Camping Safety Tips

Read these 16 Camping Safety Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Camping tips and hundreds of other topics.

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Which way is east?

East from West

If you are ever lost in the woods, remember that the Pileated Woodpecker digs his home facing east, a Flying Squirrel's hole is usually facing east, a spiders web is usually facing south, the rings on a cut down tree most often show a greater growth on north and northeast sides, and the tops of evergreen trees usually bend to the east. Oh yeah...the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.

Do I need a survival kit? If so what kind?

Survival Packs

I remember this from my time as a boy scout...

Before you begin building your survival kit, you need to decide what its purpose is. Will it need to be small enough to put in your pocket, or will you be able to carry it in your backpack or a small daypack? If it's for your pack, what will you have left over if you lose the pack in a stream crossing or through some other misadventure?

Your survival kits (the one in your pocket and the one you add to your pack) should change in content with the season. For instance, you will need more ways of getting fires started really quickly in the winter-time than you will in the summer, when you will want to trade out some fire-starters for insect repellents.

You should study survival techniques and tools like they will save your life...because they just might!

What are the most important survival tools?

Top 10 Must Have List

1. Extra food and water.
2. Extra clothing.
3. Map.
4. Compass.
5. Flashlight with Extra Batteries and Bulb.
6. Sunglasses and sunscreen.
7. Matches in a waterproof container.
8. Fire starter or candle.
9. Pocket knife or utility tool.
10. First-aid kit.

Where should we store our food?

Mind Your Food!

Please, please, all food properly. Wild animals will find your food and in doing so, they will trash your camp site and they might have difficulty telling what is food and what is you. Food should be stored in your vehicle or elevated off of the ground. It should never be kept in your tent.

So water´s important, is it?

Water, Water, Water

Drink before you're thirsty. Your body is the best canteen. If running out of water is an issue, don't urinate, you need to keep all the moisture you can. If actually dying of thirst, don't eat, as digestion consumes more fluids. You can go maybe 3 days without water, assuming no activity. You can live over a week without food.

Can I drink water from a lake, river or stream?

Drinking Water

Water purifiers are the safest choice for camping or backpacking when water is obtained from lakes, ponds or streams. They work via a two-part purification system. Water first goes through a microfilter to remove larger organisms. The water then passes through an iodine resin system to eliminate smaller organisms. Water purifiers provide the highest level of safety, eliminating all types of organisms (including viruses, bacteria and Giardia as small as .004 microns).

What is a common error in planning a trip?

Tell someone where you're headed

Before embarking on any trip, be sure that someone know where you are going, how you plan on getting there, how long you will be there and what to do if you don't return. This is a good tip for going to the mall but it is a great tip for when you leave the pavement.

How can I minimize the chance of being struck by lightening?

When Lightening Strikes

If there is an approaching storm and your skin tingles or hair tries to stand on end, immediately "GET SMALL." You may not have more than a couple seconds to act.

Squat low to the ground on the balls of your feet, with your feet close together. Place your hands on your knees, with your head between them. Be the smallest target possible, and minimize your contact with the ground.

What should I do prior to an overnight hike/camp?


Do not go on an extended hike (overnight) without knowing CPR. Take a class before you go. You may think this is unnecessary, but if you need to have CPR performed on you, you'll want others in the backcountry to have taken the class. Do unto others as you would have them know the rest.

How do I protect myself when camping alone?

Camp Visitors

If you're camping alone and you are concerned about unwanted human visitors, set up more than one chair in your campsite.

How can I prepare myself to spend time in a remote location?

Personal Defense

Learn how to take care of you and yours. Bad weather, wild animals, bad people, terrain, accidents and bad luck can negatively effect your camping experience.

Take a class on personal defense.

This isn't just a camping tip. This is important anywhere. A personal defense weapon (pepper spray, firearm, knife, etc.) is a good idea....but only if you are trained to use it correctly.

Again, take a class on personal defense.

How do I get help when I´m in the backcountry?

Distress Signal

The universal distress signal is "anything" in a group of three. For instance: 3 gun shots, 3 screams, 3 blows on a whistle or even 3 campfires. You need to know this for to reasons...1) so you can call for help and 2) so you know when help is needed.

What´s the one thing I should never leave camp without?

2-way Radio

Whenever you leave the campsite, make sure you have your 2-way radio with you. And turn it on. Not only does it keep you in contact with your fellow campers (turn theirs on too), it may also save your life.

Many outdoor enthusiasts leave their radios on scan so they can help when a alarm is sounded. Accidents happen. Mitigate your risks.

What type of first aid kit do I need?

A Sensible Approach

The farther from the beaten path you venture, the more prepared you should be for a medical emergency. Always carry a first-aid kit designed for the type of trek and the number of people in your group.

A variety of first-aid kits are available for day hikes, family camping trips or backpacking treks. Kits should be tailored to your trekking terrain, weather, the ages of hikers and your group's special medical needs.

Before you go, learn about any possible hazards at your destination, such as poisonous plants, snakes and insects. Ask local officials or park rangers if you need any special gear or clothing. Locate the road and public phone closest to your campsite or trail, so you know where to summon help if it is needed.

Some organizations offer wilderness first-aid courses targeted to outdoors enthusiasts. Be sure to practice what you learn and share it with others in your party.

What should be in my emergency pack?

Emergency Pack

There are several things you "have to have" when you get off the beaten path. If you don't carry these things with you, rethink your plan. You must have water, compass or GPS (and know how to use it), cell phone, signal mirror, toilet paper, food (beef jerky), lighter, whistle, insect repellent, sun screen, ID and a first aid kit. This sounds like alot to carry, but aside from the water, it will weigh about a pound. Don't get stranded without these things.

What can I do to prepare for the unexpected?

Five Golden Rules

1. Life itself is survival. All that changes is the environment or the conditions under which you live. When crossing our backcountry or entering a dangerous environment, do so properly equipped.

2. A quick rescue is the best rescue. Use every modern aid to make others are aware of your plight and location. No matter what the danger, good communications will prevent a survival situation evolving.

3. We only need the basics. Given that you are uninjured and functioning properly, you need only air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and shelter from the environment. However scarce, nature supplies all of these. You must learn to adapt to whatever she provides.

4. Plan your survival. When disaster strickes think about your situation and make a plan of your basic needs. Do not needlessly expend energy or put yourself in danger without good reason.

5. Recognize that danger is everywhere. The cold can kill. The heat can kill. Wild beasts can kill. Despondency can kill. Lack of nourishment can kill. Watch, listen, think and determine the problem...learn to survive.

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Guru Spotlight
Carol Sponagle