15 Tips to Increase Tent Camping Safety

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Tent camping is one of the most popular ways to enjoy nature and spend time with family and friends.

But how safe is camping in a tent? Most people never give it much thought until it’s too late.

In this article, you’ll learn how safe tent camping really is, plus tips to ensure you and your family stay as safe as possible on your next trip.

Is Tent Camping Dangerous?

While tent camping is relatively safe, there are some real dangers involved. I mean think about it, you are out in nature with wild animals, potentially hiking through rocky and unknown terrain, with only a thin piece of fabric protecting you from the elements as you sleep at night.

Statistically speaking, most risks associated with camping are due to camping-related activities like hiking and swimming. Heart attack, exhaustion, hypothermia, dehydration, sprained ankles, falls, and drowning makes up a large portion of reported accidents.

As far as tent camping goes, there were 503 people reportedly injured by their own tent between 2010 and 2015 (source), which in the grand scheme of things is a relatively low number. But you also have other potential risks with thieves and even wild animals breaking into your tent while you’re in it.

So, yes, tent camping does have its dangers. But really, every outdoor activity will come with potential risks.

With that said, a little preparation and education can go a long way in avoiding these risks.

15 Tips for Safe Tent Camping

While we can’t possibly cover every situation you may run into while tent camping, we can offer 20 of the most important tips to help keep you and your family safe.

So, let’s jump right in!

1. Use a Tent Lock

A camping tent lock attaches to the zippers of your tent, effectively locking it so intruders can’t get in. A simple key or passcode allows you to unlock/lock the tent lock! This simple device helps deter intruders from easily gaining access while you are away from your tent or sleeping.

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Tent locks are not going to stop a determined burglar, but they will usually keep out those opportunistic thieves looking for a quick and easy score. Plus, they can buy you enough time to wake up and react in the middle of the night if somebody is trying to break in.

Check out our in-depth guide on how to lock a tent from inside for some important tips to secure your tent.

2. Choose a Safe Campsite

Choosing a safe campsite is one of the most important tips to staying safe while tent camping.

Choosing a well-lit camping spot with other people around will give you peace of mind in case something goes wrong. Remember that more people around mean less chance of an attack from happening.

Also, find an open area away from trees, bushes, etc. so you can more easily see any potential threat approaching, whether that be an animal or human threat.

3. Keep an Eye on the Weather

Before your camping trip, make sure to check the weather forecast. Weather can change rapidly, so it is important to pack for all sorts of weather conditions like rain, snow, and so on.

4. Safely Store Food

Leaving food out in the open can attract dangerous animals. Pack your food in tight, sealable containers and store them in a cooler.

If you’re camping in bear country, place your food containers in your car (if allowed), at least 100 feet away from your campsite, or hang the food from a tree. Wash any dishes immediately after use.

Important: Check the park’s regulations for cooking and food storage if wild animals pose a threat.

5. Campfire Safety

Campfires are a great way to cook, hang out with friends and family, and stay warm at night while camping. But they can be dangerous if not handled properly.

There are some simple steps you can take to enjoy your campfire without risking injury or property damage:

  • A fire must always be monitored, as any change in the environment could lead to an out-of-control situation — even if you’ve only left it for five minutes!
  • Keep your campfire at least 15 feet from tents, trees, and shrubs.
  • Keep your fire small and put it in a place where it can’t spread – like a fire pit.
  • Always have a bucket of water near and make sure that you put the fire out completely before leaving or going to sleep.

6. Safety in Numbers

When you camp with friends, thieves may be less likely to steal your belongings because the risk will outweigh the reward if others are around. This is often the case since most burglars, predators, or attackers of any sort are simply looking for easy targets.

7. Monitor Your Campsite

Using technology to monitor your tent while you are asleep or away can help alert you and keep you safe while camping.

There are many ways to monitor tents, including motion sensor lighting, a camp perimeter alarm, or using a BASU alarm on your tent door or tripwire style.

8. Know Thy Neighbors

Meet your fellow campers. Introducing yourself and spending time with them can help you get a feel for their trustworthiness.

