Summer Camping Safety
Camping is an activity enjoyed by millions of Canadians each year. Every camper should take some basic precautions to keep the experience fun and safe.
Before setting out, you must have the following items:
- A medical kit should include a topical antibiotic, bandages, cotton swabs, diarrhea medication, antacids, scissors, tweezers and burn ointment, at a minimum.
- Flashlights – Bring several, and ensure beforehand that they are working correctly. Carry along some extra batteries as well. You may wish to purchase an LED flashlight; although more expensive, they last much longer.
- Water – Drinking from natural sources such as lakes or streams is never good. Bring bottled water, water purification tablets or a water purifier. If you bring bottled water, figure 4 litres per person daily to cover drinking and cooking.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses – Being out in the sun for hours—much less days—can cause irreversible skin and eye damage, not to mention the immediate discomfort sunburn will bring to your trip.
- Waterproof matches – Even if everything else is wet, you can still make a fire.
- Insect repellant – Not only is sunburn unpleasant, but bug bites can be nasty, too.
- Extra clothing – As hot as it may be during the day, nighttime may be an entirely different story. Plus, you will want dry items to change into if your clothing gets wet accidentally.
Finally, leave information about your destination with a friend or family member. Include the make of your car and its licence plate as well as when you plan on returning.
It is essential to consider the weather while choosing a site to set up camp. Avoid low-lying areas that could flood during heavy rain. Also, in windy situations, avoid setting up your tent under a tree, as possible falling limbs could present danger.
- Never approach or feed a wild animal. While it may look safe, their actions can be unpredictable.
- If camping in bear country, ensure that all dishes and food are kept at least 200 metres from where you plan to sleep. Hang cooking utensils and food from a tree while not in use.
- If you bring along family pets, such as the dog, make sure he or she is adequately supervised. Your pet mustn't interfere with nearby campers or indigenous wildlife.
- Before starting your campfire:
- Clear the area of overhanging branches and brush.
- If possible, surround the fire pit with rocks and keep a bucket of water nearby.
- Do not build the fire near the tent(s) or anything else flammable.
- Never leave a fire unattended, and ensure it is ultimately out before going to bed.
- Collect firewood from the ground only; never cut into living trees.
- Do not hike alone. Bring a compass, water, snacks, a flashlight, and a cell phone if it operates in that area. The Red Cross recommends a minimum of four people hike into an unfamiliar remote area because if one person gets hurt, one can stay with him/her while the other two go and get help.
- Always supervise children in the water, even if they know how to swim. It is advisable that if the camping site is around water, every camper should know how to swim.
The following is recommended for food safety:
- Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold – Bring a cooler with a cold source; since it is challenging to keep items hot, it is suggested that you cook them ahead of time, cool them, and transport them cold to be heated up later.
- Keep everything clean – Bacteria in raw meat and poultry can quickly spread to other foods, called cross-contamination.
- When transporting raw meat, double wrap or double bag the products.
- Always wash your hands before and after handling raw meat.
- Never use the same platter and utensils for raw meat and cooked.
- Always cook all cuts of pork, ground beef and lamb to 71° C (160° F), and all poultry, hot dogs, and leftover meat should reach 73° C (165° F). Bring a meat thermometer along with your cooking supplies.
- Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dishwashing.
If camping for more than one night, you may want to bring:
- Peanut butter in a plastic jar;
- Concentrated juice boxes;
- Canned tuna, ham, chicken, or beef;
- Dried noodles and soups;
- Dehydrated foods;
- Dried fruits and nuts;
- Powdered milk and fruit drinks.
Make sure you clean up all trash and belongings when leaving your campsite. Always strive to leave things better than you found them so others will get the chance to enjoy the beauty of nature just as you have fully.
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