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Camping Safety: Tips for Safe Camping

Stephanie, her hubby, and their two cats enjoy living and traveling full-time in their RV, often camping off-grid to stretch their budget.

Build a safe campfire.

Build a safe campfire.

Tips for Camping Safety

Spring and summer are some of the most popular times for family camping trips. Whether you are planning a tent or RV camping trip in the wilderness, in a state or national park or a vacation in a private campground with your kids, you will want to make some preparations for a safe family camping trip.

Before You Go, Research Your Destination

Learning something about your destination will help you to decide what to take with your for your trip. Will you be in a forest, near a beach, or in a desert? What's the weather like? Will you have to be concerned about mosquitoes and ticks? Do you have to watch out for dangerous snakes? Should you be concerned about bears or other dangerous wildlife?

Learn as much as you can about your destination ahead of time. When camping in a remote area, be sure to ask park rangers about any precautions you should take. They will also make you aware of any regulations concerning building fires, rock and plant collection, dangerous wildlife, food storage or off-limits areas.

Medical and Health Issues

As you prepare for your camping trip, take into consideration the health issues of members of your group. Here are some important medical considerations:

  • Prescription medications. As with any trip, be sure to fill any prescriptions ahead of time and take a copy of your prescriptions with you in case your medications are lost.
  • Keep a list of medications, allergies, doctor's names and phone numbers for each person going on your trip. If there is an accident or sudden serious illness, you will need this information.
  • Vaccinations and shots. Make sure that vaccinations are up to date. Are your tetanus shots current? Are your allergy shots up to date?

Don't Forget Your Pet's Health!

  • Be sure that your pets have current rabies shots and that other vaccinations are up-to-date. Don't forget to take proof of rabies vaccinations with you in case you need to show it to the campground.

Basic First Aid Kit for Camping

Purchase or make up a first aid kit that includes these basic first aid items:

  • Band Aids and bandages
  • Adhesive bandages
  • Cotton swabs
  • Safety pins
  • Sterile gauze pads
  • Roll bandages
  • Ace Bandages
  • Antibiotic cream
  • Aspirin or Ibuprofen
  • Antacids
  • Sunburn ointment
  • Snake bite kit
  • Eye drops
  • Thermometer
  • Antibiotic soap
  • Butterfly bandages
  • Moleskin for blisters
  • Tweezers
  • Nail clippers
  • Small pair of scissors
  • Heat and cold packs
  • First Aid Manual
  • Mirror and magnifying glass
  • Sinus or cold medications
  • Sterile compress
  • Ipecac

List of Safety Gear for Your Camping Trip

In addition to normal camping gear, food and clothing, packing the following items will ensure a safer camping experience.

  • Sunscreen (at least SPF 15)
  • Tent and plastic ground cloth
  • Adequate bedding and sleeping bags for expected temperatures
  • Sunglasses
  • Wide-brimmed hat
  • Hiking boots or sturdy shoes
  • Protective gear like helmets, life jackets depending on activities
  • Long-sleeved shirts and long pants for sun and insect protection
  • Clothing that can be layered for temperature changes (sweatshirts, windbreakers, etc.)
  • Water and healthy snacks that don't need refrigeration
  • First Aid kit
  • Bug repellent with DEET
  • Flashlights and batteries
  • GPS or compass
  • Map of area, trail map if you will be hiking
  • Hand sanitizer (alcohol based for quick drying)
  • Insulated cooler
  • bucket or water jug for dousing campfires
  • shovel
  • Medications
  • List of emergency numbers, medications, and health and allergy issues in case of emergency

Sun Safety When Camping

Whether you are on the beach, in the water or out hiking, here are some basics to protect yourself and your children from damaging UV rays:

  • Use sunscreen: Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out into sunlight and reapply several times through the day. Use sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of at least 15 as well as UV and UVB protection.
  • Wear a hat: Wear a brimmed hat that shades ears and neck.
  • Wear sunglasses: Adults and kids should have sunglasses that protect from UV rays and UV rays.
  • Cover up: Wear beach cover-ups or t-shirts on the beach.
  • Plan activities in shade as well as sunlight to avoid over-exposure to sun.

