Camping While Fat
February 2, 2012 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I need tips for hiking and camping from fat-identified and otherwise overweight folks only! FYI I am 5'6. Thanks!
posted by MidSouthern Mouth to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
An air mattress is critical. Preferably of the auto-inflating variety.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 12:43 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Hiking poles are your friends -- they really make a difference.

Make sure you have sturdy shoes at least; boots are preferable.

If you decide to backpack (and I have done so as an obese person -- I just go more slowly), make sure that your hip belt fits on your hips! You want most of the weight on your back to be carried by your legs, not by your shoulders.

Go at your own pace, and enjoy the scenery. :)
posted by elmay at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2012

Those of us with more chub tend to be more prone to chaffing/rubbing. A pat of baby powder (or one of those more manly anti-fungal powders) really helps. I rub deodorant on places that I know are going to chafe/rub.
posted by radioamy at 12:47 PM on February 2, 2012

If you're buying a sleeping bag, go to an actual camping store (vs. a general sporting goods store) and you'll be able to actually try each bag to make sure you fit and it's comfortable. Unless you're going to be doing hardcore backpacking where you have to be carrying your gear for days at a time, you should consider a bigger (i.e. heavier) sleeping bag. Your comfort is worth it.
posted by BlahLaLa at 12:48 PM on February 2, 2012

This seems like a no-brainer, but don't skimp on the shoes. Consider going to an outdoors sports store or other specialty shop and telling them the kind of terrain and distances you're intending to handle. Take the time to break in the shoes as well. You'd be amazed at how much even a small blister on your foot can hurt.
posted by tommasz at 12:51 PM on February 2, 2012

I agree with BlahLaLa about making sure the sleeping bag fits you.

By the way, Mountain Hardwear makes "Women's Mummy Bags" which have a zipper that lets you expand the bag by 8". So, you can make it into essentially a larger bag. This is an example. I have one of their bags and it is nice.
posted by elmay at 12:54 PM on February 2, 2012

Super important for anyone hiking. Break in your boots if they're new! Put some miles on them are you could find yourself with some very unhappy feet on hikes.
posted by straight_razor at 1:01 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Get your knees and ankles in shape by using the Stairmaster.

Wear hiking boots with ankle support.
posted by KokuRyu at 1:05 PM on February 2, 2012

If you're hiking with other people, remind them of this rule: never go faster than your slowest person. I'm overweight and have asthma and nothing ruins a hike more than huffing and puffing to keep up with others who are in better shape than I am. It's much more enjoyable for everyone if you can go slowly and soak in the scenery than rush through the hike anyway IMHO.
posted by patheral at 1:05 PM on February 2, 2012 [5 favorites]

Before you go on a serious hike out in the wilderness try to go on a shorter, more modest walk with the same people you will be joining later. Use this to help sort out issues such as how far you are going to be travelling in a day, how fast you are going to be doing that travelling, how rest periods are going to be handled, how much stuff you are going to be carrying with you, whether you equipment works and so on. On matter such as distance it might help to agree not only on a "standard" amount of ground to cover but also a "stretch" and a "cut short" variant. That way you can all adjust your route according to how people are feeling.
posted by rongorongo at 1:09 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Consider a sleeping quilt instead of a traditional bag. Totally fine for most 3 season US locations and they come in widths.

Spend money on lightweight gear, good advice for anyone but particularly those who are not especially fit (yet!). It makes all the difference.

Try Gregory packs. They're not lightweight but they accommodate butts/ hips the best of anything I've ever tried.
posted by fshgrl at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]


There is this useful previous question with suggestions about how to reduce chafing when hiking - common suggestions include Bodyglide, Two Toms Sport Shield Liquid, vaseline, and powder (baby powder or Gold Bond Medicated Powder). Some also suggest bike shorts or similar. Maybe do some experiments before your trip to see which method works for you?
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:19 PM on February 2, 2012

Reiterating the chafing issue. When I was obese, that was always the worst. Running tights/capris (with shorts over them if that's your thing) are a great solution.
posted by atomicstone at 1:20 PM on February 2, 2012

When you say "hiking and camping", are we talking car camping with some hikes, or do you mean backpacking (carrying 100% of your gear into and out of the wild, hiking 4 to 20 miles a day)?

