Camping is a fantastic adventure! But if you don’t tackle it correctly, you can get yourself in a pinch. Camping offers the chance to experience the beauty of nature while surrounded by peaceful solitude. Spending time in the great outdoors normally has positive effects on your physical well-being and mental health, but if you don’t prepare carefully, it can also be detrimental to your health. By following some simple camping safety tips, you can ensure your excursion is safe and super fun! Let’s dive into the essential safety tips to put in place before your first camping adventure.
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12 Essential Camping Safety Tips
In this guide, we’ve curated an easy-to-follow list of essential camping safety tips for beginning campers. These little gems will help you stay safe on your first outdoor experience. Having the right amount of food, clothes, and medications is a good start, but there’s more to consider to ensure your camping trip flows smoothly.
1. Stay hydrated.
Water is an absolute camping essential, and running out of it can lead to some major trouble. So, here’s the deal: Always, and I mean always, make sure to bring plenty of water with you when you’re out camping or hiking. Staying hydrated isn’t just about chugging water when you feel thirsty. It’s about making hydration a regular habit throughout the day. That means drinking water even if you don’t think you need it. If you start feeling thirsty, chances are you’re already dehydrated. Make sure to pack a solid 3- to 5-day supply of bottled water. Don’t rely on campsites having enough water because you never know if it’s contaminated or simply out of reach.
Keep an eye out for signs in parks that tell you if the water is safe to drink or not. If you can’t get your hands on safe drinking water, don’t panic! Just boil the water for one minute before quenching your thirst. Another option for clean drinking water is investing in filtering systems. Filters come in a variety of styles: straw-style, pump filters, gravity filters, and UV or tablet treatments. They all differ slightly in size, durability, and price but do make water safe to drink. You may also consider grabbing some electrolyte packets from your camping section.
2. Pay attention to food safety.
To store food properly, you’ll need to procure food-safe containers. Check the containers for their bug-proof abilities. Trust me—you don’t want your yummy snacks to become a playground for bugs or furry critters. Opt for air-tight packaging to keep those unwanted guests at bay.
When you’re out camping, it’s important to keep your food secure to avoid any unwanted visits from wild animals. Leaving food out in the open can attract creatures ranging from mice to bears, and that’s not the kind of surprise you want in the middle of the night! Always store your food in waterproof containers, and keep them inside a cooler. This will help keep your meals safe and intact.
Preparing for Bears
Many campgrounds in bear country have bear lockers to store your food in. If not, suspend your food between two trees at least 12 feet off the ground. Make sure to keep the food at least one yard away from the tree trunks, as bears can be clever climbers. Remember: Bears have a keen sense of smell and can be attracted to anything that even remotely smells like food. Keep items like canned goods, toiletries, drinks, and cooking utensils stored away from their reach. It’s better to be safe than sorry!
National Parks in the US and Canada may have specific rules about food storage, so it’s a good idea to check with the visitor center website before arrival. Not only will this keep you safe, but it will also help you avoid any hefty fines.
To keep yourself healthy and avoid food-borne illnesses while camping, it’s essential to follow some simple food safety practices. Always wash your hands before eating. If you don’t have access to soap and water, 60% alcohol hand sanitizers can be a good alternative. When it comes to handling food, keep raw and cooked foods separate. Cross-contamination can lead to unwanted bacteria and germs hitching a ride on your meals.
Cooking your food at the right temperature is crucial. This isn’t so easily done over a campfire. Either carry a meat thermometer or go with the crispy approach. Better safe than sorry! If you’re not planning to cook your food immediately, remember to chill it promptly in an insulated cooler.
3. Choose the right campground site and shelter.
When it comes to selecting the perfect campground site and shelter, it’s important to consider your unique needs and preferences. Factors like physical limitations, age, and medical requirements should guide your decision-making process. If you opt for a tent, bring along essentials like a comfortable sleeping bag, an air mattress, and any other necessary accommodations to ensure a cozy night’s sleep. On the other hand, cabins and RVs provide added safety and convenience with more amenities readily available.
