How To Stay Safe While Camping (The Definitive Guide)


safety jedi

Camping is a favorite pastime activity for millions of people all over the world. Whether it’s due to its immersion-in-nature or getaway appeal, we don’t know for sure. However, there’s one surety about camping: the great outdoors pose a great deal of danger for the unprepared and the oblivious.

Flash floods, wild animal attacks and frostbites are just a tip of what is likely to threaten your camping safety while out there. So, between the bush crafting and s’mores toasting, it’s prudent that you observe basic camping safety tips.

The National Park Service (NPS) summarized it best with their five-step approach to being safe while camping, which include the following:

In this no-nonsense guide, we dive deep into the ins and outs of the above summaries. We expound broadly what each step entails, what it possibly fails to dissect as well as try to give you practical advice on what to do to stay safe at all times. With this guide, you will never make rooky camping mistakes again!

safety jedi

Content Overview

lifesaver

SECTION 1

Safety Firsts

camping shelter

SECTION 2

Sheltering Safety

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SECTION 3

Food and Water Safety

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SECTION 4

Fire Safety

carbon monoxide

SECTION 5

Carbon-Monoxide Poisoning

bear-icon

SECTION 6

Wild Animal Safety

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SECTION 7

Avoiding Bug Bites

poisonous mushroom

SECTION 8

Know Your Plants

bad weather

SECTION 9

Weather Safety

Section 1: Safety Firsts


lifesaver

Ideally, all-rounded camping safety measures should cater for before the trip, upon arrival, during camping, and after the trip. As you will see below, there are a couple of things that you will need to do before embarking on your trip.

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Planning Out Your Trip

You will want to etch out your overall camping trip in terms of expected difficulty levels, the park you want to visit, length of stay and available camping options. The time of the year is also just as crucial as it will directly influence the type of gear to carry, sites to visit and so on.

You will want to go for camping activities and destinations that are right for you. In other words, the activities should match your interests and physical abilities. Pushing yourself too far with strenuous hiking trails or dangerous whitewater rafting will only lead to injuries or worse.

Knowing your limits is key to ensuring camping safety and a worthwhile experience while out and about.

The environment of your camping destination – whether it’s a forest, desert, beach, or mountainous – should be well considered in your plan. Don’t be afraid to reschedule your camping trip. Always remember that a backup plan may best address emerging issues.

An emergency plan should also be in place to address injuries, being lost and any other eventualities. You should also inform a family member or a friend at home to be your emergency contact plus leave your travel itinerary with them.

Get to Know More about the Park/Campsite

Most national parks, campgrounds, and recreational sites will have a set of requirements, regulations, and general information regarding the area or camping activities. These camping rules are usually kept in place to protect and conserve the site for future generations to enjoy.

Therefore, be sure to look up such information not only for compliance but also for your safety.

Research thoroughly on the camp’s required permits, fees and passes, outdoor conditions of the area, fire regulations, pet rules and regulations, food storage and disposal directives, as well as general camping regulations.

Restrictions on pets, for instance, are meant to prevent the spread of infectious diseases to the park’s wildlife population, to prevent your pets from being injured by park wildlife, and to avoid congestion in popular sites of attraction. So, you will want to check with the park’s or campgrounds’ staff on such crucial information before embarking on your trip.

Prepare Your Gear Checklist

Whether you’re heading for a trekking adventure, a kayaking trip or the basic tent camping in the woods, you’ll need to carry with you the appropriate equipment. This may be dependent on factors like length of stay, environment, season of the year or weather conditions, and level of difficulty.

You’d need among other items; climbing boots, ropes, crampons, and carabiners for your ice climbing trip; or sunscreen, backpack, and hiking boots for your typical trekking expedition.

To avoid second-guessing, ensure that you have the following camping essentials on your checklist:

With the above checklist at hand, double-check that all your gear is present and operational. Ensure that all the first aid supplies are usable; restock if needed. You will also need to try on your equipment to ensure that everything fits correctly. A camping test run at your backyard will go a long way in avoiding complications later on.

