Given the stresses of daily living, more and more people are recognizing the value of getting out in nature, even camping for days at a time. Though this is a great way to stay healthy, the outdoors can have its own dangers and inconveniences. However, with good preparation and foresight, outdoor activity can be a source of fun and rejuvenation.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when camping:
- Arrive early. Plan your trip so that you arrive at your campsite with enough daylight to check over the entire site and to set up camp.
- Build fires in a safe area. Never use a flame or any other heating device inside a tent.
- Make sure fires are always attended and are completely extinguished when you are finished with it.
- Pitch your tent in a safe spot and check for potential hazards. Your tent should be flame-retardant. Keep your tent closed to keep out bugs, insects, and other unwanted critters.
- Watch out for bugs. To deter insects, do not wear perfumes or colognes. Know what insects are around and refrain from waving wildly or swatting blindly. Use a gentle pushing or brushing motion instead.
- Beware when encountering wildlife. Keep your campsite clean and do not leave food, garbage, coolers, cooking equipment, or utensils out in the open. Do not feed wild
- Be aware of poisonous plants. Familiarize yourself with any dangerous plants that are common to the area. If you come into contact with a poisonous plant, immediately
rinse the affected area with water and apply a soothing lotion, such as calamine.
Preparing for the outdoors is essential for a safe and fun experience. Here is a checklist of items you should consider before heading out for extended periods.
- Shelter or tent
- Nylon filament
- Extra food
- Extra warm clothing
- Flashlight (extra batteries)
- Rain gear
- First aid kit
- Insect repellant
- Radio (extra batteries)
- Space blanket
- Trash bags
- Matches/waterproof fire starter
- Water purification tablets
Lightning is a very powerful force of nature that can bring billions of volts of electricity to the ground. Here are some tips to stay safe when lightning strikes:
- Electric storms can develop in the middle of the night. To lower your risk of being struck, don’t pitch your tent near the tallest trees in the vicinity.
- Drop metal objects like golf clubs, tennis rackets, umbrellas, and packs with internal or external metal frames.
- Get off bicycles, motorcycles, horses, and golf carts. Also avoid metal bleachers at sports events, metal fences, and utility poles.
- If you are caught in an open field, seek a low spot. Crouch with your feet together and keep your head low.
- If a building or a car is not available for shelter, run into a forest, which can provide some protection over an open field. But beware of falling limbs and avoid the tallest trees.
- Don’t sit or lie down, these positions provide much more contact with the ground, providing a wider path for lightning to follow. If you are with a group of people and the threat of lightning is high, spread out at least 15 feet apart to minimize the chance of everyone being struck.
- Swimmers, anglers, and boaters should get off lakes or rivers and seek shelter when storms approach. Drop your fishing rods. Boaters who cannot get off the water before the storm hits should crouch low. Once on land, get at least 100 yards away from shore.
- Wait until it is clear before returning to open areas.
- Before starting on a hike, do warm-up exercises to prevent cramping or injury.
- Start out slowly, gradually increasing your pace and distance traveled.
- Hike, bike, or ski only on marked trails in wilderness areas.
- Hike and travel in groups as much as possible, especially during winter and in hazardous terrain.
- Dress in layers. Polyester clothing worn as the innermost layer will trap warm air next to the skin, and transfer or wick body moisture away.
- Wear sunglasses and a hat or visor to protect from the sun’s glare or reflection from snow and water. Keep your eyes and face covered especially during your first few days outdoors.
- Bring sunscreen no matter the season. You can get painful sunburn even in subfreezing temperatures.
- Develop an emergency plan before you start your trip. Make sure everyone knows what to do if they become lost or if a medical emergency arises. Give children whistles with the instructions to “stop and blow” if they become lost.
- Take frequent rests.