From toasty s’mores to forest treks, summer camping is a great pastime for the whole family. But venturing out into the great outdoors also requires preparation and caution.
Along with packing tents, sleeping bags and other camping essentials, be sure safety is a top priority for you and your family. An easily preventable illness or injury could require urgent medical treatment and bring your outdoor fun to a premature halt.
Here are four simple tips that will help ensure a safe and healthy camping adventure.
1. Watch the weather
Pacific Northwest weather can change in a flash and put a damper on outdoor camping and hiking plans. As your trip approaches, check the weather frequently for updates. And while you’re camping, use data on your smartphone to keep track of conditions.
If the forecast is for sun and heat, pack additional sunscreen and water. On hot summer days, sunburn and dehydration can happen quickly and may require medical treatment. If rain is in the forecast, bring tarps, rain jackets and umbrellas. Being soggy isn’t just uncomfortable. Prolonged exposure to wet conditions can increase your risk of catching a cold.
2. Carefully prepare food and water
As you prep for your trip, think about what you can safely consume without the modern conveniences of home. Drinking unsafe water or eating contaminated food can make you feel rotten and increase your risk of developing infectious diseases. A few simple steps will help keep your provisions fresh and safe.
- Pack food in tightly sealed, waterproof bags or containers, and store perishables in an insulated cooler. Separate raw and cooked foods to prevent contamination.
- Bring plenty of bottled water or confirm before you go that your camp site provides sanitary drinking water. Unsafe drinking water can carry harmful germs.
- Wash hands and clean meal-prep surfaces often. If soap isn’t available, use hand sanitizer and sanitary wipes.
- Cook all raw food to the proper temperature. Undercooked poultry and meat, in particular, can cause food poisoning.
- Chill leftovers as soon as possible to prevent spoilage, and be sure to secure and store all food to deter hungry wildlife in search of snacks.
3. Properly plan for activities
Research ahead of time where you can safely walk, hike, bike, swim, kayak or canoe around your campsite. Bring appropriate protective equipment, including helmets, life jackets and sturdy shoes.
If you plan to explore in the wilderness, be sure everyone in the family is aware of proper safety precautions. For instance, kids of all ages should know it’s never ok to approach a wild animal or take or destroy anything that would harm wildlife habitat.
Everyone should also know how to identify (and avoid) poisonous plants, such as poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac. Poison ivy is in every state except Alaska and Hawaii, and at least 85% of the population is allergic. Make sure the whole family knows what to do to avoid an itchy rash and a potential trip to an urgent care clinic.
No matter which activity you and your family choose, always follow the buddy system. Accidents can happen to even the most experienced campers. If something goes wrong, you’ll need someone close by to get help. Adults should always keep a close eye on the kiddos so that they don't get lost or injured.
4. Protect against insects
When it comes to camping, there’s really no way around the bugs. Be prepared to protect yourself. Mosquitoes, ticks and other insects can transmit certain diseases, such as West Nile Virus and Lyme Disease. To fight the bites, apply insect repellent containing DEET to exposed skin. Be sure to follow all directions carefully.
Ticks can latch onto people and pets in the great outdoors, especially if you’re meandering through long grass or weeds. To safeguard yourself, wear long sleeves and pants, and opt for light-colored clothing so you can easily spot ticks if they do end up on you.
Make a daily habit of checking all family members for ticks and remove them promptly with a pair of tweezers, making sure to get the head and body. Check out our "how to remove a tick" video below to learn the right technique.
Urgent care, when you need it
Even when you’re well prepared, camping accidents and illnesses can happen. Some minor illnesses and injuries can be treated with a Virtual Visit from your campsite.
If you need to be seen in-person, visit your nearby Indigo Health. We have locations across the Puget Sound and Spokane region. Our medical providers are available 8 am to 8 pm every day to treat a wide range of minor illnesses and injuries, from rashes and allergies, to cuts and sprains.