Camping is a beloved outdoor activity that allows us to reconnect with nature. But did you know that two-thirds of all accidents happen during leisure time? Like any outdoor adventure, camping comes with its own set of potential risks and hazards.
Understanding the most common camping injuries and taking proactive measures to prevent them is crucial for ensuring a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience. In this guide, I will tell you the 10 most common camping injuries and share tips and tricks on how you can best protect yourself.
1. Risk of Accidents Caused by Fire
Fire provides warmth, light and protection, and often a delicious meal at the campsite. We love the smell of freshly grilled food and sociable evenings around the campfire. We know how to properly light a barbecue and extinguish a campfire. However: Hardly anyone knows all the dangers that fire emanates.
Did you know that there are campers who accidentally set fire to the campsite on the first day when parking their motorhome? My tips will help you avoid the worst fire accidents.
Never set fire to the campsite
Are you traveling with a vehicle or RV? Then do not park your motorhome or car in dry grass. After driving, the exhaust is so hot that it can ignite grass. Grass fires spread quickly, and tents, sleeping bags, and RVs burn just fine!
Keep your grill at least three feet away, with a campfire at least five feet away from dry plants, bushes and tents. There are also fire-resistant grill protection mats for your grill in the hardware store, which protect the surface from heat.
Always wear shoes
Sometimes glowing coals lurk in the grass next to the grill, next to a campfire, smoldering remains of wood.
I once saw a child step barefoot on a lump of glowing coal. There was an audible hiss and a small cloud of steam – unfortunately, the vacation was over for his family. Therefore, always wear shoes near a fire! This is especially true for children.
Protect yourself from toxic carbon monoxide
Every burn, even when burning a candle, produces poisonous carbon monoxide. Every year 4.6 per million people in the world die of carbon monoxide poisoning and injury cases more than that.
Symptoms of poisoning are tiredness, dizziness and headaches. It becomes dangerous when large amounts of fuel burn in closed rooms. To protect yourself and your family, do not grill with the charcoal grill in the awning, never heat your motorhome with the gas stove, and do not pitch your tent right next to a generator!
A fireball over the grill is more dangerous than you think
You know someone who prefers to light the campfire and the grill with plenty of alcohol because such beautiful and large flames are burning. However, the brightly blazing flames are not the greatest danger: Especially in warm weather, the alcohol evaporates quickly and forms an explosive gas.
When igniting, an uncontrollable fireball is created! If someone has inhaled the gas, it can even tear their lungs. This is an extremely painful, life-threatening injury.
- Tip: Boring, bar-shaped grill lighters protect your life and your health.
2. Secure Yourself Well from Uncertain Accidents
Did you know that 30 accidents happen every second in the World? Of around 1 billion annual accidents, around two-thirds happen in your free time!
Can you imagine a situation where you are at high risk of an accident?
- Walking: Are you a passionate walker when camping and love to discover untouched nature? Unfortunately, you can break your lower leg on a slippery path and have to be rescued by helicopter. That costs you 2,000 dollars.
- Cycling: On a warm Sunday morning you are out and about on your new mountain bike on a picturesque mountain lake. Suddenly a slippery root causes you to stumble! You land unhappy on your face: The two-week hospital stay costs 2500 dollars.
- Swimming: Your campsite is right by the sea. The anticipation is great. You jump in roaring waters to cool off after a hot day. Unfortunately, this time you forget your protective water shoes. Contorted with pain, you hobble back to land – there is a long, sharp shard of glass in your foot. After the local treatment, the doctor will present you with a bill of 300 dollars.
Did you know that your statutory accident insurance does NOT cover recreational accidents? That means: You had to pay all the sample bills above yourself!
Here are a few general tips to protect yourself against recreational accidents:
- If you are camping alone, always let someone know where you are going.
- You are safest in a group. If something happens, someone can always help you or send an emergency call.
- Take a map of the area with you. In remote areas, you rarely have internet or cell phone reception.
3. Prevent Accidents with Motorhomes and RVs
Are you an RV fan? Then you can decisively influence the rolling of your RV:
- Find out about a suitable anti-snaking coupling.
