Outdoor Camping Safety Tips + Checklist

Summertime is almost upon us! The birds are chirping. The frogs are hopping. The mosquitos are biting. Ok, perhaps that last point isn’t the most exciting prospect. However, if you’re big on camping (and indeed, we hope you are), you know that mosquitos and camping go hand-in-hand. But it’s not nature’s worst creation that’s the biggest concern for camping trips. It’s all of the camping safety tips you need to take into consideration first. Before you start loading up that RV, it’s best to take a few moments to get all of your ducks in order. And what camping trip is complete without a few ducks, right?

Things To Do Before Camping

We could talk your ear off about camping safety tips, but there’s no bigger safety measure than preparing the right way first. Hopefully you have heard of the Five Ps:  proper preparation prevents poor performance. Let the Five Ps be your guide! A safe camping trip is one where you have checked off all of the boxes to ensure everyone is safe and happy.

  1. Get Vaccinations.
  2. The U.S. Department of Health lists all of the reasons why you should have all of your vaccines updated before you head out into the great unknown. If you’re emphasizing camp safety for kids, vaccines should be on the top of your list. Tetanus, Meningococcal and Hepatitis A vaccinations are of particular importance.

  3. Prepare Safe Food and Water.
  4. Imagine yourself 30 miles from the nearest town. Now imagine yourself without food and water. Scary thought, right? Preparing safe food and water ahead of time is not just a camping safety tip. It’s a life tip! Make sure the food packed will not go bad in the duration of your trip. These should be canned or packaged items.

  5. Conduct Practice Drills for Emergencies.
  6. Practice makes perfect, even when it comes to camping safety tips. Run through all of your emergency procedures several times before you leave on your trip. What kind of emergencies, you ask? Here is a small list of possible drills to consider:

    • CPR
    • Campfire safety
    • Snake bites
    • Spider bites
    • Wild and/or dangerous animals
    • Getting lost/separated from the group
    • Broken or twisted ankle
    • Tent safety

  7. Bring Appropriate Clothing.
  8. “Appropriate” fully depends on your camping location. However, consider bringing clothing of all types just in case. For example, you do not want to pack all shorts, t-shirts and sandals. Bring long-sleeve shirts, long pants, thick socks and several pairs of shoes, including hiking boots. If you are extra sensitive to the sun, it’s a good idea to bring a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. Always bring extras of everything. In addition, if you are planning to be in the water, be sure to bring a life jacket.

  9. Check the Weather Forecast.
  10. You should check the weather forecast for the area you will be camping, for as many days in advance as is possible. Five-day forecasts yield the most accurate results, while looking at the 10-day forecast can be a bit tricky. You should also bring a device that can access weather reports with you, whether it is a digital device or a small radio that can pick up weather alerts. Depending on your location, you may not be able to rely on having an available data connection for your mobile devices, so a radio is a good idea.

Camp Safety Equipment

We all have our “must haves” list when we go out camping. For some people, it’s their favorite fold-out chair or portable grill. For others it’s a solar-powered battery charger. However, luxury items should never be on the top of your priorities list. Camp safety equipment should be your primary concern. Never leave on your camping trip without ensuring that you have all of the essentials. The following list of items should help you understand just what you need, and exactly why it’s important

  1. Bear Spray.
  2. Bears are known to come onto campsites, especially when food is not properly secured. Bear spray is very similar to pepper spray, except that its key ingredient is capsaicin (the same chemical that makes peppers hot and spicy). Bears hate it, and it could keep safe.

  3. Flashlights.
  4. Flashlights are always a must, wherever you go. This is a vital equipment for the nighttime, especially during a hike. In addition, flashlights can be used as a tool to scare away certain wild animals.

  5. Emergency whistle.
  6. Emergency whistles are a must if someone in your group gets lost. The tone is often louder than a human voice, and you can blow a whistle for much longer than you can scream for help.

  7. Emergency Fire Starter.
  8. You never know when you may get lost. A warm fire could help keep you alive in an emergency. If you are lost, you can also use the fire as way to find help. In addition, fire can be used to scare away any wild animals.

  9. Sunscreen.
  10. Dermatologists recommend SPF 30 or better if you plan on being in the sun for more than 2 hours at a time.

  11. Bug Spray.
  12. Find a spray that is designed specifically for the two worst types of insects you might encounter: mosquitoes and ticks.

  13. Pocket knife/utility knife.
  14. Outdoor activities, including camping, can be unpredictable. You will need a helpful tool for that unpredictability.

