10 Camping and Outdoor Excursion Safety Tips - Safety Always Comes First
One of the most timeless and enjoyable recreational activities is to go camping. Outdoor excursions such as camping allow you to take a break from the hustle and bustle of the big city and enjoy a more slow-paced day, at least for the weekend.
If you're going hiking or camping at a regulated nature reserve, the facility is already taking measures to ensure your safety. If, however, you're going out into the real wilderness with unusual plants and wild animals, you’ll have to ensure that having fun is not your only priority. Safety always comes first. With that said, check out our list of top ten safety tips to keep in mind when participating in outdoor excursions.
Prepare Safe Food and Water
The first point on our safety list can be handled before you even leave for your trip. Be sure to prepare and pack safe and healthy food for your trip. This is especially important if you have any known allergies.
Consuming contaminated food and drinking contaminated water greatly increases the risk of developing certain infectious diseases caused by germs. If you come across a body of water and are unsure whether the water is potable or not, it’s probably best to leave it alone and move on. Listed below are a few steps you can take to ensure your food and water are safe to consume.
- Pack food in tight, waterproof bags or containers. Ziplocs are great for this purpose. Store them in an insulated cooler.
- Make it a habit to wash your hands regularly and disinfect any surfaces you regularly come in contact with. If water is not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Store raw food separately from cooked food.
- Cook food to their proper temperature. For example, ground beef should typically be heated to an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit. This ensures that the heat is enough to kill bacteria.
- Chill foods promptly and thoroughly.
Include Safe Physical Activities
Camping is a great way to get physical activity and take a break from a sedentary lifestyle. Add to your itinerary a few enjoyable physical activities such as walking, hiking, swimming, or biking to stay active throughout your trip.
Be sure, however, to be equipped with the proper safety equipment for each activity. The most basic pieces of equipment you might need are safety helmets, sturdy shoes, and life jackets.
Familiarize yourself with poisonous flora such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. This will allow you to easily identify them and actively avoid them throughout your trip. Don’t push yourself over your limits and actively take steps to avoid injuries and accidents during activities.
Protect Against Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
Carbon monoxide poisoning is perhaps one of the most overlooked causes of illness or death in people and pets when going camping. This is because carbon monoxide is an odorless and colorless gas. Once it’s in the air, you’ll have no clue that you’re surrounded by it.
Never use fuel-burning equipment such as heaters, gas stoves, lanterns, and charcoal grills inside your tent, camper, or any other enclosed space. Carbon monoxide levels can build up quickly, reaching dangerous levels in a matter of minutes. If you can, use your fuel-burning equipment outside.
If your purpose for bringing fuel-burning equipment inside your tent is to keep yourself warm, you have a few alternatives. Be sure to pack adequate bedding and clothing and consume extra calories and liquids throughout the trip to prevent hypothermia on cold evenings.
Avoid Wild Animals and Protect Family Pets
Depending on your area, some of the wild animals present may carry diseases that are both deadly and transmittable to humans. As much as possible, be sure to avoid touching, feeding, and approaching wild animals.
You may enjoy observing them from a safe distance in their natural habitat, but it's best not to draw their attention. You can minimize your interaction with wild animals by keeping food stores in sealed containers and out of reach of animals. Preferably, these containers should be airtight to keep the scent in.
If you’re bringing along your beloved family pets, make sure that they are fully vaccinated and that someone always has an eye on them. Check for ticks that they may have gotten and remove them promptly. Be sure that your pets have adequate water, food, and shelter. You know your pets best, so you’ll know when they’re acting strangely indicating that something is wrong.
Fight the Bug Bite
In the previous point, we mentioned checking your family for ticks. However, they aren't the only ones who are prone to get bitten by bugs.
Insects such as mosquitos and ticks can cause certain diseases. Perhaps the most famous disease humans can contract from mosquitos is dengue. In many cases, dengue has proven to be quite deadly.
Lyme disease is another popular disease, this time caused by ticks. It’s a serious bacterial infection affecting both humans and animals. If you don’t get yourself treated, you could potentially die. However, prevention is always better than cure.
To prevent yourself from being bitten by insects, be sure to apply insect repellent spray to exposed areas of your skin. Instructions for application may vary from brand to brand, so it's best to follow the directions as printed on the package. Check yourself for ticks daily. If you find any, be sure to remove them promptly. If the temperature and situation permits, wear long sleeves, pants, and other-light colored articles of clothing to help prevent and spot ticks more easily.
