Let me put your mind at ease right off the bat when you think about camping safety. You don’t have to be freaked out about going camping. Statistically speaking, you have a better chance of getting struck by lightning than getting attacked by a bear, cougar or bit by a rattlesnake.
It does depend a little on the area you are camping and if you find yourself around these animals. I have provided a few tips below to help keep you safe. And yes, that bear did take my backpack (I will tell you about it below).
This article was partially taken out of my new ebook that was just released, A Beginner’s Guide to Camping. I have included the first 4 Tips here and will post the additional 4 next week in a separate article.
8 Camping Safety Tips (Part 1)
I have spent quite a bit of time over the years in bear country and have learned, like most animals, bears need their space. The problems occur when you surprise bears or when they think they are trapped. The easiest way to avoid this is to make noise while hiking in bear country so they know you are coming in advance. Hiking in pairs is good and make sure you and your kids are aware of your surroundings. Here is a little more information about hiking with kids.
Here is some good information from the Department of Natural Resources in Alaska on dealing with bears.
The other major reason that people encounter bears is food. When I was up in northern Alaska I left my backpack along a creek I was camping near in a heavy bear use area. I went up around the corner and when I returned, my backpack was gone, and the only sign were bear tracks. What was the big mistake I made? I left some snacks in the pack. This link provides some tasty snacks that the bear and I both enjoy.
Statistics suggest that bears can smell carcasses up to 20 miles away. And that their sense of smell is 7 times greater than a bloodhound. The take home message on food is to store it in proper areas away from camp. Keep it in the car or a bear protected storage case. If you are hiking you can hang your food in a tree to keep it out of their reach.
Snakes are no different than bears, or any animal for that matter. Give them room, make noise, be aware and you should be ok. Snakes and animals in general are not looking for a fight. The reason they strike humans is that they feel like they are trapped and have no other choice.
Here is some useful snake safety information from the Center for Disease Control.
If you are struck by a snake you need to try and stay calm. Snake bite kits are not recommended for use anymore. You need to get to a hospital as soon as possible. Of the more than 5000 reported snake bites by venomous snakes each year, only 3-5 cases are fatal. The chances are you will not die, so stay calm and seek help.
Remember that avoidance is always the easiest way to stay safe. Wear boots and long pants. Slow down when you are walking through brush and use a stick to check in front of you. When climbing over rocks make sure to look where you are putting your hands first.
Snakes can feel the vibrations of the ground when you are walking so if you give them time they will get out of the way in most situations.
Spiders, mosquitoes, no see ums, and other itchy critters
I was on a month long trip up to northern Alaska a few years back into one of the nasty bug areas of the world. I was up on the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge surrounded by thousands of natural mosquito breeding ponds.
The only way I could avoid the no see ums, black sox, and mosquitoes was to wear a face net and gloves the entire trip. I didn’t have an inch of skin exposed during the trip, accept for the day I forgot my gloves. My hands were swollen with bug bites that evening.
You obviously can use mosquito repellant and DEET is the active chemical recommended for use by the CDC, but it’s not the only one. There area a few natural ways to avoid mosquitoes and other biting bugs including citronella and garlic.
Take a look at this link for a few other options on how to avoid the itchy critters.
Preventative maintenance for spiders is a little different. Make sure to keep your tent closed when camping. I remember one Deschutes River trip in which there was a huge amount of daddy long legs that year. I left my tent door open for a few hours and by the time I got back my tent was full of 100’s of spiders.
Of course there are a number of venomous spiders that we should all be aware of including the Black Widow, Brown Recluse and Hobo spider.
This link has additional information for venomous spiders.
This one really hits home with me because we recently saw the red and white halo mark of a deer tick with lyme disease on our toddler. We went into the doctor and they verified that there is the potential for lyme disease so they put her on antibiotics.
Lyme disease can be very nasty and might not show signs until years after you are bit. I never realized that we had the potential out in the western US for lyme disease, but it is obvious now.
Just being aware that there is the potential is the first big part. Try wearing a long sleeve shirt and pants and tuck your pants into your socks. Insect repellents will help deter ticks as well. Ticks usually crawl onto you from the ground, not from falling out of trees as some think. So spay your feet and lower legs with repellent for extra security.
After being outdoors, do a thorough check over your body for ticks or the red and white bite mark halo. Ticks like the warm body parts so armpits, neck folds, hair and yes, genitals should all be check thoroughly.
This link has some additional safety precautions to be thinking about.
Always be aware of your surroundings. Being able to recognize the dangers or concerns will go a long way towards safety. By taking this step you will increase your chances of having a nice safe camping trip.
Take a look at this link for Part 2 of Camping Safety tips or take a look at the full version plus additional camping tips within the the new ebook here.