Camping Safety Tips: Part 2 – Camp Fires, Wild Animals, Dangerous Activities

Camping provides a great temporary escape from the stresses and dangers of suburban and urban life. However, the camping experience is fraught with its own set of dangers. The wise camper must take these into account and prepare in advance how to make safety in the woods a high priority and counter the inherent risks.

In part 1 of this two-part series, we looked at safety related to food preparation, preparing clean drinking water, and how to minimize the risk of illness from ticks.

In this second and final part, we will now turn our safety focus to properly handling camp fires, avoidance of wild animals, and giving caution due consideration while walking through any wooded areas.


For many people, the thought of sitting, talking, or singing around a camp fire lies at the heart of the outdoor experience. No fire, no fun. However, a fire handled improperly can lead to inadvertent disaster. So safety is of the essence.

When starting, enjoying, and later putting out a fire, use common sense.

For example, if you are camping when the weather has been dry for a lengthy period of time, it would be safer to skip the camp fire altogether. This issue itself may actually influence your decision on selecting a time to camp.

Additionally, only build fires in camp ground provided areas, such as fire rings. Otherwise, clear out a small area in your camping site, and place rocks around a circle to set the parameters for your fire. Within the circle, dig a hole several inches deep for the wood you will burn.

If you have not brought your own wood on the trip, gather wood that is already dead and lying nearby. Make sure that any leaves close to the fire pit are raked several yards away and that there are no paper products lying on the ground. Throw those in the trash.

Once the fire is started, let it build slowly with smaller twigs and dead branches, only placing larger pieces of wood on the pile as the flame grows. Make sure small children remain several feet away from the flame, as the heat can become intense while it grows. And they certainly should not be close enough that they could slip or trip and fall in.

And finally, never leave a camp fire unattended. When leaving the area (say for a walk) or going to sleep for the night, extinguish the flames. Use a lot of water to douse the flames, saving your clean drinking water when at all possible. Stir the ashes and use more water until the remains are cool enough to the fingers.


Most people do not encounter wild animals when camping in the woods, certainly not up close and personal. But that does not mean they are not living in the habitat and posing a quiet danger to humans. It can definitely be entertaining to spot them from a distance, not to mention serving up great snapshot opportunities with a raccoon, deer, or even a bear. However, in such a situation, distance between you and the animal is one of your best friends.

Never (ever) attempt to feed an animal you encounter. It is not your pet dog or cat and may attack! That is an instinctive response. Even if you make no gestures that seem threatening, the animal may interpret it that way.

If a wild animal approaches you, back away slowly and do nothing to invite its approach.

Minimize your risk of an animal encounters in the first place by wrapping all food securely and putting it away when you have finished eating. Then throw away food-related trash in camp provided trash receptacles.


There is nothing quite like a long, quiet walk in the woods. Remain on paths that have been designed for walks. Use common sense.

* Refrain from hanging on tree branches. Old, dying, or thin wood can easily snap off.

* Avoid walking close to or leaning over steep cliffs, whether they are primarily rock or brush. It would be easy to slip or lose your balance. A subsequent fall could be disastrous.

* Do not attempt to conquer gravity in the opposite direction either. That is, refrain from climbing steeply angled rocks. You are on a camping trip, not a mountain climbing expedition.

* In the winter, never walk on frozen water. Regardless of surface appearance, there is no method to assess how thin and weight-bearing capable the ice may be.

As you can see, the camping experience is not a danger-free zone. The great outdoors certainly provides compelling motivation to seek quiet time with nature. But this activity cannot be done with reckless abandon. In fact, making safety in the woods a habit actually assists with maximizing the many positives of the camping experience.