A family camping trip can be an enjoyable experience with a little preparation. Knowing everyone's limits, taking the time to plan ahead, and packing the right items will help your adventure come off without a hitch.
Here are the down-and-dirty basics of woods and camping safety.
If you're not skilled in the outdoors, begin your adventures by taking day trips. But even then be aware of camping safety issues, such as bug bites and stings; plants that may cause rashes and allergic reactions; exposure to heat, wind, water, and cold; and getting lost.
Once families feel comfortable with their camping skills, they may want to plan a few days or a week in a wilderness park. But first, gather information from park rangers, read guide books about the terrain and weather, and talk with campers who've been there.
Common Camping Dangers
One common mistake made by camping families is not being ready for seasonal transitions regarding proper clothing and equipment. Storms blow in and out during all seasons, and there can be sudden shifts in temperatures in spring and fall, particularly on high mountains. Precipitation and wind lead to rapid cooling, especially when temperatures drop at nightfall.
Excessive heat can be a problem for young children, whose sweat glands are not fully developed until adolescence. On hot days, hike in the cooler mornings and evenings. During the day, spend time in shaded areas. Wear skin protection whenever you or your kids are exposed to the sun, including hats, sunscreen, and cotton clothes.
Another common problem is getting lost. Teach your kids how to recognize landmarks at the campsite and on hikes. While hiking, encourage them to turn around and look at the trail to familiarize themselves with their surroundings. Teach them to remain where they are and stay calm if they are lost. Kids should wear whistles (whistles can be heard farther away than the human voice) and know the universal help signal of three blows or loud sounds. Try to take your cell phone along in case you can get a signal.
Before your trip, look for a local class or go online to find out more about map reading and finding directions. For wilderness trekking, always carry a topographical map and compass.