ccw while camping

Camping Safety: How To Not Get Dead In The Woods

Summertime is the time for outdoor vacations, but it's a good idea to know some of the basics of camping safety. You don't want to wind up injured or dead in the backwoods.

You can head into the wild, but you don't have to wind up like the guy in the movie.

We'll go over some general safety tips that will help keep you safe while enjoying some time in the outdoors. Remember, if something goes wrong in the middle of nowhere, it's that much less likely that help will be available and an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.

Campfire Safety Is Imperative

safe campfire

There's nothing like the reassuring roar of a campfire. The hiss, snap and crackle of burning wood. Roasting wieners, mallows, or even hunks of meat for those in dining paleo style. Throw in a few oat sodas and you've got a good evening.

That is until someone starts a wildfire because they're an IDIOT.

How does one have a safe campfire? By only creating one in an appropriate site, by managing it and extinguishing it correctly.

If there's a fire pit, use it. If not, pick an appropriate location for a campfire. Make sure that the area you are in doesn't have a campfire ban in place. It should be level ground, well away (about 20 feet) from any tents or vegetation. Clear the ground of any brush until the campfire site is entirely sitting on dirt, and try to build a fire ring using stones if available. Try to select a site that will be protected from gusts of wind.

Keep the fire small. Bonfires may seem fun, but can quickly turn into forest fires. A small fire is more manageable and often all the heat that will be required. Don't leave a fire unattended, and make sure to keep an eye on small children and pets. Keep a pail of water and a shovel nearby.

When it comes time to extinguish the fire, do so 30 minutes before you intend to leave or retire for the evening. First, separate all burning logs and embers to the best of your ability. After dousing, stir the ashes and embers. Don't merely throw dirt on the fire - that can keep embers smoldering for hours, which can reignite.

Check the extinguished fire by holding your hands over it. If it's still hot, it's not completely extinguished.

Watch fires for any sparks that are blown out of the fire pit, as these can - and have - started forest fires. Be sure not to park vehicles over dry vegetation. If you or anyone you're with smokes, be it cigarettes, pipes or cigars, make sure any smoking materials are well extinguished. Do NOT throw lit butts away.

Bear Safety To Keep From Having A Bad Bruin Encounter

bear safety

The first bear safety tip is an old saw, but a good one: if backpacking, put a noisemaker on your pack. Some dry beans in an old tin can works very well. This will alert any bears in the area to your presence and since it isn't a sound heard in nature, will spook them.

While camping in bear country, there are a few strategies for dealing with bruins.

If deep in the backcountry in grizzly or black bear territory, you can set up a perimeter around tents or the whole camp. Use stakes and some sort of line with noisemakers attached to them. This works as a tripwire; the noise may drive any curious bears away and alert you to anything entering camp. Portable electric bear fences are available as well.

Hang food at least 10 feet in the air, and at least 4 feet away from tree trunks. If using coolers, buy bear-proof models. Service life will be longer and they generally keep food cold longer.

Keep a clean camp, and make sure all food utensils, cookware and so on are cleaned and properly stored every night. Bag all trash and remove from the main camp area. Try to sleep a generous distance from the eating/cooking area of your camp. Don't leave any food in fireplaces, and be sure to secure or lock away anything that smells.

Bears have olfactory senses several times stronger than that of a bloodhound, giving them some of the keenest noses in the animal kingdom; do everything you can keep from giving them an incentive.

To Keep And Bear Arms: Being Armed In Case Of Bears

bear safety while camping

Regarding guns and bears, there are several "truths" to bear in mind. First is that shot placement and ammunition are critical, as heavy controlled-expansion bullets with good penetration are required for taking large critters. Large bears have been felled with .22 LR, but only with the assistance of fortuitous circumstance.

The only guns close to being reliable bear-stoppers are large-bore rifles, with the .30-caliber family (.308, .30-06, .303 British, etc.) being considered a minimum. Word on the street is that most guides who work around the great bears mostly carry .338 Win Mag, .375 H&H or .45-70 Gov't. Handguns have done the trick, but aren't as reliable and unless the shot is placed perfectly, will only induce a large predatory animal to consider you an imminent threat - and that's no good.

So, unless you happen to have a big-bore rifle, bear spray is the most reliable deterrent and has been known to be so for a very long time. Make the spray your Plan "A."

Given the rarity of bear attacks (fatalities in any given year are countable on one hand...that's missing a couple fingers) the odds are more likely that you'll encounter hostile critters on two legs rather than four. This risk magnifies once alcohol enters the picture, so give other campers that are several sheets to the wind a wide berth and definitely don't be THAT guy.

Some people recommend you still carry concealed in the backcountry for this exact reason.

Stay safe out there, and pack out your trash for crying out loud.

See if you can spot everything wrong with this campsite!

Click on the image below if think you have spotted them all

Sam Hoober  

About The Author

Born in southeastern Washington State, Sam Hoober graduated in 2011 from Eastern Washington University. He resides in the great Inland Northwest, with his wife and child. His varied interests and hobbies include camping, fishing, hunting, and spending time at the gun range as often as possible.

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