Taking your family on a camping trip could be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable experiences you will share. It’s a great opportunity to get away from the noise and congestion, and get in touch with the beauty and serenity of nature. A few precautions will help make the trip educational for your children, and an experience that will leave all your family members with fond, lasting memories.
Get to Know Your Chosen Camping Grounds
The first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself with the camp grounds. Get information about the site and weather conditions from park rangers. You can also check weather forecasts online. But keep in mind that weather can change dramatically from one day to the next, or even from one moment to the next, so, plan accordingly.
Instruct your family members to be on the lookout for poisonous plants, like poison ivy and poison oak. It would be a good idea to show your family pictures of what these plants look like, so they’ll know what to look for.
Always know where your children are; some parents outfit their children with whistles for added security, in case children become lost. A whistle can be heard from a distance better than a human’s voice.
Drink Plenty of Water!
To avoid potentially dangerous and common conditions like heat exhaustion, heat stroke and dehydration, make sure everyone drinks plenty of water, especially before, during and after rigorous physical activity. If the weather is hot, stay in the shade. Instruct your kids to always drink water, even before they become thirsty, as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can sneak up on a person during physical exertion or in hot weather. Once the symptoms start to take hold, chances are you will not be able to quickly cool off and hydrate by simply drinking water; the body needs a little bit of time to absorb the water and cool its temperature. So, the key is to stay cool and hydrated before symptoms develop.
Teach your children not to drink any natural water they encounter, including water they swim in, as it may be contaminated. Instead, take a plentiful supply of bottled water with you for all the members of your family. If water should run out, iodine tablets will purify it, or you can boil water and drink it. Take an insulated cooler with you, to help keep water and perishable foods cold. Avoid sodas, as they don’t quench thirst, and dilute natural fruit juices with lots of water for better hydration.
Planning Your Attire
Plan to dress in multi-layers, which will make it easier to take off or add clothes, according to the weather. Cotton is best in the summer and wool in the winter, as they are natural fibers that allow the skin to breathe.
Include waterproof jackets and pants, if there’s a chance that it may rain (this will help prevent hypothermia — sudden loss of body heat).
Plan Your Family’s Activities
You will need to give thought to the activities your family will engage in, to pack and plan accordingly. Some safe activities include: hiking, swimming, bike-riding. Always take protective gear such as helmets for cycling, and pack shoes that can handle a little rough terrain. Instruct your children never to swim alone, and always shower before and after swimming.
Miscellaneous Items to Include
Always take a first-aid kit, plus a bottle of hydrogen peroxide, in case you need to treat small cuts or scrapes. Other items you may want to take:
- a map of the area
- a flashlight with extra batteries
- pocket knife and scissors
- a candle or fire starter
- tweezers and needles (to remove splinters)
The Foods You’ll Take
Avoid cross-contamination between ready-to-eat foods or foods that stay fresh on their own, and foods that need to be cooked, like meats, or that perish, like dairy. Put different foods in tightly closed plastic containers or plastic bags that close.
Take plenty of ready-to-eat, nutritious foods that will tide you over and give you energy, such as: raw nuts, trail mixes, granola bars, fruits, whole-grain crackers, tortilla chips and peanut butter.
Avoid Carbon Monoxide
Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning by never using fuel-burning equipment, such as gas stoves or lanterns, in a tent or other enclosed space. Anything that burns should only be used outdoors. To stay warm, and as an alternative to fuel-burning heaters, take insulated sleeping bags or additional warm bedding and warm clothing (if there’s a chance that the weather will cool off at night).
Stay Away from Wild Animals!
Teach your children about avoiding wild animals, as these can be dangerous and carry diseases. Always keep your food tightly covered, so as to not attract bigger animals, but this will also help guard against ants and mosquitoes. Never bring food into your tent; pack it in your automobile, instead.
Avoid Insect Bites
If mosquitoes or ticks may be a problem during your trip, prepare yourself by taking a mosquito and tick repellent. Citronella-based repellents are favored by some, because the active ingredient is natural, lemon grass oil. Others prefer repellents containing DEET, as they protect longer. Long-sleeved shirts and pants will help protect against mosquitoes and ticks naturally.
Protect Eyes and Skin from the Sun
You have three options, to keep your skin from being harmed by overexposure to the Sun’s ultraviolet rays:
- Limit the time you spend in the Sun when not wearing protective clothing. Also, remember that UV rays can reach your skin even on a cloudy day
- Wear light-colored, long-sleeved shirts and pants, and floppy hats
- Apply broad-spectrum-protection sunscreen — one that blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Look for a product with natural ingredients, which won’t harm your skin and health in the long run. Sunscreen should have zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the Sun protection ingredient
To protect your eyes from the Sun, wear sunglasses with 100% UVA and UVB protection. (And yes, children need to protect their eyes from excessive Sun, too.) Purchase glasses from a reputable vendor, to insure the protection claims are valid.
A few precautions taken will help make your voyage to the great outdoors a positive experience for all.
By Lisa Pecos