Polish Up your Emergency Preparedness

Don’t shy away from attending a refresher class on emergency preparedness. The techniques you will learn could be lifesaving when unprecedented horrors occur.

Aside from having your survival kit, an emergency plan is a good reference to address many eventualities that can happen when camping. Whether it’ll be on what to do in case of unpredictable weather, how to administer first aid for different scenarios, where and how to get help, and who to contact in cases of emergency will go a long way in ensuring that you are prepared.

If you intend to have a swim or spend lots of time on beaches, then you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled to monitor tidal waves and their intensity. Watch kids closely at all times and under no circumstances should you go swimming or hiking alone.

Lugging along the needed protective gear for any of the camping activities you’ll engage in is a no-brainer, and may be part of the site’s rules and regulations.

That said, here is a generalized checklist to consider when developing your individual emergency plan:

You may not have enough time to act when a disaster strikes thus the more reason to practice and prepare beforehand.

Section 2: Sheltering Safety


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Whether you opt for an RV housing or tent camping option, your outdoor shelter should be as safe and as accessible as possible and within the campground’s set guidelines.

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Selecting a Campsite and Pitching Tent

Before you start fumbling with the tent stakes and tarps, you want to make sure your campsite is safe. Double-check that the area is away from edges of cliffs, away from lightning-prone spaces, flash flood-prone terrain and dead trees.

Ideally, you want to pitch your tent on level ground, a safe distance from the fire pit and cooking station, but not in valleys. It’s also highly recommended that you camp well before dark, having surveyed the terrain during the day.

When setting up camp in bear country, be sure to apply the bear safety tips as detailed in Section 6. Else, you should consult the local authorities or campground hosts on sheltering best practices.

Always keep your site clean to avoid attracting wild animals and insects. If a fire erupts in a tent, make sure that everyone gets out right away before anything else. Then, observe the fire safety tips as discussed herein.

When clearing out, implement the Leave No Trace principles to the letter by ensuring the campfire has been fully extinguished, the garbage has been disposed of properly, and so on.

The Danger of Falling Tree Branches (Widowmakers)

Widowmakers, also known as fool killers, is the main reason you should avoid camping under trees. The term is used in forestry circles to refer to detached or dead branches hanging precariously from trees.

Widowmakers originate from the natural branch shedding processes in trees, which happens in an effort of the trees to self-prune, counter drought effects, and get rid of shaded limbs. The branch shedding gets worse when there’s a sudden increase of water such as storms or other severe weather conditions.

Tornadoes, hurricanes, strong winds, and localized thunderstorms may also damage some branches or uproot entire trees. Oaks, sycamore and cottonwoods are usually the most likely trees to shed branches on a regular basis.

Widowmakers will most likely fall during tree felling and have already accounted for 11% of all chainsaw-related fatalities. While the risks of having a fatal widowmaker incident are fairly low, pitching a tent under trees or using hammocks without protective tarps increases this risk.

Some ways you can avoid falling Widowmakers is by:

Section 3: Food and Water Safety


food safety

Even if you take all other precautionary measures, water and food can be the biggest threats to your health if they are contaminated.

The goal here is to bring safe and healthy foods and minimize their contamination during transportation. Drinking contaminated water or eating contaminated foods only increases the risk of developing severe illnesses caused by germs and bacteria.

food safety

Keeping Your Food Safe

In general, you can prevent food poisoning by following the four tried-and-tested steps – clean, separate, cook, and chill.

You need to wash your hands, utensils, and other food preparation surfaces when dealing with food. Then, you need to separate your foods to avoid cross-contamination by storing certain types of food separate including raw and cooked foods.

Make sure to cook your foods at the right temperature, especially, you want the internal temperature to be high enough to kill germs. Follow this table for a general idea of safe minimum cooking temperatures for different foods, for instance; ground meat requires an internal temperature of 160-165°F while pork and ham require 145-165°F.

