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Going Camping With Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

The Camping Checklist

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Updated October 01, 2013

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.

My Camping Experience

My husband loves to camp. He grew up doing it. I did not, so it was a new thing for me back in the late '90s. I was getting the hang of setting up tents and cooking in the woods, and then FMS became a major factor in our lives.

When he hesitantly brought up camping again, I didn't think it was going to be possible. No way could I sleep in a tent - even stooping to get inside would be too much for me. Where would I lay down if my body gave out in the middle of the day? What would I do? Would I be able to enjoy it at all?

On top of that, my allergies had become far worse and I had extreme temperature sensitivities. I'd always been allergic to mosquitoes, but the smell of chemical repellents had started causing headaches and dizziness. They also make my skin itch like crazy.

My stamina was shot. I knew I wouldn't be able to do all the things everyone else would want to do.

However, I didn't want my husband and kids to have to give up something they loved. I also didn't want to miss out on the fun (even if I was just sitting on the sidelines and watching.) We started looking for solutions.

First, we found an inexpensive tent trailer and fixed it up. That gave me a comfortable bed in a dry place where I could actually stand up. After a couple of trips into the wilderness, I'd come up with a pretty good list of what I needed.

Camping Checklist

We all have a different set of symptoms, so you'll need to consider what elements of this list are necessary for you and what other issues you may need to find solutions for.

Here's my list:

  • A comfortable place to sleep. For me it was a bed in a trailer, but you may be able to find a cot or a sleeping pad that work for you. Also consider whether your car is a possible solution.
  • Good bedding. A scratchy, cold-feeling sleeping bag, or one that wrinkles up underneath me, would keep me up all night. I use a soft, cozy one that also has an "escape hatch" for my feet, so they don't get overheated. And forget those little camping pillows - I take the good one that I use every night. If you can't find a sleeping bag you like, soft blankets may be a workable alternative.
  • Multiple changes of clothing that can be layered. Then you can adjust how you're dressed both for changing weather and (if you're temperature sensitive) for your own broken internal thermostat.
  • Non-typical mosquito repellent. Spraying chemicals all over my body does bad things to me. Fortunately, some alternatives are available. I've used a new repellent clip-on that's easier to tolerate and was very happy with it. I've also had success with a friend's homemade, all-natural spray.
  • Allergy medications & topical creams. I make sure to have Benadryl (diphenhydramine) on hand in case my allergies get out of control. (It's also good for insomnia.) Benadryl itch cream is good for mosquito bites and scratches from plants that make me itch - which I think is most of them. Also, I make sure to have TWO asthma inhalers in case one runs out.
  • Non-smelly muscle creams. Topical pain creams that have strong odors can attract bears and other wild animals (a real concern where we go). I leave the smelly ones at home and take Aspercreme because of its mild, non-food-based odor.
  • Ice packs. Because some of my pains only respond to ice, we put several ice packs in our coolers. They help keep the food cold, and I can use them as needed.
  • Self-heating pain relief patches. If you use a heating pad, these patches may work when you're away from electricity. They can also help you warm up if you get chilled. (You may want to test them before you go to make sure you're not allergic or sensitive to the adhesive.)
  • Plenty of hot drink options. I always take tea for the mornings, but I make sure to have some decaf options to warm me up at night, as well as hot chocolate and apple cider.
  • The entire medicine cabinet. The one thing I leave at home will be the one thing I need, so everything goes with me.
  • Simple foods to cook. I take things like chili, soup, and packaged sandwiches so cooking isn't strenuous. I leave the complicated things to someone else.
  • Reading material & games. Because you've got to have something to occupy your time if you can't participate in what everyone else is doing.

When it comes to how active you are while camping, it all comes back to the ever-important pacing. You may also want to see:

  1. About.com
  2. Health
  3. Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue
  4. Coping & Support
  5. Having Fun
  6. Camping Checklist for Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

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