Food Safety When Camping

Depending on the type of camping you will be doing, you will pack different kinds of food supplies, but there are still basic food safety rules you should follow. Most important is keeping perishable foods cold and following good sanitation procedures.

  • Keep food in an insulated cooler or refrigerator. Snacks should be packed in waterproof bags. Wash fruit and vegetables well in water that is safe to drink.
  • To reduce need for refrigeration, bring some foods that don't need refrigeration like dried fruits and nuts, dehydrated foods, pasta, dried meats, and peanut butter.
  • Clean: Wash hands and prepare food on a clean surface that has been washed well.
  • Separate: Keep raw and cooked food separate.
  • Cook: When cooking, be sure that meats, especially ground beef, are cooked to the proper internal temperature. Ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F to be safe.
  • Chill: Refrigerate uncooked food and chill cooked foods promptly. To keep food chilled longer while hiking or boating, freeze water or juice boxes and pack them with food. Remember that food can spoil within an hour in temperatures of 90° or more if not kept chilled!
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Drinking Water Safety While Camping

Be sure that you have a source of safe drinking water! When camping in primitive areas, carry drinking water in with you. Refill your containers with water that has been tested for safety. Never count on water from lakes or streams to be safe to drink no matter how clean it looks.

How to Purify Drinking Water

If you must use water from untested sources like streams and lakes, you should purify it by boiling it for at least one minute or with water purification tablets that contain iodine, halazone, or chlorine. These tablets will kill most waterborne bacteria, viruses, and some (but not all) parasites. Some parasites are not killed by normal purification methods and the water must also be filtered. Use sanitized water for washing dishes and fruits and vegetables.

Obey danger signs. Amazingly, people do not heed warnings like this!

Obey danger signs. Amazingly, people do not heed warnings like this!

Outdoor Safety While Camping

Obey warning signs. Warning signs posted at the edge of cliffs, swift streams, mud pots and hot springs are there for your safety. Obey them!

  • Do not climb over guard rails or barricades to get a better picture or get closer to wildlife.
  • Do not feed birds or animals.
  • Do not wander off trails.
  • Do watch out for snakes, bears and alligators if you are hiking or camping in their territory.
Photograph wildlife from a distance. Even an innocent-looking deer can be dangerous in certain instances.

Photograph wildlife from a distance. Even an innocent-looking deer can be dangerous in certain instances.

Wildlife Safety

Wild animals are interesting and exciting to see, but they are still wild and should be treated as such. Tourists and campers sometimes forget the dangers posed by wild animals, particularly when the animals allow humans to approach.

  • Never touch or get too close to a wild animal. Even if they seem tame as they can carry rabies, hantavirus, Giardia and other diseases. They can also attack or bite if they feel threatened when you invade their space.
  • Never get between any wild animal and its young. Even animals that are not normally aggressive will try to protect their young.
  • Never feed a wild animal. Feeding human food to wild animals and birds can be harmful to their health. It will also make them more aggressive as they learn to associate humans with food, and will become upset if they do not get food from them. Aggressive animals in a park may be exterminated—don't be the cause of their aggression!
  • Follow guidelines for food storage. Many parks require campers to store food in special rigs hung from trees to keep it out of reach of raccoons, bears and other wild animals. Never store food in your tent or leave food out on your picnic table where it will attract wildlife to your campsite.

We have visited many national parks and have been amazed at the antics of tourists who ignore safety rules when it comes to wildlife. We have seen bears chase tourists back to their cars, mountain goats charge a tourist who was taking pictures of their children too close to the herd, seagulls rip apart a table full of food in plastic and paper bags. Luckily, no one was hurt, but things could have ended differently.

Setting up your outdoor seating and picnic area withing a screen tent will give some protection against mosquitoes in heavily infested areas.

Setting up your outdoor seating and picnic area withing a screen tent will give some protection against mosquitoes in heavily infested areas.