You may use a thermometer to countercheck but this may not be practical while in the great outdoors, so have all your foods well done and preferably on a cast-iron skillet. It will also be more practical and safer to serve your meals almost immediately after cooking to maintain them at the safe temperature zone.

Proper storage of food is also very crucial in avoiding potential contamination. You’ll want to properly refrigerate and freeze your foods during transportation.

RVers with built-in freezers and fridges within their rigs will have it quite easy but as for the car campers and backpackers with coolers, some extra caution should be applied. However, the chilling will mostly keep the food safe until you can cook it by halting bacteria multiplication.

Bacteria that cause food poisoning have been found to multiply rapidly in the “Danger Zone” i.e. range of temperatures between 40°F and 140°F.

Keeping that in mind, here are some quick tips you’ll want to remember when packing your food in a cooler.

What About the Drinking Water?

Untreated water harbors pathogens such as Protozoa (Cryptosporidium and Giardia lamblia), bacteria (Campylobacter, Salmonella, Shigella, E. coli), and viruses (enterovirus, hepatitis A, norovirus, rotavirus). Needless to say, all these pathogens may cause mild to severe gastrointestinal illnesses including; vomiting, diarrhea, cramps, beaver fever, hepatitis, Legionella pneumonia and meningitis.

Please be advised that drinking water directly from streams or lakes could lead to contracting a myriad of waterborne infections. It doesn’t matter how clean the water looks, DON’T DRINK IT!

Boiling is the most effective way to kill off all pathogens and thus you should bring your drinking water to boil for one minute or 3 minutes when at altitudes greater than 6562 feet. Chemical disinfection and filtration systems may also be used as pathogen reduction methods.

Ensure you bring along more than enough water purification tablets and portable water filters as a backup to boiling drinking water. You’ll also want to replace the purification tablets with each trip as they tend to lose their potency over time.

Even though they don’t remove particulates, metals, or smells, UV light purifiers are good alternatives for eliminating water pathogens. Remember to refill your hydration bladder whenever you get a chance to.

Lastly, you’ll need to be on the lookout for signs that may indicate whether certain water bodies are safe to get water (to treat) from. Remember to stay hydrated, particularly, before and during a strenuous hike or physical activity.

Section 4: Fire Safety


fire

Nothing beats the good ole around-the-campfire stories over s’mores, campfire tarts, campfire cones, and/or cinnamon rolls. However, an errant ember can escalate things from heart laughs to cries for help in a matter of minutes.

Humans caused up to 85% of all wildfires in the United States within the years 2000-2017. This ranges from activities such as leaving campfires unattended, negligently discarding cigarettes, basic equipment usage and malfunctions, burning of debris, to straight-up arson.

Therefore, it’s up to all of us to be more proactive in preventing this avoidable destruction of Mother Nature. Below, we will look at some best practices when building campfires as well as general fire safety tips.

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How to Safely Build A Campfire

Firstly, you need to pay attention to the local rules and regulations pertaining to campfires. Fires may be prohibited in desert and drought regions to reduce the risk of wildfires. In such cases, a camping stove may suffice as an alternative or you may just use the facilities provided in the campground.

Always utilize the available campfire rings or pits and if not present, make the fire pit in a suitable area. As we've always advised, follow these steps to build a campfire pit:

The fire pit should be a good distance, typically 8 feet, from the tent or any nearby bushes. Any flammable object including your tent, litter, aerosol cans, and any dry paper should be as far away from the fire pit as possible. This also applies to reserve firewood as well.

Always maintain the fire at height of no more than 3 feet and 4 feet in diameter. Plus, you’ll want to keep away from setting up your campfire under low-hanging branches or low trees to prevent any possibility of the tree/branches catching fire.

Also, you need to have a bucket of water, a shovel, and a source of water nearby at all times.

To prevent any spread of the fire, NEVER leave the campfire unattended. It only takes spark there, an ignition here and then you have an uncontrollable fire gobbling down the forest together with its flora and fauna.

Plus, if you have pets and/or children, you want to keep a close eye so that they don’t get too near to the fire.

