6 Tips for a Safe Campout
Before you head out on that summer camping trip, keep these safety tips from a wilderness emergency medicine expert in mind.
Summer is in full swing, which means you might be packing up the car and heading to the woods for a leisurely — or perhaps adventurous — camping trip.
Before you set up the tent and unroll your sleeping bag, it’s important to be prepared for trekking into the wilderness.
“Being out in the woods means you might be far away from immediate help in the event of an emergency,” said John Kahler, M.D., director of the University of Michigan Wilderness Medicine Program and an assistant professor of emergency medicine. “By planning ahead, you can help make sure your next camping trip is fun and safe for the whole family.”
Kahler offered some simple tips that outdoor enthusiasts of every level should keep in mind:
Stay connected: Charge a cell phone in advance, turn it off and store it in your vehicle (don’t forget a power cord that works with your car, too). Don’t assume, though, that your phone will have coverage; purchase a map of the area and keep it with you at all times in case you get lost. It’s also a good idea to bring a portable battery charger if you won’t have access to electricity.
Anticipate the elements: Skin cancer is on the rise and melanoma has been associated with frequency of sunburned skin. Apply sunscreen early and often, and always have some in your backpack, car or boat. Bring clothing rated with UPF sun-blocking properties if you plan to be outdoors all day. Be ready for storms with a rain jacket in your trunk or backpack to keep you dry and warm.
Block out bugs: Insect repellent will help deflect mosquito, fly and tick bites, all of which can carry disease. Make sure to read the manufacturer’s recommendations when using such products on children. Consider lightweight insect masks and bug-repellant clothing if you’re in a particularly infested area.
Swim safely: Pack life jackets or water flotation devices if you plan to be around water. Take extra caution when swimming in waters with currents, rip tides or heavy boating traffic, and avoid alcohol, as it can affect judgment and increase risk of injury or drowning. Afterward, be sure to shower in order to avoid swimmer’s itch, an allergic reaction the skin may have to animal parasites in the water.
Pack enough provisions: It never hurts to have extra food and water on hand in case of an emergency or if you find you need to extend your trip. Always bring water when hiking or participating in another outdoor activity away from your campsite. Avoid heavy sun exposure while drinking alcohol, as it can increase dehydration.
Don’t start a campfire with gasoline: Vapors from gasoline and similar fluids are flammable. Emergency departments see several people each summer who have sustained severe burns from starting bonfires with gasoline — and you don’t want to start a forest fire. Instead, bring tinder or fire starter sticks to use in case you can’t find dry wood.