Camping Safety Guide
By Bonnie Schiedel
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In this article:
- Choosing a Great Site
- Fun Camping Games And Activities
- Best Camping Crafts
- Delicious Camping Recipes
- Camping Safety Guide
- Family Camping Stories We Love
- Shelter And Recreation Checklist
- Camping Food And Cooking Checklist
- Clothing And Camping Gear Checklist
- Camping Toiletries Checklist
- Setting Up Camp Checklist
- Back Country Camping Checklist
Part of camping’s appeal is that it’s so darn healthy—savoring the fresh air, doing outdoorsy activities with the kids, enjoying the simple things. Still, there are a number of unique safety hazards that come with the camping life. Here’s what you need to know to keep your family safe and sound while camping.
Campfires and Camp Stoves
A crackling campfire or handy camp stove are a key part of the camping experience, but they do pose a danger to campers young and old if not handled properly. When building and using a campfire, make sure long hair is tied back, and no loose clothing, like overlong sleeves, comes near the fire. There’s no need for a giant fire, which can get out of hand. Don’t use a huge dose of accelerants, like lighter fluid either. Teach your kids to be careful around the fire–that means no running, no playing and no frantic waving of flaming marshmallows. Have a bucket of water on hand to douse flames, and after you’ve put out the fire with sand or water, stir the embers to make sure it’s absolutely dead. (Watch little ones around the water bucket, especially kids under one, as it’s a drowning hazard.) Place your camp stove is on a stable surface and keep it in good working order. A decent oven mitt (rather than a tea towel, which can dangle into the flames or burner) is a must to prevent burned hands. Store extra fuel cans away from a heat source.
Use designated campground taps to get your water, and doublecheck with the campground staff when you arrive to make sure it’s potable. It’s not a good idea to drink from “natural” sources. “Even the clearest stream can have microbes that cause severe intestinal illness,” says Gerry Gaumer, a spokesperson for the National Parks Service.
Your water babies probably love swimming all day long. Close attention is of course a must, and the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that kids under four, in particular, should be within arm’s length of you while swimming, so you can provide “touch supervision.” If the lake has a designated swimming area, stay within it, as lakes can have hidden hazards like rocks or deep holes. Don’t assume a life jacket, water wings, or other floatation devices mean you can take a supervising break. Everyone should wear a life jacket if you’re out in a boat too.
First Aid Issues
“Sunburn, scrapes, and blisters are the most common issues at camp,” notes Kathleen Cullinan, national consultant for camping and risk management for the Girl Scouts. “Prevention is key.” That means: sunscreen, shade, and protective clothing like hats and long sleeves; looking for areas that will provide a soft landing, such as grass or sand, for active games; and wearing proper-fitting shoes and socks. Keep a well-stocked first aid kit on hand. The rangers at state, national and provincial campgrounds can provide first aid as well. Follow directions on insect repellent, and don’t use products that contain more than 30 per cent DEET on kids, advises the AAP. For babies, you may want to check with your pediatrician.
Portable Heaters and Lanterns
Don’t leave portable heaters, lanterns, or stoves on inside your RV or tent while you sleep. Using these units in an enclosed space can cause carbon monoxide poisoning, which leads to about 30 deaths and 450 injuries to campers every year, according the US Consumer Product Safety Commission.
It may be tempting to slack off a bit in the housekeeping department, but it’s actually very important to keep your camp clean. Keep perishables cold (stash a thermometer in the cooler to confirm the temperature is at 40F or colder) and when in doubt, throw it out. Don’t burn leftovers in the fire pit, because spattered grease and other goodies can attract animals like raccoons, skunks and bears to your campsite after the fire is out. For the same reason, make sure food scraps are picked up and disposed of properly (most campgrounds have critter-proof dumpsters). Wash dishes promptly. Don’t keep food in your tent, or in a cooler tucked under the picnic table. Most of the time, it’s fine to stash tightly sealed food in your vehicle, says Gaumer. It’s not a bad idea to keep strong-smelling items, like watermelon-scented shampoo, or that t-shirt with curry sauce down the front, out of the tent too. Doing a little backcountry camping? Food packs need to be hung on a food pole or tree, 12 feet up, says Gaumer. Some campgrounds may have animal-proof metal storage lockers near the site too.
Ask at the visitors’ center or ranger station about local hazards, such as poisonous snakes, fire ants, and poison oak and ivy. Learn what they look like and how to avoid them. No matter where you are, remember that animals are wild animals, says Gaumer. “Don’t feed them and don’t approach them.”
Don’t Get Lost
Common sense applies here: stay on trails, tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back, and take a map, compass, drinking water and whistle. If you do get lost, remain calm, stay put, and blow the whistle three times in a row (which is a distress signal) until you’re found.
Bikes are increasingly popular in campgrounds, and why not—they’re fun! Some parents relax the helmet rule in campgrounds, but it’s still very important for your child to wear a helmet whenever she’s on a bike.