When it’s time to extinguish the fire, make sure to pour lots of water, dirt, or sand onto the fire until it’s out. Make sure there are no embers remaining and only leave when everything is cold to touch. As an exercise to preserve the environment and Leave No Trace – Pack It In, Pack It Out.

Granted that accidents may happen, if you catch fire then the most effective action to put it out is to STOP, DROP, and ROLL. If it’s your camping buddy who has caught fire then smother the flames with a wet or dry towel to put them out.

What to Do with an Out-Of-Control Campfire

If a campfire does get out of control, contact the local authorities immediately then try to contain it safely (if possible) and evacuate. If you decide to contain the fire be sure that you can manage it on your own.

Smother the fire with dirt, sand, or soaking/wet towels and if you are near a stream or any other water body, collect water with pails and pour around the fire. Also, move the tent or any other flammable object away from the flames.

Pour lots of water on the campfire, drowning all embers until the hissing sound stops. Scrape any remaining logs and sticks with a shovel to remove any embers and continue adding water, sand, or dirt until every material is cool.

However, if you don’t want to risk it then always contact the local authorities and evacuate the area immediately.

Section 6: Carbon Monoxide Poisoning


carbon-monoxide

You’ll want to be very careful when using fuel-burning equipment as they emit hazardous carbon monoxide (CO). Carbon monoxide is an odorless, non-irritating, colorless gas that comes about due to incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuels like charcoal, firewood, and propane, among others.

In the U.S. alone, about 430 people die each year from accidental CO poisoning and about 50,000 people visit the ER with CO poisoning-related cases. Yes, it’s that serious!

carbon-monoxide

Watch Out for the Tell-tale Signs

Some common symptoms associated with CO poisoning include headaches, nausea, dizziness, vomiting, shortness of breath and weakness.

If you suspect CO poisoning, get outside immediately for some fresh air and then call 9-1-1.

The best way to avoid CO exposure is by never using fuel-burning equipment inside tents or other enclosed spaces. Never use fuel-burning appliances such as gas/kerosene tent heaters, camping gas stoves, charcoal grills, lanterns, BBQs, and hibachi inside your tent, or any other enclosed shelters.

You should also never run a gas, diesel or petrol-powered generator inside an enclosed shelter and do ensure that the fumes don’t go into your unit or anyone’s unit. Even when using the equipment outdoors, ensure that the area is well ventilated.

SIDE NOTE: Be careful when using propane canisters; single-use cylinders must be disposed of responsibly and should never be refilled. An alternative to this would be to switch to refillable canisters.

As a precaution, install a battery-operated CO detector in your tent and be sure to check/replace the batteries regularly.

Consider Other Alternatives for Your Lighting, Cooking, and Heating

While it might be tempting to bring a heater inside the tent for those cold nights, the potential CO buildup is not worth the risk. Instead, ensure that you bring adequate clothing and bedding to shield you from the cold.

Additionally, to prevent hypothermia you’ll need to consume extra calories and fluids. Electric heaters and chemical warmers are good alternatives to consider but do make sure they have the required safety features.

Sheltering with friends or at a community shelter is also a good way to eliminate the use of fuel-burning heating appliances.

Section 6: Wild Animal Safety


bear icon

The best way to enjoy nature is by keeping a safe distance – a safe distance from fragile ecosystems and a safe distance from wild animals. Wild animals carry diseases that may be dangerous to humans and some may even attack or bite you.

If the animal changes behavior, runs away or stops eating then you’re too close!

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Avoid Contact with Wild Animals

Some of the most common illnesses linked to animal contact include the following:

Some of the diseases arise from animal contact, animal bites, and/or from animal droppings. However, it’s not all grim as there are a couple of preventative measures you can partake to alleviate all the above.

While a campfire may keep off some animals away from the campsite, leaving it unattended overnight would just be plain counterintuitive. Always have a flashlight at arm’s reach in the tent to shine on any critters that might make it to the campsite.

Most animals feed at night, so having a flashlight to warn them off is highly recommended.

