How To Enjoy Camping Safely

We go camping to escape the rat race, to relax, and to learn about the natural world.

Tragically, some of nature’s cruelest lessons are learned when we are trying to become better acquainted with her, as we are occasionally reminded when people drown in a flash flood while on a camping trip.

Like any other human endeavor, successful and safe camping adventures require planning and cautious forethought.

Before Leaving

* Pack a first aid book, and a well stocked kit. Bring warm clothing layers and rain gear for bad weather.

* A short list of necessities includes: cooking utensils, insect repellents, lanterns, tool kit, sunscreen, matches in a waterproof container, toilet paper, soap, hooded sweatshirt for children, a hat, and a compass.

* Bring bottled water for drink or mixing with food. Always assume stream and river water is not safe.

* Learn as much as you can about the area’s weather patterns and hazards before you leave home. Plan accordingly. Take a radio to get weather updates.

* Have a fire extinguisher, or pail of water, available at all times.

* Teach and practice the STOP, DROP and ROLL method of putting out a clothing fire.

* Take foods that don’t require refrigeration or careful packing, e.g., peanut butter and canned foods.

* Bring emergency telephone numbers and a cell phone. Even better, carry a satellite phone or personal locator beacon, which can be rented.

* Read the labels before buying a tent. Only buy a tent that is flame resistant.

Setting Up Camp

* Arrive well before sundown to select a suitable campsite.

* Camp on high ground. Do not camp on gravel bars or near a river or creek bank, no matter how dry it appears.

* Beware of trees with dead branches, and low areas that could become muddy in heavy rain.

* Inspect the area for poison plants, nests and other dangers.

* Clear away any rocks, roots or debris that might present hazards.

* Pitch your tent at least 15 feet upwind from grills and fireplaces.

* Leave at least a three-feet area clear of leaves, dry grass, and pine needles around grills, fireplaces and tents.

* Store flammable liquids only in safety cans, a safe distance from your tent, camper or any source of heat or open flame.

* Apply insect repellent, as recommended by your doctor.

At Your Temporary Home

* In stormy weather, avoid solitary tree lines or small groupings of trees. Go into the deeper forest.

* If lightning gets close, crouch down with your feet close together (this minimizes the surface area that ground current might be able to flow through).

If you have a dry sleeping pad available, stand on it to further protect yourself. Do not lie flat or sit down. Stay as far away from any metal as you can.

* Use only flashlights or battery-powered lanterns inside a tent.

* Develop a fire escape plan with your family.

* Use a funnel to pour flammable liquids. Wipe up spills.

* Fill lanterns and stoves a safe distance downwind from heat sources.

* Do not use a flammable liquid to start a fire.

* Don’t wear loose-fitting clothing around fire.

* Build a campfire where it cannot spread. Never leave a burning fire unattended. Put it out with water and soil. Be extra careful on windy days.

* Don’t pour fire starter on a smoldering fire.

* Do not dump hot charcoal on the ground where someone can accidentally step on it. Place coals in designated ash cans.

* Wash your hands well before handling food. Use disposable wipes if safe water is limited, or antibacterial liquid cleaner.

* Never barbecue inside a tent, camper or vehicle.

* Store food in coolers or in your vehicle, out of reach and smell of animals. Don’t encourage wild animals into your campsite by offering food.

* Teach children not to disturb or provoke any animals.

* Shake out all clothing before putting it on.

John Myre is the author of the award-winning book, Live Safely in a Dangerous World, and the publisher of the Safety Times Reproducible Articles..