Tips for Camping With Fibromyalgia & CFS

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Camping and fibromyalgia

Do you like camping but have a hard time doing it since fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) became a part of your life? You might not be able to camp quite the way you used to especially if you were really into roughing it. However, if you give it some thought and plan carefully, you might not have to give up camping completely.

When I got diagnosed with fibromyalgia, I thought my camping days were over. Sleep on the ground? You’ve got to be kidding me. Set up a tent, carry gear, and ride in a car for hours to get somewhere? Impossible, I think it probably was pretty impossible when I was first diagnosed. I had trouble going shopping in one store, and I was pretty much limited to half hour car trips. I also stopped exercising because I was afraid of pain, which made it even harder to get around.

At the moment, I’m definitely not “cured.” I still have aches and pains, and when I have a flare-up it is, well, agonizing. I really want to make camping work, though. I enjoy it, and it’s a cheap way for someone living on disability income to go on vacation.

Sleeping in a tent gave me some serious chills

I was a bit concerned with sleeping in a tent and possibly on the ground with my fibromyalgia.  I have an active trigger point in my right hip and when I roll over in my sleep, I am woken by a stabbing pain. Sometimes, my muscles freeze in the half rolled over position where the pain stopped me.  I have to do relaxation techniques, in the middle of the night to coax my muscles to release the tension and allow me to get comfortable again and sleep.  I also know how much work camping can be.  The set up when you get there, the constant prep, cook, fire tending and clean up for each meal.  The only time to sit still, from what I remember, was at night when everyone is sitting around the fire.

Major drops in stamina

You may be asking yourself, where would I lie down if my body gave out in the middle of the day? What would I do if everyone else went off for some activity and I couldn’t participate? Would I be able to enjoy it at all? Many of us have seen major drops in stamina since we became chronically ill, so even short hikes may simply be beyond us. You may be concerned that you’ll be wiped out before the car is even out of the driveway. The alternative, either you give it up while everyone else goes, or the people in your life also give it up so not left out. Neither alternative is exactly what you want, though, is it? That means it’s time to look for solutions.

Your patience will be tested

You learn a lot about yourself when you camp. Your patience will be tested when pitching a tent or building a fire; you’ll see food from a whole new perspective; and you’ll understand that sleeping on the ground with little else than a nylon sheet protecting you actually feels pretty awesome.

Make sure your stay with Mother Nature is memorable with these practical health and safety pointers:

Make a stove from a beer can.

With a knife, some denatured alcohol and a little bit of courage, you can transform a 12 oz can into a great DIY camp stove that’ll boil water in 5-6 minutes. We did it, and it’s remarkably simple.

Wear sturdy shoes.

Your feet, ankles and back will thank you. Camping is not the time to put fashion first. Make sure you wear shoes that allow you to be sure-footed. Sandals are generally not a great choice since you’re not always sure what’s under your feet at night and you need a suitable barrier between your feet and the ground. A covered toe is preferable, as well as a shoe that can withstand water.

A comfortable place to sleep: 

If you’re stuck with the tent, you may want to look for a cot, sleeping pad, or inflatable option that works well for you. Be sure to test it at home to be sure it’ll take good care of you rather than finding out your first night in the woods that it’s just not going to work. Also consider whether your car is a possible solution—the back seat may be more comfortable than anything else you can find. A bonus about the back of an SUV: It’ll stay warmer and drier than a tent.

If you have prescription glasses, but wear contacts, bring the glasses.

You’ll want them if anything irritates your eyes.

Repel ticks with water and tea tree oil.

Lyme disease is on the rise. I’ve been caught by ticks firsthand and know how unnerving it can be. Mix up about 40 drops of tea tree oil with around 12-16 oz of water and spray it on. Even if you don’t encounter any ticks, you’ll smell uncharacteristically good.

Simple foods to cook: 

I take things like chili, soup, and packaged sandwiches so cooking isn’t strenuous. Leave the complicated things to someone else, or just don’t have them at all.

Freeze a gallon of water to keep food fresh.

You’d think this would take up valuable cooler real estate. BUT the jug-shaped block of ice will last much longer than cubes, and after it melts, you’ve got a gallon of ice water at your disposal.

Be aware of your surroundings

Look up, look down. Branches, tree roots, old campfires, water – these aren’t things you usually look for in your living room.

Create coffee packets.

Coffee and camping go together like pot and planetarium laser shows. Tie some grounds up in a filter, secure it with dental floss (or string), and throw it in a mug full of piping hot water you just boiled in that empty beer can.

The entire medicine cabinet:

The one thing you leave at home is likely to be the one thing you need, so everything needs to go along for the ride. Make sure you get prescription refills so you not only have enough for the trip, but for your recovery time after returning home.


Credit: Verywell Health

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