Camping Health and Safety Tips and Packing Checklist
Camping is a fun way to get family and friends together to enjoy the outdoors. Follow these tips and use the packing checklist to help ensure your camping trip is safe and healthy.
Vaccinations can help protect against certain diseases and conditions while camping. Be sure your vaccinations and your family’s vaccinations are up-to-date. Check with your doctor or nurse to see if you've had all of the recommended vaccines. He or she may recommend tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), meningitis, and/or hepatitis A, depending on your medical history, destination, and other factors.
Prepare healthy and safe food.
Bring healthy snacks along on your camping trip. Follow these steps to keep your food safe:
- Pack foods in tight, waterproof bags or containers. Keep them in an insulated cooler.
- Wash hands and surfaces often. Use hand sanitizer if water is not available.
- Separate raw foods from cooked foods.
- Cook foods to proper temperatures (i.e. ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees).
- Chill foods promptly.
Wash Hands, Utensils, and Surfaces Often (FoodSafety.gov)
Practice fire safety.
If you build a campfire, do it safely.
- Build or use a campfire pit away from overhanging tree branches.
- Make sure it has a metal fire ring or is encircled with rocks.
- Keep a bucket of water and shovel nearby.
- Never leave a campfire unattended and be sure to put out your campfire completely before you leave.
- Use fireproof cooking equipment.
Campfire Safety (U.S. Forest Service)
Include safe physical activities.
Camping is a great opportunity to get physical activity. Do things such as walking, hiking, biking, or swimming to keep you active during your camping trip. Be sure to bring protective gear, such as helmets, sturdy shoes, and life jackets. Avoid poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac. Know your limits, and take steps to avoid injury during activities. Never hike or swim alone. Watch kids closely. Adults should get at least 2Â½ hours a week and kids should get at least 60 minutes a day of physical activity.
Protect against carbon monoxide poisoning.
Carbon monoxide is odorless and colorless and can cause illness or death in people and pets. Never use fuel-burning equipment such as gas stoves, heaters, lanterns, and charcoal grills inside a tent, camper, or other enclosed shelter. It can cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up.
Another option to fuel-burning appliances to supply heat, campers should bring adequate bedding and clothing and should consume extra calories and fluids during the outing to prevent hypothermia (a dangerous loss of body warmth that can cause death).
Avoid wild animals, and protect family pets.
Some wild animals carry diseases that are dangerous to people, including rabies, hantavirus, Giardia infection, and more. Avoid touching, feeding, and getting near wild animals. Enjoy watching them from a safe distance in their natural surroundings. Keep foods stored in sealed containers and out of the reach of animals. Make sure your family pets are vaccinated and always keep a close eye on their whereabouts. Check for ticks, and remove them promptly. Make sure pets have plenty of water, food, and shelter.
Fight the bug bite.
Mosquitoes, ticks, and other insects can cause certain diseases. For example, mosquitoes can cause West Nile Virus, and ticks can cause Lyme disease. To help fight the bite, apply insect repellent containing DEET to clothes and exposed skin. Repellents containing 20% or more DEET (N, N-diethyl-m-toluamide) can protect up to several hours.Apply the insect repellent permethrin to clothes to help keep ticks from attaching to them. Be sure to follow directions on the package. Check for ticks daily, and remove them promptly. Wear long sleeves, pants, and other light-colored clothing to help prevent and spot ticks more easily.
Prevent temperature-related illness.
To help prevent hypothermia during cool nights, bring adequate bedding and clothing to stay warm. Use a plastic ground cloth under your tent to help keep you dry. To help prevent heat-related illness during hot days, drink plenty of alcohol-free and sugar-free fluids. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. Wear layers of light-weight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Rest often in shady areas. Protect yourself from too much sun.
Protect yourself from the sun.
Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can cause skin cancer, premature aging, and cataracts, even on cloudy days. Use a broad-spectrum (against UVA and UVB rays) sunscreen and lipscreen with at least SPF 15. Seek shade, when the sun’s rays are strongest. Cover up with clothing, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses.
Avoid water-related illness and injury.
Camping often includes playing in and around the water. To help protect yourself and your fellow campers from illness, don’t swim if you have diarrhea, and don’t swallow the water you swim in. Take a shower before and after swimming. Never swim alone. If you plan to ride in a boat, canoe, or other water vehicle, be sure to wear a life jacket. Avoid alcohol.
Always be prepared for the unexpected. Before you leave, check the weather report, learn about security at your camp location, and tell family and friends what your plans are. Know what to do when toilets are not available. Be sure to bring along a supply kit that includes a first aid kit, compass or GPS, map, flashlight, blankets, and batteries, food, clothes, and medications. Know who to contact at the camp to report issues that may come up. When you return home, check for ticks, poison ivy, diarrhea, and other problems.
Travel Advisories: Outdoor Safety (USDA Forest Service)
Remember to pack:
- Adequate bedding/sleeping bag and extra blankets
- Light-weight, light-colored clothing, including long sleeves and pants
- Tent and plastic ground cloth
- Insect repellent containing DEET for skin
- Permethrin insect repellent for clothing
- Broad-spectrum sunscreen and lipscreen with SPF 15 or higher
- Wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses
- Healthy on-the-go snacks and other food
- Water and other alcohol-free and sugar-free fluids
- Insulated cooler
- Alcohol-based hand sanitizer
- Life jacket, helmet, and other protective gear
- First-aid kit
- Compass or GPS
- Extra batteries
- Sturdy shoes
- Extra set of clothes
- Medical record, including vaccinations; insect, food, plant, and other allergies; diseases and conditions; medicines, dosing schedules, and storage instructions; emergency contacts; and activities your doctor or nurse says to avoid
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Page last modified: July 3, 2012
Page last reviewed: July 3, 2012