8 Terrifying Things About Camping...That Are Easy To Overcome

Scheming raccoon This little guy has bad in-tent-tions.

The sun is out, the air is clear, the wild is calling—and July is a great time to answer. Camping is a fun, inexpensive, and family-friendly way to make the most of a long weekend. Whether you're pitching your tent in your own backyard or toting it to the top of a mountain, these safety tips will help you make sure your only worry is whether you packed enough granola.

(**TIP** If you're flying somewhere to camp, hunt, or fish, make sure to check out this list from the TSA about what gear is and isn't allowed on planes! A confiscated pole is a bad way to start a trip.)

Home-Away-From-Home Security

There are bad guys everywhere, even in the wilderness. But no need to dig a moat around your campfire—a few precautions and your tent might as well be Fort Knox.

  • LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION: Just like with real estate, you're going to want a safe, well-maintained place to pitch your tent. Luckily, America is full of them—check out this handy government directory to find a campsite that's perfect for you. When you're all unpacked, it's easy to make the place feel homey—share some hot dogs with your temporary neighbors, and make sure your space is well-lit until you settle in for the night.
  • HEY, WHERE'S MY STUFF?: Even the most rugged minimalist doesn't want to come back to camp and find zip where his Zippo used to be. Stow your gear in a secure place, like in the trunk of your (locked) car or in a backpack you carry around. This goes double for expensive equipment—but even leaving out cheap stuff like flashlights and sunscreen could attract opportunist bandits who will then sniff around for your camp stoves and fishing rods. If you don't have a safe place to stow your stuff, consider investing in a battery-powered motion sensor and perimeter alarm from Go Fast And Light to ward off intruders.

    Bears Attack Tent

    It may sound counterintuitive, but experts recommend you don't "lock" your tent up when you leave the campsite — thieves may think there's something valuable inside and slash through the canvas. But when you're snug inside, it's a different story—use a small padlock or a strong nylon strap to lock your tent zippers together from the inside, and anyone who wants to enter after you is going to have to make a lot of effort (and a lot of noise). For keys, medications, or other valuables that you need to keep nearby, consider this camping-specific diversion safe—it looks just like a can of bug spray!

  • GOING SOLO: Sometimes when you say you need to get away, you mean from everybody. If you're a solo camper, stay safe by taking a leaf out of the living-alone home security book. Bring your dog with you, or set up two lawn chairs outside of your tent instead of one. Let the camp host know you're going it alone, and ask if you can contact him or her in an emergency. A personal alarm, which emits a painful screech when activated, can do in a pinch—and if your car's parked nearby, so can the "alarm" button on your car keys. And this two-way radio from Midland can give you just enough contact with the outside world.

Critter Company

Some animals are a welcome sight when you're out camping—an owl peering out of a tree, a pair of deer grazing as the sun comes up, a fish at the end of your line. Others can mean disturbance, discomfort, or even danger. Here's how to make sure the pests keep their distance.

  • Camping Bug Invasion

    Bugs are called that for a reason! No one wants to spend a nice evening slapping and scratching, and some common insects, particularly ticks and mosquitoes, spread disease. Bugproof your campsite with citronella candles from Repel—the chemical naturally repels most flying pests. Cover as much skin as you can with lightweight clothing (this mesh shirt is specifically designed to keep off bugs), and top off with a bug spray like OFF! Deep Sportsman, which is highly recommended by Consumer Reports. And when you're done for the night, always check yourself thoroughly for ticks, paying special attention to your scalp.

  • SNAKES: Snakes are shy—they won't come after you, but they will bite if they get scared or surprised. Don't let overzealous adults, kids or dogs tromp around in tall grass or stick their hands (or snouts!) into dark holes. If you do set off a snake's home security system and get bitten, stay calm, try to identify the snake, and head straight to the nearest hospital (more detailed instructions are here). Snake bites are rarely fatal.
  • SKUNKS: The aroma of roasting s'mores is much less cheery when mixed with the distinctive bouquet of Eau de Skunk. Keep these party crashers from assaulting your nose by giving them no reason to nose around. Clean up any food scraps, leftovers, and garbage quickly, and store it in tightly sealed containers. If you're really concerned, you can border your campsite with dog or cat repellent, vinegar-soaked rags, or homemade anti-skunk spray. And if you do see a skunk, keep your distance—skunks only spray when they're freaked out.
  • BEARS:
  • Bear Waves Hello

    Bears are the kings and queens of the woods. They're beautiful, awe-inspiring — and, if you cross them, really dangerous. Keep them out of your campsite by storing your food and garbage in a bear-proof container. Never, ever get between a mother bear and her cubs. If you'll be staying or hiking in a bear-heavy area, wear a bear bell to make your presence known, and carry some bear mace with you just in case. Only use bear mace as a last resort — bears hate it so much that if they smell it, they'll search out the scent and destroy whatever it's on. (One more reason not to spray it on yourself.)

**REMEMBER** when you're camping, the local wildlife is sharing its house with you! The best (and safest) rule of thumb is to always respect their space.

Got any crazy camping stories or favorite spots? Share them in the comments!

SimpliSafe blogger extrodaniare Cara Giaimo

Cara Giaimo

A man's home is his castle, as they say, and no matter what kind of castle you have, I'm here to help you fortify it. When I'm not blogging, you can usually find me running, jamming with friends, or making strange types of ice cream.

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