The Basics of Camping Safety 101

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Ready to head out on a camping trip with friends or family? It’s fun to put together a menu and plan each day’s activities, but don’t forget to consider everyone’s safety as well. So, while having fun and enjoying the peace of nature is a top priority on a camping trip, it pays to be prepared, too.

Below are some of the basics of camping safety. With these must-have pieces of gear and tidbits of common sense knowledge, your camping trip will be fun, memorable and, more importantly, safe!

Carry a Headlamp and Flashlight

The Ten Essentials are put in place for hikers, but it goes without saying that they come in handy for campers as well. One of these essentials that comes in handy is a hands-free headlamp to help you see around the site at night and, let’s be honest, shine into the woods at the sound of a nearby critter. Of course, it’s a wise idea to have a backup flashlight, just in case your headlamp loses power or gets damaged.

Keep Gear and Food Secure

Keep gear and clothes from getting wet and perishables from rotting. Pack clothes and gear in a dry bag or a weather-resistant case of some sort. If you are camping on a hunting trip, keep rifles and other weapons in a gun case, protected from weather and secured.

The same goes for your food. Not only do you need to keep perishables on ice in a heavy-duty cooler to avoid food poisoning from bacteria and such, but you also need to ensure wildlife will not get into it. However, if your destination is in bear territory, make sure to follow the guidelines and don’t keep food in your car, but in the bear box that is often provided.

Check the Weather Forecast

Check the weather forecast, even up until the day you leave. You never know how winds might shift, causing colder nights or unbearably hot days. Rain, thunderstorms and a wet campsite can wash you out and make camping a bit more challenging, too. So plan appropriately and dress for the upcoming weather.

Pack a First Aid Kit

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Packing a first aid kit has to be one of the most important steps in camping safety. Out in the wilderness, you can get scrapes, burns, cuts or stings, so you better be prepared with antihistamines, antibacterial ointment, gauzes, bandages and more. Create your own DIY first aid kit and pick up the supplies you need, replenishing the kit after each camping trip.

Practice Fire Safety

A campfire is quintessential camping. However, to enjoy a fire, it’s also critical to practice basic fire safety. It’s important to understand wind direction, ensuring embers don’t blow into trees, bushes or even your tent. Basically, you need to keep anything flammable a good 15-foot distance away. Most importantly, never leave a fire unattended and keep a bucket of water close at hand should it get out of control.

Be Mindful of the Sun

Practice sun safety, too! A scorching sunburn can be soothed with aloe, but the effects are far more lasting. This is true even if your camping weekend is cloudy. So it’s imperative to protect your skin with sunscreen. Be sure to wear a hat to protect your scalp, too, and areas where sunscreen can’t reach. Ideally, you should also wear long-sleeved clothing that covers everything, but that’s not always practical on a hot day.

Do Not Disrupt the Wildlife

Leave No Trace principles offer campers, hikers or anyone out in nature a set of guidelines to go by. One of these that many forget is to leave the wildlife alone. Many folks have the common sense to leave bears and other larger animals alone, but even feeding squirrels, chipmunks and baby animals can ultimately harm them. Never touch or feed a wild animal and be sure to store your food properly, like in a bear bag hung in the trees or a bear box provided by the campground.

Stay Hydrated and Drink Clean Water

Be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. More importantly, make sure that the water you drink is clean, free of parasites and other pathogens. If you can’t bring enough water from home and need to rely on a nearby stream or natural water source, you must boil the water or filter it and use water purification tablets. You must also use clean water to wash dishes and foods.

Avoid Insect Bites and Stings

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Besides pesky mosquitoes, you need to watch out for other insects. Hornets can sting, causing an allergic reaction, but ticks are more harmful than them all. Ticks can carry Lyme Disease, which can bring on more serious health concerns. So it’s important to protect yourself.

Be sure to wear long clothing whenever you can, especially when out for a hike. Insect repellent helps a lot, but always be sure to check yourself at least at the end of each day, particularly in areas where ticks like to hide. Check your pets, too!

Avoid Poisonous Plants

Learn about poisonous plants, what they look like and what to do if you develop a rash. For example, poison ivy and poison oak can ruin a camping trip quickly. While they are not usually life-threatening, you should know how to dress areas that are infected to prevent further spread.

Also, never eat anything off a tree or bush. Berries might look similar to the ones we get from the supermarket, but they can be toxic species that can prove dangerous. 

Carry a Map and Compass

Technology will fail you at some point on your camping trip. And while many of us would relish in being unplugged, not having a GPS system to guide our next leg of a journey can cause you to lose your way and get lost.

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Before you start out on any camping trip, be sure to pick up a compass and maps of the region and local area. You never know when they will come in handy. But more so, make sure you understand how to use them together to help navigate terrains, elevations and more. It could save your life.

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