Have you ever stopped to think about how “safe” the activities you partake in are? If one of those activities you enjoy is camping, then you might have wondered before if camping is actually safe. I too have had these same thoughts and so I did some digging and research to find out exactly just how safe or unsafe camping is.
So, is camping safe? Camping is a pretty safe activity when you account for the number of people that go camping each year compared to the small number of serious injuries that occur while camping. Compared to a lot of activities in our daily life, camping is statistically safer.
According to KOA, the number of camping households in the United States was approximately 78.8 million in 2018. That’s a lot of people that go camping, no doubt. However, when you look at a really common activity like driving, you will find that approximately 218 million people were licensed to drive in the United States in 2015. Which activity do you think is more dangerous?
By the way, If you are in the market for a new tent, then you should click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
Is Camping Safe?
With so many people that go camping, you might imagine that a lot of us get killed or injured participating in the activity. You would be wrong though since the most dangerous part of camping is driving to your campground. With all the 78.8 million households that enjoy camping, very little will incur serious injury or death.
On the other hand, There were 35,092 motor vehicle traffic fatalities in the United States in 2015. With many more seriously injured. Clearly driving is a much more dangerous activity that most of us partake in pretty much every day. There is always risks in everything that we do, but when we are talking about camping and safety, the risks of injury or death are extremely low. So I would say yes, camping is a safe activity when compared to many of the other activities in our lives.
What Are The Risks Of Camping? (And How To Minimize Them)
Having a campfire is one of the best ways to have a good time while camping, but obviously, an open flame can be dangerous. The first thing you want to do is familiarize yourself with the campfire rules of where you are camping. Usually, they include things like only using provided fire rings and limitations on the size of your fire. Also, you should keep in mind whether it is best for you to use fire logs or firewood. Check out this article I wrote that compares the two.
Next, you need to know if the local conditions allow campfires. In some National Parks and National Forests, they may temporarily ban campfires if the weather has been dry and windy since it significantly improves the chances of a wildfire. You might also need a campfire permit in some places to ensure you know how to safely manage a campfire.
After carefully managing your campfire for the duration of its life, you also need to properly extinguish your fire. To do this you can follow the United States Forest Service’s recommendation of Drown – Mix – Feel. You drown the fire with water, then you thoroughly mix the ash and soil together, and finally, you feel to ensure the fire is dead out.
Germs are everywhere, so it may not be fair to say this is a danger of just camping. However, germs are often a concern for some people. Your best chance to minimize any risk of contact with germs is to simply practice some basic hygiene techniques while you are camping. These are usually intuitive, but they include such activities as washing your hands before eating, utilizing hand sanitizer, bathing every day, etc.
Speaking of bathing, if you need some ideas on how to stay clean while camping then check out this article that I wrote that has 21 ways to shower while you are camping.
Wild animals are on the top of some people’s minds when they think of the dangers of camping. However, the number of people killed or seriously injured by wild animals is extremely low, even when camping in their territory. There are several precautions you can take to minimize your encounter with dangerous wildlife while camping.
Bears are probably the first animal that comes to mind when you think of camping and wild animals, but did you know that bears have only killed about 2 people per year. Let’s compare that to the most dangerous animal on the planet: Mosquitos that kill at least 725,000 people per year. As you can see, you don’t have to worry about bears much compared to worrying about mosquitos biting you.
- Mountain Lions
Another animal that many fear while camping in mountain lions. However, encounters are extremely rare even though they are widely distributed throughout the Americas. From 1890-2017 there have been 25 documented deaths by mountain lions in North America. That comes to about 0.2 deaths per year.
Wolves are scary right? They travel in packs and are just looking for easy targets (like us) to tear apart. Wrong. There have only been two documented fatalities by wolves in North America. With more fatalities being recorded in France and India than anywhere else. I think our odds of survival in North America are pretty good. It sounds like there isn’t much to worry about compared to domestic dogs killing many more people in the United States in the year 2018 alone with 36 fatalities.
