Camping is a beloved Canadian family tradition, that gets the whole family outside to enjoy the great outdoors and everything it has to offer. But preparing for a fun-filled family camping trip is a little more complicated than just setting up your tent. From weather to crawling critters to car problems, here are 9 important safety precautions to keep in mind for your next camping trip:
1. Make Sure Your Car is Road Trip Ready
Before loading up the van with the whole family and their assorted camping essentials, make sure your vehicle is ready for the road trip ahead of you. If you haven’t kept up with your annual car maintenance tasks, now is the time to do so – and that includes checking fluid levels, tire pressure, and testing the battery.
2. Choose the Right Shelter and Campsite
When it comes to choosing the right campsite and shelter option for you and your family, you’ll want to consider the age and physical as well as the medical needs of your family or group. For example, a tent has more limited amenities than an RV or cabin, so plan accordingly.
If you opt for tent camping, research the options in your area and see which one has the right amenities needed for you and your family.
3. Watch the Weather Closely
Rain-soaked clothes and broken tents make for not-so-happy campers! So before you head out on your next camping trip, you’ll want to keep an eye on the weather forecast expected for the duration of your trip, and plan, dress and pack accordingly. Pack to cope with the elements, whether that means extra rain gear, rain-resistant shelter, or board games and cards for fending off boredom during persistent rainfall.
Stash away your belongings in your tent to and cover any uncovered firewood to keep them from getting soaked. If the rain turns into thunder or hail, head for your vehicle – the safest place to be during a thunderstorm or hailstorm is your car.
4. Prepare for Crawling Critters…
Insects are inevitable when going camping – after all, you’re in the insects’ territory now. But just because they’re around you doesn’t mean you can’t protect yourself from them. Insect bites are not only annoying, but they can also be downright dangerous – protect yourself from Lyme disease and West Nile Virus by wearing long-sleeved shirts, pants and socks and applying insect repellent to any exposed skin and clothes.
Opt for light coloured clothing, which helps protect against mosquitoes and ticks, and also makes them more visible to the naked eye.
Check for ticks every day – if you can remove a tick before it has a chance to attack itself to your skin you’re less likely of having your health endangered.
5. … and Other Wildlife
Crawling bugs and flying insects aren’t the only wildlife you may have to contend with while camping – other creatures like snakes and bears also share the territory in which you’ll be staying, so be prepared in case you encounter them.
While most snakes have no interest in attacking humans, you should still be cautious for snake encounters while hiking through the bush – using a hiking stick to poke ahead of you will help remove any snake that may be in your pathway. What’s more, use extra caution when navigating dark crevices between rocks, since that’s where snakes like to hide. Wear ankle-covering boots when hiking and gloves when gathering firewood.
As for bears, the best way to protect yourself and our family is to remove all food from your campsite at night so it doesn’t attract these unwelcome guest. Pack food in your car or another secure area, and if that’s not an option, try to eat any fresh food first before moving onto non-perishables.
6. Know Your Fireside SafetyFire safety is imperative in maintaining a safe camping experience. Always check with park or campground rangers to make sure that building fires are allowed, and to find out what type of restrictions are set in place.
Be sure to build your fire in the campfire ring provided, or build one on your own using rocks. Make sure that you clear any dry grass and dead leaves away before you begin building your campfire ring. Always have a shovel and bucket of water nearby to control or put out the fire before bed, and never leave the fire unattended.
Keep clothing, lawn chairs and other flammable objects away from the fire at all times.
7. Protect Against the Sun
You may be brushed up on all your fire-building and wildlife-avoiding tactics, but if you’re not also protecting yourself and your family from the sun, you’re running the risk of dehydration or worse – heatstroke.
When camping in sunny weather, wear high SPF sunscreen and apply 15 minutes before you go out into the sun. What’s more, cover up with a shirt, hat and sunglasses when possible. Stay in the shade whenever you can, and be sure to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
8. Plan Ahead
Being prepared means planning ahead in order to avoid getting lost. Know the name and location of your campsite as well as their telephone number and contact information. Tell a family member or friend where you will be camping and for how long, and if you take ahike or walk during your camping trip, inform another camper in your group on your whereabouts.
Dress properly and pack all the essentials, including your cell phone, food and water, warm clothes, a whistle, and a first-aid kit. Wear close-toed shoes instead of open-toed ones to avoid bug bites or cuts when trekking through thick brush.
9. Stay Safe Around and In Water
Camping safety extends to beyond the campground as well – if you’re camping near a body of water, you need to be cautious and practice water safety at all times.
Supervise children at all times when near or in a body of water, and never swim alone. Understand and work within your swimming abilities – if you’re not that strong of a swimmer, you will want to avoid swimming out into open, deep waters. If you or your children are not strong swimmers, always wear a lifejacket or PFD and secure them properly for your children. What’s more, stay out of the water during lightning or thunderstorms and seek shelter right away.
While camping can be a fun experience for the whole family, it’s important to stay alert and pay attention to your body and how it’s reacting to the environment around you. Make sure to get enough sleep and limit your alcohol intake so you can stay sharp.
Have fun and happy camping!