Camp Safety Tips
By Catalogs Editorial Staff
Contributed by Info Guru Lindsay Shugerman
Summer time, autumn, winter or spring, every season is camping season for people all over the country. Camping fans are heading out by the tens of thousands each week, end to soak up some of the wonders of the great outdoors.
And I totally get it. I love camping. But I also know how easy it is for a fun wilderness get-away to turn disastrous. Or even deadly. That’s why it’s so important to follow some basic camp safety tips, to keep you, your family and your friends safe for the next time you get an urge to leave civilization behind.
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Sure, it’s romantic and exciting to contemplate heading out into the wilderness on a whim, and finding your own way. After all, the great adventurers of American history did that. But unless you’re a John Muir or part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, you need to start by checking area hiking, topographic and trail maps.
Maps will tell you what the terrain is like (do you need hiking sneakers, or a solid and sturdy pair of boots?), what the elevation is (makes a big difference in nighttime temps!) and whether you need a permit to camp. Without these and other details, it can be almost impossible to pack properly for your destination!
9. Sharing location
Before a pilot takes off, they file a flight plan. That way, someone always knows where they were headed (and by what route), in case they run into trouble. The same idea is one of the best camping and hiking safety tips. Before you head out, file your camping (and hiking) “flight plan” with a couple of trusted friends or family members back home. That way, if you don’t return on schedule, they know where to send help!
I love taking my dog with me when I go camping, but that also means I need to plan for her camping safety, too. That starts with checking her leash and harness for any rips or weak spots. Having a leash break in camp can endanger not only my dog, but other camper’s peace and quiet … and dinners!
I also bring a sturdy tie-out line and if I’m car camping, a collapsible sleeping crate. At night, dog food and treats need to be stored high up in a tree, or sealed in metal containers in the car or camper to avoid attracting bears or wolves.
When you’re camping, lightning can pose a serious risk. If storms are in the forecast, avoid setting up your tent in an open field. It’s best to place your tent in among trees, but not so close that a strike would put you at risk. If possible, wait out a lightning storm in the camp hall, in your vehicle or in a shallow cave.
A day or two before you load up the car, it’s a good idea to take your tent out of its bag and do a trial set-up. That way you can make sure all parts are there and are in good condition. Make sure you know how to assemble the tent so it won’t collapse in the middle of the night. And if cold conditions are forecast, make sure your tent provides enough protection from wind, rain or snow. And don’t forget the ground tarps and other accessories that keep you safe and dry.
Everything tastes better outdoors, but cooking at camp can pose some safety challenges. Do make any perishables are stored in coolers with enough ice to prevent spoilage. And don’t allow cooked food to sit out for more than a few minutes before its eaten…bacteria growth can begin quickly and having the runs while camping is anything but fun!
At night, secure all food and food trash in sealed metal cans, in your car or in a bear bag high up in a tree. That way, wild animals won’t be tempted into your campsite. And never ever keep food in your tent … that midnight snack can easily become deadly bear bait.
If your camping trip is on or near waterways, make sure everyone has a properly fitting life vest for boating. And keep a close eye on kids — they usually love water and might wander away to explore it, with tragic consequences.
Be sure to set boundaries with your kids, letting them know to stay away from lakes, streams and pools unless mom, dad or a camp counselor takes them. It’s no fool-proof, but that warning might make them think twice before exploring the water’s edge.
3. First aid
On most camping trips, you’ll never even open the first aid kit. But if someone does take a tumble, sprain an ankle or encounter an unwelcoming insect, you’ll want to have a top-notch first aid kit on hand.
Before you pack for your trip, check your kit, and replace anything that’s missing or out of date. That way you’ll be ready for almost anything.
What would a camping trip be without a campfire? But all fires carry risks, so the wise camper is prepared. Before you start the campfire, build a solid wall of stones or rocks. Clear out any nearby branches or grasses that might catch fire from a spark. And keep a bucket of sand or water next to your fire (ideally, both) in to extinguish the fire at bedtime or when you leave the campsite.
Adding a small fire extinguisher to your camp supplies is a good idea, too. You may never need it, but if you do, that small item could save a life … or a forest.
1. Be prepared
It isn’t possible to prepare for everything, but spending time planning for the possibilities is a good way to keep your camping experience a safe one. Consider the terrain, the weather, the ages of campers and other factors that might affect safety, and plan for each. In the end, having a good experience will be worth the preparation.
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Camping is more fun when no one gets hurt. So plan for safety, and everyone will come back with wonderful memories.
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