Family camping trips are one of my fondest memories from my childhood. My parents would pack us kids up in the car and take us on National Park adventures, complete with hot-dog-grilling campfires, hiking, and wild animal spotting. Many families use the great outdoors as a bonding experience—in fact, over 45 million people went camping in 2015.
While camping is a fun, family-friendly experience, Mother Nature can also pose many safety threats if campers are not prepared and educated. Here are some SafeWise-approved tips and safety gear to make sure your next camping trip doesn’t get ruined by a safety emergency.
1. Prepare for the Elements
It’s always best to research the weather conditions of the area you will be camping in before you arrive. For up-to-date weather information, check the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration website. Stay out of tent, try car instead because rubber tires will protect from electric charge
Sometimes, no matter how well you prepare, you will find yourself in inclement weather. Just in case, you should prepare by packing clothing and gear that will help you deal with extreme rain or sunshine.
Always pack sunscreen to prevent sunburns and sun poisoning. Even on a cloudy day, you can get burnt, and sunburns zap your energy, cause irregularities in your body’s ability to control your core temperature, and are just plain uncomfortable!
Rain and Wind Protection:
Bring a rain jacket or emergency poncho with you on your camping trip, just in case you encounter a storm. No matter how amazing the weather is when you arrive at your destination, it’s always possible a storm will settle over your campground during the night.
It’s also smart to refresh the waterproofing layer of your tent, re-seal the seams regularly, and to bring a tarp just in case it springs a leak. There is nothing more miserable or cold than sleeping in a rain-drenched tent.
If you find yourself trapped in a lightning storm, it can be tempting to seek shelter in your tent. This is a bad idea. The metal poles of your tent only serve to attract lightning, especially if you are at a high elevation or in the desert, where no trees surround your camp. The safest place to be in a lightning storm is inside your vehicle, not touching any metal, since the metal diverts the dangerous amperage into the ground.
2. Bring Extra Food and Water
It’s always best to bring more food and water than you think you’ll need, just in case circumstances change. For instance, you may be stuck in a storm, forget the fuel needed to cook half of your food, or simply underestimate your needs.
Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink; sip on water all day long, because once you are thirsty you’re probably dehydrated. If you experience dizziness, headache, cramps, fatigue, or nausea, you need to drink immediately, as these symptoms suggest a dangerous level of dehydration.
Hyponatremia, when the body is deficient in sodium, is also a risk if you over-hydrate. This is usually only an issue if you are exerting yourself hiking or doing other outdoors activities while camping. To compensate, eat one meal that is high in salt each day you camp, or pack electrolyte replacement capsules to restores your body’s sodium levels.
Diversify Your Food Stores:
Make sure to pack food that doesn’t require refrigeration or cooking, just in case you forget fuel, matches, or the ice. Granola bars, mixed nuts, or fruit leather, are all nutrient-dense options that could just save your camping trip or life in an emergency.
3. Beware Predators and Pests
Bees, wasps, mosquitoes, bears, and snakes can all be extremely dangerous, especially if you are in a remote area where the nearest hospital is a long drive away. Make sure you are prepared for predators and pests alike.
Invest in a Bear Canister and Bear Spray:
While storing food away from your camp is a good start, if you know you’ll be camping where there is a possibility of encountering a bear, make sure to store your food in a bear canister. Never leave food in the car or near camp.
In case you do happen upon a bear, it’s a good idea to pack bear spray, which is like pepper spray for bears. Most weapons are not powerful enough to pierce the skull of a bear, and will only anger the animal. For more tips on what to do if you encounter a bear, check out this guide for Staying Safe Around Bears from the National Park Service.
Deter Bees, Wasps, and Mosquitos:
Bee and wasp stings are painful and potentially life-threatening for those who are allergic. Mosquitos carry all kinds of blood-borne diseases, and leave itchy bites that can get infected. To deter these and other pests, hang trash away from camp, use bug sprays, and bring natural deterrents like a fresh-sliced cucumber, sachets of cloves or mothballs, and citronella candles. If you’re allergic, also make sure to bring an Epi-pen camping.
Always educate yourself about venomous snakes that you might encounter where you will be camping, so you can identify one if you see it. Snakes like to hide out in tall grasses, so set up camp in as exposed an area as possible, and avoid walking through dense grasses while traveling to and from your campsite. Make sure to fully close your tent before you go to sleep so snakes don’t find their way inside while you slumber. You can also buy chemical snake repellents to protect you against common venomous snakes, like the rattlesnake.
4. Don’t Get Lost
It’s always smart to bring a GPS Locator or map with you when camping and hiking, just in case you lose your way on that dirt road or trail. Outdoor retailers like REI host free or cheap classes that teach campers how to use a map, GPS unit, compass, and landmarks to find their way in the wilderness. You might also find a similar class through community education.
5. Stay Clean
Make sure to bring wet wipes, hand sanitizer, and a shovel to properly dispose of waste during your camping trip. Also avoid rinsing your feet and hands in the nearby creek or lake, as it could contain many harmful bacteria and parasites that could make you sick long after your camping trip is over.
Never drink water that has not been sterilized and filtered. In case of an emergency, bring an advanced water filter (a Brita filter will not work) or water treatment tablets, and boil water before drinking to kill off any remaining contaminants. To learn more about how to find safe drinking water, check out this useful guide.
6. Bring the Right Gear
Making sure that you are equipped with the right gear is essential when camping. Make sure to pack useful safety items like a camping first-aid kit, Paracord, and a sturdy survival multi-tool.
SafeWise Recommended Camping Safety Gear
List price: $19.99
List price: $14
List price: $17.99
Water Treatment Tablets
Camping First Aid Kit
Handheld GPS Unit
List price: $59.99
List price: $16.99