Car Camping
Get a roomy tent! You don't need to worry about the weight or small it packs, so go to your local camping store and set up as many as you like. Get the one you like best. Maybe you can fit in a 2-person tent, but why not make things a little more comfy and get a 3-person? If there's going to be you and another person, go for a 4-6 person tent. Let me know if you want specific recommendations.

I don't know how wide you are, but Big Agnes and Kelty both make 2-person sleeping bags (others do as well, but those are the only two that I've personally played with). I'd try other generously-sized bags first, however, because both of those are pretty huge. Like, at that point, you might just consider going with a down quilt or something (which is a great lightweight option). But go to your store and get in a few bags and see what you like. Some people feel claustrophobic in mummy-style bags and opt for the rectangular ones. Just try it in the store and see what you like.

If you're carrying a HUGE sleeping bag, you can reduce the weight and size of your pack by going ultralight on other things, like your shelter and cooking system. I'm a big fan of the Cat Can Stove coupled with a small titanium pot. If that's a little too "primitive" for you, the lighter Jetboil options are pretty nice (everything nests together). Using a tarp rather than a tent saves tons of weight and space. If there are bugs, just get a mosquito net (which adds about 4-10 ounces).

As for backpacks, yes, Gregory makes excellent packs. I've had my Gregory for 10 years, and other than being dirty, it's still 100% as good as the day I got it.

Sleeping pads are essential, not just for padding but also for insulation (they keep your heat from going straight into the ground). I love my NeoAir (14 ounces, 2.5" thick). That model can be a tad bit prone to puncture, however, they make a Trekker version that is of the same design, but with tougher fabric (25 ounces, 2.5" thick). Both of these fold up to be reasonably small (the NeoAir folds up to be about the size of a 1L Nalgene bottle, the Trekker is just a tad bigger). Most stores will have a selection for you to try. Go with what is most comfortable. If more than one seems to work for you, get the one that's lighter and folds up smaller.

Is there something specific that you're worried about? Knowing that would help us address your issues a little more. Car camping is a lot easier (and cheaper) than backpacking, since if the shit hits the fan (or if the bugs just get to be too much, or if you burn your food, or if your tent leaks, or your sleeping bag is too cold, or whatever) you can just pack up and drive home. I'd definitely recommend car camping once or twice before hiking off. If nothing else, set up in your backyard one night and just make sure everything works for you.

I don't identify as obese, but I do work at R.E.I. Best. Job. Ever.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 1:30 PM on February 2, 2012 [3 favorites]

never go faster than your slowest person
You can help enforce this rule by staying at or near the front of the group. My wife and I walk at very different paces. since I walk faster, the natural tendency is for me to pull ahead and for my wife to struggle to keep up. I slow down to let her catch up, but then she slows down to match my new, slower pace, and we never get anywhere. Or I get there waaaay ahead of her, then have to wait (impatiently).

What works much better is for her to walk next to, or slightly ahead of, me--maybe a couple of inches. She then sets the pace, I amble along contentedly next to her, and everyone is happier.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:50 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

OH, and....REI. You can buy something, use it multiple times, decide you don't like it, and return it for a full refund. We were nervous about spending a bunch of money on a nice, fancy tent, so we tried and returned a few from REI before settling. Never an ounce of hassle.
posted by MrMoonPie at 1:53 PM on February 2, 2012

Could you say more about what you're worried about?

Do you want tips on sleeping bags, tents, and hiking clothing that are comfortable for larger folks? Folding chairs and other gear with higher weight-bearing capacity? Also, giving us your height but not your weight doesn't really give us any useful information about whether the standard sizes of gear and clothing would fit you comfortably.

If you are prone to chafing (as many people of all sizes and shapes may be, but probably a higher percentage of fat folks), Body Glide is really the awesome.