About Bears and Other Wild Animals

Surprisingly, bears are the least of your worries when it comes to animal-inflicted human injuries and fatalities. In Yellowstone, for instance, only 8 people have been killed by bears since 1872 and only 44 people have ever been injured in the park since 1979.

In North America, there have been 158 fatal bear attacks since 1900, with a majority (97) having happened in the United States. About 50 percent of all wild bear attacks in the US happen in six national parks, which include: Glacier, Yellowstone, Flathead Chugach, Glacier Bay and Spruce Knob-Seneca Rocks.

Other lethal attacks may be caused by venomous snakes, mountain lions, wolves, dogs, coyotes, and so on.

Researching widely and deeply about your camping destination will be a sure way to help prepare against any chance encounters with wildlife. You also want to have you, your family, and pets vaccinated before embarking on your trip.

Ways of Preventing Wildlife Encounters

We’ve established that animal contact can lead to injuries, fatalities, and/or contracting deadly diseases. So, how can you prevent unexpected animal encounters?

Well, you’ll need to research widely on how to behave in case of an encounter with certain dangerous wildlife. Here, we will focus on what to do when you come face to face with a snake, a bear, or a mountain lion.

Snake Safety

Approximately 8,000 people each year get snake bites in the US, with the most fatal bites coming from rattlesnakes. One thing to keep in mind is that rattlesnakes are generally not aggressive and will only attack when deliberately provoked or threatened.

Put simply, if you see a snake then the most practical response should be to back away from it slowly and not touch it. You should also be very alert before taking a swim in some areas as some snakes could be swimming to get to higher grounds.

Snakes may be hiding under rocks, debris, firewood, or other objects thus you need to be very careful when turning such objects over. Be sure to wear gloves as a precaution.

In the case of a snakebite, you should administer the prescribed first-aid procedure, if you can, and seek immediate medical attention.

Bear Safety

The surest way to avoid an encounter with bears is to observe viewing etiquette and paying attention to your surroundings. Bear pepper spray can be a lifesaver in fending off charging bears, however, be sure that you know how to use it before taking the chances.

It’s always advisable that you hike/travel in groups to be more noticeable to bears since big groups of people tend to be smellier and noisier. If a bear notices you, help the bear recognize you as a human by talking calmly, standing your ground, and slowly waving your arms.

A bear standing on its hind legs shows curiosity and is non-threatening. Remember to stay calm as sudden movements or screams may trigger an attack.

When making your exit, don’t drop your backpack as it can provide some protection in case of an attack from the back. If the bear remains stationary, you want to maintain eye contact and avoid tripping as you move away. This is attainable by moving slowly and sideways.

If the bear follows, don’t run or try to climb a tree as bears can climb and do love chasing fleeing animals. Instead, stop and hold your ground, wait for the bear to move away. Then take a detour or leave the area.

You also don’t want bears accessing your food. Thus, you need to invest in bear-resistant containers (bear canisters) or food lockers for storing your food supplies. Suitable food storage containers should lock in smells and be impenetrable to bears.

If you can’t get a hold of a suitable bear canister then you may hang your food supplies, properly sealed, between two trees about ten feet from the ground.

As a precaution, never store food in your tent or backpack instead utilize the bear canisters, food lockers, inside of your car, or as guided by the local authorities.

You also want to limit bringing along scented items including strongly-scented perfumes, as they may also attract bears or other critters. Further, to limit the bears whiffing you out from your cozy tent, try not to sleep in the same clothes you used while cooking.

Secure the removed clothes in an airtight bag.

Cleanliness and proper waste disposal will be a sure lifesaver. Be sure to clean dirty dishes after meals and safely stow away any leftovers to avoid getting unwanted beastly guests. Use the campsite dumpsites or designated bear-proof bins to rid off your waste including food wrappers.

SIDE NOTE: Human food is bad for bears as it makes them lose their preference for natural food sources. This may over time cause them to approach humans more often, become more aggressive and dangerous, and force them to be euthanized.

