How to Get Into Camping Part 3: Grappling With Nature Whilst Looking & Feeling Good

Parts 1 & 2 can be found here.

Débroulliard.” This is a versatile French word that describes a person who is resourceful. It gave rise to the concept of Système D(ébroulliard) which is an entire system of thought; one that responds and adapts to challenges in a fluid manner.

In the last two articles in this series, we’ve discussed some basic bits of requisite camping knowledge, equipment, campsite considerations, and even cooking meals. The truth is that conditions in the field change in real time. While you can make a “plan A,” and even a “plan B” and “C,” nothing is as bulletproof as Système D. By learning to adapt, overcome, and accept the end results, you will make the most of your camping experiences. The skills of fast decision-making and improvisation will also apply in your everyday life.


A view of French soldiers–affectionately called “Poilus” or “hairy ones”–in a trench during World War I. The term “Débroulliard” originated with this rare breed. Image via The Chubachus Library of Photographic History.

Mother Nature is a shrewd negotiator. She will trade you a beautiful weather forecast for an evening thunderstorm, or a babbling brook for a raging torrent, and both these you will be forced to accept. However, even on unfavorable terms, you can still bargain for a fun experience. A Débroulliard might collect the rainwater for drinking or making tea and coffee, and find higher ground where you can also create a wind-block. Being resourceful can take your camping experience to the next level and perhaps even save your life in an emergency.

Forty Days in the Jungle


This is the Cessna 206 airplane that crashed on May 1st in Colombia. Image via BBC/Reuters.

On June 9th, 2023, a miracle was realized. Four children, between the ages of 13 and 1, were found alive over a month after their plane had crashed deep in the jungles of Colombia. The tragedy had immediately taken the lives of one adult passenger and the pilot flying them, while the children’s mother died four days later.

As if camping in the jungle without a stable food supply wasn’t difficult enough, there were other threats. Man-eating animals inhabit these remote areas. Armed groups are known to operate deep in the Colombian interior, which meant the possibility of kidnapping or worse.

The meager food at the crash site quickly ran out. Despite the devastating loss and the insurmountable challenge that they faced, the kids recalled their upbringing. Their family has indigenous Huitoto-people roots. Their grandmother had introduced the jungle not as a foreboding labyrinth of darkness but as a provider. They subsisted on seeds and fruit such as milpesos, which are similar in flavor and texture to avocados. While the was luckily at the peak of its fruit-bearing season, the dense brush added yet another layer of complexity–some rescue teams passed within 160 feet (50 meters) of the survivors before they were finally found. A trail of half-eaten fruit and footprints led to salvation.


Rescuers tending to the children after their grueling trial in the jungle. Image via BBC/EPA.

The children exhibited mastery of Système D. When faced with dwindling supplies and a hostile environment, they became resourceful. I sincerely hope that I, and our readers, will never face a survival situation that teeters on life and death. However, we can apply the survival spirit in small (safe) doses on our camp outings and become Les Débroulliards even in our daily lives.

Camping for Recreation

Camping, as we know it, has its roots in transportation technology. The late 19th century saw outdoors enthusiasts form a hobby of it as the wilderness became more readily accessible. Thomas Hiram Holding wrote the first comprehensive treatise which was published in 1908. He recounted in The Camper’s Handbook that,

“In the pre-railway days of 1853, I crossed the Prairies of America. My first experience of Camping was above the wooded slope on the plateau behind Kairkock[?], on the Mississippi [River]…There, 300 of us camped in tents and wagons, which camp lasted for about five weeks…”


This engraving, from a sketch by Winslow Homer, depicts a halted military wagon train. Image via Cleveland Museum of Art/Wikimedia Commons.

The fabled westward wagon trains were hardly a weekend getaway. Disease, armed conflict, and bad weather loomed for months as the settlers crossed the continent. However, despite the hardships, it left a lasting impression on Holding and the American mindset as a whole. The wilderness became a source of romance and adventure. Holding eventually returned to the U.K. but his fascination with the outdoors remained.

“A good many years passed. I was engaged to lecture in Sunderland [England]…[and] it led to the purchase of a canoe, of which I at once became a proud possessor. The canoe led to Camping, and Camping led to a canoe cruise in the Highlands of Scotland, probably in imitation of [MacGregor]…We now come to the most important epoch in the Camping fever, which has been known in these later times. Need I say, that I allude to the remarkable origin of Cycle-Camping?”


A modern MacGregor-style sailing canoe designed by Iain Oughtred. Image via Thomas Boats.

