Camping Safety: Tips for Safe Camping
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 tetnus shots current? 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
- Sunburn ointment
- Snake bite kit
- Eye drops
- Antibiotic soap
- Butterfly bandages
- Moleskin for blisters
- Nail clippers
- Small pair of scissors
- Heat and cold packs
- First Aid Manual
- Mirror and magnifying glass
- Sinus or cold medications
- Sterile compress
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
- Wide brimmed Hat
- Hiking boots or study 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
- 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 lipbalm 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, 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, is 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 with food. Remember that food can spoil within an hour in temperatures of 90° or more if not kept chilled!
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 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!
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
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.
A Screen Tent Provides Protection from Mosquitoes
Protect Against Insect Bites
Insect bites are not only itchy and painful, but biting insects can carry disease 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 more easy 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.
* For suggestions on natural ways to relieve pain and itching of mosquito bites, check this article: Easy Remedies to Treat a Mosquito Bite
Video - How to Safely Build a Campfire
Campfire Safety while camping
- 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 danger of wildfires.
- Protect the environment by not bringing wood from one locality to another as wood can carry destructive disease 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 intended area.
- Never leave a campfire unattended, and put campfire out before going to bed.
- Keep flammables, camp chairs and clothing away from campfire.
Keep Your Cat or Dog on a Leash at All Times
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.
Good Field Guides to Take Camping
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 safely 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.
Copyright ©2012 Stephanie Henkel
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