Stacy and Jen were roasting marshmallows over the campfire when Stacy’s long hair dangled into the flames and caught on fire. Thinking fast, Jen grabbed a jacket and covered Stacy’s hair to smother the fire. Stacy could have been badly burned, but–thanks to Jen–only a few locks got singed. She also learned how important it is to tie back hair when around an open fire.
Camping can be a wonderful experience. But along with the pleasures of camping, you’ll need to know how to prevent or deal with the possible dangers. Your first line of defense is a first-aid kit. It should contain all the essential supplies for coping with mishaps such as cuts, burns, stings, and rashes. These include: bandages, sterile gauze and adhesive tape, butterfly closures, tweezers, alcohol wipes, scissors, instant cold pack, antiseptic cream, aspirin, and calamine lotion.
Prepare for the unexpected–anything from a drenching rain to a raccoon raid–by packing a survival kit. Here’s what it should contain:
* map and compass. Every year, countless campers get lost in the woods. Stick to well-marked trails or camp with someone who is familiar with the area.
* extra clothing, food, and bottled water
* flashlight with extra batteries, matches in a waterproof container, and a fire starter
* sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat
* whistle. Blowing a whistle is a great way to let people know where you are.
Camping experiences are largely affected by weather. Before you go on a long hike, check the forecast. If you’re caught in a storm, squat down and avoid being near the tallest object, such as a lone tree that attracts lightning. If you can, get in a car. If you’re on a mountaintop, head down as fast as you can.
Flash floods are another camping hazard. Small streams can become raging rivers in no time. Pitch your tent on ground that is significantly higher than a nearby stream or canyon. In a flash flood, drop your backpack and climb as fast as you can to higher ground. During and after heavy rains, stay out of floodwaters and narrow canyons.
If you’re canoeing, be sure to keep these factors in mind:
1. Wear a personal flotation device.
3. Stay out of cold water.
4. Go with someone who is an experienced canoer.
5. Make sure all the boating equipment is in good repair; take extra paddles.
Beginners should stay away from rushing rivers, rapids, and large bodies of water. Sheltered areas offer protection from wind, the enemy of canoeists. Start with short boat trips, and know alternate routes and exit points in case you get tired or have an emergency. Dress for the water (not air) temperature in case you go overboard. Cold water weakens even the best swimmers, and hypothermia can be deadly. Bring extra clothes in a waterproof container.
When deciding what clothes to wear, choose white, beige, or khaki. Dark-colored clothing attracts most biting insects and makes it difficult to spot ticks. Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants that fit snugly to further guard against pesky bugs and poisonous plants, especially when hiking in the woods.
Before building a fire, check with the forest service, national park, or local authorities, advises Tim Black, special events coordinator for Recreational Equipment, Inc., and an experienced hiker. “During drought conditions, there are bans on campfires,” says Black. “If a fire pit is available, definitely use that.” Pitch your tent upwind from the fire and keep flammable materials at least 5 feet away.
To avoid food-borne illnesses, Winkler Weinberg, M.D., chairman of the Georgia-Pacific Health Smart Institute Advisory Board in Atlanta, Georgia, advises not placing raw meat on the grill until the coals are red hot. Then cook it thoroughly and eat it immediately. When the fire has died down, break up what’s left with a wet stick. Then, sprinkle water on the wood, coals, and embers until they’re completely wet and cold.
As a final caution, tell your family and a friend where you’re camping and give them a phone number, such as the park ranger station, in case you don’t return when you say you will.
Camping can be a fun and wonderful experience–if you follow the safety precautions and know how to avoid those possible perils.
Students will be able to describe the attributes of a competent camper.
* Based on the article and any personal experiences, list some qualities desirable for being a good camper. (Answers will vary, but should include factors such as: a person who is physically fit; knows first aid or is able to follow directions from a manual; knows what to do about safety issues related to food and weather; is well-organized and equipped.)
* Have students assemble items recommended for a camping excursion. Then pack everything in a compact, efficient manner, keeping in mind that items that may be needed often should not be buried at the bottom. Ask for volunteers to carry the equipment for one class period and comment on the weight and practicality, keeping in mind that in school they are not climbing on rocky terrain, uphill, on unsure footings, or in inclement weather.