For many people, warm weather means spending as much time outdoors as possible. One popular outdoor activity is camping. Before you load up the car, here are some important tips to make sure your outdoor adventure is a safe one.
Here are some essential items to pack for your camping trip:
- Insect repellent
- Sunscreen—Use sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
- Sunglasses—Be sure that your sunglasses block 100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
- Clothing that can be layered such as tank tops, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and long pants
- Extra socks
- Hiking shoes or boots
- Rain gear such as waterproof pants and jackets
- Prescription glasses, if needed
- Whistle—It can be used to scare off animals or to alert someone if you get lost.
- Tent and sleeping bag
- Plastic sheet—Plastic can be used for protection, warmth or shelter.
- Flashlight and extra batteries
- Matches—Keep matches stored in a dry place.
- Pocket knife
- Pocket mirror
- Radio with fresh batteries
- Trash bags
- Food—Portable foods like trail mix, bread, peanut butter, fruit, and granola bars make good camp food choices. Always wash your hands before handling food.
- Foil—It can have many uses. You can form it into a cup or use it as a signaling device.
- Water purification tablets or water filter if you cannot bring enough fresh water
Another very important item is a first-aid kit. Accidents can happen, so it is important to bring a well-stocked kit that includes:
- A first-aid manual
- Adhesive bandages of different shapes and sizes
- Sterile gauze pads of different sizes
- Adhesive tape
- Elastic bandages
- Antiseptic wipes
- Cold pack
- Non-latex gloves
- Safety pins
- Tweezers—These will be helpful if you have to remove ticks or splinters.
- Hydrocortisone cream (1%) or calamine lotion
- Topical antibiotic cream
- Oral antihistamine medication
- An epinephrine pen if anyone has known allergies such as an allergy to bee stings
- Medications for pain or fever, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen
Before leaving home and when on the road, keep these things in mind:
- Alert friends and family. Let family members and friends know where you will be camping and for how long. In case there is an emergency, it will be good to have someone who knows your location.
- Check the weather. A few days before leaving for camp, check in on the latest weather reports. While traveling to your destination, tune into weather reports on the radio.
- Arrive early. Plan to arrive at your destination early. Arriving when there is still plenty of daylight will allow you to get a good view and sense of the area where you are camping, as well as enough time to set up camp.
When you are at the campsite and ready to set up camp, follow these guidelines:
- Stay clear of harmful objects. Make sure there are no sharp objects, branches, glass, ant beds, wasp nests, bees, or poison ivy near the campsite.
- Survey the land. Check the contour of the ground and avoid trouble spots that could easily flood or become muddy if it rained.
- Find level land. Set up camp on land that is level and large enough to spread out all your gear. Trees and shrubs may also help block strong wind gusts. Make sure trees do not have dead branches or other things that could fall and hit someone.
- Find a safe spot. Pitch your tent in a safe spot away from the campfire. When entering and leaving your tent, be sure to close the entrance quickly to keep insects from getting in.
Building a campfire is a part of the camping experience. A campfire provides warmth and light, a place to cook, and of course a place to sing campfire songs. When selecting a spot to build a fire, choose an area that is far away from your tent. The campfire area should be clear of debris. Keep the fire contained by making sure it is in a metal ring or encircled with rocks. After a fire is built, there should always be someone watching over it. When it is time to put the fire out, pour a lot of water over it to make sure that there are no sticks, embers, or coals left burning.
To keep uninvited guests, like bears and other animals away, make sure you do not leave things out that would attract them to your campsite. This means keeping your campsite tidy.
- Do not leave food out in the open. It is best to store it in the car, if you have one.
- Dispose of all garbage in sealed trash bags. If the campsite has a dumpster, throw all trash bags in it.
- Keep all coolers closed and latched.
- Wash all cooking equipment and store them.
It may be difficult to keep your camping experience insect-free, since bugs will be everywhere. However, you can keep them from becoming a problem by taking these steps:
- Wear insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, since these ingredients provide long-lasting protection.
- Use proper mosquito netting at night. Look for netting treated with insecticide.
- Do not wear cologne or perfume.
- When hiking, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Wear closed shoes, like hiking boots or sneakers. Tuck your pant legs into your socks and boots.
- After a day in the woods, always check for ticks that may have attached to you. They usually like to hide behind the ears, in the scalp, under the arms, or in the groin area. If you find a tick, remove it using blunt tweezers or gloved fingers. Grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Then gently pull the tick off the skin.
There is an abundance of flowers and plants to enjoy in the wildlife. But, the saying stop and smell the flowers does not apply to every plant you may encounter. Learn about and be aware of any dangerous plants that are in the area you will be visiting. If you accidentally are exposed to a plant such as poison ivy, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible.
There are important things to keep in mind when camping. Become knowledgeable and share the information with your fellow campers. With careful planning, you can have a safe camping trip that will lead to an enjoyable experience for everyone.
Camping health and safety tips and packing checklist. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/family/camping/. Updated May 30, 2013. Accessed October 10, 2013.
How to remove a tick. Am Fam Physician. 2002;66(4):646.
Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media-resources/stats-and-facts/prevention-and-care/sunscreens. Accessed October 20, 2014.
10/1/2013 DynaMed Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamicmedical.com/what.php: Reimer LJ, Thomsen EK, Tisch DJ, et al. Insecticidal bed nets and filariasis transmission in Papua New Guinea. N Eng J Med. 2013 Aug 22; 369(8):745-53.
Last reviewed October 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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