Notify a Third Party of Your Trip
In case of an emergency, your chances of survival are greatly increased if accompanied by a friend or family member. It's always a good practice to leave a copy of your itinerary with a responsible person who did not come along with you on the trip. Be sure to include details such as the model, year, and license plate of your car, if that's how you traveled. Also note down a list of the equipment you're bringing, the weather forecast for the duration of your trip, and most importantly, when you plan to return.
If you’re headed to a particularly remote area, your group should have a minimum of four people. This ensures that if anyone is injured, one person will stay with the victim while two others can go to the proper authorities and ask for help.
If it's your first time going to a certain area and you are unfamiliar with it, bring along someone who knows the ins and outs of the area. If that isn't possible, at least speak with someone familiar before you set out.
If you happen to be wandering off during your hiking trip and find that an area is closed, do not go there. Do your research ahead of time regarding the location of the nearest telephone or ranger station in case of an emergency.
Make Camp Before Dark
Most camping injuries have occurred in the dark, due to poor visibility. Of all those injuries, the most common one is injury from falling and tripping. With that said, it's best to travel only during daylight, if possible. Leave early enough in the day to arrive at the campsite and still have time to set up your equipment before nightfall.
Be sure to set up camp an adequate distance away from the edge of any cliffs. Also, familiarize yourself with the terrain and your surroundings during the daytime. If you have to leave your immediate camping area after dark, stick to the areas you have seen in daylight, bring a companion, and always use a fully-charged flashlight.
Be In Good Physical Condition
You’re on vacation and there’s no reason for you to rush. You may normally be a fast walker when getting to work, but try to slow down throughout your trip. Set a comfortable pace as you hike.
The physically "weakest" member of the group should not be thought of as a liability. Any well-planned group trip should be designed with the weakest member in mind. Plan activities and scheduling in such a way that everyone can enjoy comfortably.
If you have any medical conditions such as chronic respiratory diseases, discuss your plans with your usual physician and acquire his or her approval before departing.
Being in good physical condition for camping doesn't only mean being strong or fit. It also means being skilled. Make sure you have the necessary skills needed for your camping or hiking journey. For example, you may need to know how to read a compass, set up a temporary shelter, or perform basic first aid. It’s best to practice these skills in advance, before setting out for the trip.
If you know that your trip will be particularly strenuous, get into good physical condition before setting out. If you're usually living a sedentary lifestyle, It's best to begin training at least a couple of months before your trip. If your plans include climbing or traveling to higher altitudes, make sufficient plans for acclimatization to the higher altitude.
Choose the Right Shelter and Site
There are many different types of shelters and campground sites available throughout the nation. To determine which is right for you and your group (remember, the weakest member must be kept in mind), consider your age, physical limitations, and medical needs, along with other factors.
Different amenities and facilities will become available to you depending on if you choose to stay in a tent, cabin, or RV. Plan accordingly as to what kind of equipment you will need to bring based on your choice of shelter.
For example, choosing to camp out in a cabin provides you with full beds (with sheets) and bunk beds. On the other hand, you may want to choose a tent for a closer-to-nature experience. In this case, you’ll have to bring an air mattress, sleeping bag, or other accommodations.
Despite RVs and cabins offering more posh amenities and safety compared to tents, about 60% of campers still report opting for tents over RVs and cabins. If you choose to camp in tents, check if the campsite will provide you with picnic tables, fire rings, nearby restrooms with showers, and other amenities.
Practice Fire Safety
There are only a few things more satisfying than setting up your own campfire from scratch. Don’t get carried away, however. Fire safety should always be a priority for you and the rest of your group.
As a good rule of thumb, fires within your campground site should at least be around 15 feet away from tent walls, shrubs, and any trees. Keep your fire small and contained. It may take more preparation and a little digging, but setting up a designated area such as a fire pit can prevent many fire-related accidents.
Never ever leave a fire unattended. Keep a water bucket nearby and always remember to put out the fire before leaving the site or going to sleep. Do not only put out the main fire. Be sure to extinguish any remaining embers, as well.
Bonus: Have Fun!
We’ve discussed ten safety tips that you should always keep in mind when camping and going on outdoor excursions. Although safety should always come first, you should also allow yourself to enjoy your trip! Explore the area, go boating, bring a football. Enjoy the time that you have away from your usual busy life.