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7 tips for a safe and fun camping trip

Image of a camper at the Strathcona dam recreation site
Nothing says summer like getting out in the sunshine, but take a moment to remember these important safety tips before you go. They’re a good reminder for any outdoor activity.

It's about being prepared, and being practical

May long weekend is the unofficial kick-off of camping season, and many of us across the province will be heading to our favourite campgrounds for some outdoor adventuring.

1. Sunscreen, even if it's not that warm

Did you know that the sun's rays can damage your skin even when it's cloudy? That's why it's important to wear sunscreen whenever the UV index is 3 or higher (you can find this info when you check your local weather forecast). You'll want to pick a sunscreen that is labelled "broad spectrum" and "water resistant" with an SPF of at least 30, and be sure to reapply throughout the day.

2. Be prepared for an emergency

Make sure you've got plenty of food and water to keep you going through your trip, plus extra in case you end up stranded and need to wait to be rescued. Other important items are:

  • First aid kit
  • Flashlight
  • Pocket knife
  • Whistle or other signalling device
  • Compass, map, and any other navigation aids to keep you from getting lost

3. Keep an eye on your campfire

Warm, dry weather can increase the risk of forest fires, but campfires can be risky all year round. The most important first step is to check any regulations or campfire bans before you go. Once you know it's safe to have a campfire, there are a few key things to remember:

  • Use an approved fire-ring or pit, and make sure there's a four-foot radius around your fire that is clear of flammable debris like twigs, grass, or firewood.
  • Keep your fire at least 15 feet away from your tent.
  • A small and controlled fire will keep everyone safe. The Wildfire Act states that a fire can't be larger than .5 metres by .5 metres.
  • Never leave the fire unattended, and keep close watch of children and pets around the fire.
  • Don't leave your fire burning. You should always have eight litres of water on hand to extinguish the fire, but letting the wood burn completely to ash is ideal. If using water, make sure to drown all the embers (not just the red ones), and use a shovel to break up the campfire, making sure it's totally out.

4. Don't get bitten

Bugs can be pesky, and they can also be dangerous. There are a few things you can do to keep yourself safe from the likes of mosquitos and ticks. Try using a government-approved repellant, and wear light-coloured, loose clothes made of tightly woven materials such as nylon or polyester. Closed-toe shoes, hats, and tucked-in clothing will also help protect you from bites. Be sure to do a quick check every so often for ticks, which are most commonly found near armpit, scalp, or groin areas.

5. Watch out for wildlife

It can be exciting to see animals in their natural habitat, but wildlife can be powerful and unpredictable. Keeping food secure and far off the ground is one way to avoid attracting animals, but you should still know what to do if a bear, cougar, or other wildlife crosses your path. You can also avoid an unexpected encounter by carrying a bear bell or other noise maker while you hike.

6. Stay safe around the water

Camping near lakes and rivers offers lots of great activities from swimming to fishing to boating. It's important to remember that play safely around water, and natural bodies of water come with extra risks.

  • Obey any warning signs that are posted.
  • Note that if you're at one of BC Hydro's 19 recreation sites, there are no lifeguards on duty.
  • Keep an eye out for hazards that might not be visible from the surface of the water.
  • Children who can't swim should always wear a personal floatation device (PFD), when near water.
  • Everyone in your boat or canoe should have a personal floatation device.
  • Check the forecast: changing weather can affect the water conditions, making it unsafe to boat or swim.

7. Don't go it alone

Camping is always more fun with friends, and going with a buddy can help you stay safe. You should also let someone know where you're going, when you're leaving, and when you expect to be back, in case something goes wrong. Remember that many hiking and camping areas don't have cell phone reception, so it shouldn't be your only resource in an emergency.

No matter where you're getting out to this camping season, a few simple safety tips will make sure your trip is fun for everyone. Be sure to check out one of BC Hydro's many recreation areas around the province to see how beautiful B.C. can be.