A lot of my mom friends have asked me what I’d do would do if my daughter or I got sick while camping in the middle of nowhere. Well, it finally happened. Luckily, I was the one who got sick and not Isabel. And, also luckily, I was prepared for it…
Here, I’m going to tell you my story so you can be prepared if you ever get sick while camping.
Everything Started Out Fine…
Even before I got sick, the camping trip wasn’t going so well. I’d changed our plans last-minute because the weather forecast called for thunderstorms. So, I thought it would be fun to camp inside of a cave so we could take shelter there. It ended up not raining. Note to self: Never change plans again because of the weather forecast!
It turns out that camping inside of a cave is NOT as much fun as it would seem. The cave was full of dust which swirled around in the wind. The ground was (duh) rock-hard and not comfortable for sleeping. The grass was super high so there wasn’t anywhere to run around and play except right in the entrance of the cave.
Oh, and there was that vipera berus – a highly venomous snake – which was hanging out just 1 meter from the tent!
I’m not afraid of snakes and know what to do if you see a snake, but it still put me on edge.
Then I Woke Up Puking and with Diarrhea
I woke up very early in the morning and immediately had to vomit. I’ll spare you the details about the diarrhea! Needless to say, I didn’t have time to dig a cat-hole, and feel really bad about not following the “leave no trace” rule of wild camping.
Luckily, I had electrolyte packs in my my first aid kit. I never go camping without them. They are also great for helping you get over a hangover quickly. 😉
What Are Electrolytes?
Electrolytes are certain minerals, some of which are vital for balancing fluids in the cells. You can drink tons of water but won’t hydrate yourself without also consuming electrolytes. Basically, electrolytes help hydrate your body super quickly. That is why sports drinks contain electrolytes.
If I hadn’t put electrolytes in with my gear, I would have been severely dehydrated from throwing up all of the water I’d drunk. I was still tired from not being able to keep food down, but at least I was hydrated.
I Had a Backup Plan, but it Wasn’t Good Enough
When traveling with my daughter, I always have a backup accommodation in case something goes wrong. In this case, I’d written down the addresses of 3 different guesthouses. So, after waking up sick, I decided it was time to head to town and one of them.
We hiked down from the cave to the main road (luckily, the diarrhea didn’t last but I was still nauseous). Then we hitchhiked a ride to the nearest town. The nice family dropped us off in the center of the town. I’m feeling a bit better by this point (no food or water left in my stomach to throw up). I decide to risk drinking a coffee. I know that coffee isn’t great when you are vomiting – but neither is getting a lack-of-caffeine headache!
After the coffee break, we set off to find one of the guesthouses that I’d written down on my “Plan B” list. I asked a local how to get to the guesthouse and they just say “walk down, down, down.”
Well, we ended up getting really lost. Tired and feeling nauseous again (turns out that the coffee wasn’t a good idea), it felt like we had wandered 10km looking for the guesthouse! Later, I traced our route and realized it was only 1.5km. But it feels like a lot more when you are sick and have a heavy pack on your back. Oops. I should have written down directions to the Plan B accommodation!
We finally did find the first guesthouse. The owner said it wasn’t open for guests. So we went on and found the next guesthouse. It looked really ugly. That, plus the owner cited a price higher than what I’d seen on booking.com. I was getting a bit grumpy at this point, so was rather rude to the owner.
Ugh. Off to one more guesthouse. This one was actually really nice. It even had a hot tub and hammocks in an outdoor patio area. And that is probably why they were completely booked for that night.
In short, my “Plan B” options had all failed!
Now Time to Come Up with Plan C
Here is where I get really proud of my trooper daughter. We’d been walking around looking for a place to sleep and she wasn’t complaining. Kind of amazing for a 5 year old! I asked her what she wanted to do. Did she want to go back to the ugly guesthouse? Did she want to try to find a camping spot?
She chose camping.
She still chose camping when I told her we’d have to walk all the way back across town.
I asked some local boys if they knew a wild camping spot in the area. There are a lot of gypsies in Belogradchik, and it isn’t exactly the richest town, so I wasn’t going to wild camp just anywhere. Having my gear stolen in the middle of a trip would really suck. They said all of the camping spots were on the other side of town. That meant another 1.5km walk in the other direction! (Read how to choose a wild camping spot here)
All that walking was really wearing me down. We stopped for a quick rest somewhere and I threw up all of the juice and coffee I’d drunk earlier.
Hmmm… It looks like I’ve splattered vomit on my jeans which I’ve got to wear for another 2 or 3 days. Luckily the vomit is mostly water. If it stinks, I can’t tell. 😉
Finally, a Campground!
Just when I’m gearing myself up to walk several more kilometers through the park to find a decent wild camping spot, we see some taxis in the city center. Hooray! And even better – one of the two taxi drivers is the same guy who we had coffee with the day before! It is nice to see a friendly face when traveling. Though it probably isn’t too surprising that it happens in such a small town.
For 2 leva, the driver took us to camping Madona. It is named after the “Madonna” Valentina who turned into stone. You can see her formation and that of her lover in the rocks. The owners asked for 10 leva (about 5 euros) for a night. There was an electrical hookup, hot water, a shower, and a proper toilet. Just the thing you need when you’re sick.
Just Curl Up in Your Sleeping Bag
When sick while camping, you do what you’d do at home: stay warm, hydrated, and relax. This is what I did at the campground. After setting up the tent, I put on all of my warm clothes and curled up in my sleeping bag. I rested while Isabel ran around playing with beetles (we both really like insects).
That night I was finally able to hold down some food. I made dehydrated tomato soup. The next day, Isabel and I took it easy. We went to Belogradchik fortress, and I stopped at the pharmacy along the way to buy some more electrolyte packets and some anti-nausea medicine. It was fun to act out vomiting to the Bulgarian pharmacists so she could understand my symptoms.
Should I Have Given Up On the Trip Right Away?
I did start feeling better after that, though my energy levels were at 50%. After getting back from our camping trip though, I did get a bit pissed at myself. Why do I have to be so friggin’ “tough” that I walked for hours with a pack while vomiting on myself? Why didn’t I just give up and go back home? Why do I feel like I have to prove something?
And then I think back to this short trip we had. It was tough. Not just the sickness part, but camping in cold weather, seeing a venomous snake, Isabel overcoming her fear and exploring caves, hitchhiking all day…
But it was also really worth it.
How many 5 year olds can say that they’ve slept in a cave?
How many kids love bugs so much that they stop to remove every single bug from the trail so it won’t get squashed?
How many kids get a firsthand look at weathering, erosion, and plate tectonics?
How many kids get to write postcards for all of their friends, have 9 countries in their passports, and truly love adventure?
So, yes, sometimes you might get sick while camping. Just do what you would have done if sick at home: eat soup, stay hydrated, and relax as much as possible. You’ll find that you can rest just as well in a sleeping bag outside as you can on your couch at home. Is it worth being tough and sticking with it? Hell yeah.
Tips in Case You Get Sick While Camping
- Always have electrolytes in your first aid kit
- Consider some anti-diarrhea and anti-vomiting pills for your first aid kit too, as well as fever medicines
- Have multiple “Plan B” accommodations
- Check in with the local police or park rangers; get their phone number in case you need to call for help
- It’s okay to give up on the trip. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
- Prevention is best – stay warm and dry, and always treat your drinking water (I use the Sawyer Mini)
What would you do if you got puking sick while camping?