It’s summer time, and that means it’s time to load up the car, pack up your backpack and head out to the wilderness! Whether you camp at popular camp grounds with amenities like pools, cabins and running water, or prefer to set up a tent and be on your own, camping is an activity enjoyed by millions of Americans each year. To keep the experience fun and safe for everyone, there are some basic precautions that every camper should take.


Before setting out, it’s important that you have the following items:

  • A medical kit – it should include a topical antibiotic, bandages, cotton swabs, diarrhea medication, antacids, scissors, tweezers and burn ointment, nonlatex gloves, and an over-the-counter pain killer/fever reducer/anti-inflammatory medication like acetaminophen or an NSAID at a minimum.
  • Flashlights – bring several and ensure beforehand that they are working correctly. Carry along extra batteries as well. You may want to consider purchasing an LED flashlight; although they are more expensive, they last much longer.
  • Water – It’s never a good idea to drink straight from natural water sources such as lakes or streams, especially if they are standing water. Bring along bottled water, water purification tablets or a water purifier. If you decide to bring bottled water, figure a gallon per person per day to cover drinking and cooking.
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses – Being out in the sun for extended periods of time can cause irreversible skin and eye damage, not to mention the immediate discomfort a sunburn will bring to your trip. Use proper protection.
  • Waterproof matches – even if everything else is wet, you can still make a fire.
  • Insect repellant – Not only is a sunburn unpleasant, but bug bites can be nasty too, especially when they pile up and multiply.
  • Extra clothing – As hot as it may be during the day, nighttime may be an entirely different story depending on where you’re camping. In addition, should your clothing get wet or too dirty, you’ll want clean, dry clothes to change into.

Tent Placement

It’s important to consider the weather while choosing a site to set up camp. Avoid low-lying areas that could flood during a heavy rain. Also, in windy situations, avoid setting up your tent under a tree, as possible falling limbs could present a danger.


  • Never approach or feed a wild animal. No matter how safe it may seem, their actions can be unpredictable.
  • If camping in bear country, ensure that all dishes and food are kept at least 200 yards away from where you plan to sleep. Hang cooking utensils and food from a tree while not in use. (Yes, really.)
  • If you bring along family pets, make sure they are never left unsupervised. It is important that your pet does not interfere with nearby campers or indigenous wildlife.


Before starting your campfire:

  • Clear the area of overhanging branches and brush that may catch from a rogue spark or ember.
  • 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 out completely before going to sleep.
  • Collect firewood from the ground only; never cut into living trees.


  • Don’t hike alone. Bring along a compass, water, snacks, a flashlight and your cellphone. Even if you don’t have service, it may be possible to call emergency services for help. The American Red Cross recommends a minimum of four people in a group together when hiking in an unfamiliar remote area, because if one person gets hurt, one can stay with them 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 campsite is around water, every camper should know how to swim.

Food Safety

The United States Department of Agriculture recommends the following:

  • Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold – Bring a cooler with a cold source. Since it is difficult 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 present on raw meat and poultry can easily spread to other foods through 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 meat.
    • Always cook all cuts of pork, ground beef, and lamb to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. All poultry, hot dogs and leftover meat should reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Bring a meat thermometer along with your cooking supplies.
    • Bring disposable wipes or biodegradable soap for hand and dish washing.

If you are camping for more than one night, you may want to bring the following foods to help you maintain your health and energy:

  • 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 fully enjoy the beauty of nature just as you have.

If you want more helpful camping safety tips, check out this guide from Smokey the Bear!

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