As a last resort, you may choose to play dead if attacked by brown/grizzly bears and wait out for it to leave. However, playing dead won’t fool black bears so try to escape to a secure place and if not possible, fight back using any object available. Focus your jabs and kicks on the bear’s face and muzzle.

What to Do in Case of a Mountain Lion Encounter

Mountain lions and cougars, in general, don’t pose a great threat to humans as compared to other wildlife encounters since they’re mostly calm, quiet, and elusive. They only attack when they feel cornered.

That said, you’ll want to exercise similar measures as those used to evade bear attacks. Hike in groups, keep small children close to you and behave calmly when you see a mountain lion.

Don’t run from a lion or even think of approaching one. You also don’t want to awaken the cougar’s predatory instinct by crouching, squatting, or bending over as it perceives you as prey. If the mountain lion advances your way, try to look bigger by raising your arms or opening your jacket.

Hurl stones, branches, or any other object in the animal’s direction but not at it if the previous measures didn’t work. This should all be done without turning your back or crouching.

Protecting Family Pets

In some cases, having your dog at the campsite may keep some animals away but it may not always work. Plus, barking dogs at night is not exactly a good camping experience for everyone.

That said, if you do bring your dogs or pets along with you for camping, make sure to follow the site’s rules and regulations regarding pets. Make sure they are leashed in restricted areas and that they have plenty of water, food and shelter.

The pets should be vaccinated regularly and prior to the camping trip to safeguard them against wildlife diseases such as giardia, leptospirosis, and rabies. Also, check them for fleas and ticks regularly and use recommended preventives.

Section 7: Avoiding Bug Bites


mosquito icon

The great outdoors is filled with bugs of all kinds; from the stinging kind, biting kind, disease spreading ones to harmless ones. We are talking mosquitoes, ticks, wasps, hornets, ants, yellow jackets, no-see-ums, flies, chiggers and so much more.

Apart from being a nuisance, bugs help transmit many serious diseases such as malaria, Lyme disease, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, Yellow Fever, and West Nile Virus among others. However, that shouldn’t dissuade you from hiking deep into the backcountry as there are many methods you can use to fight off mosquitoes and other bugs.

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Fight Off Bugs with Tried-And-Tested Repellents

DEET-based insect repellents are the most popular and arguably the most effective options in the market today. A higher concentration of DEET (diethyltoluamide) indicates more effectiveness of the product.

Alternatives to DEET-based products include those insect repellents with either of the following EPA-registered ingredients; Picaridin, Menthoglycol, Oil of lemon eucalyptus, or Ethyl butylacetylaminopropionate (IR3535).

The repellents are typically available as sprays or creams and may not be that pleasant smelling. There are also mosquito repellent lanterns with removable capsules that you can use around the campsite.

If you want to go the natural way, you’ll want to look into citronella candles and pyrethrum-infused mosquito coils. Other hit-or-miss homemade solutions include garlic capsules, mint, vinegar and essential oils made of either thyme, cedarwood, lemongrass, cloves, or lavender.

Other Measures to Keep Bugs Away

Wearing the right clothing will also go a long way in keeping mosquitoes and bugs out of your way. Bring along your mosquito head net, long-sleeved wear, pants and other insect repellent clothing for extra protection against bugs.

It also goes without saying that you should always avoid insect-infested areas such as areas with tall grass and standing water. Your tent should additionally be well secured with netting if possible and your food should always be properly stored.

If you have the space and budget, a screen room is the perfect last resort when all things fail.

A first-aid kit will come in handy in case of sudden allergic reactions and also remember to protect your pets from bugs by checking them for ticks and fleas as well as cleaning them regularly.

Staying Safe Around Yellow jackets and Other Stinging Insects

If you’re allergic to yellow jacket venom then a mere sting from them can be life-threatening. Thus, you should always have a sting treatment kit with you at all times.

Yellow jackets are especially a threat during late summer and early fall when their populations are at peak. They mostly nest in soil cavities such as mouse nests, abandoned gopher holes, or hollow trees. The yellow jackets will attack if you disturb their nests either intentionally or when horse-riding.

