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Is Camping Safe? (How To Camp Safely)

Few outdoor activities are as exciting as camping. It is a great way to burn your energy while bonding with your loved ones and relieving stress. Despite the numerous advantages of camping, a lot of people still worry about how safe camping is.

Camping is safe as long as you take all the necessary precautions. Just like most outdoor activities, camping has its own safety hazards involving the weather, wildlife and adverse terrain. Ensuring you put in place the relevant safety measures will guarantee your safety while camping.

Camping can be really fun, and you can make it more enjoyable by preparing adequately for all potential safety hazards. Below, we have highlighted all the possible dangers of camping, how to avoid them, and how to best stay safe when camping.

Is Camping Dangerous?

Camping is dangerous, just due to the fact that it involves spending considerable time outdoors. The weather plays a part, as does the wildlife, terrain, and general conditions. It is important to identify these potential dangers in order to know how to equip yourself to deal with them.

Dangerous Weather

Weather has a very significant impact on your safety while camping. Because weather can change unexpectedly, it is essential that you check the forecast in order to know what to expect. There are different weather elements that can pose danger to your safety while camping, a few of them being excessive wind, stormy weather, and potential flooding.

Wind

Strong wind is not a favorable weather element for campers. If your tent is not properly installed a strong wind can blow it off the ground, leaving you without cover and exposing you to the harsh weather. But it is not just your tent that winds can affect. The strongest winds can break tree branches, causing them to fall, and these can be lethal in the worst of cases.

Storms

Stormy weather will usually bring with it plenty of wind and rain, but the lightning associated with thunderstorms can also make camping dangerous. Lightning can cause fires or even strike humans during a storm, or strike trees, causing branches to fall, potentially onto your campsite. So, it’s definitely best to avoid camping when you expect storms in the area. It’s simply not worth the risk.

Flooding

Flooding is caused by heavy rains and overflow of water from canyons or ravines, and it can be very destructive. It’s best to avoid camping after very heavy rains on lower parts of the land, as it can take hours or even days for heavy rains on the hills to make their way down to the lower levels, where flash flooding can be extremely dangerous.

Wildlife And Insects

Camping is an outdoor activity, so you are sure to deal with wildlife and insects at some point. These creatures can harm you if you don’t know what to do when you encounter them. Obviously, the specific wildlife you come across will depend on where you are camping, so it’s important to research what you might encounter before you head out.  

Bears

Bears can be commonly found in wooded territories in various places across the US. They are usually attracted to food and scented products. Bears can sniff out leftovers and smelly items from a long way away, so you need to ensure you’re storing and disposing of your food properly. A bear may harm you if it feels threatened, so it’s best to understand how to avoid an encounter (more on that soon).

Keep these items outside your tent at all times, particularly when you are asleep. You should endeavor to keep the camp clean at all times. Clean all your cooking utensils immediately after using them. Throw away waste papers and dirt in the designated area for waste. Also, try to be together in groups at all times. Bears prefer staying away from a crowd of people, as they are not comfortable with the noise and smell from multiple humans.

Snakes & Insects

Snakes are another animal species to be aware of when planning a camping trip. There are many species of snakes, with some being venomous. A bite from a venomous snake can be fatal. So, you need to be aware of any possible snakes you might encounter on your trip so you can understand how to avoid them and, if necessary, treat any wounds.

Apart from the bigger animals, insects can also cause problems for campers. Insects like mosquitoes and ticks can carry pathogens that lead to some nasty diseases. Pack some bug spray and, again, understand what you might encounter to be best prepared to deal with them.

Plants And Berries

Some wild berries are unsafe for human consumption. Eating them can trigger allergies or cause illness. In the same vein, certain plants and leaves can irritate your skin giving you a bad rash. They can also cause allergic reactions, so while it’s best to simply avoid consuming any wild plants or berries, it’s useful to research what you might come across on your trip so you can be prepared.

Other Camping Dangers

There are other camping dangers you may need to contend with, from dealing with campfires to dangerous terrain. However, planning in advance, taking the right gear with you, and keeping your wits about you are sure-fire ways to stay safe. Below, we have some more camping safety tips to ensure your trip goes to plan.

7 Camping Safety Tips

1. Plan Ahead

Planning your trip ahead of time is key to having a successful camping experience. Camping is not an activity that should be done impulsively. An impromptu camping trip will come with a couple of problems, and you are very likely to forget something important. Make sure to plan ahead, finding the perfect camping site and deciding on the type of shelter to be used.

