In this guide we are going to discuss some general things that you need to be concerned about in regards to your safety and that of those around you while camping and/or hiking. Many of these safety tips or precautions are fairly obvious, yet a surprising number of people overlook them every year. Don’t be one of those people! Please read through our guide.
1. Pack a survival kit
Whenever you venture into the woods or desert, you should have a survival kit with you. Even if you are confident you know where you are going and don’t think you could possibly get lost, it still is vital. No one thinks they are going to get lost or be stranded until they are.
Once you are in that situation (i.e. lost or stranded) there are several things you are going to wish you had with you. These are:
- Water– We recommend bringing at least 24 ounces of water with you. You also could bring a filtering water straw that will allow you to drink from dirty water sources if necessary.
- Food– Stuff a few granola or energy bars into your survival kit. You can go a long time without eating, and there is food in the wild, but having food with you will provide you with some energy and make you a little more comfortable and less panicky.
- A First Aid kit– You may end up being stranded due to injury, in which case a first aid kit could be the difference between life and death. Your kit should include bandages, gauze, medical tape, cotton swabs, anti-bacterial wipes and cream, hydrocortisone, aspirin, cold compress, latex gloves, tweezers, scissors, oral thermometer, and a first aid instructional booklet.
- Box of matches
- Flashlight with extra batteries
- 7 day supply of medications (if applicable)
- Identifying information
- Emergency blanket
- Map of area
- Rope or string
- Cell Phone or hand radio
We know that is quite a lot of stuff, but you should be able to fit it all into a fairly small backpack (or even a pouch that you put into a backpack) and then you will be able to easily grab all of it at once whenever you are going somewhere. You will need to change out some of the items occasionally, such as medicine, food, and water. This pack could easily end up being the difference between life and death in the wild. You really need to do more than just packing the bag. You should be familiar with how to use each item as well as survival techniques.
2. Be prepared for outdoor risks
This includes such things as:
- Sunburn– bring suntan lotion, the higher the SPF, the better
- Insect bites– bring bug repellent for your skin, and spray your clothes beforehand
- Wild animals– be aware of wild animals in your area. If possible, stay in groups and away from the animals. Make your presence felt and DO NOT SNEAK UP ON ANIMALS. If you come across wild animals, go slowly back the way you came. Do whatever you can to keep wild animals away from your camp. This means packing up garbage tightly. You may want to hang your supplies from trees at night away from camp (not in the tree, dangle it up below a branch with rope so it isn’t accessible except to human who untie the rope). If you find an injured or sick animal, don’t try to help them. Call animal control, park workers, the DNR, or some other group to help.
3. Campfire and Camp Cooking Safety
When building a campfire, it is important to do so in an area that is fairly open, with no overhanging trees. Dig a small pit to hold your fire, and, if possible, circle the pit with rocks. Clear the area of anything flammable around the fire pit. If you are going to use lighter fluid, pour it onto the wood before lighting the fire and light the fire with a match, not a lighter. It is a good idea to use some sort of tinder to get the fire going, newspaper works well. Keep a shovel or water supply nearby to put out the flame. Never leave a campfire unattended. Be careful about children near the fire. After the fire burns out, or after you put it out, make sure to either douse the pit with water or cover it with sand to be sure the fire is out. Don’t leave a fire pit still smoking, even if you think the fire is out.
Carbon monoxide poisoning can be a real hazard when camping. CO comes from burning just about anything, whether it is wood, charcoal, or propane gas. CO won’t be a problem in an open area outdoors, but you absolutely need to avoid cooking or having fires in enclosed areas. Common symptoms of CO poisoning include headache, dizziness, weakness, nausea, vomiting, chest pain, and confusion. If you think you may have experienced CO poisoning, seek out medical help. Remember that CO poisoning can cause you to blackout, lose consciousness, and even kill you.
4. Drinking water safety
When camping or hiking it is a good idea to bring water with you, use a water filter, and/or cook water before using it. Even if your campground has a water pump, you don’t really know that it is safe to drink. Water from lakes and rivers is not safe to drink untreated.
5. Food safety
Don’t eat anything you find in the wild that you aren’t 100% sure about. Those wild berries might look delicious, and maybe you think they are blackberries, but unless you are sure, don’t risk it.
You also need to be careful about the food that you brought with you. Make sure food that requires refrigeration is kept cold (add ice) and don’t use it if it sits out or you find the cooler you stored it in is now warm.
I hope these tips are helpful for a few people out there. There no doubt is a lot more that goes into staying safe in the wild, but this guide is at least a good start. You could also check out our list of camping essentials, some of which can keep you safe! We hope you all stay safe during your outdoor adventures, use precaution and common sense, but also have fun! The outdoors is a wonderful place that needs to be both respected and enjoyed!