Protect Against Insect Bites

Insect bites are not only itchy and painful, but biting insects can carry diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. To protect against insect bites:

  • Apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin and to clothes.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks. If you are in an area with vegetation, you can gain extra protection from mosquitoes, ticks and chiggers by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants and socks.
  • Wear light-colored clothing. Light-colored clothing helps protect against ticks and mosquitoes and also makes them easier to see.
  • Check for ticks every day, as they are less likely to be a health danger if you can remove them before they attach themselves to your skin.

Campfire Safety

  • First, check with the campground or park rangers to see if there are restrictions on building fires. During droughts, campfires are often prohibited to reduce the danger of wildfires.
  • Protect the environment by not bringing wood from one locality to another as wood can carry destructive diseases and insects. Purchase campfire wood near your campground.
  • Build campfires in campfire rings provided, or build your own campfire ring with rocks. Clear dead leaves and dry grass away from campfire ring before starting a fire.
  • Keep a bucket of water and a shovel handy to put the fire out when you are done, or to control fire from spreading outside the intended area.
  • Never leave a campfire unattended, and put the campfire out before going to bed.
  • Keep flammables, camp chairs and clothing away from the campfire.
Keep your cat or dog on a leash at all times. Our cat loves the great outdoors, but has been trained to wear a harness and leash for his own safety.

Keep your cat or dog on a leash at all times. Our cat loves the great outdoors, but has been trained to wear a harness and leash for his own safety.

Pet Safety While Camping

Many families take their dogs and even cats with them camping. Before you leave on your trip, make sure that the campground or park where you will be camping allows pets. Check to see if there are size or weight limits for pets.

Prepare your pet for your outdoor adventure by making sure that their inoculations are up to date and that they have been treated with flea and tick repellent. Bring proof of your dog or cat's rabies vaccination with you as some campgrounds will require it.

For your pet's safety in a campground follow some simple guidelines:

  • Keep your pet on a leash at all times. This will prevent him from getting lost or getting into conflicts with wild animals or other pets at your campground.
  • Bring your pet's food and water dish, food and bed.
  • Be sure that your pet gets enough to drink and that he has a shady place to rest.
  • Check your pet for ticks each day. Even if they have been treated, your pet can carry ticks into your tent or RV on their bodies and transmit them to you.
  • Keep your pet within your sight at all times. Small dogs and other pets can look like a tempting snack to coyotes, alligators or even large birds of prey. Don't tempt them!
  • Do not leave your pet locked in your vehicle while you are playing or hiking. Vehicles can become ovens in a very short time when exposed to the hot sun. Not only is it a danger to your pet, but it is illegal in most places to lock a pet in a hot vehicle.

Plan and Prepare for Activities

  • Depending on your planned activities, be sure to bring protective gear like helmets, hiking boots and life jackets.
  • Learn to identify plants like poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac and nettles so that you can avoid them.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Wear a life jacket for boating activities.
  • If you hike into wilderness areas, be sure to let someone know where you are going and when you expect to return.

Enjoy Your Trip!

While this list of safety guidelines may seem long, much of it is common sense and just reminders of things that you already know. As with any vacation, a family camping trip takes some forethought and planning. If you are prepared with the proper gear and knowledge, your camping experience is much more likely to be a good one.

Happy Camping!

Article With More Safety Tips

  • How to Get the Most From Your National Park Visit
    National Parks and Monuments in the US showcase some of the most unique and stunning areas of this country. Because National Parks are often located far off the beaten path, and sometimes even in wilderness areas, visitors need to plan ahead...

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Stephanie Henkel


gabirela on March 02, 2020:

Any fire hazards?? ( please respond ! )

Jana on April 01, 2019:

Thanks for all these helpful tips about going on a safe camping trip but i want to know how to minimize fire hazards sincs you atalked about fireplace and where to place can i know the tips for minimizing fire hazards

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on May 15, 2014:

Sunshine625 - Awww...come on! Wouldn't the chickies and chickadees like it?

