Autumn is the perfect time for a camping trip, with cozy campfires, snuggly sleeping bags and colorfully scenic hikes. But while bonding with nature is fun, camping comes with several health hazards that can make a trip miserable, from bug bites to too-chilly nights.
Here’s how to avoid top camping concerns — and if you’re worried about renegade critters, be sure to download our Freeze or Flee survival guide, too!
1. Your campfire
Build your campfire away from overhanging tree branches, encircle your fire with rocks and keep a bucket of water and a shovel nearby, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises. Put out the fire completely whenever you leave, making sure to hit even the small embers. Pack saline solution to clear out ash-irritated eyes.
2. Cold temperatures
Even if it’s balmy during the day, temperatures can drop at night, especially if you’re camping at a high altitude. Put down a plastic cloth on the ground to help keep you dry, and pack extra sheets and blankets no matter what the forecast says.
3. Carbon monoxide poisoning
Never use fuel-burning equipment — such as gas stoves, heaters, lanterns and charcoal grills — inside a tent, camper or other enclosed space. Grab a flashlight for inside, and bundle up to stay warm.
4. Food poisoning
Keep food wrapped up safe in a cooler, and don’t skimp on washing your hands — pack hand sanitizer if you don’t have a nearby water source. It’s always a good idea to bring along medicine that helps with diarrhea just in case something goes wrong. And pack plenty of nonperishables, like trail mix — and like marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers.
5. Bug bites and poison plants
As your camp counselor may have told you many years ago, “Leaves in three? Leave it be!” Both poison ivy and poison oak have three leaves and are a dark, waxy green. In fall, poison ivy turns red, while poison oak changes to bright red or orange. Pack lotion for rashes and tweezers for splinters from any plant. As for bugs, apply insect repellant liberally to both skin and clothes, and check nightly for ticks.