If you are planning a camping trip, you should be prepared and have enough knowledge of your camping gear, the location of your campsite, and nature as a whole. It is important that you have the skills and knowledge to prevent, treat, and handle any dangers and injuries that you may encounter in the wilderness.
In this article, we will highlight ten potential dangers that campers may encounter in the wilderness. We will also share tips on how to prevent them and how to treat minor injuries as well.
Note that this article is for information purposes only and should not be a substitute for proper medical training nor be used in place of good judgment.
A first-aid kit is one of the few important or must-have items you should pack on a caravan or camping trip. It should contain resources to treat minor wounds or pains and prevent them from becoming serious. If you’re planning on getting one for your next camping trip, here are the best 5 caravan and camping first-aid kits that you should consider getting.
10 Camping Dangers & Injuries that Can Happen While Camping
Prevention is always better than cure, but sometimes we cannot prevent unfortunate accidents from happening. What we can do is be familiar with them and be prepared to deal with them so that we know what to do in case they happen.
This is not often a life-threatening situation, but it can develop serious issues if people are not attentive to the symptoms. Being hydrated will help keep your joints lubricated and will help heal your muscles and digestive system. Plus, it supports brain function.
Dry lips and mild thirst are symptoms of mild dehydration. More serious dehydration can cause fatigue and sore joints. Eventually, you will get irritable and frustrated until you are no longer able to make good decisions because your brain is beginning to shut down. This is especially possible if you are also suffering from a heat stroke, although getting dehydrated is also possible in cold weather. Thus, it’s important to know the signs.
To make sure you and the members of your group are not dehydrated, take note of the following:
- You are possibly dehydrated if you are not peeing every 4 to 5 hours.
- You are probably dehydrated if the color of your urine is not clear, not copious, and bubble-free.
- The loss of key electrolytes can also cause dehydration, so make sure you bring powdered sports drink mix and salty snacks.
These are common injuries that one may encounter during a camping trip, and packing a good first-aid kit will provide you with everything you need to treat any minor cuts.
After applying first aid, you should keep the wounds clean to avoid infection. The successful treatment of cuts depends largely on the quality of the first-aid kit you have, so you have to make sure that your kit has everything you need to deal with this kind of injury.
3. Wounds & Infections
When camping, you can encounter sharp objects, rough surfaces, and jagged edges that can cause scrapes and puncture wounds. Having the skills and knowing how to treat these kinds of wounds and prevent them from getting infected is crucial.
For serious bleeding, apply direct pressure and elevate the wound above the heart. Put on gloves before handling someone else’s wound, so make sure to carry a few pairs in your kit. Hand the patient a piece of clean gauze so they can apply pressure to their wound while you put your gloves on. If the gauze is saturated, add more on top without removing the existing gauze.
Once you have successfully controlled the bleeding, you should be able to prevent infection and promote healing, especially if you plan on being out in the wilderness for a few more days.
Wash the wound with clean water to flush out any dirt and germs, and then, pull out any large pieces of debris using tweezers. Once you have cleaned the wound, apply antibiotic ointment and cover it securely with clean gauze. Make sure you have fully cleaned the wound before applying antibiotic ointment.
Take a look at the wound once or twice a day to check for any signs of infection and to reapply antibiotic ointment. If you notice signs of infection, remove all the gauze, reopen the wound, and clean it with water. You can also soak the wound in the warmest water you can tolerate but without causing a burn. Consider using pain killers, and if the wound is bleeding profusely or is seriously infected, stop the trip and get to the closest clinic or hospital immediately.
On camping trips, you’ll probably be handling fire, boiling water, and hot pans or pots with the use of primitive tools. So, burns are another risk that you should be aware of during your trip. You should also know that the first step to treating any burn is to stop the burning process by immediately soaking the affected area in clean and cold water, though it may take several minutes before this burning process is stopped in deeper skin tissues.
Once you’ve eased the burning, you should apply antibiotic ointment and cover the area with clean gauze or cloth to protect and help reduce the pain. Ibuprofen is also helpful in reducing pain in any deep burns. For burns in the extremities, keep the area elevated to reduce swelling. For long-term care, you should keep the person hydrated and warm.
End the trip and immediately bring the patient to the nearest clinic or hospital if:
- The burn exposed deep layers of skin/bone.
- The burn is circumferential.
- The burn is located on sensitive areas, like one’s hands, feet, armpits, groin, or face.
- The burn covers a huge part of the person’s torso, leg, or arm.
5. Insect Bites
This is one of the most common things you can encounter during your camping trip. It may not seem like a big deal, but it can become serious and may even require medical attention.
If you keep your tent doors and windows closed, it is unlikely that insects will find their way into your sleeping bag or clothing. However, if you had direct contact with insects, snakes, or spiders, symptoms like clammy skin, sweating, respiratory issues, rapid or weak pulse, nausea, head pain, drowsiness, and difficulty speaking will become evident.
Under these situations, you have to put and keep a bandage over the bite, apply pressure, not wash the area, and seek medical help if you are experiencing the symptoms listed above.
Less serious bites from flies, mosquitoes, and non-venomous spiders can easily be treated with simple after-bite ointments and preferably with baking soda.
6. Knee & Ankle Injuries
When heading into the backcountry for a camping trip, soft tissue injuries are some of the most common things you may endure. Injuries on the knees and ankles can affect your ability to hike.
