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 these camping safety tips:
Include a first-aid kit among 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.
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 ensure the tarp does not extend beyond the width of the tent so water does not pool when it rains.
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.
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. 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.
Store foods in airtight containers and insulated coolers, keeping raw and cooked foods separate, and cold foods chilled. As you cook, sanitize your station often and heat foods to 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.
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.