Safety Hacks Every Newbie Camper Should Know

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Editors Note: A guest post from Anna Katrina from across the pond.

Going camping soon? Avoid big and small discomforts and inconveniences and camp in safety. Here are the camping safety hacks you need to know.

Sleeping under the stars after a day of adventure in the great outdoors can be wonderful, provided you’re not all itchy with mosquito bites or didn’t just have to put out the flames your tent flap caught from the windswept fire.

A lot of little things can go wrong when you go camping, but that doesn’t mean you should stay at home. Anticipating some of the problems you may run into goes a long way to keeping you safe.

To that purpose, we’ve put together a list of some of the most important safety hacks you need to pay attention to when you go camping.

Campfire Safety Hacks

Even in well-maintained camping areas, the campfire can continue to represent a bit of risk. So, let’s start with some campfire safety hacks.

  • Keep a clear radius of at least eight feet around the fire pit and anything else that may catch fire – trees, tents, camping gear, chairs.
  • Avoid building a fire under low trees. When your location doesn’t give you much of a choice, always build a small fire and keep an eye on it.
  • Put out the fire before sleeping. Even if the fire is away from your tent, it may still pose a risk or attract wild animals.
  • Camping in an area without a ready-made campfire pit? Circle the fire pit with rocks and clear the rim of the pit of all flammable debris, whether it’s twigs or plastic bottles.
  • Keep water or a shovel at hand, especially when you build a fire on a windy day. Campfires may become unpredictable under a strong wind.
  • Keep matches and fire starters in a waterproof plastic bag in your backpack.
  • Bring multiple fire starters. Some won’t work in humid environments or if it’s too cold outside.
  • Don’t forget to pack a magnifying glass. With it, you can start a fire safely without having to worry about matches.

Tent Safety Hacks

A fire-retardant tent may still ignite – no tent fabric is fireproof. And then there’s carbon monoxide poisoning to worry about, which makes tent safety even more important.

  • Set up your tent before sunset. This way it’s easier to set up your tent properly and arrange all your gear.
  • Don’t use cooking appliances in a small tent. Even if you have a big, well-ventilated tent, think twice before cooking anything inside. For the same reason, you want to avoid using any fuel-burning devices in your tent. Even if nothing catches fire, you may not be able to get rid of the smell anytime soon.
  • Don’t smoke inside the tent. Even high-quality tents can burn or suffer damage as a result.
  • Get a portable camping carbon monoxide alarm with you. Any fuel that burns or smolders can release carbon monoxide, which can be fatal within minutes. Symptoms include headache, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue.
  • Don’t use any open flames inside the tent. Instead, use flashlights or headlights. 
  • Keep 20 feet between tents if you’re camping with friends or family. In the case of a fire, this minimizes the risk that the fire will spread from one tent to the other.
  • If you get caught in a lightning storm, look for better shelter. Most tents feature aluminum poles which attract lightning. You also want to avoid sheltering under tall trees, which puts you at risk of falling branches.
  • During a lightning storm, stay away from ponds, lakes, or rivers, as water conducts electricity. Sheltering in your car is safer; Cars are designed such that stray electricity flows through the metal shell and into the ground.

Personal Safety Hacks

Securing the campfire and the tent is only the start. Next, you need to pay attention to your own safety during camping.

  • Wear bug spray. Worried about wolves and bears? Quite often, mosquitoes and ants are a much bigger threat. Wear long sleeves and avoid bright colors, which tend to attract mosquitoes. In addition to citronella candles and some scouring powder, have some DEET spray ready. But remember not to use it under clothes. If you use sunscreen, apply DEET spray at least 30 minutes after or it may penetrate more deeply under your skin, which isn’t healthy.
  • Drink at least 8 large glasses of water every day. When camping, dehydration can be more dangerous than any external threats. Even when it doesn’t negatively affect your health, dehydration can cause fatigue and irritation. Make sure you have a good supply of water with you in case you may not be able to access right away any water sources on the camping ground.

  • Leaves-of-three, let-it-be, or in other words, avoid ivy and oak and other poisonous plants. Wearing long pants and good hiking boots will keep you safe from poisonous plants most of the time, provided you avoid touching them. It goes without saying that you should not eat any plants you find around the campsite unless you know exactly what they are. Edible and non-edible berries look much the same.
  • Wash your hands after changing your clothes. When you brush up against certain poisonous plants, their oils may remain impregnated on your clothes and irritate your skin upon touch.
  • Make sure your first-aid kit holds a few important but often neglected items: antibiotic ointment, antibiotic for skin infections, anti-inflammatory medication, and water purification tablets.
  • Wear gloves when you gather firewood. Splinters can be painful and lead to an infection. Then there are also snakes and spiders to worry about.
  • Take a mirror with you. If you get lost, a mirror can help you flash your position to searchers.

Animal Safety Hacks

What are the chances of wolves or mountain lions attacking you while camping? None, if you choose the right area. Still, here are a few general animal safety hacks that can make a close encounter with a wild animal less daunting.

  • Use a hiking stick or branch to feel your way as you hike through the brush. It’s a simple but useful defense against snakes.
  • If you come across a snake slithering before you, stop and let it pass, or it may feel threatened by your proximity to it. But if you come across a snake that’s sitting still in front of you or coming toward you, go slowly around it.

  • Face to face with an aggressive or very tame raccoon? It could be sick. Make loud noises to scare it away.
  • Use fresh food first. Remove food from the campsite at night or pack it tightly – the smell of food may attract bears.

Camp Safely

The good news is that most of the time at least, camping is perfectly safe. After all, how often has lightning struck your tent so far? And how many bears have you met while exploring the woods near your campsite?

But it’s best to be safe, and the hacks you’ve learned will come in handy in a variety of situations, not just when you’re camping.

Finally, remember to have your checklist handy. Bringing with you all the camping items you need will help you stay safe and well provisioned for during your adventure.

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