Is Camping Safe? Facts You Might Haven’t Known

Over the years I have made a decent amount of campings around Israel, Switzerland, Scotland and the USA. The fantastic memories and experience are things I am most certainly thankful and appreciate. Nevertheless, in several cases, things were not always as pleasant. Some of my campings were not planned properly, and I felt I was taking unnecessary risks. That brought me to the question – is camping safe after all?

Brown Bear under a Viewing Plattform, Brooks Camp, Katmai National Park

In general, camping isn’t safe because it features campfire risks, CO toxicity, dangerous animals, allergenic plants and risky behavior you might fall into doing. 

However, there are means to avoid those, and for each scenario, I’ll describe my approach to deal with the problem. Sometimes I will even present the experts’ opinion on the matter.

As part of that topic, you may find my article about trekking dangers useful as well.

Campfire Danger

Campfire is one of the most common things people do on camping.

There is nothing fun as getting warm on a cold night, roasting a few marshmallows and having a hot cup of tea in your camp kitchen.

Campfire does feature some risks, and they could turn deadly if not treated properly.

As fire is so unpredictable, you should always keep your eyes on it. If you wish to take a break or go for a little hike, make sure someone else watches the fire.

In addition to that, I recommend you keep some water within reach, in case something would go wrong.

When you go to sleep, make sure to extinguish the fire completely – do not go to sleep when the light is still on!

To be sure, pour some extra water even after the fire is gone, and suffocate it with some sand or dirt from above.

You should also keep your tent away from the fire, for at least 4-5 meters. Make sure you put your gear far away as well, and that there are no trees from above that could take fire easily.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Toxicity

One of the most dangerous, however not as much known risk factors, is CO poisoning. As a medical student, I find a personal obligation to mention this one.

Carbon Monoxide is a transparent gas compound with no odor at all, making it almost impossible to sense.

It is usually generated by heating products, such as stoves, and is extremely dangerous. The toxicity is due to gas molecules binding your hemoglobin in blood cells.

That, in turn, will occupy your blood at the expense of vital oxygen, and will end with suffocation and in severe cases – death.

To avoid that, you should not use heating in a close, unventilated space. It is okay to heat your tent, but do not exaggerate it, and make sure your tent is well ventilated. 

In a case you are planning on family camping, you might consider reading my article about how to choose a large camping tent – you will also find some with ventilation features.

The safest way to use a heater would be outside the tent – you can still get yourself warm by sitting next to it, even in cold weather.

Bears

Let’s admit it – bears are among the most common fears campers have to deal with.

I have seen one in the wild; however, I was camping in areas which are known for roaming bears.

Since then I tend to camp in campsites, which are well fenced and are usually safe. If you are planning on wild camping, bears should be highly considered.

The one thing that would invite bears more than all is food. Like dogs, they do have a sharp sense of smell and would notice your food from a distance.

Before you go to sleep, make sure you clean up your area thoroughly and close any open cans hermetically. 

Noise would be the second way to attract bears. Try to keep it quiet as you go to sleep, and make other campers beside you to be also aware of that.

In a scenario which you are inside your tent, and you hear an unfamiliar noise from the outside – stay still and keep it quite.

It doesn’t necessarily mean bears, yet keeping quiet is the right approach for any wild animals.

Do not try to attack it or scare it away – that might get you to even more problems.

Infected Water

When you go camping, drinking from unknown sources can be tempting. Nevertheless, you should be careful from drinking contaminated water.

The family of infected water disease is called waterborne, and they include Malaria, Cholera, Giardiasis, Schistosomiasis and the list goes on and on.

Then how can someone avoid all this? Well, the best way would be to avoid drinking any water which was not tested or disinfected. 

If you are going on a swim in lakes, rivers, ponds or streams – try not to swallow anything.

On that topic, I would recommend getting water bottles from groceries stores along the road or using taps which are known to be safe.

The best way of doing that would be asking the locals – they are more experienced and probably know the most useful ways of getting clean water.

Snakes

Snakes are terrible, and I have encountered one on a trip I did with a friend of mine in Israel.

Once you see it, you freeze and get horrified – an experience I wouldn’t wish to my worst enemies.

So what attracts snakes? Most people think that food is the main factor that would bring snakes to your campsite. Well, that is partially true.

Snakes will go after mice and other rodents which in turn go after your food. Hence, the first step to avoid snakes would be cleaning up your camp – just as you should do to avoid bears.

Moreover, snakes usually don’t like low grass – they prefer terrain they can easily hide – like felled trees and rocks.

That would make a low grass camp more safe in the snake issue. Also, try not to put your gear on the ground as you go to sleep.

A better way would be hanging it on a tree, or perhaps pile it up to one mass instead of spreading it around.

