First Aid for Camping - Advice for Different Types of Locations

Advice on First Aid for Camping

When you’re on a camping trip, the idea is to have a good time, but sometimes things happen that are out of your control. In the event of an emergency, would you know what to do?

What is the area that you are camping in like, how far away is help, and do you have everything you will need to take care of yourself and the people with you until help comes?

This article will outline the essentials to bring with you while camping in order to be prepared for an emergency. I have broken it down into sections so you can focus on the situation that is most relevant to your upcoming or future trips! Information that everyone should know while camping.

Camping in a Fully Serviced Campground or National Park

When camping in a fully serviced park or campground you don’t have to worry too much about being helpless in an emergency. They will likely (or legally be required to) have trained staff on site in case something happens. However, you should still be prepared! Make sure you bring the essentials with you like a first aid kit and pain management items. Other things like ice or cold packs, after bite and/or burn, and aspirin or other pain medication are also good to keep at your site to keep yourself comfortable should illness or injury strike. You should always have sunscreen with you. Prevention is the best medicine and it is very easy to get a severe sunburn without noticing it happen.

Camping in a National Park or Other Non Serviced Area that is not Secluded

If you are staying in an area that is not necessarily fully staffed but still close to the rest of the world, you shouldn’t worry too much about. Help will still be close by in the event of an emergency but it may take a little longer to get there. You should be a little more prepared in this case than in a fully serviced area, just to last you until help comes. Like in any extended outdoor trip you should always have a first aid kit with you, just to have the basic essential for smaller injuries. You should also bring pain management supplies like aspirin, ice or cold packs, and after bite and/or burn.

If it is appropriate for the area that you are camping in, you could consider purchasing a snake kit.You can find a list of venomous snakes in the area that you are camping on most location websites or in any field guide (sample guide) in the area. If you are going to be away from immediate help you should also carry a fully charged cell phone with you. Even phones that are not in service can make emergency calls . It is best to keep this phone turned off and carry it with you just in case you need it. Basic first aid and wound treatment can be helpful while you wait for help.

Camping in a National Park or Other Non Serviced Area that is Semi-Secluded

When help is further off you should be more prepared. Having the basics like first aid kits, pain management, and preventative measures should still be brought with you. Bringing a snake kit if necessary for your area is also something that can be helpful. Because you are in a more secluded area, a portable radio communicator may be a better option than a backup cell phone, in case reception is bad. Typically, channel 9 is the designated emergency channel, but if you are unsure of which channel to be on for emergency communication you can always contact the visitors' center where you are staying or local rangers.

Materials for making sprints or carrying braces if you have a preexisting or old injury should also be brought with you. A sprain, strain, or broken bone can be stabilized while you wait for help ormove to an area where help is more accessible.

In the event of a major cut, impalement injury or compound fracture, you may need to stop someone from bleeding excessively. Bringing a strap or elastic band to use as a tourniquet (or purchasing one) can help stop a person from bleeding out until help arrives. Duct tape should also be among your camping first aid materials as it is very effective at closing wounds . Placing strips of tape on either side of the wound and pulling it shut can act as temporary stitches. Super glue or another strong, water-resistant adhesive can help hold wounds together while you wait.

Because you are further from help and it may take a little longer for someone to get to you, a more extensive knowledge of first aid would be beneficial. If you plan on taking a trip to a semi-secluded area consider taking a first aid course in your area. Red Cross teaches these regularly, however, there are many other organizations that offer first aid training.

Camping in a National Park or Other Area that is Very Secluded

If you are a more experienced camper you may be venturing to a very secluded location. If this is the case, extra precautions should be taken to ensure your health and safety. With help so far away, you need to be sure that you are completely prepared. I do not recommend venturing to a secluded area for your trip unless you are an experienced camper with a good knowledge of first aid practices, including a certification in first aid.

While you may want to scale down on things that you bring with you, your first aid is not the place for cutbacks. Make sure you pack your first aid kit, pain management medication, sunblock and other preventive materials (bug spray etc.), your snake kit and if you are able to purchase some, antivenom. You do not know how long help will take to get to you. If you are going to be in an area with a high bite risk, consult your doctor before your trip and see if you are able to get proper doses of antivenom, just to be safe.

You are more likely to be in an area of poor cell reception, so a portable radio communicator would be the best thing to bring in case of an emergency. You should also consider carrying emergency flares and a signal mirror in the event that your radio fails. Just as when you are camping in a semi-secluded area, a tourniquet or band that can function as one is an important and life-saving item to bring with you. When you may be waiting for extended periods of time for help, you should use these with caution to avoid tissue damage that can lead to tissue death. If you have taken first aid courses and are trained on how to use one, you may also consider bringing a stitch kit with you. The most important thing to remember is that if something is to happen, help is going to be far away. You should be prepared for every situation.


Snake Bite First Aid Tips

Personally, I think snakes are the worst things outdoors. If you or someone you are with is bitten by a snake, you must remain calm! Moving around frantically can make the venom spread more. Do not elevate the wound above the heart. You want the venom to spread as slow as possible to minimize damage to the tissues around the bite and at the same time avoid it spreading to the heart. Keep track of how long it has been since the bite happened and remove all tight clothing or jewelry around the area. Try not to walk if it can be prevented. If you do have to walk, make sure not to take off any shoes because they will probably not be able to get back on. Call 911 right away and get to help as soon as possible. You can also wrap the wound as if you were wrapping a sprain Don’t suck the venom out, use a cold compress, or tourniquet on the wound, and most importantly, don’t try to capture or kill the snake. Take a picture if you can but don’t waste time, effort, or energy hunting it down, remembering what it looks like can be helpful enough.

About the Author

Alex Wilder

My name is Alex Wilder and I’ve enjoyed outdoor activities my entire life, particularly camping, backpacking and hiking. As soon as the weather starts to warm up, you’ll find me outside and I try to make at least six camping trips a year. I have experience in several different countries including Costa Rica, France, Ireland, Canada and the United States. I am entering the fourth year of my Bachelors of Biology with a specialization in ecology, animal behavior and communication and I am currently writing my thesis on avian behavior and bioacoustics. I also enjoy cooking and often experiment with different recipes. I am in the process of building a conservation blog. If you’d like to read more of my writing you can find me on Instagram at @conservation.queen