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on May 15, 2014:

I have never been camping and chances are very good that I never will go camping, but your tips are great ones! :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on April 09, 2013:

Gaplumber - You are absolutely right! Most of what I've mentioned is just plain common sense, but sometimes we just forget. Last year, I broke my own rule and went walking on a wooded trail on a hot day with just a short sleeved shirt, shorts and sandals--and no insect repellent. Came back with the worst case of chiggers! I'll won't forget to guard against chiggers on my next hike in the woods! Thanks for stopping by, do pop in to my other hubs!

gaplumber on April 09, 2013:

Amen, my favorite things are the long sleeve shirt (I wear them all year round even here in Sav. never know what mother nature has in store) and shovel. I grew up in the woods so for us most is common sense but it is good to be reminded. You have some interesting hubs, I'll be back.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on September 23, 2012:

Single with kids - Camping is a wonderful family activity, but, as you point out, safety is a primary concern. Thanks much for your comments!

Chrissie Lewandowski from Cheshire, UK on September 11, 2012:

A great, and very comprehensive hub - definitely bookmarked for reference.

On the safety front there've been a number of issues in the UK recently with carbon monoxide poisoning - mainly by families bringing the portable barbecue and its last embers inside the tent for warmth...and unfortunately not living to tell the tale. Such tragic and unnecessary loss...

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on August 29, 2012:

KDuBarry03 - If you love the outdoors and getting closer to nature, I'm sure you'll enjoy camping. I hope you and your friends have a great time!

KDuBarry03 on August 29, 2012:

Some of my friends and I have been talking about going camping next summer. I'll definitely keep these tips in mind!

Voted up and shared :)

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on March 26, 2012:


Great suggestions about taking frozen gallon jugs of water with you when camping. I like the idea of the duel purpose of keeping drinks chilled and carrying extra drinking and washing up water.

Thanks for your helpful comments.

nadelma from NEW ADDRESS: Melbourne, Florida on March 25, 2012:

Hello Gail

The hub was very interesting and I would like to mention another suggestion. When we go to the Pocono Racetrack we are there from Wednesday night until Monday noon.

We take a lot of gallon bottles of water, and 1/2 gallon containers and freeze them starting weeks ahead of time. When we go to the track, we put the bottles in a few large coolers.

When we get to our destination, we put soda and bottles of drinking water in with the frozen containers.

When the frozen ones defrost, we use the water for so many things, like dishes, toilet flushing, cleaning the tables etc.

Another thing we never forget are the portable fans as we cannot run the generator after 11 and in August, it gets very hot. Just the breeze from the portable fans really helps.

Have a great summer RVing. We hope to get out more this year in ours too.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on March 24, 2012:

Hi Gail,

My response to your comment last night was also lost -- wonder what happened? But thanks so much for visiting my hub. I'm glad now that I used the campfire photograph as the lead picture - everyone seems to like it. There is something cozy and comforting about a campfire, isn't there? Thanks for the comments and votes!

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on March 24, 2012:

Hi Peggy,

This is weird! I responded to your comment last night and it looked like it was posted. Today it's gone along with another of my responses!

But thank you for visiting my hub! We do love to relax around the campfire now and then, enjoying the quiet evening, a big sky and a glass of wine! Thanks for the votes and the share! I appreciate it!

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on March 23, 2012:

Wonderful, comprehensive hub about all facets of camping safety. You drew me in with the picture of the campfire and kept my attention throughout. Yes, many of these things are basic but it's very helpful to have all this information in one place as it can be used as a check list.

Voted up, useful and interesting.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 23, 2012:

I also loved that picture of the two of you enjoying an evening around the campfire. Looks so relaxing! All good tips to consider before going on a camping trip. All votes up except funny and will share with my followers.

Stephanie Henkel (author) from USA on March 23, 2012:

Hi Bob,

There is something cozy and comforting about a campfire at night,especially with some good friends, and a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.

I've never even contemplated tying rattlesnakes in knots -- that would involve getting out of my car and standing on the same ground the snake is crawling on, wouldn't it? Not gonna happen! :)

diogenes from UK and Mexico on March 23, 2012:

...and my own snippet of information: never tie rattlesnakes in reef knots!

Boy, you guys look contented around that fire.

Fire is what makes a camping experience, isn't it? Nothing brings that secure, warm happy, magic feeling like a fire against the blackness of a strange wilderness. Keeps nasties at bay, too - and makes the best baked potatoes.

Useful hub for inexperienced and regular campers.


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