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Planning a Safe Summer Camping Trip

summer hikeFor many people, warm weather means spending as much time outdoors as possible. One popular outdoor activity is camping. Before you load up the car, here are some important tips to make sure your outdoor adventure is a safe one.


Here are some essential items to pack for your camping trip:

Protective and Personal Gear

  • Insect repellent
  • Sunscreen—Use water-resistant sunscreens with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or more.
  • Sunglasses—Be sure that your sunglasses block 100% of UVA and UVB radiation.
  • Clothing that can be layered such as tank tops, long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, and long pants
  • Extra socks
  • Hiking shoes or boots
  • Hat
  • Rain gear, such as waterproof pants and jackets
  • Medications
  • Prescription glasses, if needed
  • Whistle—It can be used to scare off animals or to alert someone if you get lost.

Navigation Gear

  • Map
  • Compass
  • GPS system, if a signal is available
  • Your smart phone may have all of these

Camp Set-up Gear

  • Tent and sleeping bags
  • Blankets
  • Plastic sheet—Plastic can be used for protection, warmth, or shelter.
  • Candles and lantern.
  • Flashlight and extra batteries
  • Matches or lighter—Keep matches stored in a dry place.
  • Rope
  • Pocket knife
  • Pocket mirror
  • Radio with fresh batteries
  • Trash bags
  • Water bucket to keep by the fire

Cooking Gear

  • Food
    • Portable foods like trail mix, bread, peanut butter, fruit, and granola bars make good camp food choices, especially for day trips
    • Dried food, like pasta, beans, and rice is more lightweight than canned goods
    • A cooler for perishable foods
    • Always wash your hands before handling food
  • Portable pots, pans, and cooking utensils. Don't forget the skewers for S'mores
  • Foil—It can have many uses. You can form it into a cup or use it as a signaling device
  • Water
  • Water purification tablets or a water filter if you cannot bring enough fresh water
  • Detergent and a basin for doing dishes
  • Gas stove with supply of gas for cooking

First Aid Kit

Another important item is a first aid kit. Accidents can happen, so it is important to bring a well-stocked kit that includes:

  • A first aid manual
  • Adhesive bandages of different shapes and sizes
  • Sterile gauze pads of different sizes
  • Adhesive tape
  • Elastic bandages
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Cold pack
  • Splint
  • Thermometer
  • Non-latex gloves
  • Safety pins
  • Scissors
  • Tweezers—These will be helpful if you have to remove ticks or splinters.
  • Hydrocortisone cream (1%) or calamine lotion
  • Topical antibiotic cream
  • Oral antihistamine medication
  • An epinephrine pen if anyone has known allergies such as an allergy to bee stings
  • Medications for pain or fever, such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen

Getting to the Campsite

Before leaving home and when on the road, keep these things in mind:

Setting Up Camp

When you are at the campsite and ready to set up camp, follow these guidelines:


Building a campfire is a part of the camping experience. A campfire provides warmth and light, a place to cook, and of course a place to sing campfire songs. When selecting a spot to build a fire, choose an area that is far away from your tent. The campfire area should be clear of debris. Keep the fire contained by making sure it is in a metal ring or encircled with rocks. After a fire is built, there should always be someone watching over it. When it is time to put the fire out, pour a lot of water over it to make sure that there are no sticks, embers, or coals left burning.

Dealing With Animals, Insects, and Plants


To keep uninvited guests, like bears and other animals away, make sure you do not leave things out that would attract them to your campsite. This means keeping your campsite tidy.

  • Do not leave food out in the open. It is best to store it in the car, if you have one.
  • Dispose of all garbage in sealed trash bags. If the campsite has a dumpster, throw all trash bags in it.
  • Keep all coolers closed and latched.
  • Wash all cooking equipment and store them.


It may be difficult to keep your camping experience insect-free, since bugs will be everywhere. However, you can keep them from becoming a problem by taking these steps:

  • Wear insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin, since these ingredients provide long-lasting protection.
  • Use proper mosquito netting at night. Look for netting treated with insecticide.
  • Do not wear cologne or perfume.
  • When hiking, wear long-sleeved shirts and pants. Wear closed shoes, like hiking boots or sneakers. Tuck your pant legs into your socks and boots.
  • After a day in the woods, always check for ticks that may have attached to you. They usually like to hide behind the ears, in the scalp, under the arms, or in the groin area. If you find a tick, remove it using blunt tweezers or gloved fingers. Grasp it as close to the skin as possible. Then gently pull the tick off the skin.


There is an abundance of flowers and plants to enjoy in the wildlife. But, the saying stop and smell the flowers does not apply to every plant you may encounter. Learn about and be aware of any dangerous plants that are in the area you will be visiting. If you accidentally are exposed to a plant such as poison ivy, wash the affected area with soap and water as soon as possible. Do not eat any plants or berries that you are not certain are edible.

There are important things to keep in mind when camping. Become knowledgeable and share the information with your fellow campers. With careful planning, you can have a safe camping trip that will lead to an enjoyable experience for everyone.


American Red Cross

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Health Canada

Technical Standards and Safety Authority


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Sunscreen. Skin Cancer Foundation website. Available at: http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/sunscreen. Updated May 14, 2016. Accessed July 10, 2017.

Sunscreen FAQs. American Academy of Dermatology website. Available at: https://www.aad.org/media/stats/prevention-and-care/sunscreen-faqs. Accessed July 10, 2017.

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Last reviewed June 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael Woods, MD, FAAP  Last Updated: 7/10/2017