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Camping Safety

There is nothing quite like camping in the summertime. Over the past century, more and more people have headed into the great outdoors for rest, relaxation, adventure and restoration. In the past five years alone, over one-third of the adults in the United States have gone on a camping trip.

No matter what level of camping comfort you enjoy, there are always risks and hazards. On average, there are over 30,000 injuries treated in emergency rooms each year and doctors treat an additional 75,000 camping-related injuries per year.

The following are camping tips from Camp Safe Organization to help make your camping experience a safe one:

Arrival on Site:
  • Always plan ahead. Arrive at your campsite with plenty of daylight time remaining to scout the campsite for hazards, unpack and set up camp
  • Stay away from areas that may flood easily or get muddy if it rains
  • Be cautious. Look for sharp objects, broken glass, or other foreign objects
  • Avoid areas with rocks or other hazardous terrains
  • Watch for bees, ants and other insects, along with poison ivy and other poisonous plants
  • Avoid areas with low tree branches or dead trees; these could easily fall during gusts of wind
  • Look for an area with bushes or shrubs to block cold winds or provide shade in the heat
  • Pick an area with level ground and enough space for all your belongings
  • Pitch your tent away from your campfire
  • Build your campfire in a contained area to prevent it from spreading
Clothing Safety:
  • Wear layers of clothing instead of one heavy piece. You'll be warmer
  • Wearing layers will also allow you to adjust to different temperatures by adding or removing layers
  • Waterproof clothing will prepare you for different weather conditions
  • Shoes and boots must be comfortable for walking to prevent blisters
  • Tuck pant legs into your socks and shoes to keep insects and ticks from getting underneath clothing
  • A cap or hat is a good shield to protect your head from too much sun
Weather when nights are cold:

Dampness and cold send many cold-weather campers searching for a motel. A little forethought and common sense will keep any sleeping bag dry. Buy a quality bag with a water-repellent, windproof shell or cocoon yourself by slipping the bag into a bivouac (bevy sack), which is waterproof. Remember to:
  • Choose a dark colored sleeping bag. It will absorb the sun's warmth when you air-dry it the next morning
  • Change into dry clothes , preferably polypropylene underwear, before retiring for the night
If you plan to spend several consecutive nights in sub-zero weather, add a vapor barrier liner of nylon cloth, purchased by the yard from a fabric or camping supply stores. Bags that don't get a chance to dry out in extremely cold weather collect body moisture in their insulation. This moisture freezes and can literally add pounds of ice to an untreated bag.

Another alternative is making a vapor barrier liner by wearing a plastic garbage bag over your long underwear or to wear your raincoat to bed. To protect extremities, wear empty sandwich bags or bread sacks over hands and feet. Please remember to keep plastic bags away from small children.

Food:


  • Keep hot food hot and cold food cold
  • Be clean when preparing, eating and storing food
  • Wash/clean hands, utensils and pots when using
  • Handle meat correctly
  • Make sure drinking water is safe to consume
Camping Gear:

  • Always read any manuals before using equipment
  • Improper use of any gear always creates a risk or hazard
  • Know your equipment and perform regular maintenance checks
  • Know the intended uses for your gear
  • Read all safety-warning labels on your equipment
  • Never use portable radiant gas heaters in an enclosure
  • When using propane cylinders, always store cylinders upright and never use or store a propane cylinder indoors
Avoiding Bears:
  • Don't hike alone or after dark. Whistle, sing or otherwise make loud noises when traveling through known bear country. A bear that hears you will nearly always move off the trail
  • If you see a cub, back off; never get between a cub and its mother
  • Stay as clean as possible but avoid scented shampoos and deodorants and don't sleep in the clothes you wore all day and cooked in. Instead, hang them away from camp, along with your food
  • Remember that a tent affords more protection than sleeping in the open. Keep a flashlight and a noisemaker handy
  • Most importantly, don't provoke a bear by approaching the animal for photos or a better look. According to the National Park Service, if you run into a bear, avoid eye contact (which might be interpreted as a threat), talk softly and walk away, while dropping something that might distract the bear
  • Finally, always remember to never keep food in your tent
Children:
  • Feed children small portions rather than large meals during the day to provide energy for hiking and swimming without stomachaches
  • Dressing your child in bright colored clothing makes them more noticeable
  • Long pants and long sleeves will help prevent exposure to poisonous plants and insect bites
First Aid:
  • Pack and carry a First Aid kit
  • Before each trip, replace what is missing from your First Aid kit and check expiration dates on all medications
CASE STUDY: A 27 year old SrA was camping. When the campfire started burning out, the SrA decided to roll the log over with his foot while wearing flip-flops. An ember from the fire got caught between the flip-flop and the SrA's foot, resulting in third-degree burns. A stick was available to maintain the camp fire, but at the time of the mishap the stick was out of hand's reach.