Plus, campers tend to look out for each other. They could potentially alert you or offer help if a threat arises.

9. Hydration is Important

Dehydration is one of the biggest risks while tent camping, especially if you plan to hike. Plan to bring enough water to support you and your fellow campers for the duration of your trip. And bring extra.

If you can’t physically bring enough water, check for rivers, streams, lakes, etc. during the trip planning process. And don’t forget your water purification system if you plan on going this route.

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10. Bring Insect Repellent

Mosquitos, ticks, and other insects are dangerous and pose a threat because they spread diseases like Zika and West Nile. To protect yourself against these insects you can:

  • Bring insect repellent that contains DEET or Picaridin. Reapply often.
  • Wear clothing that covers your arms and legs when possible.
  • Inspect yourself (or have a friend inspect you) for ticks every night.

Related: How to Keep Ticks Away While Camping

We may not like it, but bugs are a fact of life when camping, so you need to protect yourself appropriately.

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Check out our post on how to keep bugs out of a tent for more bug prevention tips!

11. Forest Fires

Forest fires not only pose a threat to you and your family while tent camping, but they can have a drastic effect on air quality and even road closures.

First, and most important, check wildfire conditions before traveling to your destination. The USDA Forest Service has an Active Fire Mapping Program that details where all current fires are. For large fire incidents, it is updated daily. And if you are staying at a campground or hotel near a fire, always check with them prior to embarking to make sure everything is clear.

Secondly, and one that is often overlooked, is to check air-quality conditions for the region you’ll be traveling in. AirNow.gov has a ton of useful information on current air quality conditions with an interactive Fire and Smoke map.

Lastly, check the state’s DOT website for updates on road closures due to wildfires. And check them regularly as wildfires spread fast. It’s good to plan a few alternate routes in case you run into an unexpected road closure.

12. Wild Animals

Do your research and know what wild animals are going to be in the area of your tent. Talk to campground employees or the Park Ranger. Your biggest animal threat in most cases are bears.

To minimize animal threats, you should:

  • Have bear bags available, or pitch your tent away from the bears’ foraging area if possible.
  • Store food in airtight containers like plastic bins so that the scent is not detectable by wildlife.
  • Keep your campsite clean of all debris such as trash, wrappers, crumbs on floors and tables.
  • Do not sleep with food inside the tent (or any open space).

If you see a bear, do not approach it. Mother bears are very protective of their cubs and will attack if they feel threatened.

13. Use Tent P-Locks

The last thing you want to happen while out camping is to get your tent and all your belongings in it stolen. That’s where tent P-locks come into play, which we covered in our 10 tent security tips!

Simply place the P-locks through the stake loops on your tent and screw them into the ground. This will prevent unwanted movement of the tent and avoid any opportunistic thieves looking for a fast score.

Of course, thieves or an attacker could still cut open your tent and gain entry, but P-Locks keep them from stealing your entire tent, which could be disastrous if you’re left with no shelter or gear out in the wilderness.

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14. Bring Protection

When camping, it’s not a bad idea to take along something for self-defense. Not just from humans but also animals!

The best thing you can do to protect yourself is to keep a gun at your side. A knife will also come in handy as it not only has self-defense capabilities but general utility use too! Other options include pepper spray, bear spray, a stun gun, and so on.

Ultimately, you are responsible for your own safety while camping in the great outdoors, and carrying a weapon for self-defense is one of the best ways to protect yourself.

15. Use Good Judgement

Common sense and careful planning will help keep you safe when camping.

  • Research and learn about potential risks surrounding your camping environment before you go so you’re prepared for what to expect.
  • Always heed the warnings and advice from park staff for camping at every campground you visit.
  • Understand your physical and mental limitations.
  • Take the proper precautions to keep you and your loved ones safe from injuries during camping visits.

Camping trips are a great way to spend time with family and friends, but like all outdoor activities, can be dangerous if you don’t take the proper precautions. We hope this list of tips helps to make sure that next time you go camping that everything goes smoothly so you can focus on having fun!

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