Camping is like an adventurous picnic. But the adventurous part can also become dangerous if you don’t consider the safety requirements of your camping trip. Whenever I prepare for a camping trip, I make sure to take these 15 safety tips into consideration:
1. Check the weather forecast beforehand
Don’t start packing until you’re reasonably confident that the weather conditions will be fine for conducting a trip. I recommend checking multiple weather forecast sources in order to get the most realistic prognosis.
Oftentimes the forecast will be somewhat different, as each forecaster interprets the data somewhat differently. In either case, prepare for any likely weather changes and abnormalities that may come about. Especially pay attention to rain, snow, wind, humidity and temperature.
It’s best to start planning a trip a few weeks ahead in order to have the time to make adequate preparations in case of any significant weather changes.
Perhaps staying in a tent will not be adequate in the upcoming rain, wind or snow, and you may need to adjust your camping site as well. Make sure you can do so in a timely manner instead of getting into panic mode as you scramble for time.
2. Pick the right camping site and shelter
Do you prefer staying in a tent, cabin, or perhaps an RV? Not every camping site allows for all three of these options.
If you prefer to stay warm and cozy, a cabin or an RV will definitely be a better choice. If you want to have more of an outdoor adventure, nothing beats staying in a tent.
Also consider that a cabin will likely be equipped with beds and other accessories, whereas staying in a tent will require bringing pretty much everything you need, including the ten, an air mattress, cooking accessories etc.
A few things to consider before making your decision include:
- your overall health and that of your group
- weather conditions
- whether you have the necessary gear to stay in a tent or would be better off in a premade shelter
- your overall camping preference
3. Prevent allergic reactions
Do you have any allergic reactions to substances found on the camping site such as pollen and insects? I get awful irritation from beg bugs. And believe it or not, bed bug infestations are quite common during travel and camping trips!
They get in the luggage, beds and mattresses. If you happen to share a shelter or a location where others have stayed you could catch some bed bugs.
They can also get into a rucksack or you can pick them up on your clothes while unknowingly sitting or lying down on a bunch of them. They’re too small to notice just like so many bugs that can cause allergies.
So make sure to bring adequate medication to deal with your common allergens or use a camping location that has less of them. If you’re not sure what to use, my suggestion are anti-histamine pills. They will in most situations take care of wheezing, sneezing and mucus that is caused by allergies that aren’t too severe.
Vitamin C can also be very helpful to ease symptoms. I take half a teaspoon of vitamin C powder in a glass of water for sinus issues. It’s super affordable and works quite fast. Pills work the same and might be more convenient for camping though. Vitamin C also improves energy levels in a second, so it’s definitely good to have around if you’re going to do a lot of hiking and physical activities in general.
4. Pack your food properly
Bring more food than you need, at least for an extra day in case you have to stay for longer, have to assist other campers, or in case of increased energy expenditure.
Airtight and watertight containers and an insulated cooler are the best tools to prevent attracting wildlife and keeping the food fresh. I also like to bring food that can last for a very long time such as tuna and bean cans. They’re easy to carry, require no preparation and are packed with valuable nutrients. Keeping the food in a vehicle will also reduce the risk of attracting wildlife.
When preparing food, make sure to wash your hands beforehand and after to prevent food-borne illness. This is a very common problem in camping situations when raw food is not separated properly from cooked food and when there isn’t enough water to wash hands after cooking. Don’t forget to pack enough water not just for drinking but food preparation and hygiene as well.
5. Camp with reliable and trustworthy people
Safety experts often forget the hugely important human factor. If something goes wrong, you want to be surrounded by good, honest people who are willing to help a fellow camper in trouble.
Likewise, you should only go camping with people you know and trust with your life. Emergencies can always happen, and on a secluded area in nature you will depend on the few people around you. They should know first aid basics and overall be reliable people.
If you’re a first-time camper, go with an experienced camper instead of other first-timers. This way you will learn from someone with more experience and minimize dangers of dealing with wildlife, getting lost and a host of other things that can go wrong.
6. Take safety work gloves and rubber gloves
Whether you’re chopping wood, clearing the ground on your camping site, safety work gloves will always be useful. They’ll protect your hands from bruising and improve your speed. I recently bought these safety gloves and they’re super comfy while the outside is covered in tough leather.
Also have some rubber gloves around for when you prepare meat, fish and other cooking. Especially if you don’t have an unlimited supply of water and soap to wash your hands frequently. It’s much easier to take a box of rubber gloves than gallons and gallons of water. Unless of course, you are staying in a cabin that has a good water supply system.
7. Build a fire safely
Many disastrous fires are started by campers who either build a fire in a bad location or forget to put it out before leaving. Some general safety tips include:
- never starting a fire where there are low trees
- always clear the ground of surrounding flammable debris
- make a safe circle where you’ll start the fire, you can use stones to do this
- never leave the fire unattended
- put out the flame completely before leaving the site or going to bed
Here’s a good video tutorial on how to safely build a fire outside:
8. Use insect and bug repellents
Mosquitoes, ticks, wasps and a host of other insects can terrorize your camping site. Especially if you’re camping in spring and summer time. If it’s not too hot outside, consider wearing long sleeves and long pants on hiking trips.
For reducing insect and bug bites in general, use a good spray that doesn’t dissolve quickly in water, so the effect lasts longer. Make sure to use it especially at nighttime, otherwise you’ll probably spend the night counting your bug kills.
