Camping is a great way to get into nature and just take time to relax and enjoy the outdoors with friends and family. Camping, especially for people just getting into it can be a little overwhelming because there are things out there that can hurt you or cause you to have allergic reactions or worse. When I talk to my friends who have never camped before, they always ask me why I go, and more importantly, is it dangerous? We thought this would be a great question to answer and offer some advice to anyone who might not be going because they think it’s too dangerous.
Is camping dangerous? While there are plants, animals, and bugs in the wild that can be dangerous, camping is very safe for people to do, and normally has a very low likelihood of any danger. The most important thing to remember is that if you do not know if an animal or flower is dangerous, then you should keep your distance and enjoy the scenery from further away. Do not eat anything that you have not brought yourself unless you know exactly what it is and how you will react to it. Lastly, use common sense and listen when your gut tells you to stay back or to walk away.
Watch For Animals
Usually, the biggest danger when camping is the animals because there are predators out there that might mistake you for something else. Bears, Mountain lions, and Wolves are normally the worst type of animal to run into, but even animals like porcupines, skunks, and even squirrels can bite, spray or stick you and cause painful wounds and possibly infections. Another big issue people normally run into are snakes, spiders, and other venomous bugs.
These things are more likely to enter your tent during the day or night and can cause quite a scare. Always check your pillows, shoes, and bedding before going to bed every night, and make sure you leave your tent zipped up so nothing can get in. Lastly, things like bees and mosquitos, while not dangerous, can sting you or bite you causing allergic reactions from a small bump, to shock, so try to burn candles, or use bug spray to keep them away. If you know you are allergic to bees, make sure to bring your epi-pen, and watch for ticks because they carry lime disease.
Don’t Touch The Plants
I am sure you have heard your parents tell you not to put stuff in your mouth that you don’t know as a child, so this really shouldn’t be something new when we say, dont eat strange berries off a bush, and don’t eat fruit from a tree that you don’t know. Unless you are knowledgeable in what vegetation is good or bad, it is best to only eat what you brought, with the exception of fish and some other animals.
Hiking is one of the most popular things to do when camping, but there are a few things you will want to watch out for while out hiking. First, never touch plants that you do know about when you are out for a hike. Poison Oak and Poison Ivy are two very dangerous plants, and you should avoid them at all times when you are out hiking. Most people will just get a very itchy rash when they come in contact with them, but others can have more severe allergic reactions, so please stay away.
Are Campfires Safe?
Most campgrounds offer fire pits, or fire rings for you to have a campfire in, so if you are going to have a fire, make sure you only build one in designated areas. As long as you do not build a big out-of-control fire, campfires are normally completely safe, and fun to sit around, tell stories, and make s’ mores.
If you go to a campground that does not have a fire pit, it is always good to read message boards, ask camp hosts, or ask a ranger if fires are permitted. Never build your own fire pit with rocks unless you have gotten permission from the campground.
Some campgrounds have removed the ability to have fires due to Summer fire danger. If you call ahead, you might find out that there is no fire pit, but you can bring your own. Always remember not to use accelerants like gas to start fires as they can combust and cause explosions, which could burn and hurt you. Never throw toxic items like plastic or anything that might give off an odor that can make you sick, or is bad for the environment.
Have A Steady Supply Of Water And Ice
The two things that you will want to make sure you have camping is water and ice for food, so it does not spoil. Water is extremely important because you need to drink it, and you also need to clean your cooking plates, and utensils with it so bacteria does not grow and make you sick. Most campgrounds will have either a water spigot in your campsite or a community water spigot for all campers to use.
If your campground does have a community water spigot, try and take jugs to it, so you can fill up what you need and take it back to your camp so that others do not have to wait for you. Ice is what is going to keep your cold foods fresh, so make sure that you check your ice chests multiple times a day, and do not let them fill up with water.
Almost all ice chests have drain plugs that you can pull to drain out the water leaving only ice. If you do run out of ice, and your cold food has been left out and is not cold, make sure you check it before you eat it. Bacteria can grow really quickly in the heat. Try to put your ice chests in a shaded area so the sun does not beat down on it.
Using The Bathroom
Campground bathrooms are not known for being luxurious, but they are normally pretty safe to use. Most campgrounds have a cleaning crew that will come in a couple of times a day to clean and re-stock items, but you always need to check toilets, showers, and sinks before you use them. Spiders, Scorpions, and other bugs need water too, so they will crawl into drains or faucets. Spiders and snakes also like it dark, so they might hide in toilets or outhouses.
When using the bathroom at camp, always lift the lid and check the sides of the toilet before using it. When you are done, turn the water on and let it run for a second to make sure you have not made a bug mad before washing your hands or brushing your teeth. You can carry bug spray or fly swatter to get rid of any bugs that you might find. If you do find something like a snake, slowly back out of the bathroom, and go tell the camp host or the park ranger.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Almost everyone brings something with them for protection when they are out camping, especially if you are in the forest where you might come across bears, or raccoons that hurt you if provoked. You can bring things like bear (or pepper) spray to repel them if they get to close to your camp. I know other people bring things like stun guns, or a baseball bat in case you run into something.
Always make sure if you bring something like a gun or knife, you know upfront if it is allowed at the place you are staying. Carrying knives or guns where people are can be against the law, so always check with your local law enforcement if you plan on bring anything like that.
There are times when something just happens and you cannot avoid it. The best way to handle these situations is to be prepared. Always have a first aid kit available to you, and know what is in it. If you happen to use something out of it, re-stock it before you go camping again. Knowing where to get help is the second biggest item of being prepared because if you do not know how to get help, you might not get it. Having these two things will help you be prepared for if you accidentally slip, cut yourself, or fall while out camping.
Camping, for the most part, is very safe, and you should have no issues with any danger, as long as you are careful. Make sure you only use designated fire pits to have campfires, do not touch any weird looking plants, and never try to feed, or pet any of the wildlife, no matter how sweet and tame they look. Even deer can be very aggressive and hurt you if they get scared. Make sure you do not do anything super crazy, and you are going to have a fun safe camping trip.