Camping is a great way to bond and spend more time outdoors. Whether you’re new or a veteran to camping trips, having a checklist can help you have a safer camping trip. While you should have fun, most importantly, please be safe.

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1. Do not overestimate your abilities

If it’s your first time or you haven’t been active in a while, don’t take a long, grueling climb up a mountain. Try to plan trips based off of your physical abilities and work your way up.

2. Check the weather before the trip

Stay up to date with the weather forecast. The weather can change within the hour and it is essential to be prepared for whatever comes your way. You don’t want to be stuck walking in the snow with shorts on. It’s also a good idea to bring a rain poncho for unexpected rain.

3. Bring a friend

While camping is great for solitude and meditation, it can be much more enjoyable with a friend to chat with. Also, there’s strength in numbers should something unexpected arise. A friend is both great for companionship and will also help with making the trip a safer camping trip.

4. Bring what you need

Skip the nice to haves and bring the bare minimum. As you hike for longer periods of time, you’ll realize that every ounce counts. As your trip progresses longer and longer, your back will feel the results of your choice in gear. This tip does not apply if RV camping.

5. Bring your medicine

This is a no brainer, but bring essential medication. For example, bring insulin if you have diabetes or an inhaler if you have asthma. You can also bring an EpiPen for allergic reactions in case of an emergency.

6. Stay hydrated

This does not mean drink whenever you’re thirsty. Staying hydrated means drinking water regularly throughout the day before you get thirsty. Hiking is a great way of staying active, but all of that activity will increase your chances of dehydration. The general rule of thumb is to bring two cups of water for every one hour of hiking. A water filter is also a good thing to have in case of an emergency. When using a water filter, look for the cleanest water you can find and boil it for at least 10 minutes to be safe. A water filter can help turn an emergency into a safer camping trip.

7. Pack your food safely

The Federal government estimates that there are about 48 million cases of food-borne illness annually. This is the equivalent of 1 in 6 Americans each year. Practice food safety when handling your food and clean up the area when you’re done to prevent attracting wildlife. Foods that store well are granola bars, dried beans, and nuts.

8. Protect your skin from the sun

Skin cancer is the most common form of cancer in the United States. Even on a cloudy day, you can still be sunburned by UV radiation. Wear protective clothing such as a hat, sunglasses that provide 99 to 100% UVA and UVB protection, and long-sleeved clothing. Use a sunscreen with a SPF of 30 or higher on all exposed skin and reapply every two hours.

9. Wear bug spray

Avoid bugs such as mosquitoes and ticks by wearing long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and high socks. Use waterproof insect repellent on exposed skin. Check for ticks often. If you find one, gently pull it out with tweezers to avoid crushing it. After the hike, place your clothes in the dryer for at least 10 min on high heat to kill any ticks that may have remained on your clothing. For other ways to avoid mosquitoes, visit here.

10. Protect your feet

Wear a closed-toe shoe that has moisture-absorbing lining. A way to prevent blisters is to rub a bar of soap onto your heels and underneath your toes. Apply more soap to tender spots that develop as you hike.

11. Avoid poisonous plants

reference of poison ivy, poison oak, and poison sumac

A way to identify poison ivy is to watch out for plants with three leaflets. Poison Ivy has three leaflets that can be toothed or smooth and are two to six inches long. Poison Oak also has three leaflets, but they are lobed. The middle leaflet is evenly lobed and the side leaflets are irregularly lobed. Poison Sumac consists of seven to thirteen leaflets. The oils these plant have is called urushiol and it is this oil that causes a blistering rash upon your skin. The oil can last for years on any surface so it can still be a threat even when you’re no longer near the plant itself anymore. It’s good to have calamine lotion or an antihistamine on hand in case you accidentally brush against one of these plants.

12. Practice fire safety

Don’t build a campfire under low trees and build it at least 15 feet away from grass or shrubs. Keep a bucket of water nearby just in case and never leave a fire unattended. Make sure all of the embers of the fire are completely out before going to sleep.

13. Set up shelter before dark

Give yourself enough to set up camp before it gets dark. Look for a place that is on level ground and near running water. Also, don’t forget to test your tent before the trip to prevent any unexpected problems.

Other miscellaneous tools for a safer camping trip

Here’s a list of things you don’t need to have, but are nice to have. You’ll be the best judge on whether you need these tools based off of the kind of trip you’ll be taking and for however long. As long as you are intentional with what you decide to bring, you will have a safer camping trip.