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Safe camping

camping; safety; first aid; dangers; food safety; campfires;


Are you in the scouts or guides?
Do you go camping with friends and family?

camping is great fun

If you have been camping then you will know some of the things to watch out for and keep yourself safe. If you are a 'first time' camper, then read on for some ideas.

Where to camp

The first of these is where to camp.

There are many caravan and camp sites nowadays in all parts of Australia where you can camp safely, have hot showers, safe drinking water, toilets and sometimes even a shop where you can get the things you forgot to pack!

But if you are not camping in any of these places then you need to take care.

Places to avoid.

  • Dry creek beds, there is always the danger of a flash flood.
  • Where wild animals come to drink.
  • The beach, unless you know the tides really well.
  • Sloping ground.
    sloping ground
  • Ant hills and trails.
  • Near stagnant water - mosquitoes love places like this.
  • Under gum trees which might drop branches.

Be prepared

  • Have a family practice with tent or caravan and equipment before you head off.
  • Help make a family list of things you need on camp. It's a good idea to keep the same basic list each time you go away, and add what else you may need before each trip. What you need for a campsite can be very different to what you need out in the bush. (I keep my basic list to check that I have everything before going home again.)

Make your own personal list. You may have things like:

  1. Be preparedClothes (lots of layers are best)
  2. Hat  
  3. Sunscreen and sunglasses
  4. Spare shoes or boots
  5. Water bottle and food 
  6. Insect repellent
  7. Things to play with
  8. A whistle to help you get help if you are lost or hurt. Keep it round your neck, and then you can find it easily.
  9. A small backpack in which you can carry water, a jumper, plastic poncho, spare socks and something to eat on day trips
  10. A torch and extra battery, or a head light
  11. Sleeping bag
  12. Rain proof jacket
  13. Mobile phone (it may not work if you are out bush though)
  14. Map of the area.

Find out about where you are going first so that you know what to expect and what you will need. (No point in bathers if there is no water or it's winter time!)

Watch out for dangers

take care with the wildlifeAustralia has some very poisonous creatures around so take care to avoid them.

A good idea is to stand still or back off slowly if you find yourself face to face with a snake, feral animal or poisonous insects like scorpions or spiders. Our topics on Bites and stings, Snake bites and Spider bites will tell you what to do if you are unlucky enough to be bitten or stung.

We have many other topics in the Your Safety category. It may be a good idea to check these out before you head off into the great outdoors!

Food safety

I'm sure you know that some food, such as meat, needs to be kept cold and covered up. Food that is in tins or sealed plastic containers might be safest. Only handle food with clean hands.

Make sure you help out the adults in charge to keep food safe, and then none of you will get sick.

  • Wild animals such as birds, kangaroos and possums can be a nuisance when you are eating and can turn into robbers of your campsite when you are not there so DON'T FEED THEM! Also animals don't eat the same sort of food as we do and it can make them sick. Make sure everything is in boxes with lids and packed away.
    keep food packed safely away
  • Don't eat wild fruits or berries, they may be poisonous.
  • Don't drink water from streams or lakes; it may have germs in it which could make you sick. It's better to use your bottled water or fill up where the water is labelled ‘for drinking'. Boiling water will make it safe if you do not have other water.

Campfire safety

In Australia we are all aware of the dangers of bushfires. We have total fire ban times when it is too dangerous to have a fire. Make sure your family knows whether you can have a campfire.

If it is safe to have a fire then you need to take care that your fire doesn't get out of control.

  • Use a fireplace or barbecue pit in the camping area.
  • In the bush build your own fireplace in a cleared area by digging a pit or making a circle of stones.
  • Make your fire well away from tents, grasses and bushes, or anything else that could easily burn.
    never have a camp fire near your tent
  • Never start fires with fuel, eg. petrol.
  • Always watch the fire as sparks can leap out, especially if it's windy.
  • Never leave a fire still burning.
  • Have a bucket of water and a shovel ready to use.
  • Put out the fire with water and use the shovel to spread out the embers and check that the earth is cool under and around where the fire was before you move on.

Kicking a bit of dirt or sand on the fire to put it out isn't smart, because underneath it stays hot for more than eight hours. If you later touch the dirt covering the fire for just a second, it can still be extremely hot and it will burn skin!

There is a pamphlet 'Learn or burn - put campfires out with water...not sand or dirt'.

When someone is hurt

If your family likes camping then it's a good idea to know something about first aid. Our topic on  First aid - what is it? - info for kids may give you some idea of what to do.

Better still there are courses that adults and kids can do. Check out the website for St John for courses near you.

Getting help

Always stay with the group when hiking.

  • If you get left behind, walk off the track and get lost, or someone is hurt, use your mobile if it will work.
  • If there is no signal then use your whistle to let the others know where you are. You could work out a signal so that each person in your group knows what is wrong.
  • Look for shelter and stay in the same spot until they find you.
  • If you have been lost a long time or have been hurt then you can dial 000 on your mobile. This is an emergency number and should only be used in real emergencies.

Unfortunately there are some areas where there is no mobile phone coverage at all so STAY WITH YOUR GROUP and stay on the track!

What kids say

  • "I go camping with scouts. It's a lot of fun." Todd
  • "Don't go to places where no one has been before." Matt
  • "We found a lot of kangaroos near where we were camping. They tried to get into our tent."
  • "I got blisters on my heels when we were camping. It's a good idea not to wear new shoes."
  • "We have a caravan so we sleep in that. I feel safe."
  • "We travelled around with a camper trailer and saw lots of places."
  • "We like to walk around at night with a torch. We look for nocturnal animals like possums. You have to be very quiet."
    travelling with a camper trailer

Dr Kim says

Dr KimCamping is great fun and we have lots of different areas in this country where we can camp safely. You can help keep the family safe by doing your 'homework' and finding out all about where you are going, setting up a code for emergency whistles, learning to read a map and working together to have a fun, safe holiday.

 Quick hint - take a packet of baby wipes with you - great for 'washing' your hands - but don't forget to take your rubbish home with you - or put it into the next public rubbish bin.

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We've provided this information to help you to understand important things about staying healthy and happy. However, if you feel sick or unhappy, it is important to tell your mum or dad, a teacher or another grown-up.


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