you go and buy one. Finding the right fit for you could be the difference between a really hard night and a comfortable one.
You don’t actually need a sleeping bag if you’re camping. If you’re car camping and the weather is going to be around 60 degrees at night, then a couple of blankets will do just fine. If it gets colder than that, you can use what’s called a camping quilt.
A camping quilt, also called a topquilt, is essentially the same material as a sleeping bag, but instead of enclosing you like a sleeping bag (which makes a sleeping bag heavier and also harder to get in and out of, the quilt is flat like a blanket and it can be wrapped around you. Camping quilts often have a footbox which is a small enclosure for just your feet.
Right now the big question on everyone’s mind is if a topquilt can be as warm as a sleeping bag. It’s likely they are only a little bit colder, but remember, most of the insulation is going to be achieved through your sleeping pad–you may not feel the difference in warmth with a topquilt and a sleeping pad.
Rather than trying to get into a sleeping bag, a camping quilt can be a much easier and more comfortable option.
Go Outfitters (see on Amazon) makes a camping quilt rated down to 20 F which should be sufficient for 40 degrees F weather.
CPAP Machines While Camping
If you suffer from sleep apnea and your doctor has told you to use a CPAP machine, it may seem impossible to go camping because you need electricity to run your CPAP.
Have no fear, there are many ways to get enough electricity to run your CPAP machine. I wrote about how to play Xbox while camping (which requires more power than a CPAP machine) if you want to see the list of all the ideas to get power.
One of the most convenient methods is to use a power bank. Oftentimes these are called “solar generators”, which is a misnomer since they are essentially big batteries that can be recharged with solar energy panels (sold separately).
Aeiusny makes a beefy power bank (see on Amazon) I found during my research that advertises that it can power a CPAP machine for 3 nights. If you are able to charge the power bank during the day with a solar panel or with a vehicle, this number can be even higher.
Ditching the Tent for a Hammock
I love hammocks… I say it all the time in this blog it feels like. They really are so comfortable and relaxing to hang in. They require a bit of know-how to set up, which I think is the reason why people tend to avoid sleeping in them.
However, hammocks have the advantage of not being on the ground, which can relieve pressure on your body.
If you are getting a hammock, make sure and get a double hammock– a double hammock is simply a hammock that is much wider than a regular hammock.
ENO is one of the most well-known hammock manufacturers. They make a “doublenest” hammock that supports 400 lbs. (see on Amazon)
OlarHike is a less well-known brand that makes a double hammock (see on Amazon) that supports up to 500 lbs. This kit includes tree straps.
The Right Gear for Sitting
Something to think about is that unlike couches at home, camp chairs can be very low to the ground, making them extremely difficult for a heavier person to get in and out of them.
The goal is to find a camping chair that you can enter and exit with grace.
The Coleman Big-N-Tall Quad Camping Chair (see on Amazon) is rated up to 600 lbs, and is made more durable so it can last longer. The chair is also wider so you don’t feel constricted.
The Ever Advanced Oversized Padded camping chair (see on Amazon) is rated to 300 lbs and provides a large profile with a high back for more support. These chairs also don’t sink you in making them impossible to get out–getting in and out of them is less inconvenient.
The KingCamp Heavy Duty Camping Chair (see on Amazon) supports up to 350 lbs and has sturdy arms for getting in and out. Tall people in the reviews comment that it is more ideal for them then smaller camp chairs.