No matter if you’re brand new to camping or you’re a seasoned veteran of the outdoors, there’s one thing that crosses every camper’s mind: is camping safe?
Since it’s typically done on public lands and often in the deep wilderness, there are inherent dangers to be wary of, and it’s important to keep some camping safety tips and tricks in mind so that you can have the best (and safest!) time possible.
As you all know by now if you’re fans of the site, camping is one of my favorite things in the world, but it can be dangerous. I wish I could sit here and just tell you that camping is perfectly safe and there’s nothing to worry about, but it’s just not true. Don’t worry though; I’m here to help you make your next outdoor adventure as safe as possible so you can fall in love with it like I did.
When I first got into camping, I was nervous about how safe it was. Especially once I started going camping by myself… sheeeeesh. But in my experience, I’ve never really had any major unexpected issues pop up that I wasn’t prepared to handle. When you’re done with this article, I hope that you are just as prepared as me to have fun and be safe while camping.
Biggest Dangers of Camping
Before we get into the actual tips themselves, let’s take a quick look at what makes camping dangerous in the first place. I could dedicate an entire article to this topic alone — and I probably have by the time you’re reading this! — but for now, I’ll just touch on a few of the big ones.
Anytime you’re out in nature, you always must be aware of the risk of wildlife. After all, when you’re camping, you’re in their home, potentially invading their space. Just like us, many wild creatures don’t like anyone or anything in their space, so it’s important to know what type of wildlife is in the area and how to deal with it.
When you think of dangerous wildlife, you probably think of the big-ticket ones like bears, raccoons, and coyotes that can wreak havoc on your campsite and can put your life in danger. But wildlife also includes all the little insects you’ll come across while camping, which can be even more dangerous than the big beasts!
If you’re anything like me, you like to get a campfire going to sit around, cook your food, roast some marshmallows, and just spend time with friends and family. But any time you light a campfire in the middle of the woods, or you’re in a campground where everyone has fires going, there’s always going to be a risk of fire hazards.
Fires are scary while camping because depending on what time of year it is and where you’re at, a small campfire could turn into an uncontrollable wildfire in no time. Fires like this can tear through a campground, take out your campsite, and risk the lives of everyone (and everything) in their path.
I’ll get deeper into the details of fire safety below, but always be cognizant any time you – or someone near you – have a fire going.
Before you go camping, you should always check the weather. This goes for when you’re originally planning the trip and just before you head out the door. Nothing will put an end to your next camping trip faster than an unexpected storm or a cold front moving in, and bad weather can just flatly be dangerous if you’re not prepared.
If you look ahead of time and see that it’s just going to be a light rain or a little cold, you can prepare the right way. Bring a few extra blankets, waterproof your tent, batten down the hatches, and you should be fine. But a bad storm can bring dangers such as lightning, flash flooding, and strong winds that can tear your campsite apart, no matter how prepared you are.
Getting Lost While Alone
Getting lost while you’re on a primitive camping trip by yourself is a serious risk to consider. We’ve all heard horror stories of people that go missing while they’re camping or hiking, never to be seen again. As soon as you get off the beaten path and you’re just out in nature, it can be extremely difficult to figure out where you are and find your way back to safety.
The best way to never get lost is to use something with GPS, like a smartphone or a hiking watch. These devices can help you know where you’re at, where you’ve been, and where you’re headed. Just make sure you keep a handheld power bank on you to keep everything charged just in case you do take the wrong turn.
You should also always carry a map of the area you’re camping in and a compass. This old-school method requires no electronics, no GPS signal, or anything else. Just your ability to read a map, use a compass, and make your way back to civilization.
Camping Safety Tips
Now that you know about a few of the biggest dangers and risks of camping, let’s get into the good stuff and look at some of the best safety tips for camping to keep in mind. I’ve covered some of these already in our complete list of camping hacks and tips, but I’ll dive even deeper into the safety tips here.
General Camping Safety Tips
Before we get into any of the tips specific to the dangers above, let’s just touch on a few general safety tips:
- Familiarize yourself with the area – The first thing you should always do is research the area you’re going camping and get familiar with it. The terrain, weather, wildlife, and overall environment are all things you should know about before you go.
- Pick the right type of camping for you – If you’re brand new to camping, I suggest staying at a campground a few times before going on a backcountry camping adventure. Campgrounds are safer, there are more people around, and there’s usually water nearby.
- Have the right camping equipment and gear – By packing all the right camping gear and equipment, you’ll be better prepared to handle any unexpected issues that come up. As you read through all these tips, you’ll realize how vital it is to have the right gear with you.
