Up to 78.8 million U.S. households camped in 2019–a figure that has increased at 7.2 million in the last five years, according to the most recent North American Camping Report. Whether you are a lifelong camping enthusiast or just discovered your love for camping in recent years, it is important to prioritize safety above all else. Follow these tips for a safe and memorable camping trip.
1. Pack The Essentials
Draft up a realistic itinerary of what you plan to do on your trip, and go from there. If you plan to spend most of the time onsite sitting around the campfire, your packing list may look very different than the packing lists of those planning to embark on hiking trips and outdoor excursions. Generally, it is wise to bring sunscreen, insect repellent, a flashlight, extra batteries, a compass or GPS, a raincoat, windbreaker, or winter jacket, and food and water. Portable radios, satellite phones, or personal locator beacons (PLB) are a must, as well. Smartphone and cellphone batteries may drain quickly, and, in more remote locations, you may not have a signal at all. Before leaving, try on new clothes and test new equipment to make sure everything is in proper working order.
2. Secure The Trailer or RV
If you will be camping with a trailer or RV, knowing your towing safety facts is just as important for a worry-free trip. Review the owner’s manual of your trailer or RV. Find out how the jack latches and locks into place. A lot of models use a latch pin, but this can vary. Once you determine the type of lock or locking mechanism, test the trailer to make certain it is securely in place. Make certain safety chains are present and the proper length.
From there, determine any additional safety features you may need. For large RVs and trailers amounting to over 50% of the towing vehicle weight, a weight distribution system and/or sway control hitch may be necessary. Furthermore, an air brake controller is also a worthwhile investment. An air brake controller sits in the cab of your vehicle and smoothly operates trailers’ brake lights in perfect sync with your braking. Further, many models can operate many brake lights and include flashing emergency lights and automatic braking systems.
3. Safely Set Up Camp
Check park and camping ground websites for any size restrictions on RVs or trailers. Make sure to park a safe distance from dead trees and large, overhanging branches. Keep in mind that there will be additional safety measures if you are camping during the bear season or in parks bears tend to frequent. In that case, the National Park Service (NPS) requires any campfires or cooking to take place a minimum of 200 feet away from where you sleep. Avoid sleeping in the same clothes you wore while cooking, and call ahead or research park websites to see if you need a bear box or bear bag.
4. Know The Basics Of Fire Safety
Just like it is a safety essential to fit trailers with braking systems like air brake controllers, it is also necessary to tend to campfires carefully and responsibly. Flammable materials and items should remain 15 feet away from the fire at all times. Do not use accelerant unless it is specifically approved by the campgrounds, and never use gasoline or other flammable liquids, just lighter fluid. Stay a safe distance away from the fire, and watch kids and pets closely to make sure they’re doing the same, too!
5. Remember Personal Safety Essentials
Stay hydrated. It can be easy to overlook small details during camping trips. Don’t forget to stay hydrated, especially if you are moving around all day or most of the day. The NPS recommends packing at least two liters of water per day per person. Stow plenty of extra water in emergency kits. Finally, don’t forget to pack a first aid kit and keep it readily accessible.
Getting away and returning to nature is good for our health. Spending time in the woods lowers blood pressure, your average resting heart rate, and your cortisol levels. Break out the RV and air brake controller and make it happen!