Family Camping Safety Tips
An outdoor adventure is a great way to bond and get back to nature. But a good camping trip takes more planning than heading for the nearest forest, campground, or park and pitching that new tent. You'll need a few tips that pave the way for a relaxing and rejuvenating camping trip before heading back to the daily grind.
A Good Camping Trip Starts with the Right Gear
The right gear can mean the difference between a successful camping trip and an uncomfortable stay in the woods. And nothing's more critical than finding the right tent.
For starters, make sure your tent is the right size. If you have four people, it makes sense that you'd start with a four-person tent. But that size tent essentially holds four people—and not a whole lot else. And from food to gear, you'll probably want to store some stuff in the tent. To give yourself some extra room for gear and clothes, look for a larger tent so everyone is comfortable.
Other essential gear includes day packs to carry snacks for hikes, flashlights with spare batteries, a lantern, matches, a first-aid kit, a rain tarp, insect repellant, sunscreen, and a cooler for food storage.
Non-essential gear—"nice to have" items that can help pass the hours, especially if rotten weather makes an uninvited appearance—includes a camera, games or cards, folding chairs and camp table, and fishing gear.
A Good Night's Sleep
Sleeping on the ground may invite notions of "roughing it in the great outdoors," but might not make for a great night of actual sleep. So consider bringing an air mattress, which could be the difference between a sound night of sleep and hours of tossing and turning on the cold, hard ground. And if you do bring an air mattress, an inflator comes in extremely handy. You can get a decent inflator for around $20—it plugs into a car's lighter and fills an air mattress a lot faster than you can with a standard pump (or by using your own lung power).
Making a Good Campfire
Many campgrounds already have fire rings set up, which takes care of much of the heavy lifting. If not, camp fires may not be allowed — check with the campground authorities to know for sure.
A good camp fire is all about the wood. Some experts recommend collecting three types of wood, starting with tinder, which is small shavings, twigs, dry leaves and grass, and dry needles. You'll also need kindling, or small branches of 1 inch or less, as well as larger wood to keep the fire burning.
Start by burning a small pile of tinder, and then add kindling as the flame starts to grow. Don't just toss the wood onto the flames—you'll need to leave room for air so the fire can breathe. Slowly increase the size of the kindling until the flames are strong enough to handle the larger wood. Once the fire is roaring, you have multiple options for building out the fire's shape. You can lay the wood over the flames in a teepee shape, which is good for cooking because it concentrates the heat in one place. Or you can put the wood in a crisscross pattern to create a long-lasting fire with a lot of coals.
Fires are key to a good camping adventure, but you need to be safe, too. So be sure you have a bucket of water, a shovel, and a fire extinguisher close by. And when you're done with your fire, douse it with water until everything is cold—even a small smoldering ember can ignite a serious fire.
Cooking a meal over an open flame may conjure images of cowboys hanging out in the mountains. But the reality is a little more difficult when you're simultaneously dealing with flames, smoke, and clumsy and potentially unfamiliar utensils. So consider bringing a small camp stove, which focuses the heat into a smaller and more controllable area and is generally easier to cook on than an open flame. A stove also makes a great back-up, in case things get a little out of hand while you're making s'mores.
Prep for Poison Ivy
Few things ruin a camping trip faster—or make for a more uncomfortable vacation—than a run-in with a plant like poison ivy or poison oak. Teach your family what poison ivy and poison oak look like so they'll know what to keep an eye out for. Children will likely remember warnings like, "leaves of three, let it be," which refers to poison ivy's three shiny leaves. Other precautions include applying pre-exposure lotion and wearing protective clothing like long pants, long-sleeved shirts, boots, and socks.
If someone in your family makes contact with poison ivy or a similar plant, they should do their best to resist the urge to scratch—that furious itching can actually spread the problem to other parts of the body. Instead, soak the affected skin in cold water or cover with a wet compress, then apply an over-the-counter treatment such as calamine lotion.
After tending to the affected area, experts recommend wiping down everyone's clothes, shoes, and tools with water and rubbing alcohol to prevent further irritations.
Insuring Your Family
Before you pack up the tent, make sure you—and your family—are protected. Just take a few minutes to get an easy no-obligation quote, call us at 1-800-ALLSTATE (1-800-255-7828), or find an agent near you to see how Allstate can help.
Published: June 2012