- Pay attention to the utilization of the vertical load. This increases the driving stability enormously.
- It is best to do without rear bike racks completely. The heavyweight is too far from the center of gravity of the towing vehicle.
The correct loading of your RV is also extremely important. This reduces the risk of dangerous rolling. Observe the following basic rules when loading the RV:
- You should definitely stow heavy luggage near the axles.
- Neither the tractor nor the trailer may be overloaded.
- Bicycles or surfboards belong on the car roof, but never on the RV roof.
Get up while driving? No! During the journey, there is not only a risk of traffic accidents with the vehicle, but accidents in the camper are also not uncommon.
If you are one of the motorhome enthusiasts, stay permanently buckled up while driving! Under no circumstances risk injuries by leaving your seat, as a passenger and tumbling through half the motorhome. This is particularly dangerous when there is a threat of traffic jams or winding roads.
Just going back to get the refreshing Coke is just too risky in such situations. You can have a hard fall when you brake hard or hit your head dangerously on cupboards and corners.
4. Protect Yourself from the Danger of Insects
Depending on where your campsite is, insects can be a real nuisance! Especially if you want to go wild camping with your motorhome or tent, you should prepare yourself for insect bites and stings. In North America and Central Europe, the danger is mainly limited to mosquitoes, grass mites, ticks, bees, wasps, horseflies, oak processionary moths and fleas.
Aching stings or annoying itching are the results of bees, wasps or horseflies. As long as you don’t have an allergic reaction or destroy a nest, you are hardly in danger. On the other hand, if you are allergic, you need help quickly – the consequences of a bee or wasp sting can be life-threatening. You may also have to cancel your vacation.
Ticks mainly transmit two diseases, the viral disease early summer meningoencephalitis and bacterial borreliosis. Mosquitoes carry a variety of diseases. The well-known tropical diseases malaria, yellow fever, dengue fever and the Zika virus are just a few of them.
The oak processionary moths are also common. Their fine hairs break off in the larval stage and are carried away by the wind. If you touch them in the undergrowth, you can suffer allergic reactions: skin inflammation, hives, shortness of breath or fever are possible.
The autumn mite (grass mite) can be found mainly from July to October, in meadows or in gardens. Gooseberry disease or harvest scabies can be the result of larval infestation. You should never ignore the first signs such as itching, hives or redness.
Follow these tips to protect yourself from insects when camping:
- A mesh inner tent effectively keeps unwanted visitors out.
- Install fly screens, door curtains and insect screens in the RV or motorhome.
- Do not lie down on the meadow without a mat. Don’t walk through tall grass in shorts.
- As an allergy sufferer, you should never start your trip without your emergency kit.
- Certain plants (rosemary, catnip, lavender, lemongrass) are effective at keeping mosquitos away.
- Tick and mosquito sprays can protect against bloodsuckers for a few hours. However, the remedies often have side effects – skin irritation, for example.
5. Avoid wild Animals in Exotic Countries
Is your next camping trip going to an exotic country? Inform yourself extensively about the wild animals that live there. It depends a lot on what type of camping you are in. Do you belong to the wild campers? Then you are more likely to come into contact with wild animals.
If you travel to parking spaces and camping sites, the risk is rather low. Apart from the fact that it is often forbidden, you should be careful about wild camping in nature parks far away from campsites. Especially when bears, snakes or wolves live there. This can be life-threatening, especially if you are alone and no one can get help.
As a wild camper, watch out for tracks, fur or excrement, and avoid such places, especially with the tent. Aside from wildlife, it is always safer to be in a group in remote natural areas. You never know what challenges are waiting for you.
As a wild camper, you face another danger: The danger of hunting Hunting accidents are rare, but they are a real uncertain threat. Hunters are of course responsible and don’t just shoot blindly at it. In the past, however, there have often been serious injuries or deaths from firearms in hunting areas. Here too, you should play it safe and always avoid such areas, especially during the regional hunting season. Here you can find barrier tapes and warning signs.
If you are traveling in foreign countries, find out how you can identify hunting areas beforehand. Plan your route in such countries very carefully and take into account the wild game, season and hunting areas.
