Growing up, I loved to go camping with my dad and brothers, whether it be family camping, father and son campouts or as a family. I have a lot of good memories of time spent in the outdoors that I have accumulated over the years. I can also remember a lot of campouts where we had to open the first aid kit to care for some minor injuries. Camping can be so much fun as long as you don’t need to access the first aid kit too much. My kids are at the age where camping is an adventure, and they want to be outside playing. I decided I would put together a list of best safety tips for camping that I follow, and you can too.

Picking a site and keeping it clean:
One of the best things to make your camping experience better is to pick a great camp site. There have been a lot of campouts where the weather was less than optimal, but because we picked out our camp site with this in mind, we ended up having a wonderful time and would do it again. Let’s take a look at some of the things to look for, or be aware of, when picking a campsite.

  • Distance to the restroom.
    Regardless of your age, if you have to get up in the middle of the night to use the restroom you’ll be happy that it isn’t 200 yards away, especially in grizzly bear country where I like to camp. You’ll want to also look at the maintenance and quality of the restroom. There is nothing worse than a bad odor drifting through camp the whole time.
  • Proximity to Trees.
    Having plenty of trees near you allows for privacy from other campers, and will protect you from the wind. Additionally, the trees will block out the sun on those summer days when it comes up at 5:30 am and your just not quite ready to get out of bed. On the flip side, when the trees block the sun out in the morning on those cooler days, you’ll wish you would have allowed the sun to hit the tent first thing in the morning so that it could warm up the tent.
  • Flat surface for the tent.
    Whether camping in a campground or in the backcountry, you’ll want to make sure that the area where your tent will be is flat, hole free and rock free. Be sure to spend time removing any rocks or filling in any holes that would be under the tent so that you can get a good night’s sleep.
  • Proximity to activities.
    Be sure to consider all the activities you plan on doing while camping. For example: when I go camping, I always plan on doing some fishing so I want to make sure that the river or lake is not too far away. This allows me to spend more time on the water and less in the car. What are your activities? Will you be hiking, boating, fishing, exploring or just relaxing by the fire and reading a good book?
  • Keeping your site clean.
    Just this past summer, when camping with the family, the previous campers left some wood next to the fire pit for the next campers. As I was walking around the fire to flip the tin-foil dinners we were cooking, I stepped on a board that had a nail sticking up. The nail went through my shoes and into the bottom of my foot. Hurt like crazy and almost ruined the trip.While I didn’t place the nail there, I should have done a quick look around to ensure the safety of the campsite. It is extremely important that you keep your site clean and free from potential hazards. Don’t leave knives out where kids could get them. Clean and put away pots and pans so that wild animals aren’t drawn in.

With these tips in mind, be sure to take the time to pick out the best site that will help ensure that you have a fun and safe camping experience.

Weather

It is extremely important to check the weather forecast before going out camping. While you might be thinking that this is more for comfort, it is also important to ensure that you are not going out in dangerous weather.

Not too many years ago, a family member went camping with his three kids. The weather had been good all week and he had some time off from work. At some time during the night, a freak storm came rolling in and with it, about a foot of water dumped in less than an hour. The winds picked up and shredded the tent to pieces. Luckily, a fellow camper had a hard shell camper and invited them in to wait out the storm.

If you’re going camping in the back country, I recommend checking the weather every day until you go. If your phone is able to pick up a signal, check the weather forecast each day while you are camping.

Part of checking the weather head of your trip is to ensure that you are properly packed for the expected weather. Pack cloths that will keep you warm on those colder days and nights, and cloths for those hikes up the mountain.

Store Food Safely
Whether you’re camping in bear country or not, always store food safely so as not to attract  wild animals that call the forest home. Proper storage will also protect from food poisoning.

Animals:
NEVER leave food outside or in your tent! Bears are not your only concern when thinking of the animals that may come around if you leave food out. Racoons, Mountain Lions and Coyotes have been known to roam campsites at night looking for food. Campsites in Bear country usually have a bear box for you to store pots and pans, coolers with the food, or any items that may have an odor.

One year, we left a small bag of nuts in the tent when we went for a hike. When we came back, a chipmunk had eaten its way through the tent fabric, through the plastic bag, and devoured all of the nuts. Always store food properly!

Food Poising:
If you bring food that needs to stay cold, be sure you have plenty of ice and a good cooler so that the food doesn’t go bad. Additionally, if the food needs to be cooked, be sure to fully cook the food before eating it. Remember, cooking on an open fire is different than on the stove or in the oven, and may require different times to ensure food is heated properly.

Protection from the Elements:

A camping trip can quickly turn bad if you are not prepared for mosquitoes! Not only are mosquito bites annoying but they can also be dangerous!  Mosquitoes are the number one killer in the world, because when they bite, they can leave a disease. While this is more of a problem in third world countries, the West Nile Virus has become more common in the united states. Always pack bug spray for you and the kids.

During sunny days, you should apply sun screen to protect from sunburn. Repeated sunburns have been shown to lead to skin cancer. When hiking or swimming out in the sun, you’ll be having so much fun that you may forget to reapply the sun screen. Always apply sunscreen according to the instructions on the back of the bottle when camping because it is easy to forget about it until your back home with a massive sunburn.

Stay Hydrated
Many people who camp do a lot of outdoor activities. Hiking and exploring are two of the most common activities that people engage in. This is a great way to get some exercise and make memories. But be sure to plan ahead. Always ensure that you have plenty of water for the trip, and some additional bottles in case of an emergency. Staying hydrated will keep you going. Dehydration leads to heat exhaustion, and possibly even heat stroke.

Safe Fire practices
Kids who get hurt while camping are more likely to get hurt one of two ways. First, from running round where they fall and scrap a knee or hand. The other, is at the fire pit at night. Practicing good fire safety around the fire pit is essential to having a good camping experience. Some fire pit safety tips are:
1- Talk to your kids about the dangers of the fire

2- If roasting hot dogs or marshmallows, always have an adult with the child

3- Explain that everything within the fire ring is hot, even if the fire is burning on one side of the fire ring (learned that the hard way)

4- Always put out the fire when you head of to bed or leave the area.

Know the Area

If you are unfamiliar with the area, you should do some research to know not only the available activities, but also potential dangers in the area. For example, are there poisonous snakes? If so, what do they look like? What should be done if you get bitten. Additionally, you’ll want to know if there are any poisonous plants and what they look like and what should be done if a reaction occurs?

If you are planning on doing some hiking or exploring and are unfamiliar with the area be sure to pack a good up-to-date map and know how to orientate yourself with it.

Propane dangers
One of my favorite pieces of camping equipment is a propane stove. Nearly every night when we get back from a day of fishing we cook up a nice hot meal on the stove. Clear sky’s or rain, we always cook our food outside of the tent trailer so that we don’t get Carbon Monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless, and can cause illness and possible death if you breath in too much of it. If there is a leak in your stove, carbon monoxide can build up to dangerous levels inside a confined space, such as a tent. Carbon monoxide is a byproduct of incomplete combustion that may occur from the use of propane equipment. Always follow the manufactures rules and instructions when operating to ensure your safety.

Have a First Aid Kit
Accidents happen regardless of how careful you are. Having a first aid kit in your car or part of your camping gear is a must! Familiarize yourself with what’s in the first aid kit, and know how to use it. Sometimes a little band aid will do the job and other times it might not. Protect yourself by being prepared.