Keep in mind that a yellow jacket doesn’t leave its stinger in its victim, therefore it can sting many times. In case of an attack, walk away slowly while covering your face and preferably towards dense vegetation to avoid the stings.

If they get into your RV or car, stop the vehicle on the side of the road and alert everyone to get out then open all windows and doors. The flying insects will typically head for any openings in an attempt to escape.

Section 8: Know Your Plants


poisonous mushroom

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned camper, you cannot possibly identify all the poisonous wild plants. In this section, you will learn:

poisonous mushroom

Generally, you’re bound to encounter harmful plants when out in the wild; those that can be deadly when ingested and others that can hurt you when they come in contact with your skin. As with wild animals, it’s important that you observe plants from a safe distance and never try to eat them despite their appeal.

People have died from mistaking hemlock roots for wild carrots so it’s best not to take the chances. It figures then that you need to be able to identify poisonous plants while camping or hiking for your own safety and that of your family and friends.

You can get a full list of poisonous plants and non-poisonous plants on the Poison.org website, complete with relevant photos.

Sure, you may not be able to identify all the plants you come across. Therefore, it’s best that you minimize contact by not touching or eating wild plants and by wearing long-sleeved clothing and socks.

Poisonous Plants to Avoids

The most common plants you’ll want to avoid include: poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, poison hemlock, giant hogweed, aconite (wolf’s bane), stinging nettle, manchineel, and wild mushrooms. Pretty much anything with “poison” in its name should be avoided at all costs.

Perhaps, you’ve heard of these popular sayings; “Leaves of three, leave them be”, “Longer middle stem, don’t touch them”, or “Hairy vine, no friend of mine”. They all refer to poison ivy, a popular itch-inducing plant found in most of North America.

Poison ivy contains urushiol which can cause itching, blisters, redness, and bumps in about 85% of people. Urushiol is also present in eastern/western poison oak but more potent in poison sumac.

Similarly, the photosensitizing furanocoumarins in giant hogweed can cause itching or more severe skin reactions such as permanent scarring and painful blistering. The allergic reactions are exacerbated by moisture or sweat.

While the wolf’s bane plant looks like purple flowers, it’s laced with skin-numbing aconitine poison. If it gets into contact with your skin, you’ll feel some tingling or go numb. It’s even more severe when ingested as it can lead to heart irregularities, vomiting, diarrhea, coma and even death.

If you come into contact with stinging nettle, its hairs inject irritants (active concentrations of the neurotransmitter chemicals acetylcholine and histamine) that result in an itchy and burning sensation.

When it comes to wild mushrooms – avoid all of them, don’t touch any of them, and never eat any of them!

Possible Treatment for Some Poisonous Plants

In case of contact with poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac, wash the affected area with cold water and soap. Apply calamine lotion, topical antihistamine, hydrocortisone cream, or the classic Tecnu skin cleanser to reduce the itching.

Follow the directions as indicated on the lotions or creams. Plus, you should never apply the treatment to broken skin, for instance, open blisters.

Avoid scratching the area to minimize the risk of infection. Also, you should seek medical attention if the affected area is on your face/genitals or the rash becomes infected.

Section 9: Weather Safety


hurricane weather

The nature of weather is that it is unpredictable and thunderstorms can occur impromptu. Such severe weather can place you and your team in life-threatening situations and stop a rather fun outing.

As such, readiness and preparedness is inevitable if you want to stay safe.

hurricane weather

Thunderstorms, Lightning, and Rain

Do prior research on the weather pattern around the area you will be camping. You can do so by checking the weather forecast for insight on the type of weather you are likely to experience.

Take note that due to the spontaneous nature of weather sometimes, you will also have to monitor the weather pattern during your trip.

Lightning is particularly fatal as it can carry a current of more than 30,000 amps while a 15 amp household current has the power to kill you. Moreover, wildfires occur naturally when sparked by lightning.