- Any Other Wild Animal You Can Think Of
The point is that death by wild animals while camping is highly unlikely, so if you take basic precautions like proper food storage, not feeding wild animals, and keeping your distance, then you will probably be just fine.
Familiarize yourself with the common plant species that you should avoid in the area where you are camping. If you are camping in a developed campground and there are dangerous plants nearby then most likely there will be something posted at the campground warning you of it. Do not eat any wild plant, berry, or mushroom that you are not 100% familiar with as being safe.
You might have heard this before, but it is true. Assume that there is no natural safe water to drink anymore. Any water source can be contaminated through various mechanisms related to humans or animals. Always treat natural water before consuming it. You can safely do this through chemical treatment, a water filter, or by boiling water for at least one minute (according to the CDC). Do not fear drinking water if you have properly treated it.
To keep you from getting sick from food spoilage, you simply need to follow some common-sense food storage techniques while camping. Seal all of your foods as best as possible to ensure no contamination. Maintain high ice to food ratio in your ice chest to ensure food stays adequately cooled. Thoroughly cook your meals while camping in order to kill harmful bacteria. For some more camping hacks (mostly related to food) check out this article that I wrote.
The sun can damage your skin whether you are outside camping or outside doing anything else. The same basic rules apply to protect your skin while camping since you will be outside a lot. Wear protective clothing and use sunblock. Stay in the shade as much as possible.
Know the weather and know the terrain before you go. Preplanning is the best thing that you can do for inclement weather. If you have doubts about your abilities then only camping in good weather might be the right call. Inclement weather can be all-encompassing, but one thing many people worry about is lightning.
For lightning safety, while camping, check out this article that I wrote. It has everything you need to know about camping with lightning nearby.
How To Camp Safely
Research the area you will be camping in
Knowing what to expect can be one of the best things to keep yourself safe while camping. What you discover through your research will aid you a lot, it might even make you change your mind about a certain area. It doesn’t take long to find some information about where you plan on camping, but it’s well worth the time.
Tell someone where you are going
You should always designate someone as your emergency contact when you go camping. Whether alone, as a family, or as a group, it doesn’t matter. There needs to be someone that is not going on the trip to be aware of when and where you are going. So just in case you do not get in contact with them in a reasonable time after you plan to be back, they can then seek appropriate help if need be.
Write it down, do not just tell someone through voice since it can be forgotten. Write it, email it, or text it so that there is evidence of the correct dates and location of where you are camping at. This is so there is no confusion in an emergency.
Check the weather again, and again, and again
Weather changes, that is a fact. You should get the weather forecast often enough to make sure it is safe enough to go through with your plans. It can be difficult to plan camping trips a long time in advance since predicting the weather correctly months out is basically impossible. So check the weather the week before, the day before, and the day of.
Use a checklist to ensure you never forget the essentials
The essentials for camping are essential for a reason. They make it possible for us to enjoy the outdoors by sheltering us from the elements and insulating us so that we do not freeze. That is why it is very important that you follow a checklist to make sure that you don’t forget anything important. If you want a checklist idea then click here because I created a very comprehensive camping checklist with a free PDF download.
Is it dangerous to camp alone?
Solo camping is not dangerous. Camping alone pretty much contains the same dangers of regular camping, but they too can be mitigated. It is a unique experience completely different than traditional camping. Click here for a full article I wrote about safely camping alone.
What are the most likely hazards while camping?
The most likely hazard you will encounter while camping is hypothermia or heat exhaustion, depending on the weather. Both hazards can easily be mitigated by being prepared and having appropriate clothing and other gear suitable for the weather and terrain you are camping in.
My Favorite Camping Gear
- Air Mattress: click here to check out my favorite on Amazon.
- Tent: click here to see my favorite tent available on Amazon.
- Sleeping Pad: click here to check out the one I love on Amazon.
- Sleeping Bag: click here to see the one I recommend on Amazon.
- Camping Stove: click here to see the best camping stove on Amazon.