“Get out there and enjoy nature, but be safe, be smart about it and make sure you plan ahead.”
It’s no surprise that nearly 100 million North American households consider themselves campers, according to the Kampgrounds of America, Inc. (KOA)’s 2022 North American Camping Report. Camping is an excellent way to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and connect with nature.
Before you make a beeline for the woods, a lake or some other idyllic camping spot, consider the following safety tips from the U.S. Forest Service (FS), National Park Service (NPS) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Be prepared. Pack a first-aid kit, along with essential supplies like a flashlight and extra batteries, bedding, food, water, sunscreen, bug spray, matches and, yes, s’mores.
“Make sure to pack your prescriptions so you don’t have a medical emergency while you’re out in the woods,” says Rachel Laszko, MD, Aspirus General Surgeon. “In case something does happen, you also want to have your provider’s phone number on hand, as well as your health insurance information.”
- Keep an eye on the sky. Know the weather forecast and be prepared for changing conditions.
- Dress for the elements. Bring sturdy shoes, rain and cold weather gear, and extra clothes. The key is to stay dry and warm.
- Drink water. Because you are outdoors and exposed to the elements, you will need to rehydrate more often. Bring some from home if you know there won’t be any drinkable water at your destination.
- Awareness of yourself, family and friends. Keep an eye out on your family and friends to make sure their energy levels and health are in good shape while you are camping and out exploring the land. You don’t want to find out halfway through a hike that someone was sick. Know when to turn back around, go to your back up plan, or pack up.
- Don’t spoil your outing with bad food. To help prevent foodborne illness, keep any perishable foods in a well-iced cooler. Use sealable bags or tight containers to separate raw and cooked foods. Not only will it be fresher this way, it will attract less unwanted attention from wildlife. Cook meats to a safe internal temperature, just as you would at home. For instance, that’s 160 degrees for burgers.
- Watch for ticks. Check yourself and your kids for ticks regularly.
- Avoid contact with wildlife. While it is certainly tempting to approach wildlife, this can be very dangerous. Watch from a safe distance or carefully go the other direction.
- If campfires are allowed, build yours in a safe place. For example, look for a designated fire ring free of vegetation. Keep the fire small and never leave it unattended. To put it out, drown it with water, stir and repeat until you have cold embers.
- Keep it clean. Wash your hands, particularly after using the toilet and before handling food to prevent the spread of germs and disease. Use biodegradable soap. Keep your campsite clean, too. Don’t leave any trash behind on your way out.
“Get out there and enjoy nature, but be safe, be smart about it and make sure you plan ahead,” says Dr. Laszko.
For more information about outdoor safety, visit www.fs.usda.gov/