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Camping Safety
We Utahns love to head for the hills or the desert for the weekend or longer. But according to the newspapers we don't always pay attention to safety issues which results in deaths, rescues, or people simply having a very bad time. Here are some tips to help make the trip a happily memorable one.

Before You Go

  • Be sure to Pack the essentials so you will have what you need to be comfortable and safe.
  • Let someone know your plans. Write out an itinerary with addresses and phone numbers (including your cell phone) if possible and indicate when you plan to return home. List a vehicle description and license plate. Even include the phone number for the local forest service, sheriff or State Police where you will be going so friinds and family will know where to start if you don't come back when expected.
  • Research the area you plan to visit and bring along the proper maps or guide books.
  • Know what to expect in regards to the weather in the area and pack accordingly.

During Your Stay

  • It's safest to hike or camp with at least one companion. If you are alone and you have an emergency, you could be in real trouble.
  • Check yourself at the end of each day for ticks that carry diseases such as lyme disease, rocky mtn spotted fever and others.
  • Drink often to keep hydrated. At the worst dehydration can cause death in even young, healthy individuals, at the least it can cause fatigue and severe headache.
  • Do your best to keep the critters away. Keep the campsite free of food odors by cooking away from your tent, and do not bring food into tents. Bears have amazing scent capability, and will find that beef jerky you forgot to take out of your pocket. Even if you are not in bear country, other critters such as skunks, rodents and snakes might wander over to see what smells so good. It would not be fun to wake up with a skunk on your chest gnawing at that granola bar in your breast pocket.
  • On hot days, limit your mid-day activity as much as possible. Hike in the cooler mornings and evenings. Then during hot part of the day, spend time in the shade resting, reading or playing cards.
  • Be careful of getting lost. Even on popular trails you can accidentally take a spur and find yourself not where you intended to be. Pay attention to landmarks. At a trail junction, look at the spot from all directions (when you are coming back it will not look the same as it does from the direction you are viewing it while going out). If you do get hopelessly lost, and you are with a group, stay where you are and wait for someone to realize you are gone and come looking. The more you wander around, the further you can get yourself away from a known place and direction. Wear a whistle (whistles can be heard farther away than the human voice) and know the universal help signal of three blows or loud sounds.
  • Keep your vehicle on designated roads. This is especially important for RVs. Not all roads within the area are made for an RV ahd you could scrape up the sides or top, or even get wedged in and need help getting out.
  • Don't approach wild animals and keep a close eye out for snakes and, spiders and biting insects.
  • Stay away from plants such as poison ivy and poison oak.
  • Wear sunscreen and clothing that provides sun protection (such as a hat with a bill and a long sleeved shirt.)
  • Pay attention to weather conditions. Weather can change unexpectedly and quickly. If you are hiking in a canyon and the weather changes, get to high ground immediately.
  • If you are car camping and have a cooler, replenish the ice often to keep the food fresh.
  • Plan your meals so you eat perishables at the start of the trip.
  • Keep vigilant about your campfire; don't let it get out of control, make sure it is completely out before going to bed or leaving the site.

Just Before Leaving the Site

  • Dispose of all trash properly in the proper recycling bins if available.
  • Return the campsite to its original condition for the next camper if you disturb it in any way.
  • Don't forget your good recycling habits on vacation. They are just as important camping as they are at home.

Backroads of Utah
by Theresa A. Husarik

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