Camping is one of the best family or group activities there is, as it’s never too early to instill a love of nature in your children.
A knowledgeable family equipped with modern gear and technology is safer than ever in the wilderness, but it’s important to realize that the wilderness is just that - wild. Dangers exist, so always be prepared for the unexpected.
No matter where you go camping, you need to be mindful of the rules and guidelines. Take some time to familiarize yourself with them before you set out. Most parks will have important information on their websites.
Here are camping safety tips for the adventurous family or group.
Camp at least 200 feet from any water source
You may only think about drowning when you’re at the pool or out on a boat, but the fact is that many drowning deaths in this country are attributed to kids wandering into bodies of water unsupervised. Of course, you should always keep an eye on kids around any camp site, but if you choose to camp near water make sure you camp at least 200 feet away from it. This will minimize the chances that your child (or pet for that matter!) accidentally falls in when you look away for just a second. Always teach kids that they should never enter a lake, river, or stream on their own, never enter one without a lifejacket (even shallow water), and that they should never drink from one.
Try a rope for adventurous hiking, a GPS device for all types
Even the seemingly “easy” hikes can leave families lost if they happen to mistake a beaten path for a marked trail or lose their bearings in any number of ways. You should always take a battery-powered, non-internet-reliant GPS device with you on all hikes. Your cell phone may let you down in deep woods, so a separate GPS device that has your campsite pre-programmed is a must.
Better safe than sorry when it comes to snakes and bears
Of all the creatures that you’re probably unlikely to encounter, but can be a true danger if you do, the most lethal are snakes and bears. Snake bites can range from simply painful and innocuous to life-threatening. Packing a good snake bite kit that will allow you to pump some venom can add hours to your survival window. These kits are small and inexpensive, so there’s no real reason not to have one - just in case.
The same goes for bears. You’re unlikely to run into a bear, but if you do, you will certainly want to have some protection. Bear mace is highly effective in warding off aggressive bears. It is also affordable and relatively easily to pack. If you think you can fight off a bear with a knife, you’re being naive.
Every fire is dangerous until it’s 100% extinguished
There is no such thing as an “under control” fire. Once you accept that, you’re on your way to practicing proper camping fire safety. First and foremost, never leave a campfire unattended. Second, always have a way to put out a fire directly beside the fire itself. When putting out a fire, use a two-step method - water plus dirt/sand. Never leave embers burning in an unattended fire. Most forest fires are not started by raging campfires - they are started by small sources of fire, left unattended.
There’s no reason for you and your family to be afraid of the open wilderness - even if you plan on participating in adventurous activities like hiking and watersports or deepwoods camping where you may be exposed to a dangerous animal. Don’t be scared, but do be prepared. One misguided camping decision can turn a fun family outing into a bad situation.