Camping Safety as a Family

Here at Trail Blazer we generally teach skills for surviving  emergency situations. However there are still many preventative skills, tricks, and tips one should know to avert emergencies from happening at all. Today I wanted to provide some tips we give to parents whenever we do a news segment or attend a boy or girl scout event. These sets of "rules" especially apply to those camping/hiking with younger children. Also when I say camping I mean camping not backpacking. This is a list of rules to follow when you are camping and a car and bathroom are both within 100 yards. This list also is not a "survivalist" list. Rather, this list is a survivalist's tips for the average family that wants to go camping and do it safely. There are a million other safety tips one could give but I wanted to select the tips that were less obvious to families new to camping. My hope is that more people, especially kids, will get to experience the outdoors and learn to love it and want to protect it like we do at Trail Blazer.

Rules for Children:

  • Never eat in the tent
    • Eating in the tent has the potential to attract unwanted animals to the place you sleep
  • Respect the campfire
    • Kids should never play around the fire. Kids should never add or remove anything from a fire
  • Always wear a whistle
    • If a child keeps a whistle on them at all times, they can immediately alert adults to their location should they find themselves turned around
  • Never go barefoot
    • Not only could broken glass be around the campsite but also sharp tent pegs, hot coals, and hard roots that can cause harm
  • Keep horseplay to a minimum
    • Its easy to trip on tent line and pegs and potentially fall damaging not only yourself but also your tent. Also, most campsites constantly have a fire going that should not be played around. It is especially dangerous if someone was to become injured far away from the nearest road or populated area
  • Always stick with a buddy
    • Children should never be out of the eye of an adult. If children are to ever leave an adult a buddy system should be implemented to ensure greater safety
  • Never eat mushrooms or berries and don’t touch wildlife
    • There are many wild plants that look edible but very poisonous. Not touching wildlife is both for the safety of the animal and the child
  • Only drink purified water
    • A mountain stream may seem clean but harmful microbes and parasites may still be lurking in its waters
  • Stay away from water
    • Children should stay away from lakes, ponds, and rivers all together unless with an adult
  • Respect your neighbors
    • This includes things like talking in an appropriate volume voice considering the time of day, not walking through other’s campsites, and respecting personal property including the park’s property.

Rules for Parents

  • Make a kitchen
    • Only prepare and eat food in a designated area and instruct children to do the same. This will reduce the likelihood of animals coming close to your tent at night
  • Pack the appropriate cloths and bedding
    • Make sure your children have layers for cold weather and appropriate sun and heat protecting in warm weather. Check to make sure your bedding materials are appropriate for the coolest nighttime temperatures
    • Be overzealous with sunscreen
  • Stay updated on the weather
    • Pack a weather radio, monitor with your phone (if you have service) and keep an eye on the sky
  • Avoid wild animals
    • Store food properly away from your tenting area. Use bear boxes when instructed. Check family members for ticks often and use bug spray. Be sure to vaccinate pets before a camping trip
  • Prevent temperature-related illness
    • When it is hot encourage your children to drink water often even if not thirsty. Encourage children to rest often in shady areas
  • Avoid water-related injuries
    • If your camping trip includes canoeing or boating, ensure every member of your family is wearing a life jacket
  • Establish boundaries with children
    • Create a boundary with markers such as trees, tents, grill, etc. that your child should not cross unless he/she is with you
  • Stay away from poison ivy, oak, and sumac.
    • Look up each of these plants with your child and discuss the identifying qualities of each. Explain the necessity of not handling these plants
  • Respect the campfire
    • If parents have small children a fire should be used only to cook, then extinguished. Even with older children the fire should never be unattended by an adult
    • Discuss campfire safety with children
    • Campfires should be 15 feet from tents or tress/shrubs. Put the fire out before sleeping
    • Keep campfire small and have water available nearby to extinguish
  • Never camp close to water
    • This means don’t camp within a distance that a child could easily make it to water deep enough to drown in before being detected by an adult
  • Prevent carbon monoxide poisoning
    • Never use a camp stove inside a tent to warm the air or cook as it can cause a dangerous buildup of carbon monoxide

Pack Appropriately

  • When packing use the rule of 3s
    • 3 hours without shelter
      • If you are camping in below freezing weather you will need to pack the appropriate cloths (layers), tenting, and sleeping bag (rated for the lowest projected temperature). In cold weather it is also important to limit contact between your body and the ground. Packing a sleep pad and emergency blanket is a great way to avoid this.
    • 3 Days without water
      • Pack plenty of water for each member of your family. If hiking a general rule is at the very least pack 2 cups for each mile. A water filter is also a must
    • 3 weeks without food
      • While forgetting to pack the appropriate food would ruin a camping trip it still wouldn’t be as potentially deadly as forgetting water or appropriate shelter. Food is still very important when hungry our blood sugar drops and increases the potential for making mistakes. With food also comes the appropriate supplies to cook and consume your food

Important Items You Don't Want to Forget

  • A way to make fire
    • Fire is extremely important when camping. Fire provides warmth, purifies water, and cooks food (rule of 3s). Bring multiple sources of fire
  • Rain Gear
    • Warm jackets are not useful if they can absorb water. Be sure your sheltering items are waterproof or can be covered by a poncho or rain fly
  • A Quality First Aid Kit
    • An injury when camping can be very dangerous depending on how far away your rescue is.
  • Lighting
    • Its important to be able to see at night
  • Navigation tools
  • Bugspray and sunscreen
  • Toilet paper


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