Cycle-Camping” was ahead of its time. Today, off-road cycling and mountain biking trails can be found across the world. Mechanization was also arriving as Holding’s book came off the presses. As discussed in the motorcycling series, “motor camping” was an obsession by the 1920s and later fit in well with the post-war leisure era.


Bicycle camping is a great way to travel the countryside. Image via Beyond the Tent.

The late 19th century also saw the creation of America’s national parks. These natural resources are preserved for the “enjoyment of the people” in perpetuity. As transportation grew to be faster and further reaching, the untapped splendor of nature has become available to every camper.



Camping in Connecticut, circa 1908. This scene is on the estate of Ernest Thompson Seton who founded the Boy Scouts of America. Image via

The Germans have a great expression that roughly translates to, “There is no bad weather, only bad (read: improper) clothing.”

I think about this idiom a lot — especially in the volatile South Carolinian summers where the weather changes every five minutes. An ounce of research before an expedition can save you several pounds of wet clothing later. As advised in part 2, check the weather and tide charts religiously before setting off/planning your trip.

When imagining the correct clothing for camping in style, the old-school Boy Scouts come to mind. Their original uniforms were heavily influenced by the U.S. Army upon their creation in 1910. We’ll take a look at some of the more legendary garb below, and see how these pieces have withstood the test of time.

Camping in the Campaign Hat

U.S. President Calvin Coolidge receives an ovation from some Boy Scouts in 1926. Image via

Headwear makes a bold statement. Whether topping the head of an Army drill sergeant, or a jacked cartoon bear, few hats evoke the image of authority like the broad-brimmed Montana peak. Most of the uniform variants are simply called “campaign hats.”


Stetson putting the “peak” in Montana peak during the 1920s. Actor Tom Mix helped popularize the super-tall crown. Image via Pinterest.

Long before they were adopted by the Boy Scouts, felt hats were favored by American soldiers serving on the western frontier. Troopers during the Spanish-American War (1898) pinched the crown into symmetrical quadrants to help shed the rain faster in tropical environments. Even Stetson would capitalize on the distinctive “lemon-squeezer” style. By the turn of the 20th century, average citizens enjoyed the rugged look and shady brim that these felt hats afforded them.


“Mounties” iconized the campaign hat in Canada. Image via Hat Guide.

Utilitarian versions include brass eyelets that help ventilate the crown to keep your head cool in the summer heat. This is a practical piece of headwear that provides ample protection from the sun. Many agencies and organizations still wear them today in an official capacity; both in straw (for summer) and felt.


The Stetson Wool Felt Campaign Hat is available from Village Hat Shop for the sale price of $154

Now, we’re not saying that you have to wear a campaign hat or even anything comparable on your trips, they’re just an example of peak functionality. They keep the sun — and rain —off your face and head whilst letting it breathe, last for decades, and can cover your face easily if you want a daytime nap.


REI Co-Op & Patagonia Boonies, available for $40 and $60 respectively from REI.

If you don’t want to go near the Campaign/Stetson style, look into a boonie/bucket hat that has some water resistance, breathability through its fabric or vents, and an adjustable chin strap to keep things secure when it gets windy. The above options from REI/ Patagonia would be a decent starting point.

Of course, you don’t need to wear a hat, but it is important to have some way of protecting your head from rain and excessive sunlight. If you don’t want a 360 brim in your life, wear an old ball cap but make sure you have a waterproof jacket on hand.

Rain Gear


Demonstrating a military surplus rain poncho. Image via Etsy/Pinterest.

Rain only ruins a camping trip if you let it. Protect yourself and your valuables from rainfall and a a wet spell can actually be quite a nice atmospheric experience once your camp is set up. Rain gear can be found in an almost endless variety; everything from semi-disposable ponchos to long, knee-length “slicks.” A quality poncho is compact and versatile. For a better idea of their versatility, please see the information on ground cloths and shelter halves in Part 1 of the camping series.


German military surplus is usually good quality. A thick, rubber poncho like the one pictured above should come in handy when the skies get dark. The German Military Wet Weather Poncho is available from Coleman’s Military Surplus for $39.95.

Investing in some waterproof trousers and a jacket is also a good idea if you are planning to hike or portage to your camping spot and rain is on the agenda. Ponchos are great for rainfall when you’re mooching around at camp, but if you’re hiking through wet undergrowth or grassland, you need to protect your lower legs from the wet.


REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants, $159 from REI.

For information on shell jackets for the rain, see our guide – The Three Tiers of Shell Jacket – Entry, Mid, and End Level

Venerable Flannel


Image via Outside Bozeman

A flannel shirt is arguably the most useful garment in existence, besides a good pair of jeans and a well-fitting chore coat. In the heat of the day and the cool of the night, nothing compares to the sheer adaptability of it. Early Scouts were issued half-button shirts in olive drab twill wool flannel just like their big brothers in the Army.

