Camp Safely: 5 Dangers To Avoid
Ahh, the great outdoors! The inviting smell of a campfire, toasted marshmallows, and taking time to commune with nature — what’s not to love? Camping is a blast, but unfortunately there can be some danger involved when heading into the woods. The good news? Most of it can be avoided with education and preparation. If you’re planning a camping trip, read up on these five common dangers to avoid when in the wilderness.
1) Fire Hazards
A good campfire can be magical, but it can also spark danger. It’s important to properly build your fire to prevent it from spreading and burning out of control — not only for your own safety, but also for the safety of the forest. Remember: only you can prevent forest fires. In addition to taking measures to prevent spreading fire, be sure to build your fire a safe distance from your tent. Most tents are made of flame retardant material, but that doesn’t mean they’re indestructible (nor are your things inside the tent!).
Safety tip: Keep flammables, especially dry papers and liquids, away from the fire. Whenever possible, use rocks to build a non-flammable barrier around your fire.
Though they may look lovable and cuddly, bears are not to be taken lightly. They reside in many popular camping areas throughout the U.S. and Canada, like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Banff National Parks. Be diligent with food storage (don’t leave your leftovers out!) and minimize any food or hygiene product odours that could attract bears. Many of these parks have designated eating areas, so keep your meals to those spots.
If you see a bear, don’t panic! Keep your distance and whatever you do, do not approach it. The number one reason for bear attacks is humans getting too close for comfort. Mother bears are very protective of their cubs, and it’s not uncommon for them to attack if they feel threatened.
Safety tip: When hiking or camping anywhere with bear activity, make plenty of noise to alert the animals to your presence. If they hear you, they’ll usually stay away. When settling in for the night, hang your food and hygiene products on a tree at least 100 feet from camp.
3) Dangerous Weather
Weather is fickle and can surprise you no matter how many times you check the forecast. Lightning is a common hazard to be aware of, but it’s not the only one. Be sure to have a plan in place in case of flooding, as well as extreme heat or cold. Prepare for all possibilities. Hypothermia, for example, isn’t reserved strictly for winter months. Cold summer nights, sudden downpours, or even sweaty hikes can lead to this dangerous condition.
Safety tip: During rainy seasons, set up camp far from moving water. Avoid low-lying areas to protect yourself from dangerous flash floods. If you get caught in the rain, fall in a body of water, or even sweat considerably, dry off as soon as possible and replace your wet clothes with dry ones. Get yourself to a warm place and wrap yourself up in blankets as soon as you can.
During lightning storms, avoid standing near lone trees and when possible, escape to a depression in the terrain or a grouping of small trees surrounded by larger ones. If you are camping in areas where lighting storms are common, set up your tent in a ravine or anywhere underneath a cliff if you are in the mountains. This will keep the lightning from having a direct path to you and your tent.
When dealing with extreme heat, it’s very important to stay hydrated. Drink at least one liter of water an hour.
4) Plants and Berries
Unless you’re thoroughly trained in identifying wild berries, your best bet is to just avoid them. Though many are safe, others are not for human consumption and could lead to severe illness. The same goes for the many wild plants you’ll likely encounter. Certain types can poison you if consumed, or badly irritate your skin if touched.
Safety Tip: Keep it simple. If you can’t identify something with absolute certainty, don’t eat or touch it.
This one is probably the most common and realistic danger in this list, especially due the fact that ticks and mosquitos have been known to carry diseases such as malaria and Lyme disease.
Safety Tip: Use insect repellant containing DEET or picaridin and reapply often, especially if you’re sweating or in the water. Before going to bed, inspect yourself for ticks. If you find one burrowed into your skin, remove it immediately and consult your physician as soon as possible.
Have you experienced any other camping dangers? Tell us what else to avoid in the comments!
This article is adapted from Eagle Creek’s Travel Blog.