As the weather gets warmer, camping in the woods is a popular way for people to enjoy a break from their fast-paced lives. However, weather, wildlife, and other outdoor challenges can turn your fun-filled camping trip into a nightmare if you aren't cautious. Follow these safety rules to return from camping unharmed (except for maybe a few bug bites).
Plan and Prepare for a Safe Adventure
- Research your campsite and plan to arrive well before the sun sets, so you have time to find a level spot and set up your tent. Choose a campsite that offers plenty of shade and wind protection.
- Look up the weather forecast and pack clothing accordingly. Temperatures can drop drastically at night, so remember to pack extra layers of comfortable clothing and an insulated sleeping bag. Bring a pair of comfortable, closed toed shoes, and multiple pairs of socks.
- Bring a weatherproof tent big enough to sleep everyone in your party, and know how to assemble it.
- Prepare for the unexpected; bring a battery-powered radio, a handheld GPS, flashlights, and extra batteries for each.
- Have garbage bags available to properly dispose of your trash, and bring eating utensils that you can reuse to reduce waste.
- Pack a fully stocked first aid kit that includes bug spray, sunscreen, and anti-itch cream. Bring hand sanitizer to protect against illness in the absence of running water. In addition, bring any medication you or fellow campers might need.
- Prepare plenty of food and water, and pack it in tight waterproof bags or containers. Keep any perishable items you bring (i.e. hamburgers) in a sealed cooler.
- Know how to reach the park ranger or park security officers, and locate a landline in advance so you can call 9-1-1 in the event of an emergency.
Protect Yourself from the Elements
- Make sure that your recreational activities are safe as well. If you go biking, be sure to wear a helmet, and wear a life jacket any time you are out on the water.
- Stay on marked trails while hiking and wear long pants or socks to guard against poison ivy, poison oak, and other poisonous plants. Never go hiking alone.
- Build your fire well away from materials that ignite and burn rapidly, like the synthetic material of your tent or dry brush and dead branches.
- Keep your distance from any wild animals you might come across. Keep food in sealed containers in your car or hang it high from trees so that animals won't be able to reach it. Never leave food unattended or out overnight—you don't want to invite dangerous animals to your campsite.
- Don't let pets wander off, and ensure that they also have food to eat and a safe shelter to sleep in.
- Apply insect repellent and sunscreen every couple of hours. Check daily for ticks or skin rashes to avoid illness. For maximum protection, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants.
- Drink plenty of water—if temperatures run high, take breaks to rest in a shady area.
- Do your best to keep bugs and dirt out of your tent, and securely zip your tent nightly before going to sleep.
- Do not use any fuel-burning equipment such as heaters or gas stoves inside a tent where dangerous carbon monoxide can build up.
Preserve the Environment for Future Campers
- Check your fire pit to make sure that the embers are completely extinguished. Dispose of any trash your party generates in garbage bags, and when you leave the campsite, throw garbage bags into a dumpster.
- Walk around your campsite one last time before leaving to confirm nothing is left behind. Leave your campsite in the same condition you found it or better.
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