  15. First Aid Kit.
  16. Even what appears to be a small scape could become an infected disaster. Bring a fully-stocked first aid kit along with you, even if it only serves as a peace of mind. The Red Cross suggests including all of the following items in your first aid kit

What To Include In Your First Aid Kit

Click “+” To Reveal An Item In Your First Aid Kit

  • 2 absorbent compress dressings (5 x 9 inches)
  • 25 adhesive bandages (assorted sizes)
  • 1 adhesive cloth tape (10 yards x 1 inch)
  • 5 antibiotic ointment packets (approximately 1 gram)
  • 5 antiseptic wipe packets
  • 2 packets of aspirin (81 mg each)
  • 1 blanket
  • 1 breathing barrier (with one-way valve)
  • 1 instant cold compress
  • 2 pair of nonlatex gloves (size: large)
  • 2 hydrocortisone ointment packets (approximately 1 gram each)
  • Scissors
  • 1 roller bandage (3 inches wide)
  • 1 roller bandage (4 inches wide)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (3 x 3 inches)
  • 5 sterile gauze pads (4 x 4 inches)
  • Oral thermometer (non-mercury/nonglass)
  • 2 triangular bandages
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instruction booklet

Camping Fire Safety

One of the most important camping safety rules is to practice fire safety. There are three main steps to ensuring that you are following proper camping fire safety measures:

  1. Choose proper area to build a fire.
  2. Make sure it is a safe distance away from tents, flammable object, and dry plants.

  3. Keep fuel burning equipment out in the open.
  4. When you use any fuel burning equipment, such as a portable stove, keep it a safe distance outside and away from any tent or flammable object.

  5. Safely put out all flames.
  6. A big mistake that people make when putting out camp fires, is not putting it out entirely. Before leaving the area unattended, make sure that the fire is completely out and that everything is cool to the touch.

Read more about Campfire Safety Tips.

Additional Outdoor Safety Tips

Camping is all about enjoying the great outdoors. It affords the opportunity to not only get back in touch with nature, but to really show nature who’s boss (you, of course). However, nature really doesn’t like to play nice. Even the most skilled camper has to take outdoor safety seriously.

  • If you get lost, don’t panic.

    Despite the many blazed trails and beaten paths running throughout parklands, getting lost is still extremely easy. Even if you included a GPS among your camp safety equipment, it’s still possible to get turned around and find yourself lost. If you’re camping alone, the risk is even higher. Should you get lost, utilize the S.T.O.P. method:

    • Stop once you recognize that you are lost.
    • Think about your situation, including what you have with you on hand that could be useful to get yourself found or help retrace your footsteps.
    • Observe your surroundings. Do you see familiar landmarks? Do you see any footprints you may have left behind? Do you see any markings that are clearly human-made? Do you see any potential dangers?
    • Plan how you will find your way back, or what you can do to get yourself found. For example, if you included a whistle in your camp safety equipment, now is the time to use it.
  • If you get caught in a storm, know how to take shelter.

    If you are caught in a torrential downpour, try to find an area that will be free from rain and lightning. Do not use your tent for safety, unless it is already in a well-covered area. However, make sure not to place your tent near the tallest trees, as these are always going to be the more common targets for lightning strikes. Your car is likely the safest place to ride out the storm, if it is nearby. If not, look for another type of shelter, or a recess in a cliff face if it is available.

  • Do not allow yourself to be a target for lightning.

    If you are caught in the open with no car or other shelter, try to find a grove of small trees surrounded by much larger trees. Lightening will always be a concern. If you are caught in an area without trees or shelter of any kind, crouch down small. Always avoid standing near isolated trees.

  • Know which plants are poisonous.

    Familiarize yourself with poisonous plants before you start your trip, but also bring a written guide on poisonous plants. Particularly, know to look out for poison oak, poison ivy and poison sumac. The old camping mantra still applies: Leaves of three, leave it be!

  • Avoid direct contact with wild animals.

    Do not attempt to poke or prod wild animals, and especially do not attempt to get close to pet them or feed them. If you encounter a bear, for example, your best action is to talk calmly and walk slowly backwards. Avoid making sudden movements, and keep your eye on it as much as possible until it is out of eyesight. Make sure the bear spray you including in your camp safety equipment is with you. With all animals, keep calm and distance yourself slowly.

  • Bring your bug spray!

    Bugs can be annoying, but some are extremely dangerous. Remember that ticks can carry Lyme disease or cause meat allergies, while mosquitos can carry some extremely dangerous and deadly viruses. Also be wary of things such as bee’s nests, hornet nests and other biting and stinging insects. For safety, ensure you have an epinephrine auto-injector, particularly if someone in your group is allergic to stings.

Camping is an excellent way to spend time with family and friends. But as much as we love nature, nature does not always love us back. Before you go out camping, make sure you have all of your camp safety equipment in order, that you’ve familiarized yourself with camp safety for kids and adults, and that you have practiced campfire safety tips. Don’t let poor planning ruin your next camping trip. And don’t forget to bring the marshmallows!

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