You also need to be sure of the number of people going on the trip, making consideration for their age, physical abilities and medical needs is key. If you are camping with children or elderly people, it is best to visit a camping site that offers easy walks rather than strenuous hikes. Basically, plan according to the people and nature of your trip.

2. Pack The Necessary Equipment

Camping sites are usually far out and away from the cities. As such, you might not be able to get things that you need close by. This is why it is important to pack all the appropriate equipment that you need, and it helps to make a checklist that you can then use for all of your future camping trips.

Appropriate equipment includes items like your phone, maps, compass, GPS, headlamps and flashlights. You may also require fire lighters, and having things like rope and a multitool can often come in handy as well. Again, make a checklist in advance so you don’t forget anything.

3. Be Aware Of The Local Wildlife

One of the most important things to do before deciding on your campsite is to research the wildlife you may encounter. You need to be aware of all the animals that you will possibly come across while you are there. If you are camping in an area with mosquitoes, then you need to bring mosquito repellent, for example.

If you are camping in an area where bears inhabit, you’ll need to consider things like a bear canister. Pack and plan according to the wildlife you’re likely to come across, and this will often make sure you stay not just safe, but comfortable too.

4. Practice Fire Safety

Sitting around the campfire and having great conversations is one of the best parts of camping. However, you need to practice fire safety at all times. The campfire should be set up in a secluded area, away from the tent and your supplies. It is also important to check the fire at all times, never leaving it unattended.

Putting out the fire is just as important as attending to it regularly. Always put out the fire before retiring for the night. Drown the embers of the fire to put it out. Ensure you put out all the embers and not just the visible glowing red ones, repeating until the firepit is cold and free from any embers.

5. Stay Hydrated

Staying hydrated is crucial, particularly when you are camping in a warm climate. Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, and if you are doing a lot of walking, try to drink about liter of water every two hours. Drinking sports drinks can also help to replace the electrolytes you lose through sweat, keeping you hydrated.

6. Protect Yourself From The Sun

Sunburns come with serious health risks. The mistake that many people make is thinking that UV rays are present only on sunny days. Even on cloudy days you stand the risk of getting sun burned as UV rays are still getting through the clouds. This is why it is important to protect yourself from the sun at all times when camping.

Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from sun rays too. Wear a hat and clothes with long sleeves, provided you don’t overheat and remain comfortable. Use sunscreen when required. Also, try to walk in the shade as often as possible, as this will also prevent you from getting too hot and putting yourself at risk of heatstroke.

7. Listen To Your Body

Above all, it is important to listen to your body when camping. Ensure to rest and pay attention to how you feel. Do not push yourself to the limit, and go for the less stressful activities whenever necessary. Don’t be afraid to sit down every once in a while if you feel like it’s all getting a bit too much!

10 Beginner Camping Safety Mistakes To Avoid

1. Failing To Make A List

Camping is an activity that requires a lot of planning. One of the best ways to prepare for a camping trip is by making a list. Making a list will enable you to write down everything that you need in an organized format. A lot of first time campers plan trips without making a list. More often than not, they end up forgetting something essential! Eliminate the risk by creating a list.

2. Failing To Practice Setting Up

Most beginner campers don’t bother practicing with their equipment before they head out. You should set up your tent and take it down at home, to see how it works and ensure you’re capable of putting it together and taking it apart. The last thing you want is to get out to your campsite and realize you don’t know how to put up your tent!

3. Picking The Wrong Tent

Your tent serves as your shelter while camping, so it is important to pick the right one for your needs. A lot of first time campers pick the wrong tent on their first trip. The problem is usually with the size or material of the tent, so make sure you understand what you need from a tent before you buy one, as they can be a big investment, and you don’t want to waste your money.

You should also check the tent before you head out to be sure it is not broken or damaged. Check the components of the tent, including the poles, fabric and zipper, to be sure that they all work properly. However, you should be checking all of this anyway when you practice putting your tent up before your trip!

4. Not Respecting Plants & Animals

There’s no doubt that wildlife is fascinating to look at. You must be careful though, and respect the wildlife you might come across when you’re camping. As we have discussed above, it’s important to pack according to the wildlife you can expect to encounter, from bears to mosquitos, but it’s also vital to respect the animals as well.

