Summer is here at last! What better way to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday than heading out into the great outdoors. Whether you are looking at “car camping” at one of Canada’s many Provincial and Federal parks, or braving the elements and seeing rare sights through backcountry camping, the science of ergonomics can be applied to help you experience camping in comfort and reduce risk of injury.

This two-part series will first cover efficient and safe planning and prepping for your campsite, followed by a second blog on choosing the right backpack and shoes.

Campsite site set up and chores

Don’t let the excitement of arriving at your destination let you forget safe practices when lifting and carrying heavy objects such as coolers, tent bag, firewood to your site.

  • Remember the basic lift principles: (read our Lift Safe Live Safe blog for more information)
    • Staggered stance
    • Get as close to the object as possible
    • Bend at the knees and hips and pull the object close to the body
    • Lift with the legs, tighten your abs, and maintain the natural “S” curve in your back rather than bending and lifting at the waist with straight legs.
  • Think the item is too heavy? Get help from a fellow camper.
  • Consider a cooler with wheels and a collapsible wagon for hauling gear from the vehicle to the campsite if there are foot paths.
  • Invest in a lightweight tent, camp chair, mini-camp stove and lightweight dishware – especially if you decide to go back country camping. (MSR GearBig Agnes, Mountain Equipment CoopREI Co-op)
  • Lighten the load by splitting the gear between campers rather than doubling up on items.

Warm up with some light movement before tackling any heavy work around the campsite or heading off to a long hike (Work Warm-up Exercises). After setting up camp, chopping wood, or coming back from your hike, gentle stretching will help ease discomfort (Work Relief Exercises).

Prepare your camp meals in comfort!

  • Work at a height that allows you to keep your back straight instead of slouching and crouching.
    • Sit at a picnic table or work on a camping table high enough that you are not slumped over. This can be hard on both the back and crouching on the ground to prep is hard on the knees. Make sure you maintain the “S” curve of your spine at your work surface. Forward bending (sitting with a slumped posture) can cause fatigue and possibly injury because the back is not supported.
  • Bring lightweight, sharp knives in protector sheaths and silicone cutting boards to make food prep easy and your load not as heavy.
  • Protect yourself from the sun while prepping or eating meals by stringing up a large tarp to create shade.

Here are some organizational and productivity tips so you can spend more time having fun and less time in awkward postures digging through your gear!

  • Have designated bins for food prep gear, dishes, cleaning supplies, etc.
  • Use clear bins to easily identify contents
  • Use large zip-lock storage bags for clothing to identify, sort and protect your clothes from moisture or accidental spills in your pack.
  • A mosquito head net will optimize productivity and use of both hands!

Watch for our next blog about two important pieces of camping gear that is often overlooked in terms of comfort and safety – The right backpack and shoes for the job!