Whether in a tent or an RV, camping is a great way to get in touch with nature — sleeping under the stars, roasting hot dogs over a fire and going on hikes through the woods. Enjoy your time away, and reduce your risk of injury with some camping safety tips.
Whether you’re packing your RV or a tent, be sure to include a first-aid kit in your cargo. Your kit should include hydrocortisone cream and antihistamine for allergic reactions and rashes, plus supplies for cleaning and dressing wounds. The Red Cross offers a list of first-aid essentials to include in your kit.
Choose a campground with security features, such as a security gate, perimeter fencing, surveillance cameras and nightly patrols. The safest campsites are well lit and located near the center of the grounds. Be sure to arrive before nightfall so you'll have time to inspect your camping site, unpack and build a fire. Avoid pitching tents close to water, under dead tree limbs or near insect nests and poisonous plants. Also look for broken glass, sharp rocks and other hazards that could cause injury. Use a plastic tarp for an extra layer of protection between the ground and the tent — just make sure the tarp does not extend beyond the width of the tent so water does not pool if it rains.
Use security systems
Many newer RVs come with built-in security systems, similar to what you'd find in a car. If your camper doesn't have this feature, install motion lights at your campsite to deter potential lurkers and late-night critters. Place the lights at the back of the site, near entrances and on blind corners.
Get to know your neighbors
Introduce yourself to other campers. Spending time with them can help you gauge their trustworthiness. They could watch your things while you're gone and let you know if any unwanted guests wander onto your site.
Lock up valuables from your campsite
Never leave items in an outside RV compartment. Many RVs use a universal key to unlock these storage areas. Instead, keep items secured inside a camper, trailer or vehicle when you're away. If you do have an RV, pull the shades to keep the interior concealed. For an additional layer of security, buy a small safe and hide it somewhere inside.
Building a campfire
Light fires in metal burn rings or stone-lined pits away from tents and low-hanging branches. Keep fires manageable, and never leave them unattended. Always have a bucket of water or a shovel nearby for extinguishing flames. Check to see if any fire bans are posted at the campground entrance — and if so, heed them.
Camping meal prep
Store foods in airtight containers and insulated coolers, keeping raw and cooked foods separate, and cold foods chilled. As you are cooking outdoors, sanitize your station often and wash your hands. When heating foods, make sure they’re a safe temperature before eating. When you're finished, transfer leftovers to airtight, animal-proof containers, and properly dispose of garbage in an approved refuse container well away from your campsite — one that's tightly secured against animals.
Wear long pants tucked into your socks, sturdy shoes, a hat, sunglasses and layers you can easily remove. Also pack sunscreen, a map, a compass, water, packaged snacks and insect spray with DEET. Bring your cell phone along, too. Not all locations will have service, but if you do, your phone can be a valuable lifeline should you get lost or need assistance. Carrying a whistle is also a good idea. Stay on designated hiking trails, and take frequent stops to rest and rehydrate.
Wild animals can be unpredictable and can carry diseases. It's best to bring your binoculars and watch them from a distance. If you're camping in an area that bears inhabit, be sure you know what to do if you meet one.
Going to bed
Pack extra blankets and layers of clothes rather than relying on a fuel-burning heater for warmth. Using heaters and other fuel-burning equipment in an enclosed space can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
Learn more tips for camping safety from the U.S. Forest Service.