Stay Safe Under the Stars- Your Guide To Trouble-Free Camping

There’s nothing quite like a camping trip to relax and recharge. Fresh air, views, special food, and physical activity feature large in the summer. And for many Americans, the upcoming Memorial Day weekend is the first opportunity of the year to sleep out under the stars and nurture their inner nature-lover.

If camping is on your agenda, review these tips and reminders for a safe outing from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture:

1. Pack the hand sanitizer—since you can’t pack the kitchen sink. Developed campgrounds may have water (you supply the soap) for washing hands before eating.

2. Bringing bikes? Better bring the helmets. Protect your noggin in nature, just as you would on the street.

3. Watch the kiddos closely around water. Never let anyone swim alone. And wear life jackets if boating.

4. Select a safe campsite. Watch for hazards like insect nesting areas, hazardous terrain, dead overhead branches and poisonous plants.

5. Bring bug spray with DEET. It will help ward off disease-carrying mosquitoes and ticks. Avoid perfumes and colognes that may attract bees.

6. Bring a hiking buddy (or three). Don’t hoof it alone. In remote areas, bring at least three other people. If one gets hurt, one can stay with the victim while two get help.

7. Respect the wildlife. Keep your distance from any animals you encounter. Don’t try to get close for a photo. At camp, put away food, coolers and cooking utensils that might attract bears.

8. If campfires are allowed, build yours in a safe spot. Check regulations to make sure burning is permitted. Then choose the right place, like a designated pit lined with stones and covered by a grill. Never leave a fire unattended. After drowning the fire with water, feel it to make sure all the coals, embers and sticks are cold and wet. Check out the U.S. Forest Service’s tips for building and putting out a fire.

9. Cook with caution. Using a camping stove for the first time? Read the instructions—before you go camping. Never use your stove (or any other fuel-burning device) in a tent, as this can cause fires or trap deadly carbon monoxide.

10. Be prepared for the backcountry. Plan on bringing enough supplies, such as a first-aid kit, waterproof fire starter, warm clothing, and plenty of drinking water and high-energy food. Check the weather forecast before you venture out. And don’t go unless you have wilderness skills.

11. Wear sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Seek shade, especially when the sun is high overhead.

12. Don’t drink from lakes or streams—no matter how clean the water looks.

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