6. Recognize Lurking Dangers in Waters
We all know the horror stories of careless swimmers. The media mainly report on accidents in lakes or seas in summer. Sometimes we catch ourselves downplaying such news: “A beginner was careless again.” It is not only inexperienced or non-swimmers who have a fatal accident, for example by drowning.
Again and again, we hear of cases in which experienced swimmers do not correctly assess the coldness of the water or do not take signs of tiredness seriously. Then there are the borderline cases in which people bathe in rivers that are too strong. Vortices and suction effects are not the only causes of accidents; the threat from ships is also real. Just ask yourself: How carefully do you enter a strange body of water, be it a lake or the Mediterranean Sea?
Serious accidents are also threatened in lakes, seas and oceans. For example through stones, glass or rubbish, shells or sea urchins. Cuts or abrasions can lead to infection and should not be brushed aside as harmless.
Are you camping in distant lands? Then you should know the local flora and fauna on and in the water well enough. Jellyfish, rays, sponges, corals, and other marine life can endanger your vacation or even your life.
The most important tip for curious divers, snorkelers and children is: don’t touch anything you don’t know. If a contact does happen, you have to stay calm and don’t panic. Leave the water quickly, get help and calm down the affected area of the body – this will prevent any poison from acting as quickly.
7. Never Underestimate the Weather When Camping
Lightning, storm, burning sun, rain and hail are common when camping, and Mother Nature sometimes hits you with full force. In summer, you have to prepare for very hot hours in the sun. In your RV or tent, the temperature can quickly reach more than 80 degrees.
- Drink enough fluids: You often don’t realize how much sweat you are losing on hot days. With physical exertion in the sun, you need up to 10 liters of fluid a day! Alcohol is risky. Cool water, fruit spritzers, and teas are good for you.
- Recognize the symptoms of heat stroke: Heat stroke occurs when the body temperature rises too much in the sun. Typical symptoms are headache, dizziness, nausea, fever and red, hot skin. Heat stroke is life-threatening! Call a doctor right away and cool the affected person in a shady spot with wet towels. The ideal place for this is an air-conditioned motorhome.
- Follow your skin type: Do you have red hair and light skin with lots of freckles? Bad luck: You get sunburned after just 15 minutes. Fortunately, sunburn is easy to prevent. Wear light, airy clothing, and a hat, and use sunscreen with a factor of 30 or more. Renew your sunscreen every few hours.
- Make sure you’re well prepared: Once the storm has started, you will be hampered by strong gusts of wind and poor visibility.
- Do not let hard objects hit you in the head: Avoid trees with dead wood in the crown. Every year in the World people die from falling branches. You can also catch bricks falling from the roofs of buildings at campsites!
- Get better tent pegs: Most camping tents and awnings come with pegs that are only suitable for mild weather. If the storm knocks down your tent, the damage is significant. A lightning bolt is up to 30,000 degrees Celsius – that’s 5 times hotter than the surface of the sun. A lightning strike threatens terrible burns and serious damage to the camper or tent. Learn more: Buying Guide Tent Pegs: Types, Material, Use.
- Get to a safe place as soon as possible: Most of the time, lightning strikes at elevated points. So avoid hills and solitary trees. You are safe from lightning in buildings with a lightning protection system and in vehicles. The metallic outer shell forms a Faraday cage.
- Recognize the danger in good time: The warning weather app will let you know when a storm is approaching your campsite. Count the seconds between lightning and thunder. If the distance is less than 10 seconds, the risk of a lightning strike in your area is very high! The danger is over only 30 minutes after the last thunder.
8. Danger of Explosion
Are explosion accidents rare on campsites or while driving? Yes. Yet they do happen! Tinkering with the gas system or long-overdue gas tests is a possible scenario. Fortunately, a current TÜV sticker is mandatory on many campsites and parking spaces. Because these are only available for motorhomes with a valid gas test.
As an RV owner, you can get an operating license without a valid general inspection. But as soon as you want to put a liquefied gas system into operation in the RV. You also need a certificate of the passed gas test. In a nutshell, as soon as a gas system is to be operated, you need a gas test. These are carried out by specialists, such as mobile gas detectors, TÜV or Dekra. In this way, you increase the safety when handling gas even further.
