Camping Safety

Make sure you follow a few simple guidelines for a safe camping trip.

For many people, camping is a traditional part of how they spend their summer, heading away for a week or two in this country or Europe, or fitting in a couple of weekend trips.

For others, it might be a new experience.

Camping can be a fantastic way to enjoy the great outdoors. But in the excitement of a trip and because of the unfamiliar surroundings and ways of doing things (e.g. camp cooking is likely to be a vastly different experience to preparing food in the comfort of your own kitchen), accidents can easily happen.

Following some simple safety advice means your camping trip should be a memorable experience for all the right reasons.

Fire is a significant risk when you are camping. To reduce the risk:

  • Check the rules regarding open fires and barbecues at your campsite; some will not allow them at all and others will restrict them to designated areas
  • Assess the site before you pitch your tent, so try to avoid doing it in the dark. Ideally, be at your site before sunset so you can see where other campers may have fires, barbecues, stoves and heaters
  • Cooking inside a tent is not recommended. Apart from the fact that you can get lots of condensation inside your tent, even a fire-resistant tent may burn. Be particularly mindful of the risk of fire inside smaller tents with only one exit
  • Don't change gas canisters or refuel petrol or meths stoves inside your tent and, if possible, store them outside
  • Practice using your stove before you go on your trip - and make sure the stove or barbecue is sited on a solid
  • surface to reduce the risk of it falling over
  • Keep matches and lighters in a waterproof container and away from children
  • Make sure tents are positioned well apart from each other to prevent the risk of a fire spreading. Check the specific rules at your campsite; some recommend that tents are pitched six metres apart
  • For illumination, it is preferable to use torches instead of naked flames such as candles and cigarette lighters, and certainly do not use naked flames inside a tent
  • Make sure all fires are damped down and that stoves, gas lamps, barbecues etc. are out before you go to bed
  • Have a plan for if a fire gets out of hand e.g. do you have a fire escape plan and where is the nearest source of water?

The burning of all fossil fuels produces carbon monoxide (CO) and there have been deaths and serious injuries from CO poisoning in tents and caravans. Do not use stoves or disposable barbecues (for cooking or warmth) in an enclosed space with poor ventilation. Caravanners should have gas-powered appliances serviced annually and should consider using an audible carbon monoxide alarm inside their caravan.

Some other camping safety tips:

  • If possible, choose a tent with guy ropes which are a bright colour or have fluorescent tags attached to them so people can see them in the dark
  • Try pitching your tent before you go away so you won't get stressed when you arrive
  • Make sure you've got all the equipment you need before you set off on your trip. That way, you won't be tempted to improvise with other items that might not be suitable for the task in hand e.g. have you packed the mallet?
  • Avoid pitching your tent right under a tree (in case of falling branches) or on the banks of a river or lake (be aware that children may rush out of the tent straight into the water)
  • Don't obstruct walkways/tracks with your tent's guy lines
  • Familiarise yourself with the campsite shortly after you arrive, particularly if you have children e.g. where are the campsite exits, is there a lake, river, pond or swimming pool?

The last time annual accident figures were collected (in 2002), more than 1,500 people visited A&E in the UK following an accident involving a tent, tent pole or peg. Common accidents were people tripping over guy ropes or treading on tent pegs. It might sound simple, but remembering to give tents a wide berth when you're walking around is one easy way to avoid those inconvenient visits to A&E.

General holiday safety tip

Many serious accidents involving young children on holiday, including drowning, happen on either the first or last day when there are lots of distractions. Ensure that the supervision of young children does not break down during these busy times. If a child wanders off, check water sites e.g. ponds, lakes and swimming pools first.

Further information

The Camping and Caravanning Club has web pages aimed at those who are new to camping, with plenty of good advice

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