Camping can be such a great, relaxing time while breathing in the fresh woodsy air and bonding with loved ones or friends. It’s also a nice family activity that can teach your children about nature, and maybe teach you a thing or two as well!
But as informative, entertaining and fun as camping can be, there is also a dark side to the nature that surrounds you. There are dangers you should be aware of to protect not only yourself, but your family and friends as well. The scariest part of it all is knowing that the smallest creature can be more deadly than a large vicious animal. Here are the biggest dangers you can encounter while camping…
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Okay, you most likely will never experience lions and tigers while you’re camping, unless they’ve escaped from a nearby zoo and you are just, unluckily, in the wrong place at the wrong time. Bears, however, are around many camping areas in many states, and they could very well sneak up on your campsite if they smell food. Always wrap up your food after eating and don’t leave anything opened while you wander off to explore the woods.
If you don’t see a bear, there are always wolves, mountain lions/cougars, and raccoons. Raccoons may look cute, but they can carry rabies and parasites, and can claw you and/or your children and cause infections. Mountain lions seem to be the most dangerous, because they are not intimidated easily, and will often continue to attack someone even after being hit in the head with a weapon. Always carry a weapon with you, just in case you encounter one of these animals.
It’s important to take precautionary measures to avoid a wild animal encounter. Before you even pack to go camping, call the campground to find out what animals have been seen in the vicinity. There will most likely be very clear rules that the campground has on this matter. Always keep a fully charged cell phone with you at all time to call for help if needed. You might also want to take a weapon to protect yourself, just in case.
Creepy Crawlies And Parasites
As implied in the beginning of this article, the smaller things can be the most deadly. Spiders are crawling around everywhere, so it’s a good idea to look out for them while you’re outside. Also, make sure your tent is tightly zipped up and there are no holes or other ways they can get in while you sleep. It would be a good idea to familiarize yourself with the spiders in the area, in case you happen to see one.
In certain areas, there might also be poisonous snakes slithering around and can catch you off guard, especially if they blend in with the environment. As with animals or spiders, be sure to look these things up before you leave, so you have an idea of what to look for and what to do if one bites you. If you know it’s a poisonous snake, you might then know how much time you have to get help.
Ticks are parasites that are even sneakier than snakes or spiders, and will let the wind carry them off of leaves or grass for the chance to land on you. Once they are on you, you will be their food source until you find them, but by then, it might be too late. That is because ticks carry Lyme disease, a bacterial infections that can cause fever, headaches, joint pain, and much worse. In about 80% of infections, there is a rash that shows up, which is red with another circle around it, like a bull’s-eye. If left untreated, this infection can be fatal. Always spray insect repellent and inspect each other after a woods experience.
There are also other parasites that can be a big problem, including mosquitoes and water dwelling parasites. Mosquitoes can carry the West Nile virus, yellow fever, malaria, various forms of encephalitis (causing swelling of the brain, potentially fatal), and the Zika virus, among others. If you can’t use insect repellent, try to stay inside of a screened tent so you can still enjoy the outdoors without being pestered.
Plenty of parasites exist in bodies of water as well, and can be very dangerous and fatal, even with the best medical care. If you swim in a lake at a campground, do not swallow the water or let any go up your nose, as these are ways the parasites can gain entry, specifically the brain-eating amoeba, Naegleria Fowleri. They are found in warm bodies of water, sometimes as hot as 113 degrees Fahrenheit, and mimic the symptoms of meningitis. Very few people have survived after they were infected.
Parasites can also be found in mud puddles, slow moving rivers, untreated swimming pools, and soil that turns into dust once inside a building. Wow, with all this talk, it seems like you’d have to go camping in a containment suit! But these things can happen in any environment, not just the forest, and the there’s one last thing to discuss.
Bees, biting flies, and wasps are yet other creatures to watch out for. If you happen to run into a bee’s nest or disturb it in some way, your best bet is to just run. Don’t stand there swatting at them, and don’t jump into water, because they will wait for you to come up for air. Run as fast as you can and try to find shelter, and if you can’t, run through some bushes to try to throw the bees off your trail. They can chase people ½ mile or more before giving up. Then you can pull out the stingers if you’ve been stung.
All three of these plants will cause a rash with itchy blisters that show up within 24-48 hours. If you come into contact with these plants, you can possibly remove the oils on your skin with soap and water, if you do it within 15 minutes. Poison ivy and poison oak have three leaves, whereas poison sumac has 7-13 leaves per branch. They all cause the same type of rash, with blisters that are filled with water and it can possibly cause scarring.
Always make sure to bring a nice amount of water, and then some, just to be safe. You might want to invest in a portable water filter device, so that if you get lost, you can filter any water and get rid of parasites, viruses, bacteria, and metals. If you happen to get lost and have no water or filter, you can start a fire and boil the water to make it safe for consumption. At the worst, moving water is your safest bet, since parasites are more likely to be prevalent in still waters.
It would be a good idea to look up the weather before you head out to camp. Can you take extreme heat or cold? Be prepared by bringing a heater or fan, if there’s electric hookups at the campground. Weather can always change, so keep that in mind and bring the necessary precautionary items. If a storm hits and there’s lightning, get away from tall trees and objects and stay low to the ground. Always expect the unexpected where weather is concerned.
If you start a campfire, make sure it’s properly extinguished before you sleep or leave the site. Pour water over it to be extra safe, because forest fires are very destructive and kill many animals and beneficial insects, as well as life sustaining trees. Also make sure that when you do start a fire, it’s not near any bushes that can catch fire.
Make sure to bring a map with you so you don’t get lost and can become familiar with the area. If you got lost, you’d have to spring into survival mode and that can be very scary, so you don’t want that to happen. If you have kids, you can give them necklaces to wear with a whistle they can blow if they get separated from you and are lost themselves. There are GPS apps to download on your phone as well, if you want to go hiking too.
No First Aid Kit
Always, always bring a first aid kit to stop bleeding and prevent infections. If someone gets a deep cut, you can apply a disinfectant and wrap it in gauze until medical attention can be obtained. It can also hold burn sprays, cold packs, painkillers, motion sickness meds, and more. You can actually make your own first aid kit. Make sure to include antihistamines, in case someone is allergic to bee stings or plants.
If you go camping in the summer, the sun can be absolutely scorching and your skin will pay the price by getting burned, and you will be in pain as a result. Bring sunscreen, a hat (yes, your scalp can get a sunburn too), sunglasses, and an umbrella, especially if you have red hair and are extra susceptible to getting burned. It can also get very hot out, so wear cool clothes with fabric that breathes well.
Don’t let these things scare you away from camping, because it is a very rewarding experience despite these potentially dangerous situations. Teach your kids what to do in certain situations and to never stray off by themselves. Educate yourself as well, whether you are going alone or with friends, so that if something happens, at least one person will definitely know what to do. If you take precautions, your camping trip will be a fun, peaceful experience!