Before setting out, it’s a good idea to check out the website of the campground or park you will be visiting and note the amenities available. Look for sites that offer picnic tables, nearby restroom facilities, fire rings, and spacious areas that can accommodate your entire group. With these amenities in place, you can relax and enjoy your time outdoors.
4. Stay updated on the weather forecast.
Camping can quickly turn from a joyous outdoor adventure to a soggy ordeal when unexpected rain clouds roll in. That’s why it’s crucial to keep an eye on the weather forecast before you head out. Don’t just check the daytime outlook—also be mindful of nighttime conditions. Remember that a sunny day can easily transform into a damp and drizzly night. To stay prepared, always have some form of rain protection on hand, and dress in layers. Whether you’re car camping or hiking to your camping spot, it’s a good idea to have extra clothes, rain jackets, and a waterproof tarp readily available.
If the forecast looks like the weather will take a turn for the worst, it might be wise to pack up and head back home. Thunderstorms can pose dangers when you’re camping in a tent and can lead to muddy conditions that make it challenging to maneuver vehicles, especially on backcountry roads. Safety should always be a priority, so trust your instincts, and make the best decision for your well-being.
5. Always have a first aid kit with you.
Accidents can happen anywhere, including while camping, so it’s always wise to be prepared with a first aid kit. You have a couple of options when it comes to getting a first aid kit. You can easily find pre-made kits at your local pharmacy, Walmart, or online on platforms like Amazon. However, these ready-made kits can be a bit pricey considering what they contain.
If you’re looking to save some money, you can assemble your own personalized first aid kit. At a minimum, your first aid kit should include Band-Aids, ACE bandages, antibiotic cream, antihistamines, alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol, gauze, Imodium or activated charcoal (for digestive issues), and painkillers. If you plan on doing a lot of hiking, it’s a good idea to include moleskin or blister protection to take care of your feet.
6. Take care of your skin.
Take care of your skin when camping to avoid the discomfort of sunburns and pesky bug bites. These can be more than an annoyance. Depending on the severity of the sun or the type of insects present, they can pose severe potential health risks. Before stepping outside, thoroughly apply sunscreen to all exposed skin areas. Don’t forget about often overlooked areas, like your ears and the tops of your feet. Remember: Even at high altitudes, the sun’s UV rays can be stronger than at sea level. With every thousand feet of elevation gain, there’s a six to ten percent increase in UV exposure due to the thinner atmosphere.
To shield yourself from pesky insects while camping, opt for an insect-repellent product containing DEET that is resistant to water. Make sure to carefully follow the instructions for applying the product to your skin. Additionally, check for ticks daily, especially in areas that are difficult to protect. It’s a good practice to wear long sleeves and pants while hiking, as this can help minimize direct contact with insects.
7. Follow fire safety protocols.
Prioritize campfire safety to prevent the risk of wildfires and ensure the safety of yourself and fellow campers. Follow these essential guidelines for a responsible and safe campfire experience.
Choose designated fire areas whenever possible, such as existing campfire rings, fire pits, or grills. These designated areas help contain the flames and minimize the chances of fires spreading uncontrollably. When selecting a location to build your campfire, ensure it’s a safe distance from overhanging branches, rotten stumps, dry grass, leaves, or steep slopes. Clear a ten-foot radius around the fire site from any flammable items to prevent the fire from spreading.
Never leave a campfire unattended. Stay close by, and keep a watchful eye on the flames at all times. Always keep a bucket of water close by for emergencies. When it’s time to extinguish the fire, ensure it is completely drowned with water. Thoroughly soak all coals, sticks, and embers, and carefully check under nearby rocks for any hidden burning embers. Stir the fire remains, and continue adding water until there are no signs of lingering fire. If water is unavailable, use dirt to extinguish the flames, making sure to bury any smoldering coals. In remote camping areas, consider using a small gas stove instead of building a campfire. This reduces the risk of unintentionally starting a fire that could rapidly spread.