Interventions and tinkering with the gas system are absolutely taboo unless you are a certified gas tester yourself. You can also have a GasStop emergency fitting installed, which works similarly to the AquaStop principle in washing machines: This emergency valve cuts off the gas supply the moment gas leaks occur.
By the way, a modern gas cylinder doesn’t have to scare you. Today’s gas bottles have a pressure relief valve that prevents the bottle itself from bursting. It becomes dangerous when escaping gas can spread unnoticed and is not ignited immediately. Then one spark is enough for the catastrophe.
Filled gas cylinders may therefore only be placed on the floor in well-ventilated rooms, such as in the garden shed. The extraction of gas should therefore never be hindered. Always make sure that the valve is turned off, and the cap is put on.
9. Know the Dangerous Places on Your Campsite
Most camping accidents are caused by falls and dangerous objects lurking on the ground. It’s most dangerous at night. When moving around on the pitch, it is important to keep these important basic rules in mind:
- To avoid serious falls, memorize the location of common tripping hazards such as tent ropes, power cables, sewer ditches and fire pits during the day.
- Always take a flashlight with you in the dark! A flashlight is one of the 10 outdoor essentials that you should always have with you when camping.
- Paths that were still free on the way there may no longer be on the way back. Camping chairs, tables and luggage often change their position.
- Old tent pegs lurk in the grass. Sheet steel pegs can cause deep cuts on the feet! Sturdy shoes help.
- Watch out for slippery paths and stairs after a rain shower.
- RVs maneuvering out of a parking lot have poor rearward visibility. Better keep your distance!
- Have you ever broken into a mouse hole with the leg of a chair? You can guess what happens next: you tip over your chair. Most of the time this leads to a small bruise and cheers fellow campers. If you’re outlining the table on which your pot of water is boiling, that’s less fun.
10. Safety Tips for the Camping Kitchen
Of course, you know that you can only touch hot pots with a cloth or glove and that you can cut off your fingertip with a knife. I don’t have to explain that further. The challenge of the camping kitchen is that you work with unusual devices in an unfamiliar environment. This is how you avoid bad accidents.
- Remove the cover from your gas stove or grill before lighting it. Otherwise, gas can accumulate under the cover and explode due to the ignition spark!
- Focus on your work. When chopping vegetables with a knife, don’t be distracted by sudden loud noises, screams and children running.
- Never store your gas cylinders or gas cartridges in the sun, in a non-air-conditioned motorhome or in a tent on warm, sunny days.
- Alcohol affects your ability to make good decisions. A cooking contest in a moving RV is a stupid idea. Trying to see what really happens when you pour water into a pan of burning fat is a silly idea, too.
- Camping tables and mobile gas stoves can be quite shaky. Sure, you are careful and don’t knock over your pot of boiling water.
- Please ask yourself: What happens when there is a strong gust of wind? What happens if a child stumbles against the table or a curious dog walks by?
Tools and Equipment for Camping Injuries
Here’s a list of essential tools and equipment for addressing common camping injuries:
- First aid kit
- Sterile dressings and bandages
- Wound cleaning and disinfecting
- Tweezers (for splinters and ticks)
- Small scissors or multitool with scissors
- Pain relief and anti-inflammatories
- Allergy medications
- Burn ointment or gel
- Non-stick burn dressings
- Aloe vera gel (for minor burns)
- Antihistamine cream or spray
- Personal medications
- Elastic bandages or tape for securing splints
- Emergency blanket
- Flashlight or headlamp
- Compass or GPS device
- Pen and notebook (recording information)
Camping is not always safe. You need to handle fire, gas and water on unfamiliar terrain. Find out about the local characteristics and remember the following basic rule: Whenever you see someone in need, help him or her. After all, it could happen to you! Protect yourself by taking my tips to heart. I think: Better safe than sorry!
Thank you for your interest in this guide.
Do you have any questions or a tip for me on how I can further improve the contribution? What accidents have you already experienced while camping? Just write a short message and I will reply as soon as possible.
Wish a nice camping trip!