Spring Ahead #2: Keeping Safe While Camping (Part 1 of 3)

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Sunburns and downpours and bears, oh my! For all the joys of camping, there are potential hazards we want to avoid. Most aren’t nearly as dramatic as a bear bursting through your tent—they’re far more mundane, far more frequent, and (luckily) far more preventable. In this multi-part series, we will cover ground on how to camp safely.

Smart camping begins with preparation—and that means packing right, even if you’re packing light. Here’s what to bring:

Long-sleeve layers, rain poncho, and emergency blanket. Have you felt the chill at sundown or while camping at high altitudes? The most important thing for campers to remember is that sudden temperature and weather shifts happen—inevitably. Pack clothes that layer easily, and bring ample protection against a rainstorm or a cold snap. Even at the height of summer, temperatures can plummet overnight. Breathable layers of long sleeves not only keeps you comfortable; they also prevent insect bites.

Sleeping bag. The best bet is a dark-colored one with a water-repellant, windproof shell. Dark colors will absorb the sun’s warmth in the morning, keeping you cozy and comfortable at dawn.

Sunscreen. It’s essential throughout the year, not just on scorching summer days; clouds and snow actually intensify rays. The best sunscreen is a broad-spectrum version, protecting against both UVA and UVB rays, with an SPF of 15 or higher. And don’t forget lipscreen to avoid disruptive chapping!

High-energy food. Think trail mix with dried fruit and nuts, energy bars, packets of oatmeal, and hard-boiled eggs: a good balance of carbs, protein and fat. Pack food in tight, waterproof bags and containers, tucked securely into insulated coolers.

Bug/insect repellent. Did you know that bites from mosquitos and ticks can cause harmful diseases? You can find repellents in many forms, from aerosols and sprays to creams and sticks.

First-aid kit. Rather than toss a pre-purchased one into the car, you should customize the kit with supplies that fit your group’s needs the best. Some things to include: medications, hand sanitizer, gauze, latex gloves, antiseptic wipes, cotton swabs, tweezers, and compresses.

Emergency supplies. A map, compass, flashlight, knife, waterproof fire starter, and whistle will all serve you well. Do not rely on smartphone apps; there are few outlets in the wilderness!

Leave at home: Perfume or cologne can trigger allergies at close quarters and attract undesirable insects. Too many layers of cotton can leave you perspiring. And remember: alcohol in excess causes dehydration (not to mention panic and confusion).

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