Whether you consider yourself an outdoor enthusiast or you just need a weekend to unplug, camping is a relatively inexpensive, easily accessible way to kick back and enjoy yourself in nature. That’s why so many WWOOFers spend at least some of their free time off the farm camping and exploring.
But we’re not the only ones. According to one study, more Americans are going camping more often than ever before, and it’s no secret why. “Year-over-year people consistently say camping allows them to relax, spend time with family and friends, be active and contributes to their emotional well-being,” says KOA COO Toby O’Rourke.
In addition to the many benefits of camping, there are also some risks. The great outdoors, after all, is full of elements outside of your control. From weather to wildlife, knowing the possibility of danger exists and being prepared for it are crucial aspects of a successful camping trip.
WWOOFers know all about braving the elements, and it’s a good thing. Sunburn, frostbite, dehydration, and heat stroke are easily some of the most common camping-related woes. But with a little planning and preparation, you can drastically reduce your chances of falling victim to one of these easily-avoidable injuries.
First and foremost, check the weather and pack accordingly. In some climates, daytime and nighttime temperatures can vary greatly, so do your research. Lightweight, breathable clothes can be worn in layers to help you stay cool or warm, depending on the season. You should also pay attention to the specifications on your equipment. Certain gear, like sleeping bags, backpacks, and tents, offer varying levels of temperature, rain, or wind protection.
The sun is a concern in all types of weather. You should always take a hat and sunscreen to prevent overexposure. Additionally, you should closely monitor your water intake to ensure you are drinking enough. Water helps regulate your body temperature and prevent temperature-related illness.
Bumps, Bruises, and Burns
The same activities that make camping fun can also make it dangerous. Hiking, mountain biking, and even making s’mores can lead to sprains, lacerations, and burns. In order to treat these injuries on-site, you’ll need a few supplies and some basic first aid knowledge.
Before you go, make sure your first aid kit is stocked with basic supplies like bandages, antiseptic, and pain relievers. Once at the site, make sure everyone in your party knows where the first aid kit is and how to use it. If you’re camping off the beaten path, consider taking a first aid class that includes CPR training so that, in the event of a more serious injury like a heart attack or head wound, you can tend to the injured party until medical professionals arrive.
And if you are planning to cook or even just relax by a campfire, implement good campfire safety and be sure to dig your firepit at least 15 feet from tents, brush, and other flammable items. Never use an accelerant, like gasoline, to start a fire or keep it going, and never leave a fire unattended.
Wildlife and Plant-Related Illnesses
Contrary to popular belief, you’re not likely to encounter a bear on your next camping trip. You are, however, almost guaranteed to come in contact with biting insects like mosquitoes and ticks. To avoid bites, you should always carry and use insect repellent that contains DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus. If you do get bitten, topical ointments can relieve symptoms. You should also keep an eye on your dog if you decide to allow your pet to enjoy the great outdoors. Make sure you don’t feed any of the wildlife, which could attract unwanted visitors — and potential canine adversaries — to your campsite. Also, keep your dog indoors during the night and on a leash during the day. That way, you know exactly what your pooch is doing at all times.
You will probably also be exposed to harmful plants like poison ivy, poison oak, or poison sumac. Prior to your adventure, educate yourself on what types of plants are present in your area. Once on site, scout your surroundings and mark areas where these plants are present. Additionally, take care when gathering tinder for campfires. If these plants are burned, their poisonous oils can be released and inhaled through the air, causing serious respiratory injuries.
All in all, camping is a pleasurable experience. But, just like on the farm, it’s better safe than sorry. A little preparation and the right supplies will keep you out of danger and allow you to fully enjoy the adventure.
Article written by Jamie Strand