Tips and Advice for the Outdoors

Safety Tips for Camping Trips

It sounds harsh and even a little bit silly, but the first rule of camping safety is: don’t do anything dumb. You wouldn’t think it should be necessary, and it might be useless, to point out how that’s unsafe. But one can always try. Two common dangers that are easily avoided are lightning and inappropriate climbing.

Over 100 persons per year die outdoors from lightening strikes, most of those in wilderness areas. It kills more people in an average year than any other weather related phenomenon.

Lightning occurs most frequently within clouds, but a small percentage forms CG (cloud-to-ground) strikes. If you happen to be the tallest thing around, such as when you are standing on top of a hill, your odds of getting struck are higher.

Humans have substantial amounts of salty fluid within their bodies and that often makes for a preferred conductive path, relative to other nearby objects. You are even more so when you get wet, as from rain that precedes or accompanies lightning.

But it isn’t necessary to be the highest, or even the most conductive, thing around to get seriously injured from lightning strikes. Being higher or more conductive makes you more likely, but the odds are still far from zero even when you’re not.

Further, it isn’t necessary to be struck to be injured. Lightning carries enormous voltages, it’s true. But it requires only a modest amount of voltage to push electricity through you. The current (the amount of actual electrons flowing) is the primary killer. And lightning contains extremely high currents. Obviously, anything which can split a tree transmits considerable energy.

Just being near a lightning strike can knock you down or disturb physiological processes, such as injuring your eyesight, breaking an eardrum or singeing your skin.

A second major way in which some campers exhibit less than stellar reasoning is taking unnecessary risks in climbing or hiking.

Standing too close to cliffs is an obvious no-no. Rapid, unexpected gusts of wind are common in camping areas. It takes very little to push you over, especially if the ground near the edge is loose (as it often is). Don’t tempt fate by moving closer than a couple of feet from the edge.

Climbing up can be just as dangerous. Rocks can loosen, leading to a fall and producing falling debris on your partner underneath. Trees growing out of the mountainside are clinging to rock by fragile roots. Small disturbances, such as you grabbing them for a handhold, can easily pull them loose. Bad for the tree, worse for you.

Even if you don’t fall a dangerous distance, minor cuts and scrapes can turn deadly outdoors. It’s rare, but improve your odds by keeping them minor. Breaking a bone, especially a leg, outdoors is no minor matter when there are no medical facilities nearby.

Don’t try to exceed your limits by a wide margin. Risk for the sake of adventure is part of an exciting life. Foolish risk for the sake of impressing your fellow campers is dumb.

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