It would also be wise to keep your shoes inside a closed plastic bag so that no snakes could surprise you in the morning.

Finally, make sure that your tent doesn’t have any holes in it, and try to camp on a plane ground with no rocks – so they wouldn’t create one.

Insects (Lyme Disease)

The list of insects which could harm you is enormous, and I wouldn’t pretend to know all of it.

However, I do find it necessary to mention one that I’ve personally learned about and is potentially dangerous – Lyme disease.

That one is caused by an infectious bacteria named Borrelia and is transmitted mainly by ticks.

I will not burden you with medical terms, yet, you should know what this disease features and how to avoid that.

After a tick which carries the bacteria bites you, the area on the skin around would feature an expanding redness approximately a week after.

That rash would be neither itchy nor painful, but you may feel fever, headaches, and tiredness.

When untreated, symptoms can go worse and feature joints pain, severe headaches, and neck stiffness.

My first advice to you will be not to camp inside caves – ticks can many times be found inside these.

When you are wild camping, try wearing some long sleeve shirts and pants, even if it’s hot.

If you woke up with a bite mark – immediately turn to your doctor and tell him about it. He would run some tests and might prescribe some antibiotics.

Poison Ivy

One of the most common and scary allergic reaction associated with camping is Poison Ivy.

The problem is that the leaves, stems, and roots of the Ivy are hard to distinguish, and might disguise between other trees or plants.

The common symptoms of that are redness, itching, swelling, and blisters.

While usually not life-threatening, I’ve decided to include this one because of the high likelihood to encounter with.

The allergic reaction is due to an oily layer covering the Ivy and is called urushiol. The Poison Ivy might cause the response with a direct touch or by touching contaminated objects.

When burned, such as accidentally putting it inside a campfire, it may also cause difficulties with breathing.

It is highly recommended to see a doctor if your rash began to spread widely, your skin continues to swell or if you inhaled Ivy burned smoke.

Hunters

Camping in wild areas during hunting season might be problematic. Although hunters are usually well trained, an incident can still occur.

It is important to mention that it is the hunter’s responsibility to avoid shooting accidents. However, there are some means that you could take as well.

If you are camping on hunting season, I recommend that you wear some bright-color clothing, which would standout the surroundings.

Hunters, for example, tend to wear blazing orange vests so they would recognize each other.

You should also take into account your area and figure out whether or not hunting is allowed. 

Bureau of Land Management and National Forest are usually open for hunting, so you should take extra cautious on those.

Stick to areas in which hunting is forbidden, and like how I usually advise – consult the locals.

Trespassing Private Property

Maybe that one I’ve found necessary because of my country’s nature. It is no secret that Israel is a problematic country with serious politics going on.

When you go camping in Israel or just taking a hike in unsettled areas, you mind find yourself in minefields.

I guess that wouldn’t be the case in the area you will be camping. Nevertheless, trespassing can have its risks no matter where.

People in private properties might get very hostile, even if you got there by accident. Pay attention to your surroundings that would be the bottom line. 

A good way of doing that would be getting yourself a map, which would also show you places in which camping is permitted.

Is it Safe to Go Solo Camping?

Honestly, I don’t think solo camping differs that much from group camping regarding safety.

Let’s say you encounter a bear, a snake or even got hit by a hunter – let’s be real – in those cases, you need a doctor or an ICU, not a buddy.

Friends and family can support you physically and mentally, still, from my experience, most things you can do on your own. 

Hence, I think solo camping could be safe, but it also means you have to take extra caution. 

When you are on your own, even the slightest assistance you could have got from your partners wouldn’t be there.

That is why I advise you on getting a rescue transducer. I haven’t used one before. However, I now realize that on my next journeys I would.

That one is also necessary when camping in a group – because like I’ve just said – you need professional support when things start to go wrong.

What is The Best Way to Make Camping Safer?

There are many ways to improve your camping safety. You can bring partners who are familiar with the surroundings or get equipped with proper GPS or rescue products.

I think that the essential method is by knowing your surroundings. That would help you to avoid threatening animals, plants, and terrain features.

Explore your camping area – read guides on the internet, watch Youtube videos or ask people who have already been there. 

I think knowledge is a potent tool, and it would assist you especially in places which are new to you.o

Conclusions

Camping can get tricky, and many times that would be the reason which would keep you from going.

Well, there are dangerous scenarios which I find it essential to get familiar with, but I don’t believe it should scare you.

Driving can also be risky. You can never know when a drunk driver will decide to go off his route, but does it stop you from driving? 

I believe that knowing what to anticipate is the best way to minimize danger.

For that reason, I’ve gathered you some common scenarios that many times people, including myself, not think of.

I hope my article would turn your camping adventure safer and would improve your confidence in going forward.

Let me know your thoughts and hesitations by leaving a comment below!

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