It is important that you address such injuries regardless of whether they came from a bad step on uneven terrain or a sudden flare of past injuries. If you keep going, this may lead to permanent damage that will require physical therapy. You should be able to determine whether the injured joint is still usable or unusable.
If it is still comfortable for you to put weight on the injury or you still have most of the mobility in that joint, then it is considered a usable injury. Support usable injuries by wrapping them with an ace bandage or athletic tape until you get to camp and address it.
In treating “usable” injuries, use the RICE acronym below:
Rest – if the injury causes you pain.
Ice – alternate 20 to 30 minutes of icing with 15 minutes of naturally rewarming the area.
Compression – wrap the area securely using an ace wrap and make sure you still have good circulation.
Elevation – lie down on a sleeping pad and elevate your feet on a backpack or rolled sleeping bag.
If you have time to rest for a day during your camping trip, do so as this can significantly help lessen the chances of serious complications. Keep the area compressed, cold, and elevated to help reduce swelling, and you’ll more likely be able to resume hiking shortly.
If it is uncomfortable or painful for you to move your joint or put weight on it, then it’s considered an “unusable” injury. If you leave usable injuries untreated, they can eventually become unusable, especially if swelling starts to set in during a hike.
For this type of injury, you have to prop the joint in a comfortable situation.
You should keep your foot at a 90° angle to the lower leg.
Bend your knee at a 5° angle.
Cushion or pad the injury with a thick jacket or any other clothing, a sleeping pad, or whatever is available. Then, add a stick, pole, or anything stiff to keep the joint from moving. Finally, wrap everything with a belt or anything that can cinch them all tightly so you can begin your hike slowly.
If the injury is serious and you are unable to continue the hike, seek professional help.
While blisters may not be a major injury, they can still ruin a camping trip in the backcountry, especially if not handled well. Blisters can form when thick skin that is warm and sweaty rubs against something, causing the softer and more sensitive skin that is beneath to separate.
The best way to treat blisters is to carefully and slowly drain these fluid-filled blisters and treat them like minor wounds.
The best thing to do is to drain them. Washing the area and cleaning it with an alcohol pad are the first steps you need to take. Next, sterilize a sharp needle or any point and hold it parallel with the skin. After, slide it into the blister’s roof. Punch a hole while leaving the rest of the skin intact, give the blister time to drain, and apply light pressure. Cover the area with antibiotic ointment and use a piece of moleskin or blister pad to help protect it.
There is no need to seek medical help unless you notice signs of infection.
8. Sprains or Fractures
Your first-aid kit should come with bandages to be used in case of sprains and fractures. Bandages will help stabilize the bone and keep the joints from moving.
Sprains and fractures are also common for hikers and campers due to uneven terrain. Deal with these injuries by following the RICE technique enumerated above. Take a break every two hours to reapply the RICE technique.
Days or months before your camping and hiking trip, you should do strength training and buy good hiking boots to prevent sprains and fractures. Warm up before hiking to the campsite and avoid walking through dark or uneven terrains.
9. Skin Ailments
Being in the wilderness leaves your skin susceptible to a wide variety of conditions, like sunburns and plant-induced rashes. That is why it is best to do what you can to protect your skin and yourself while outdoors.
Bring sunscreen and apply some regularly. Make sure you have done your research about any plants, flowers, and animals that you may find on the campsite. Having an idea of what the location has to offer will help you prepare the appropriate equipment to bring and the items you can add to your first-aid kit.
Most poisonous plants are only dangerous when ingested, except for oak and poison ivy. So, make sure you know how to identify these plants when outdoors.
If you have made contact with these kinds of plants, clean the affected area with purified water and sanitize clothing that has been exposed to the plant. You do not have to throw it away; you can just isolate them from the rest of your gear. Pack corticosteroid cream to treat a rash, especially if you have a bad reaction to poison ivy.
If you or anyone in your group have suffered injuries that caused major trauma or bleeding, know that shock is your body’s way to respond or cope to be able to prioritize blood flow to vital organs and the brain.
Therefore, you should look for any signs of shock whenever someone has incurred a major injury or if someone is not feeling like themselves.
- Rapid pulse
- Rapid and shallow breathing
- Cool and pale clammy skin
- Dizziness, weakness, and lightheadedness
- Vomiting and nausea
Do your best to focus on what is causing the shock but also follow this treatment if you notice signs of shock:
- Keep the patient and yourself calm and reassure the patient to help lower their heart rate.
- Loosen tight clothing for circulation.
- Let the person lie down in a comfortable position to reduce pain and discomfort.
- Elevate the person’s feet on a backpack to keep the blood in the core, except if you suspect a back injury.
- Even if it is not cold, wrap them in a sleeping bag or anything to keep them warm and dry.
- Keep the person hydrated but do not force them to drink as they might choke.
- Seek professional help if someone is exhibiting signs of shock, and while waiting for the medical team, keep a log of the patient’s mental status and heart rate every 10 to 15 minutes.
Safety should always be a top priority when it comes to any kind of trip or activity. If you want to learn more about how to deal with potential dangers and injuries while camping, check for a local Wilderness First-Aid class or do some reading to get all the information you need before you head out on your camping trip.
Aside from packing a reliable first-aid kit, it is also very important to be familiar with the injuries that you might encounter so that you’ll know what to do in case they happen to you or anybody else in your group. And no matter how hard it may be, you need to keep a level head when these situations arise so that you’ll be able to deal with them accordingly.