- Take enough food and drinking water – You never want to go on a camping trip without enough food and water. Especially if you’re camping in the summer or when it’s hot and dehydration is possible; running out of drinking water is one of the worst things that can happen.
Camping Wildlife Safety Tips
Here are a few wildlife safety tips to keep in mind while you’re camping:
- Research the typical wildlife in the area – You should always look into what kind of wildlife lives in the area before you go camping. If not, you won’t even know how to prepare in the first place. Wild animals are not to be messed with!
- Keep your trash elevated or locked – Always try to keep your trash bags off the ground so it’s tougher to get to, and keeping them locked away is even better. Most campgrounds have dumpsters or locking trash receptacles where you should take your trash before leaving the campsite or going for a hike.
- Ensure all food is covered and stored – Never leave any food out or unattended at your campsite. If you’re not actively cooking or eating, you should store your food in latching containers or a cooler, or something that makes it hard for animals to see, smell, or get to.
- Use insect repellent – The majority of the time, insects are by far the worst wildlife you’ll come across. Any time you’re camping, make sure you use insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and other insects away.
Camping Fire Hazard Safety Tips
Keep these fire safety tips in mind while you’re camping to keep yourself, everyone around you, and the environment safe:
- Carry a portable fire extinguisher – As soon as you see a fire start to get out of control and exit the fire pit, using a fire extinguisher to put it out is the easiest to stop it from spreading.
- Know where the closest water source is – If you don’t have a fire extinguisher on hand, you should always know where you can get water. A stream, river, water hookup at a campsite, or even a pack of water bottles can be used to keep it under control.
- Pay attention to campground/park rules – Depending on when and where you’re staying, most campgrounds or parks will tell you ahead of time what you can burn. If you’re only allowed to burn wood but no charcoal, for example, listen to what they say!
- Never leave a fire unattended – You should never walk away from your campfire while it’s still burning. Always keep it within sight and put it out before going for a hike or going to sleep.
Safety Tips for Bad Weather While Camping
Since bad weather can pop up out of nowhere, keep these safety tips in mind if it starts to take a turn for the worse:
- Check the weather often – The easiest way to avoid bad weather is to check it as often as you can. You can use your phone, listen to a radio, or any other means to always know what the weather is supposed to be like.
- Have a rainfly over your tent – If you’re tent camping and it does start to rain, it’s not the end of the world. As long as you have a rainfly in place and were prepared for some rain, you can just keep on keeping on as long as it doesn’t get bad.
- Make sure your tent is secured to the ground – Always make sure you use as many stakes as possible and put them in tough ground so they stay put. A tent acts like a sail in the wind, and strong gusts can destroy your campsite if it’s not properly secured.
- Bring extra layers – If there’s a chance that a cold front might come through, always bring extra blankets and jackets to stay warm. Being stuck outside in freezing temperatures is not only uncomfortable, but it’s also downright dangerous.
- Be prepared to leave – When severe weather rolls in and your safety is at risk, be ready to abandon the campsite and head to the nearest shelter or the nearest place you can shelter. Keep your head covered and find somewhere to get away from falling branches, lightning strikes, and more.
Safety Tips for Camping by Yourself
Solo camping trips are some of the most reflective, introspective times of my life. If you’re camping alone, keep these tips and tricks in mind to stay safe:
- Tell someone where you’re going – The single best thing you can do for your own safety while camping alone is to let someone else know where you’re going. If anything happens and nobody knows where you are, you might be out of luck.
- Know where you are at all times – When you’re camping by yourself, you need to make sure you know the area well enough to know where you are at all times. It’s easy to get lost in nature if you’re not on a trail or at a campground.
- Take a map and compass – This goes along with the one above, but having a map and a compass can be a lifesaver if you get lost. A smartphone can only help if you have a signal, but a map and compass can always help you find your way back.
- Pack an emergency first-aid kit – While you should always pack a first-aid kit while camping, if you’re by yourself, you need to make sure it’s full of stuff you can use alone. If anything happens, you can only count on yourself, and the right first aid kit can potentially save your life.
Key Takeaways on Camping Safety
- Camping is one of the best ways to spend time in the great outdoors and have a fun experience in nature, but it can be dangerous if you’re not well-prepared.
- The biggest dangers of camping include wildlife, fire hazards, bad weather, and getting lost while you’re alone.
- Having the right gear and equipment can make all the difference when it comes to camping safety.
- Always check the weather, make yourself familiar with the area, and look into the wild animals and insects that live nearby so you can stay safe while camping.