A camping trip is an adventurous way to get outside and embrace wild spaces — there’s nothing like unplugging and spending time with friends and family around a campfire.
Like all outdoor activities, camping is not without risks. And while the thought of ferocious wild animals may send chills down your spine, it’s the little things that are more likely to ruin a camping trip.
What are The Risks of Camping?
Mosquito bites, sprained ankles, and sunburns have the potential to cause real problems, especially if you don’t have access to first aid essentials. There are also environmental risks to consider, such as lightning, flash floods or tornadoes.
The following camping tips will help you prepare for minor and major emergencies in the outdoors.
Preventing the Most Common Injuries
Your biggest camping safety concerns are typically minor issues that can either be prevented or handled with basic knowledge. The key, of course, is to be prepared. Here’s how to prevent common injuries when camping.
With days spent under a sweltering sun and nights spent around a campfire, there’s ample opportunity for painful burns. To prevent sunburn, apply sunscreen liberally each morning, and reapply every two hours after that. Wear a brimmed hat and sunglasses when paddling and hiking.
Before you light your campfire in the evening, be sure to clear the area of sticks, garbage, and debris that could be a tripping hazard. Keep marshmallow sticks pointed into the fire, and make sure there’s no running or roughhousing near the fire pit.
Choosing a Safe Campsite
There are a few things to consider when assessing your campsite for safety. Dead trees can be dangerous on a windy night, especially if you are tent camping. Look around the campsite you choose to make sure there are no dead trees overhanging your site.
Other environmental factors will vary by region, so don't be afraid to ask your campground host if there's anything you should be aware of. For example, in the Midwest, tornado season often coincides with camping season. Make sure you know where the nearest tornado shelter is located. Other regions may be prone to flash floods or lightning.
Camping Tips for Wild Animal Safety
Most of the critters you’ll have to deal with when camping will have six legs. To prevent mosquito bites, apply bug spray liberally, especially in the evening. We use Herbal Armor Natural Bug Repellent on exposed skin, and save repellent with DEET for our clothing and shoes. Spraying a bug spray with DEET on your shoes will also minimize your risk from ticks. It also helps to wear long pants and long-sleeve tops.
Banish Bugs from Your Campsite! LEARN MORE!
As for the larger critters, like squirrels, raccoons, and bears, the most reliable way to keep them out of your camp is to keep your food out of reach.
Store food and toiletries in your car or an animal-proof box. Don’t let kids eat in the tent, and be sure that nobody is leaving food, even crumbs or wrappers, around your campsite.
These bear safety tips apply to most four-legged animals that you may be sharing the woods with.
Camping Tips for Treating Minor Injuries
Cuts, bites, bruises, and sprains are a fact of life, whether you're camping or at home. Chances are, you’ll have to deal with at least one these during every camping trip. In addition to trying to prevent these injuries, you should also be prepared to treat them with a first aid kit that includes important essentials.
Do you know how to identify bug bites?
First Aid Kit Essentials for Camp Safety
The best way to practice camp safety is to come prepared with a fully-stocked first aid kit. You can buy a ready-made kit from a camping supply company, or you can make one yourself. The best recommendation is to start with a pre-made kit and then add or subtract based on your own needs.
Here’s what to include in your first aid kit for camping safety:
Caring for Wounds
Bandages for minor cuts and scrapes
Sterile gauze pads
Waterproof first-aid tape
Tweezers, needles, and a magnifying glass for splinters and removing ticks
Caladryl or hydrocortisone for bug bites and/or poison ivy
Caring for Sprains, Strains, and Bruises
Instant cold packs for sprains or inflammation
Elastic compression wraps
Arnica cream for bruises
Strips of fabric you can use as a makeshift sling
Common Medications for Camping Safety
Tylenol for headaches, colds, etc.
Over-the-counter cold and flu medication
Benadryl for allergies and bee stings
Extras, Just in Case
Snake bite kit – The Sawyer Extractor is good for bee stings, spider, and snake bites — this is important if you’re camping in snake country.
Needle and thread
Safety Tips for Camping with Kids
Camping with kids requires an entirely different level of preparedness. Here are some camping tips that will keep your kids safe in the outdoors.
Avoiding Lost Children
One of the most important camping safety tips for kids is ensuring that they know what to do if they become lost or separated from you.
Every kid should carry a whistle and know how to use in emergencies. Three blasts on a whistle is an international distress signal, so kids should only use it if they truly need help.
Another great option is a two way radio which can allow communication over a large distance.
Poison ivy, Poison Oak, and Sumac
If you are camping in an area where these plants thrive, be sure you and your kids can identify them. If you’re not sure, ask a ranger for help.
Kids should know to never swim unless there is a lifeguard or parent present. Kids who are paddling or aren’t confident swimmers should always wear a personal floatation device to keep them safe.
Kids may need to be reminded to drink enough fluids when camping, especially when hiking and swimming. How much water kids need will depend on their age, but encouraging them to drink up every hour will prevent dehydration.
Camping Food Safety
After minor injuries, food and water-borne illnesses are the most common camping safety complaint. Here are some camping food safety tips that will go a long way toward keeping your family illness-free.
Most campgrounds provide safe drinking water that you can use for drinking, cooking, and washing. If you are camping in a primitive area, be sure to use a sterilization method to ensure your water is safe. Use a camping water filter, iodine tablets, or boil water for at least 10 minutes to kill contaminants.
Keeping hands and food-prep areas clean will go a long way towards preventing bacterial infections when camping. Set up a hand washing station at your campsite and ensure that everyone uses it before handling food. Dishes should be washed in hot, soapy water after every meal.
Bacteria in raw meat will spread rapidly between 40 ℉ and 140 ℉. Be sure to keep raw meat cold, and then cook thoroughly to avoid contamination. If you don’t have an insulated cooler that can maintain temperatures cold enough for raw meat, consider alternative ingredients that will be less risky. You can also cook meat at home and reheat it at camp!
Camping Safety with Pets
Camping is one of the most dog-friendly ways to travel, and even cats can take to campground life if exposed to it when they are young. Here are a few camping tips for keeping your pets safe.
The most important safety tip for camping with pets to ensure they can be found if they are lost. Make sure your cat or dog has a legible ID tag with your cell phone number on it. Microchipping your pet will ensure that you are reunited if they are ever lost and end up in a shelter.
Before you embark on any outdoor adventure, be sure your pets are updated on all their vaccines, especially distemper and rabies. Depending on your location, you should also consider heartworm and flea/tick preventative.
Most campgrounds will require that your pets be kept on a leash. This is also the best way to ensure that your pets stay safe and don’t annoy your camping neighbors.
Animal First Aid
Most human first-aid supplies will be useful for animals as well. Add some self-adherent vet tape and some vet-prescribed pain medication, and you should be all set. An emergency muzzle is also something you might consider, depending on your pet.
When preparing for your camping trip, a little preparedness can go a long way toward keeping everyone safe. Minor and major injuries can happen to anyone, but if you follow the above camp safety tips, you’ll be ready for anything.
How do you stay safe while camping?
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