If you can hear the sound of thunder 10 miles away in the midst of a storm then you should immediately seek shelter. Water happens to be a very good conductor of electricity. Therefore, you should instantly get away from it if you happen to be swimming or in a water carriage such as boats or canoes.

In the event that there's a severe storm, avoid tall or lone trees, especially the 'dead' ones. Position yourself where small trees are surrounded by larger ones if you are deep in the woods.

If you happen to have a car with you, opt for refuge in it as opposed to your tent. This is because car tires will absorb the electricity and reduce impact on the car if it were to be hit. This is however only a better alternative if you are not in a campground with a pre-designated shelter. If available, stay on its lowest floor away from the windows.

If there is no shelter whatsoever near you then your best bet is to stay in a low spot that is away from trees and metallic objects such as poles and fences.

Be weary of flash floods and water sources

The fundamental rule of camping with relation to floods is to set camp far away from water sources such as streams as they are likely to overflow and carry you with them.

Do not swim alone and never enter into water whose depth you are unaware of. You should also never let your children swim unsupervised. Not only can water prove to be a risk by being contagious but by also drowning you or members of your group in case of floods.

Make no attempt to cross a flowing stream nor should you drive through a flooded road. If the water happens to be more than six inches deep and fast-flowing, then its flow has the power to control your car.

Additionally, make sure to always observe the following precautions:

Unhealthy Sun Exposure

The great outdoors provide us with a front-row seat to the number one source of Vitamin D, the Sun. As you may already know, the sunshine vitamin is essential for healthy bones and for the immune system.

However, it should be noted that prolonged exposure to the sun’s harmful rays is not recommended as it can lead to sunburns, skin aging, heatstroke, eye damage, and skin cancer.

Even though the sun rays are strongest during midday hours, you’ll want to have all-day skin protection against the sun when going outdoors. Keep in mind that the sun’s UV rays are just as severe on cloudy days as they are on sunny days.

Protect Skin Using the Right Sunscreen

Sunscreen comprises chemicals that either absorb, reflect, or scatter sunlight and in effect protect your skin from UV rays. The golden rule about sunscreen is that, if your skin reacts badly to one brand/unit, then consult your doctor before trying on another one.

You need broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 15 for basic protection against sunburn. The effectiveness of the sunscreen is indicated by the sun protection factor (SPF), which means higher numbers equals more protection.

Mineral-based sunscreens with Zinc Oxide or Titanium Oxide tend to be more effective and safer than the rest. Sunscreen with IR-A protection is a good upgrade if you’re looking for extra protection against the sun’s Infrared-A light.

Remember to reapply your sunscreen every two hours of being out in the sun and immediately after toweling off or swimming.

Cosmetics with sunscreen features may also be used as an extra layer of protection against the sun’s harmful rays.

Other Ways to Protect Yourself from Sun Overexposure

To prevent eye damage, you’ll also need to get yourself some dark-tinted sunglasses or risk developing burned corneas and/or cataracts. When shopping for sunglasses, check for their UV rating and eye protection factor before buying.

With the aim of covering up exposed skin, be sure to wear protective clothing before hitting those pesky backcountry trails or taking your nature walks.

Wide-brimmed hats, boonie hats, legionnaire-style hats, and visas are perfect for covering your neck, ears, face, and scalp. Lightweight, long pants, and skirts with dark colors as well as sun-protective beachwear and swimwear, will do just fine in protecting most of your body.

Lastly, you need to stay in the shade as often as you can when outdoors. Whether it’s under a tree, a wide umbrella, or a pop-up tent, sunshade effectively blocks off most of the sun’s UVA and UVB rays.

Conclusion


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Whether you want to “travel back in time” to see the ancient homes of the Ancestral Pueblo people in Mesa Verde National Park or you just want to awe over the jaw-dropping sceneries of the vast Great Smoky Mountains National Park, camping is a great way to do it all.

However, there’s a lot that can happen to ruin your perfect trip. With anticipation however, you are a step closer to having a perfectly safe camping trip. We hope you found the above camping safety tips to be useful and that they can help you get the most out of your camping trips. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

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