You will sweat in the heat of the day, but natural wool wicks moisture from your skin and allows for some “evaporative cooling.” Like most things in life, seek quality over quantity. A single olive green wool flannel shirt–crafted from fine, wool twill or flannel, will save you the itchy frustration of cheaper shirts. Not to mention, wool is naturally tougher than cotton and less prone to rips, wearing thin, and fading. It’s no wonder that the world’s militaries used them for centuries.


Pendleton makes their classic Men’s Board Shirt in several colors that every camper will love. This 100% wool shirt can be found on Pendleton‘s web store from $129.00 (for certain colors) to $179.00.

The Humble T-Shirt


The Ranger Lodge Summer Camp near Naples, Maine. 1950. Image via Stories From Maine/Facebook.

Once regarded as just undergarments, so much thought goes into the modern t-shirt that they are now the multi-tool of the garment world. They can be worn under your flannel for added comfort, or worn by themselves when exercising or performing strenuous tasks, such as splitting kindling for a fire.


Proof offers the best of the shirt and t-shirt world with this Merino tee. In their own words, it’s perfect for “packing light and staying comfortable.” The 72-Hour Merino Wool T-Shirt – Performance Fit can be found on Huckberry for $88.00.

Shorts or Pants?


British troops famously wore shorts in North Africa during World War II. Image via Militaria & History.

This is a “hot” debate (literally). My friends used to ask me why I was wearing jeans in the summer… until dusk came and the mosquitoes swarmed. My advice is to avoid shorts if you’re concerned about insects in your area (especially ticks). Other than that, nothing beats the comfort of a classic hot-weather staple; shorts.

In my brief tenure as a Boy Scout, I had a pair of pants that unzipped into shorts above the knees. It was a good idea in theory, but not in execution. If the zipper got stuck, you’d have to walk around with open knees like the ripped jeans so popular on college campuses right now. If you go with bare legs, you better find something that’ll be durable.


For a timeless pair of shorts, see Flint and Tinder’s 365 Short in a 7″ length. You can purchase them on Huckberry, including the “Earth” color above, for $78.00.



Two Venezuelan Boy Scouts, Rafael Angel Petit (left) and Juan Carmona, walked 800 miles to reach the Boy Scout Jamboree in Washington, D.C., in 1937. The feat on their feet took them over two years! Image via

I once made the mistake of not breaking in my boots before a long hike. By the time I made it to camp, I was tempted to plunge my burning feet into the remaining supply of drinking water. Make sure your footwear is molded to your feet before you go adventuring. Selecting styles and brands come second to this priority; in the wilderness, your feet are your life. If you can’t walk, it’s time to call it quits and get back home.

In the early 20th century, tall lace-up boots were all the rage for outdoorsmen. These are the way to go to protect your calves and ankles but a lower-cut boot will generally be more comfortable (and affordable). Pull-on boots have the distinct advantage of not snagging burs and brush in the laces. From these options, pick what’ll best serve you at your camping destination.

Unsure? Head to your local outdoor store or email a specialist. Explain the types of terrain and locales you’re planning to camp within, and they will be able to help you.


For camping, hiking, and fighting wildfires, generations have turned to White’s of Spokane, Washington. If my life depended on it, these are the boots that I’d lace up in a heartbeat. The Original Smokejumper Lace-to-Toe can be purchased from White’s for $675.00.


All-Weather Overland Boot, $168 at Huckberry.


Lems’ popular Boulder Waterproof Hiking Boot, available for $175 from Huckberry.

Happy Trails


A poster produced by the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in the 1930s. Image via the Library of Congress.

With everything packed or worn on your back, you’re ready for an adventure. For first-timers, the list of essentials can seem daunting but there is a Débroulliard in all of us. If there’s any lesson that can be gleaned from nature, it’s how to be resourceful; if you can make do without it, don’t sweat leaving it behind. That said, jot down some notes for the future if you leave something off your list or you get an idea for the next trip.

Speaking of your first outing, play it safe. Pick campsites that are relatively accessible with just the right amount of scenery. Ideally, there will also be attractions within hiking distance so that you can make a weekend out of it. Don’t forget to bring along your friends and family! The bonding experiences had around the campfire will be remembered for years to come.

I’d recommend reading all 3 parts of this series and watching some camping content on Youtube for reviews on gear, tips and tricks, and general inspiration. If you have any questions about this series or camping in general, head over to the Heddels+ Discord and give me a shout @Better Call Zal and on Instagram @zpliollio.

Happy camping.