Camping is a safe activity that is done by millions of people every year who want to escape city life and experience the great outdoors. However life out in the bush can be dangerous and to have a successful camping trip you need to have some basic bush and camping knowledge. One of the best things that you can do is be prepared.
Camping safety starts long before you leave. You will need to take many things with you to make your trip comfortable. One of the most important things that you need is to have an understanding of the possible dangers in the area where you will be camping. This includes knowing what dangerous animals, snakes and scorpions you may encounter - learn to identify them and how to avoid them.
Remember, most animals are more scared of humans than you are of them and will only attack if they feel threatened or trapped. Do not approach wild animals too closely or attempt to feed them as this is when most incidents happen.
Before you leave
Take with you a well equipped first aid kit and make sure that it contains the basic as well as anti-histamines, antibiotics, nausea medicine and Imodium. You need to make sure that any medicines in your kit have not passed their expiration date. Make sure that there are at least two family members who know how to use the kit and have knowledge of first aid. Learn to recognise the symptoms of serious injuries so that you know when to get help.
Tell some friends or family where you are planning on travelling and when you are due back. When you arrive at the park or reserve you should register with the park administration. You will probably have to pre-book camping spots and check in. The reason for this is if there is an emergency and you do not return someone will come looking for you.
When camping, prepare for the unexpected. Make sure that you have a detailed map or GPS maps of the area you will camp in. This will help you find your way if you get lost. Take along a whistle, pocket knife and matches or waterproof fire starter. Take some extra food and water along in case you get stuck for any reason.
Check the weather before you leave for your entire trip and pack appropriately. Be sure to pack for both hot and cold weather, but do not over pack – you don't want to be lugging to much stuff along. Re-wear clothing during the trip so you do not have to carry to much luggage. If you are out hiking, take a jacket with you. Keep an eye on the weather as it can change quickly.
Once you arrive
Leave early on the first day of your trip so that you arrive at your destination with plenty of daylight left to set up your camp. If you have not pre-booked a camping spot and are free to camp where you like choose your site carefully. Make sure there are no stumps or sharp sticks, poisonous plants, ants and other insects close by.
Trees - more dangerous than you think
It is advisable that you do not camp under a tree. If you want to camp under a tree for shade make sure that the tree has no dead limbs that are likely to fall. Check to make sure that the tree has not been hollowed out by termites, as in the middle of the night you do not want a huge tree branch falling down on top of you.
Check that your chosen camping spot is not in the middle of a well used game trail as you do not want the local wildlife blundering over your tent in the middle of the night.
Find your water source. Many campsites in South Africa have clean and drinkable water on tap. If you do end up drinking from streams or rivers, make sure that the water is fast flowing. You can purify it with purification tablets with you. There are some camping destinations where you will have to take your own water with you.
A camp fire not a bush fire
Build your fire in a designated fire pit or well away from your tent. The last thing you want is the wind to pick up sparks and blow them onto your highly flammable tent. Build your fire well away from any dry grass, twigs and nearby bushes – the last thing you want to start is an out of control wild fire. Follow all the park and reserve regulations regarding fires. Last thing at night make sure that the fire is completely out by pouring water over the embers. Never leave a fire unattended.
To avoid attracting animals such as Baboons and Honey Badgers, make sure that you do not leave food lying around. Any rubbish should be placed in bins provided or if there are no bins in the area where you are camping, you should pack the rubbish and take it away with you.