9. Check for ticks regularly and remove them properly
Check your clothes, skin and hair for ticks at least once every day. Be thorough. Ticks are small but they can do a lot of damage.
My mom got a tick on her head and her face got swollen pretty bad. We didn’t know what was happening and her doctor was pretty shocked when she saw her. She was starting to resemble a tick when you magnify it! I’m serious, it was quite disturbing. Luckily she got there in time and the doctor removed the tick successfully from her scalp.
To remove a tick that’s bitten through the skin requires tweezers and a small bit of oil. You need to turn the tick a few times with the tweezers so that it releases its grip on the skin.
Just pulling it out immediately will leave a good chunk of it below the skin, which can lead to more complications. So make sure to have tweezers and a bit of oil or lubricant at hand in case you have to do it on your own.
10. Protect your skin from UV rays and burns
If you have light skin tone and will be wearing short sleeves and short pants use a sun protection spray/lotion. Also bring a hat and sunglasses.
My girlfriend has really light and sensitive skin and she has this cool safari sun hat which protects her face, neck AND shoulders from sun burn.
Seek shade whenever you have the opportunity, which will both protect your skin and reduce the risk of dehydration. Something that is quite common for those who don’t hike often and aren’t tuned in to demands of their body in more physically demanding scenarios.
11. Bring enough water and always carry a bottle
Hydration is super important and you should have a good water supply when camping and hiking. On top of your basic water needs, make sure to pack an emergency kit with at least an extra 3-5 day water supply.
This can be a life saver, and it will certainly reduce your stress levels. ALWAYS bring more food and water than you think you might need at first. Because if you have to help a person in need or have your own emergency, those supplies can dry up quicker than you thought possible.
12. Get informed about the local area
Every camping site is different. There are usually a few areas around that shouldn’t be entered because of dangerous predators, hunters during hunting season, minefields, possibly even radiation.
Some forest areas are also used by military personnel to conduct training sessions. Yes, with actual weapons. You definitely don’t want to get caught in THAT scenario.
Always read up on the local area, ask for expert advice, and most importantly stay within the borders of the camping and hiking areas that are considered safe.
13. A large and sturdy hiking bag
This is a safety tip that isn’t mentioned often, but it’s actually super important. Your backpack should be large enough that you can carry a large bottle of water, a small emergency kit, enough food to carry you through the journey and some extra tools in case you need to build a small emergency camp site.
If anyone in your group twists an ankle or a knee, you may have to stay in a place for more than you expected. If you don’t have a large bag to carry these items, you could risk dehydration, starving or being without fire at nighttime in a spooky part of the forest. Don’t take any chances. Get a slash-proof, large hiking bag and pack it with all the before-mentioned items and an adequate amount.
I take my Teton Sports Explorer backpack (link to Amazon) on any camping, hiking or backpacking trip that lasts longer than half a day. It’s large enough to carry 3-5 day supply of everything that I might need and it’s incredibly strong so I don’t have to worry about where I place it or anything like that. The bag itself weighs only 2.3 kg so it’s pretty easy to carry even on longer hikes and the backside is comfortable. Definitely recommend you get this bag or a similar one regardless of whether you’re a beginner or a more advanced camping enthusiast.
14. Non-slip, waterproof footwear
Nature is a cruel, slippery mistress. She can stab your foot when you’re least expecting it. She also cries a lot, and it’s easy to trip on those tears, especially as you’re walking through a muddy terrain and over smooth rocks.
So it’s really important to wear comfortable, non-slip and waterproof boots or shoes when camping. Especially if you plan on taking longer hiking trips. I also suggest wearing your apparel for a while before taking a longer trip. Some boots and shoes feel comfortable at first, but as you wear them for a bit longer you start to realize that your feet hurt more than expected, your Achilles tendon is irritated etc.
My suggestion is to not go cheap with camping and hiking footwear. Get quality footwear once and it can last you for years. After all, you’re not going on camping trips every day, right? If you take a few trips a year or even less, a single pair of boots can last you a really long time.
I recently got Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Plus II Waterproof Hiking Boot for myself. They’re super comfy, pretty light, waterproof and they almost too awesome for camping.
15. Watch out for thieves
Camping sites are fairly isolated places. If you go on hiking and backpacking trips and leave your stuff behind, use a few security methods to ensure that they’re still there when you come back.
Keeping some of the stuff in a vehicle or lockable cabin can help. So can using a security able or a chain with a padlock to lock multiple items together or secure them to a tree, a heavy rock or another immovable object.
I wrote a more comprehensive guide on camping security so do check it out if for more detailed advice on this issue.
16. Bring a mobile phone with you
I know, trust me, you want to take a break from technology. But you don’t have to keep your mobile phone turned on as you’re walking through a forest. Switch it off, but have it on you in case of an emergency.
Final Word: Camping Safety Tips
Allow me to just remind everyone that camping is super fun. I don’t want to scare you away from the experience by mentioning all of these potential dangers.
However, the fun part of camping IS that it’s somewhat dangerous. It’s an excellent way to get out of your comfort zone. Camping builds character and useful skills while also providing us with a way to get in touch with nature as our ancestors did for thousands of years.
So to summarize this post in as few words as possible: make sure to bring enough food and water, take care of your skin and allergies, dress properly and obey the warnings put out by locals and camping authorities in the area. If you do, you’ll have an amazing time and be completely safe at the same time. Hope this helps!