8. Prepare for the cold.
It’s essential to prioritize personal safety during winter camping. While the cold temperatures may tempt you to use tent heaters while sleeping, you must avoid doing so due to the associated fire safety risks and the potential for carbon monoxide poisoning. Instead, rely on heat packs, aluminum survival blankets, or a properly rated sleeping bag for overnight warmth. If you do use a heater before bed, always carry a carbon monoxide detector with fresh batteries, and place the heater on a stable surface, far away from any flammable materials.
9. Familiarize yourself with poisonous plants.
The ability to identify poisonous plants might save you a load of trouble. In the United States, common species include poison oak, poison sumac, and poison ivy. Poison ivy always has three leaves, which can be completely smooth or have small notches on the edges. Poison oak leaves resemble larger, rounded oak leaves with a hairy and textured surface. They grow in groups of three, five, or seven. Poison sumac leaves grow in clusters of 7 to 13.
These plants contain a sticky oil called urushiol, which can cause an itchy, blistering rash on the skin. To protect yourself from urushiol, consider wearing pants and long sleeves while camping, which can act as a barrier against contact with poisonous plants. Using a lotion containing bentoquatam can also provide a protective barrier for your skin. In case you do come into contact with any poisonous plants, wash your hands immediately. If water is not available, you can use alcohol wipes or rubbing alcohol as an alternative. You can also bathe in Tecnu after exposure to plant oils to remove the oil before irritation occurs.
10. Obey the hazard signs.
Pay close attention to all posted signs and guidelines, particularly around swift streams, cliff edges, hot springs, and mud pots, to ensure your safety. Please refrain from climbing on barricades or guardrails in an attempt to get closer to wildlife or capture a better picture. It’s important to stay within designated areas and not venture beyond the railings.
11. Prepare for alternate communication and navigation.
While we’re accustomed to relying on GPS navigation through our mobile phones, in campgrounds, there may be limited or no signal available. To ensure you can navigate your surroundings effectively, it’s wise to download an offline map. Or you can carry a map and compass with you and learn how to use them. It’s also wise to know the terrain you will be hiking. A topographic map is a good idea for long or difficult hikes. They’ll be your trusty guides when technology falls short.
If you’re planning on getting off the grid, you need to invest in a satellite phone. Inform several of your friends and family of your whereabouts, any hikes you will be doing, and when you expect to return. Make sure the location and trackers on your phone are enabled and that you have a solar-powered mobile charger if you plan on long hikes. Even if you’re staying in a curated campground, you may want to use walkie-talkies to communicate with family and friends.
12. Keep a safe distance from wild animals.
Refrain from feeding or touching wild animals, and if you come into contact with stray animals, remember to wash your hands thoroughly with water and soap. Alternatively, you can use a hand sanitizer containing at least 60% alcohol to sanitize your hands. When camping or hiking in areas inhabited by bears, snakes, or alligators, it’s best to observe them from a safe distance.
While it’s fascinating to encounter these wild creatures, remember that they are still wild and should be treated as such. Sometimes, campers overlook the potential dangers of getting too close to wild animals. Even if they appear docile, they can become aggressive if they feel threatened. Additionally, it’s important to avoid approaching their young, as they are particularly protective and may exhibit aggressive behavior.
Ready for a Camping Adventure?
Many of the camping safety tips above are simply common sense reminders. They serve as a helpful refresher for things you likely already know but just need to adjust and apply to your camping adventure. Like any trip, camping requires proper preparation and planning. When you approach your next camping trip with adequate knowledge and the right gear, you can ensure a positive and enjoyable experience. Remember to prepare well, stay informed, and purchase all the necessary tools for a fantastic camping journey ahead of time!
Frequently Asked Questions
When camping, it’s important to prepare for safety risks like injuries, wildlife encounters, and fire hazards. To add some fun activities, take along a copy of Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition!
By following fundamental camping safety protocols, you not only safeguard yourself but also contribute to the protection of the environment and the wildlife that inhabit it.
There are a few essentials for camping that you must have with you: a tent, a sleeping bag, and an ample supply of food and water. It’s also fun to document your trip with an action camera and travel journal.