When the safety of yourself and your family is concerned there’s no such thing as “too prepared”.
Even with a number of successful trips under your belt, it is always worth re-evaluating your safety planning both in terms of equipment carried, and what you would do in the event of specific emergencies (even something as common as a car failing to start).
The following list of tips is by no means an attempt at an exclusive guide to safety, but hopefully it introduces you to some new concepts to think about, and make the planning for your next trip even more robust.
1) Leave details of your plan: make sure someone knows your planned route and timescales – the more complete the itinerary the better.
If they have trouble contacting you and need to raise the alarm – make sure that they have the relevant phone numbers to call e.g. the park ranger station for where you are going. If your itinerary includes map locations those could be passed on to speed up any search.
2) Respect the weather: don’t be afraid to call off a trip if the weather looks like it is going to be troublesome.
Bad weather can not only ruin a trip but it can also put you at serious risk if adequate precautions aren’t taken.
At altitude the weather can change from glorious sunshine to heavy storm in minutes. Make sure you have the right clothing and equipment to deal with an unexpected shift in the weather to that which was forecast.
3) Protect your valuables: rather than leaving valuables in a tent – which you may leave unattended throughout the day – lock them up in your car. If you are going to carry money around with you, keep it in water-proof protection.
Try to leave any valuables with a non-practical use at home. Day to day you might wear jewellery without giving it a second thought, but on a camping trip isn’t just one other thing to potentially lose/damage.
For long car journeys it’s normal to bring electronic entertainment devices like iPods and portal video game systems – just don’t leave them in an unsecured/unlocked location.
4) Carry a cell phone and portable charger: some campers may scoff at this. Part of camping is to get away from the hectic modern world after all.
Nevertheless, as a communications device in an emergency situation, a cell can make a lifesaving difference.
Cell coverage can be an issue, but it doesn’t take up much space and for conversation of battery is best left turned off anyway.
5) Don’t drink untreated water: a fast flowing, crystal clear stream can be tempting to drink directly from, but you can never be sure how clean the water source truly is.
With water filtration as effective and as affordable as it is these days there really is no excuse.
That goes for water that you wash dishes or brush your teeth with. If you can’t pass water through a filter or treat with iodine, you can always boil it before use (for at least 3 minutes).
6) Familiarise yourself with new equipment at home: for example don’t let the camp site be the first time you attempt to put up a tent you have no experience with.
You don’t want to find out a part was missing when it’s too late. Also, if you do get delayed by traffic and end up arriving much later than scheduled, some familiarity with the tent will make erecting it a less arduous process in the dark!
7) Carry pepper spray: with guns being illegal in most national parks, pepper spray is a very practical alternative form of protection against dangerous animals (and people).
Certain parks specifically recommend it as part of an equipment checklist for hikers and campers. Make sure it’s close to hand and not buried at the bottom of a pack.