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Camping Safety Tips for Your Summer Adventure

16 August 2021

No matter where you live in the United States, summertime is almost always associated with the great outdoors. Uncover a barbecue pit, throw a body of water into the mix, a few hiking trails and a campsite, and you have a relaxing weekend trip to take your mind off the daily grind life throws your way. To help you navigate, we put together a guide with camping safety tips, how to teach your children about camp safety and five spots in Oklahoma to check out this summer.


Camping safety tips

When planning a camping trip, the safety measures to follow fall into two buckets: before you leave for your trip and when you arrive at the site.

Things to do before camping

In the days and weeks before your trip, this is a great time to research the area where you’re staying. Many campsites or parks have an online website with basic information on the weather and type of wildlife you may encounter. Some sites also have a “plan your visit” section where you’ll find information about any associated costs or permits you need.

Depending on the environment, some campsites may have restrictions on fires or food safety in areas with high bear populations. If there are fire restrictions, you’ll need to bring a gas stove to cook your food.

Pack accordingly and bring clothing that will protect you from sun exposure and mosquitoes. A brimmed hat will keep your face shaded, while pants and long sleeves can help shield your skin from ticks. If you decide to wear shorts due to the heat, putting on long socks can help protect your ankles and lower legs from danger.

Double check your equipment is in good condition and doesn’t need to be replaced. There’s nothing worse than arriving at a campsite only to realize your tent has a hole in it. Plan to arrive early at your campsite if time allows. This will provide you with ample time to set your equipment up before dark.

Once you arrive on site

When you get to your campsite, examine your surroundings for any hazards, especially if you’re with children. Ants, snakes, poison ivy and poison oak are especially dangerous if you don’t pay attention or are unaware of your surroundings.

State and national parks may have on-duty hosts or park rangers that can help answer any questions you may have about weather or other environmental regulations or hazards.

Some areas and trails may close due to recent rainfall or dry conditions that make them more prone to wildfires. 

If using a tent, set it up at least 15 feet (upwind) from where you plan to cook or start a fire. This will prevent smoke and embers from touching your tent, especially in Oklahoma when wind speeds regularly reach 20 to 30 miles per hour. Clear a three-foot area around the tent that is free from any brush. Dry leaves and grass can ignite quickly in the event of a fire.

In areas where nighttime temperatures are cooler, make sure you don’t use heaters that emit carbon monoxide in your tent. These are strictly for outdoor use.


Camp safety equipment

It can be hard to prioritize which equipment you need when packing for a camping trip. The National Park Service put together a list of 10 essential things you need for a safe and successful trip.

Navigational supplies: A GPS device is convenient, but bring a map and compass in case your device loses power.

Sunscreen and insect repellant: UV rays can damage your eyes and skin, so bring plenty of sunscreen, along with a brimmed hat and sunglasses. Insects love wooded areas, so load up on the repellant. 

Insulation: Bring warm clothes or an extra sleeping bag in case temperatures are cooler at night.

Emergency shelter: Even if you have a tent, it’s always good to have an emergency shelter such as a tarp.

Flashlights: Using your iPhone isn’t enough. Come prepared with flashlights and plenty of extra batteries so you can see in the dark.

First aid kit: Nowadays, you can buy first aid kits that include all the major necessities you may need for your trip. Should you decide to put together your own, include common items such as bandages and gauze pads, antiseptic creams and ointments, sterile wipes and rinse solutions, anti-inflammatory and antihistamine medications, hydrocortisone cream and antibiotic ointment and anti-diarrhea medicine.

Firestarter: You never know when you’ll need to start a fire. Bring waterproof matches, a lighter or a magnesium starter.

Extra food and water: While you can live longer without food, water is much more of a necessity when camping. Bring plenty of water to stay hydrated.

Repair kits and tools: Carry a knife with you at all times in the event you need to repair or cut something in the wild. Duct tape and scissors also come in handy.

Communication device: Most campsites have poor cell service, so consider carrying a satellite phone if you need to communicate with anyone.

Camp safety rules for kids

Camping with children is a fun summer activity for the entire family. But precautions and safety measures should be established before you camp to avoid the risk of injury or accident.

Keep your shoes on: Children love to run around barefoot. While this is perfectly acceptable at home, the wilderness isn’t the place to expose feet to sharp rocks and potentially poisonous plants.

Don’t eat anything in the woods: Kids are notorious for discovering new things. Teach them not to eat any berries, wild mushrooms or other fruits they’re unfamiliar with. These can be poisonous and cause an adverse reaction when ingested. 

Stay together: It’s easy for kids to become sidetracked and wander off if they see something that interests them. Have them wear a whistle and teach them how to use it if they ever get separated from the group.

Don’t interact with the wildlife: Like the various plants in the wilderness, there are also many animals your children will encounter during a camping trip. Most often, these animals are scared of humans and will run off. But remind your kids not to touch the animals. That friendly looking frog could be poisonous! This serves as a good opportunity to teach your kids about respecting animals.

Fire safety and tools: Fire and other heat sources are a necessity for camping, but they can also become dangerous when misused. Keep children away from flames, as burns can occur quickly without supervision. Tools such as knives and axes can also pose an injury risk for children. Show them the dangers of mishandling these tools and keep them stored in a safe place instead of out in the open.


Best places to camp in Oklahoma

Choosing where to camp in Oklahoma can be hard to decide — there are more than 400 campsites in the state. Here are five places we picked out that provide a mix of camping and accompanying activities and scenic views. Many of these areas feature hiking, fishing and other water sports.

Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge

Located 25 miles northwest of Lawton, this 59,020-acre area is home to mixed prairie grass, hundreds of bird species and dozens of mammals. Doris Campground and Charon’s Garden Wilderness Area are two ideal areas for campers. Whereas Doris Campground is more of a recreational area, Charon’s Garden is a true backcountry experience with rugged terrain. You’ll need a permit to camp here.

Black Mesa State Park

Located in the Oklahoma panhandle and sandwiched between Colorado to the north, New Mexico to the west and Texas to the south, this area gets its name from black lava rock that formed millions of years ago. The state park is in the Black Mesa Nature Preserve, which amasses 1,600 acres of explorable land. The close proximity to many different ecological environments make it an ideal place for birdwatching. You can also hike up to the highest point in the state at well over 4,000 feet. The dark skies of the panhandle make for some of the prettiest nighttime stargazing around.

Chickasaw National Recreation Area

Located near Sulphur, this recreation area is known for its water activities, most notably fishing. Known as Oklahoma’s oldest national park area, this land features Platt National Park and Lake of the Arbuckles. There are six public campgrounds to choose from — three located next to Platt Historic District and three next to Lake of the Arbuckles. The latter is where you can find electric hookups. Camping near the Platt Historic District is mainly for tents.

Roman Nose State Park

This is one of the closest areas from the Oklahoma City metro to camp at. Roman Nose State Park features gypsum rock cliffs and three natural springs that lend itself to many outdoor activities. It even has an 18-hole golf course. There are many areas to set up camp for the night or a weekend. You can choose from sites with electric hookups or tent sites.

Okmulgee and Dripping Springs Lake and Recreation Area

Located east of Tulsa near the Arkansas border, this area features Okmulgee Lake and Dripping Springs Lake. Dripping Springs is known for its abundant bass fishing, while Okmulgee Lake is known for its swimming and water sports. Both lakes feature oak trees that line the shores. You can find three campgrounds at Okmulgee Lake and an additional two at Dripping Springs.


Find more outdoor activities and tips on exploring Oklahoma on our INTEGRIS Health For You blog.


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