Don’t sleepwalk off a cliff: Avoid 5 common camping dangers


Recently, an Ohio man fell roughly 60 feet while he was camping in Kentucky's Red River Gorge with his friends while he was asleep. reported that the man had a history of sleepwalking and that they were camping at the top of a cliff. Despite the distance of his fall, Ryan Campbell survived, largely because of a bush that broke his fall. 

The rescuers who airlifted Campbell to the hospital told ABC News that they found no serious injuries and that he was lucky to land on the rhododendron bush rather than the many rocks and boulders at the bottom of the cliff. 

Campbell told ABC that he'd never put himself in a situation where this would happen again. But no matter where you go camping, there are plenty of dangers associated with spending the night outdoors. If you're planning a bike touring trip where your lodging is your tent or if you're considering a weekend backpacking trip, it's a good idea to learn about camping hazards and how to avoid them. Although you're not likely to walk off a cliff in your sleep, here are a few more common camping dangers and how you can deal with them. 

1. Poisonous plants 
Exploring nature is a great reason to go touring or camping, but you have to take the proper precautions before you become a full-fledged outdoorsman or woman. Although you may love nature, it won't always treat you the same back. Poisonous plants are a common issue while camping for multiple reasons. 

A few common outdoor dangers are poison ivy, oak and sumac. Some people think of these as little kid problems of mild itchiness, but for many on a camping trip these plants can create serious danger. Not only can an allergic reaction be uncomfortable, but contact can result in open sores and infection, which can quickly get worse when you're out in the wilderness. 

Poisonous ingestible plants are also dangerous. People may try to eat a mushroom or plant that looks similar to an edible type but isn't. Acquainting yourself with both types of poisonous plants is a great way to help avoid these plants, and no one but an expert should consume wild plant life. 

2. Fire 
Fire is a major danger for campers and forests where people are camping. Many tourers have a respectful "leave no trace" policy with trash while camping. This should apply to fires too, which makes it less likely that people who tour will set major fires, but caution is always advised. Campfires can quickly expand and start a forest fire because of wind. Be sure to follow the park's or region's rules on fire for the weather you're camping in. You may even want to bring a portable stove in favor of a wood fire for convenience and safety. 

Lightning is commonly blamed for rural fires. In addition to causing fire danger, lightning is a major hazard when camping in certain areas. The U.S. Forest Service advised people to avoid ridges and bare spaces during lightning storms in favor of shelter. 

3. Bugs, ticks and bears
Insects and ticks can cause serious problems while camping, off-road biking and hiking. They can cause physical irritation as well as serious illnesses such as Lyme disease. In order to avoid getting ill and ruining your trip, use DEET bug sprays and check for ticks regularly. 

Additionally, bears and other wildlife can cause trouble for you and your camp when they look for food. Animals may carry diseases, cause bodily harm or simply steal your only supply of food. Methods for preventing food theft or animal attraction vary. Some regions prefer bear canisters, while others go with the classic food hanging. The American Bear Association has in-depth rules for planning trips in the U.S. where black bears are present. 

4. Dehydration
Another major danger of camping is not having enough clean water. While hiking or touring, hydration is critical, and camping is no different. Make sure you have plenty of water for the entire time you're planning to camp as well as extra in case you get stranded. Don't drink river, pond or other water without properly treating it. Parasites and other bacteria can cause serious intestinal problems or worse, which can at the very least make you more dehydrated. 

Another way to ensure your hydration is to protect yourself from the sun. With hats, clothing and sunscreen, you can avoid heat stroke and other heat-related diseases. This is important for touring as well as camping.

5. Temperature 
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned against temperature-related dangers. It recommended that people avoid hypo- and hyperthermia by staying hydrated, carrying season- and climate-appropriate clothing and having sufficient sleep gear. In your camping equipment, you should have a sleeping pad or sheet to go under the sleeping bag to avoid heat loss throughout the night, as well as lighter clothing to keep you from overheating depending on the climate. 

About Stephane Marchiori

Owner of
Bike touring since 2003, including:
a 5-Year Bicycle Journey Around The World!

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