Importantly, ensure you’re not disturbing the natural habitats of other animals, and make sure you dispose of your waste – be it trash or human waste – properly. When in doubt, adhere to the “Leave No Trace” principle. Along with the animals you might come across, it’s also important to think about the plants you’ll encounter too.

A lot of new campers do not know that there are dangerous plants in the woods. As such, they tend to explore and end up coming into contact with poisonous plants. Examples of poisonous plants to avoid are poison sumac, poisonous mushrooms and poison oak. Do not touch a plant that you do not recognize, and you should stay safe.

6. Arriving Too Late

A night trip is not the best option when you are going camping. You are likely to travel on uneven terrain, and it is best to do that when you can see the road clearly. You always need daylight to set up your tent properly, especially as a beginner. It is therefore best to leave home during the day, and arrive at the campsite with at least four hours of daylight to work with.

7. Wearing The Wrong Clothes

Your choice of clothing is crucial to your safety and well-being when camping. You need to wear clothes that will keep you warm and dry, and comfortable too. Obviously, this will come down to where you’re camping, and what the weather is expected to be like.

If you’re camping in an area that you’re familiar with, you’ll know yourself how predictable or how unpredictable the weather can be. However, it’s still best to err on the side of caution and have some extra layers with you just in case it gets exceptionally cold.

8. Not Storing Food Properly

Most people do not pay enough attention to food storage when camping. however, it is a crucial part of your camping experience, as it affects your health and safety. Consuming poorly stored food is bad for your health, and it could leave you with an upset stomach.

However, leaving your food open may also attract wildlife to your tent, thereby threatening your safety. If you’re camping in bear country, ensure you have a bear canister or other appropriate bear-proof storage system.

9. Not Going With Enough Water

While it is true that some campsites have potable water, it is best to always travel with enough water to avoid the risk of dehydration, either due to you needing more water than expected or if the campsite supply is down for some reason. You will need water for drinking, cooking and even washing the dishes, so it is best to travel with enough to serve you through your stay.

It may also be a good idea to invest in a water filter or water purifying tablets. These are obviously only useful if you’re camping near a water source, but they can save you some weight on your back as you can fill up as and when you need to.

10. Bringing Too Much Stuff

Deciding on the amount of stuff to bring is a dilemma for many campers. On one hand, you want to be as comfortable as possible, having all the things you will possibly need with you. On the other hand, you do not want to pack too much stuff that you don’t end up really needing. The best thing to do if you are traveling in a large group is to limit it to one bag per person.

Once again, make a list of all the essentials, and ensure these are covered first before adding in any luxury items. Camping isn’t supposed to involve bringing your entire house with you! So, don’t make the beginner mistake of overpacking.

Everything You Should Pack For A Safe Camping Trip

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit should be the first thing you pack for a safe camping trip. This is your “insurance policy” in case of injuries or accidents. Your first aid kit should contain basic medications such as cough and cold medications, painkillers, as well as allergy medications. You should also have gloves, ointments, as well as bandages.

Essentially, your first aid kit should give you the preparation you need to deal with any emergency that could arise on your camping trip. This will go a long way to allowing you to stay safe when camping.

Light Source

For lighting, you should bring flashlights or lanterns. Don’t forget to pack extra batteries for the flashlights, and consider solar lights or chargers as a backup. Headlamps also come in handy, in case you need to set up your tent or deal with anything else in the dark.

Toiletries

Practicing proper hygiene is important at all times, even when you are camping. Insect repellent and sunscreen are very important, as you do not want to get sun burned or sick on what should be a fun camping trip! Don’t forget your hand sanitizer, and go with enough to last you the whole trip.

Suitable Clothing

Consider the weather forecast when packing your clothing. At the campsite, you need to stay warm while also being as comfortable as possible. The clothing items that you pack should include things you plan to wear daily, like underwear, shorts and T-shirts etc.

But you also need to consider more specific things like rain jackets, gloves and hats for the cold, and perhaps even hiking boots if you plan to do a lot of walking. What you wear on your feet is important for your safety, as terrain out in the wild can be very unforgiving. Having stable, durable footwear minimizes the chances of you injuring yourself out on the trail.

Final Thoughts

Camping is safe, provided you take the necessary safety precautions. There are some inherent dangers, including wildlife, weather and adverse terrain. But as long as you plan and prepare in advance, and understand what you may encounter when you’re out in the wild, you can have a safe camping trip.