Hantavirus, bear attacks, and West Nile virus, are all ways that can really pose a risk to your trip. There have been many reports lately that will keep even the most experienced camper home and away from the campgrounds for now. Though with just a little well thought out preparation coupled with some flexibility, there are safe and enjoyable ways to go camping.
Three people die every week in parts due to accidental injury and various accidents. Fourteen people are injured on a daily basis in these same parks according to research. Falls, car accidents, and even drowning top the list, making camping a dangerous feat.
Fears grew after nine people who stayed in Curry Village cabins in Yosemite National Park contracted hantavirus, which was potentially severe and troubling respiratory disease that would spread through contact with dust off of rodent feces. Three of the people who caught it died, and the hantavirus infection is a far less likely outcome of camping. There are many other ways to be injured that are more commonplace like injuries from scrapes and falls as well as insect bites.
Rodents aren’t going to be as likely when you stay in your own tent or if you decide to camp in what’s considered the back country. If you do end up staying in a cabin or lodge that is maintained by the park and you see signs of rodents, you should ask to be moved into better accommodations or even travel to a different part of the park says Aram Attarian, PhD, who is an associate professor in the park and an outdoor adventure expert.
How to Plan for Safe Camping
Don’t be scared away by the needed preparations that should be handled when planning any camping adventure. Safe camping habits become easier as time goes on, and you’re sure to enjoy the adventures for many years to come.
- Always research campgrounds. Knowing about the area you’ll be staying or exploring is always a wise decisions. You can always check out the weather forecast so that you can adjust your plans. After this research is done you’ll know what equipment to pack as well as clothing so that you can handle the proper temperatures and weather conditions. Attarian says, “You don’t want to be on the summit of the Rocky Mountains at noon or after because that is when you run into thunderstorms.” So always be sure to pack for the right type of weather, and know what you’re doing.
- Wash your hands. Washing hands is an important aspect of camping, and it’s one that can severely decrease your health risks during the trip. “You can transfer a lot of bacteria if you are handling food after using the bathroom,” says Attarian. Using soap and water can help keep you healthy, but alcohol-based hand sanitizer is another healthy option. Don’t forget to wash down the surfaces where you prepare or eat food to keep your health levels optimal.
- Prepare for insects. Bees, wasps, ticks, and mosquitoes are very common hazards and dangers for anyone camping. Bug repellent will be your best friend when trying to prevent bug bites, such as from mosquitos. Before camping you really need to look into how to protect yourself from ticks or even how to remove them quickly. If you don’t react well to bee or wasps stings, an EpiPen or antihistamine should always be kept on hand and at the ready.
- Learn about all the local animals. Don’t feed the wildlife because even what seems to be a harmless animal can cause problems. It can even turn aggressive in the pursuit of human food later on, so it’s best to let them stick to their natural diets. Always make sure to find out about the wildlife in the area before you go so you know what poses a threat. When you visit bear country always stay alert, and don’t approach the bears.
- Practice safe food storage. Bears are common in some areas, and in these areas you have to take extra safety precautions. The best option when in these areas is to use food lockers so that the bears cannot get into the food, but hanging food on a high hook also works. Pests should not be able to get into the food if the food is stored properly.
- Friends or relatives should know when you’re going and when you plan to come back. In case you get in trouble this way the authorities will know where to find you.
- Always know the area. Your phone may not always work, so it’s not wise to count on the GPS feature while you’re in the wilderness, especially when you’re lost. Maps are the best way to go, and while you use them you should keep track of the progress you make. When you go to a park make sure to get the emergency number in your contact list before you go on hikes or exploring.
- Stay safe around bodies of water. Exploring can be fun in parks with bodies of waters. Lakes, beaches, and streams can be very enjoyable to visit.Attarian will warn families that “children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates.” So you especially need to keep an eye on children.
- Keep safe around fires. Campfires are very practical and have a purpose: to cook food and warm you up. However, we can’t forget the social aspect either, and friends and family love to gather around it. Fires can also be dangerous by contributing to wildfires, and they’re often the cause of severe burns. All children should be taught at an early age to stay away from fire pits or even hot grills. This is for when it’s extinguished or still burning. The Journal of Burn Care Research says that injuries to children from day-old extinguished campfires can still be serious and even potentially fatal. There are various fire regulations in different areas, so make sure you know them. For example, during a drought you may not even be able to make a fire. Always keep fires in designated fire pits with a bucket of water nearby.
- Keep a first-aid kit nearby. Then you’ll have supplies for anything from minor cuts to stings or even burns.
- Always carry water. Just because you find a clear looking stream when hiking doesn’t mean that the water is safe to drink. Unless you have water treatment chemicals on hand, it’s wise not to use this water as drinking water. Always plan ahead so you have enough water for the entirety of your trip. This will also help you keep away from heat-related illnesses.
- Always drive safe. A leading cause of death or even injury in parks is motor vehicle accidents. Geographic hazards or even weather should be paid attention to just as much as traffic signs.
Camping is a great bonding experience for both family and friends. It is one in which you can explore beautiful and majestic wilderness, but it is also one that has risks involved. Just prepare well and stay alert. Then you’ll be just fine.