If you are a lady looking for plus-size outdoors clothing, I recommend If you are a man looking for larger-sized outdoors clothing, I recommend
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:54 PM on February 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

I have found that when you are overweight, sometimes it is harder to hike downhill than uphill due to the knee strain. People who hike a lot may tend to slow when they go uphill, but will keep their pace going downhill, which can be a killer on the knees.
posted by markblasco at 2:07 PM on February 2, 2012

The biggest problem I found with hiking when obese compared to now (barely overweight) is the fact that the soles of my feet would get incredibly sore! On average walking puts 1.5x weight pressure onto the feet so that's 1.5x whatever extra weight you have hanging around!

Make sure that whatever you are doing, you have a good amount of recovery time in the evening to rest your feet. Try to take a lightweight pair of shoes with you for evenings rather than just walking boots. Soaking your feet with some tea tree oil (or just salty water) is a great way to relieve foot ache!
posted by Wysawyg at 2:52 PM on February 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't be a hero - it's embarrassing but necessary to admit that you need to stop and catch your breath.
posted by Occula at 3:14 PM on February 2, 2012

I'm not that overweight, but I am a very short pretty darn fit person who often hikes with very, very fit tall people. This brings me to this insight: it is really important that you communicate with people before you want to strangle them for tormenting you if you want to be motivated to keep hiking.

I finally realized that one thing that made me really want to kill people* was when I fell behind a little bit going up steep hills, and then they'd wait for me, and then as soon as I caught up they'd take right off, and they had rested for a minute and they were even faster smug hares and here I was just a huffy tortoise still and AAAARGH. Now I just lead up steep stuff, and everyone is happier.

MrMoonPie speaks to this issue as well, and correctly. Ask to lead if you are the slower person, tell the fast people when they are frustrating you, take breaks before you are get cranky and exhausted and underfed.

*and by people I mean my boyfriend
posted by charmedimsure at 4:55 PM on February 2, 2012

I forgot to mention that if you can't find a sleeping bag that fits you, Feathered Friends will custom make one for you. They're not cheap, but they're pretty much the best damn sleeping bag in the world (along with Western Mountaineering).
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 6:21 PM on February 2, 2012

I can stand on my lightweight air mattress and not touch the ground below. I can also lay on it sideways and neither my hip nor my shoulders will touch the ground. I can let air out so it gets a little squishy (and more comfy) and still not touch. I weight 290 lbs. It weighs 26 ounces.

NeoAir by Therm-a-rest.

It isn't cheap, but it's lightweight, sturdy, and amazing.
posted by MansRiot at 7:57 PM on February 2, 2012

Best answer: A couple of years back I hiked out to Double Arch Alcove in Zions Kolob Canyon. At that time I weighed in at 400 lbs. I had prepared for this trip by exercising daily for over six months. I'd even walked a 10k with no problems. But I wasn't ready for a long hike. About half way in my energy ran out and I was ready to quite, but I didn't. So 3/4 of the hike was a miserable, tiring experience.

Start small. Take whatever distance you can comfortable walk now (at one time) and half it. Plan on that being the farthest you can comfortable hike in a day. Don't let over ambition (or others enthusiasm). Camping is fun, and so is hiking. But don't push yourself so far that it stops being enjoyable.

Where to sit down? I sit for over 90% of my regular day. That's not possible when camping. With the increased standing time, sitting comfortably becomes very important. One of the best parts of camping is sitting around the campfire. But, I've only found a few camp chairs that could support me. And even those are next to impossible to get out of (because of their low slung and reclining design). Logs and stumps can be very uncomfortable for long periods of time. And often sitting on the ground is often worse than standing. (This is even more of a problem on longer hikes).

Facilities. Campsites with bathrooms (with running water) or kybos are easy. But some have Porta-Johns, which can be an unpleasant hassle. The more primitive campsites will have nothing at all. Plan ahead, roughing it for a night is easier for men. But by the second day everyone's going to have to deal with this.

Friends. Only camp and hike with friends who are happy to accommodate you. Have an honest conversation with them about what you can and can't do. It may be awkward at first, but it will save everyone embarrassment in the end.

Enjoy. Camping and hiking is not the time to push your limits to see just how far you can go. Just relax and enjoy what you can.
posted by zinon at 6:57 AM on February 3, 2012 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone.
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 1:06 PM on February 5, 2012

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