Camping Safety Tips: Part 1 – Food, Water, Ticks
Camping out in the woods can be one of the most gratifying experiences available for those who stress over the hustle and bustle of daily life in or near a city. The dangers of contemporary lifestyles and environments can themselves drive people to the slow pace of the woods. Crime, careless drivers, pollution, identify theft. Who needs it!
While seeking a safe haven from the pitfalls of “civilization”, the camper must also bear in mind that the great outdoors is fraught with its own set of dangers. Let’s consider a few and how you can counter the risks.
In part 1 of this two-part series, we’ll look at food safety, ensuring you have clean water to drink, and avoiding ticks.
Bacteria can invade many types of food, especially those high in protein and moisture, such as milk, milk products, eggs, meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, cream pies, custards and potato salad. After preparation, these foods must be kept either hot (above 140 degrees Fahrenheit) or cold (below 45 degrees Fahrenheit). Between the two temperature ranges lurks the danger.
A camper who does not have the means of sustaining food that can easily spoil outside of those thermometer readings should not bring them on the trip at all. It would be much safer to bring canned food and garden goodies.
Exposed food should be prepared prior to the trip and protected in plastic prior to icing them since ice can trap harmful bacteria. For example, though ice pulled from a frozen stream in winter can help to keep food cold, it should never be permitted to touch the food itself.
And whether eating meals from a picnic table or sitting on the ground, always cover the eating area with something clean, like a plastic table cloth.
Any food that you suspect may be spoiled should be disposed of rather than eaten. The risk is just too high.
CLEAN DRINKING WATER
When you are thirsty, there is nothing like a cold, clear glass of water to satisfy. At home, our tap water is normally relatively safe, though many people opt to filter it through one means or another to improve the odds of safe drinking.
Aside from water that is purified for us, however, it has been estimated that the vast majority of surface water in the US fails to meet government standards for intake safety.
When you are camping without your own water (or a sufficient supply) and are not at a camp ground that has purified running water available, you will need to take additional measures to protect yourself from water contaminated by bacteria and viruses.
There are fundamentally four options for accomplishing this. The first you can do at the camp site. The other three require preparation prior to heading out to the camp site.
* Boil the water – Heat suspect water to a boil, and let it continue to do so for several minutes. After cooling off, it should be consumable.
* Iodine liquid or tablets – Instructions that come with the iodine will explain how many drops to use for a specific amount of water, and for what time period.
* Filtering – Most microorganisms can be filtered out depending upon the materials used in the filter and the filtering design of the unit. When purchased, be sure the instructions clearly state what will and will not be filtered out.
* Purification – Purifying will remove or kill all dangerous water-born bacteria. Using this method, the water should be run through the purifier at least a couple of times to ensure drinking safety.
Ticks look innocuous on the surface. But tiny as they are, they still have the potency to make a person very ill with Lyme Disease. They can dig their way into a person’s skin very easily without notice when he rests up against a tree or walks in brush. Once on the skin, ticks will burrow their way in and are not easily removed.
Before you head into the woods, you will need to minimize opportunities that these blood suckers have to find their way to your skin through an opening in your clothing. Tuck in whatever clothing you can: shirt into pants, pant legs into socks, shirt sleeve over top of gloves (if the weather is cool enough for gloves).
Additionally, spray on your clothing a good insect repellent that has a high percentage of. The repellent can be located at any sporting goods store and most general retail outlets.
Upon return to your camp site or turning into your tent for the night, check your body visually and with your hands looking for any small bumps that may be indicative of a tick that has landed on or embedded itself into your skin. Have someone else look carefully through your hair (running their fingers through it) and scan anywhere else that you cannot easily see, such as your back.
If you find that a tick has dug itself into your skin, immediately (but very carefully) remove it with tweezers. Grab it as close to its legs as possible, making sure to extract its entire body. If you are unable to do so, it would be better to leave the camp site for a time to visit a doctor than to risk infection.
In part 2 of this brief series, we will continue our consideration of camping safety tips, focusing specifically on camp fires, wild animals, and dangerous activities in the woods.