A camping trip is an adventurous way to get outside and embrace our wild spaces — there’s nothing like unplugging and spending time ‘round a campfire. Like all outdoor activities, camping is not without its 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. Mosquito bites, sprained ankles, and sunburns have the potential to cause real problems, especially if you don’t have access to first aid essentials. 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 will be minor issues that can either 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.
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. A smoky campfire will ward off mosquitoes, as will a stiff breeze, which obviously you can’t control.
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 to clean crumbs and food waste up from around your campsite.
Camping Tips for Dealing with Cuts, Bruises, and Sprains
Cuts, bruises, and sprains are a fact of life, and you’ll probably have to deal with at least one these during every camping trip. Instead of trying to prevent these injuries, plan for them with a first aid kit that includes important essentials.
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. 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 for bee stings
Extras, Just in Case
Snake bite kit – The Sawyer Extractor is good for bee stings, spider, and snake bites — important if you’re camping in snake country.
Needle and thread
Camping Safety Tips for Kids
Staying found – One if 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 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, 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.
Swimming safety – Kids should know 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.
Staying hydrated – 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.
Water safety – Most campgrounds will 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.
Cleanliness – Keeping hands and food-prep areas clean will go a long way toward preventing bacterial infections when camping. Set up a handwashing station at your campsite and ensure that everyone uses it before handling food. Dishes should be washed in hot, soapy water after every meal.
Raw meat – 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 think you can maintain temperatures cold enough for raw meat, consider alternatives that will be less risky.
Camping Safety with Pets
Camping is one of the most dog-friendly vacations you can take, and even cats will take to campground life if exposed to it when they are young. Here are a few camping tips for keeping your pets safe.
ID and microchip your pet – The most important camping safety tip 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.
Make sure your pets are fully vaccinated – Before you embark on any outdoor adventure, be sure your pets are updated on all their vaccines, especially distemper and rabies.
Keep pets on a leash at all times – 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.
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.