A good camper has firm knowledge of the dangers that come with venturing into the wilderness, and has a solid plan for how they’ll make the experience as safe as possible. The biggest cause of unsafe camping is a lack of respect for the elements. Here are some mistakes to avoid if you want your trip to go off without a hitch.
Underpacking for a hike
You should never go on a hike – even a short hike – without a care package of essentials. Forgetting your fully-stocked safety backpack on any sort of venture into the woods is one way to turn a pleasant hike into something extremely unpleasant, maybe even dangerous. Here is a brief list of items you should take with you on any hike: a flashlight in case you are out past dark; extra food and water in case you get lost and wind up hiking out further than you expected (dehydration can happen faster than you think); a first aid/snakebite kit; a portable GPS device that doesn’t rely on internet connectivity; and bear mace (better safe than sorry, even for this unlikely meeting).
Not giving a fire enough room
A campfire needs space – more space than you may think. A good rule of thumb is that any campfire you build should have 15 feet of space on all sides – away from tents, chairs, hammocks, coolers, and trees/plants. Don’t forget to look up! You should never build a fire under low-hanging branches. When building your fire, make sure to contain it with a fire ring around the base made with rocks or bricks. Here is another good article on building your fire.
Giving your fire enough room is especially important when it comes to cooking. BBQing danger is one of the many summer dangers you must be aware of at all times. If you plan to do some BBQing at your campsite, you’ll want to make sure you do it properly. Open flame cooking can be fun (and tasty), but it’s best to use a grill top or a spit to hold meat, pots of chili, etc. Try not to place food directly into the fire. Many things we use in cooking like olive oil, and fat renderings from meat, are fire accelerants. That’s why it’s crucial to keep flammable objects away from your BBQ pit. If you’re cooking with a portable camp grill that uses propane tanks, never set this up near a fire. Direct heat on these tanks can lead to explosions.
Underestimating the elements
Protecting yourself against the elements is vital, as many underestimate just how harsh things can be in the woods. The three big elements you must prepare for are: heat, cold, and bugs. As far as temperature is concerned, it can swing wildly out in the woods. Days can be hot, and nights can be much colder than you expect. To battle the heat, always remember sunscreen (even if you think you’re mostly protected by a canopy of trees). Plan to bring more water than you think your should – especially if participating in strenuous activities like hiking. For the cold nights, always pack more clothing that you think you’ll need. Your extremities are the first things to suffer from cold, so extra socks and gloves are a must.
And even if you aren’t someone who normally has a problem with bug bites, camping presents a different situation. Mosquitos are annoying, for sure, but it’s ticks you need to worry about. These illness-carriers can sneak up on you. Bug repellent with DEET is a must, as are full body checks every few hours or so. Make sure you check your scalp, as ticks love to hide in body hair.
If you boil down camping safety advice to one easy-to-remember phrase, it’s be prepared for the unexpected. There are very few hobbies where “better safe than sorry” is more apt.
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You can catch up with Jamie online at Sci Camps