Camping safety: Wildlife, floods and dead trees |

Camping safety: Wildlife, floods and dead trees

Elisa Shackelton
Tents line the cottonwood trees of the Findell Matthews Ranch in 2010 during the Lowell Whiteman Primary School’s annual summer camping trip.
Scott Franz

Tents line the cottonwood trees of the Findell Matthews Ranch in 2010 during the Lowell Whiteman Primary School’s annual summer camping trip.
Scott Franz

— Whether you are a novice or expert tent camper, always select your campsite thoughtfully, with safety as a top priority. Keep the following safety tips in mind:

Don’t place your tent under a tree

Sometimes this is impossible, but with all the beetle-kill and drought-stressed trees in Colorado, there is more deadwood standing around than we are used to encountering.

As trees are being cut and/or falling, those that remain may have been using the cut or fallen trees for support which no longer exists, and a gust of wind or thunderstorm may be all it takes to bring a full-sized tree down on your tent.

If you have to place your tent under a tree, check and make sure that trees within the immediate area are not leaning, dead or have loose limbs.

Weather and rain

Don’t place your tent in a low-lying or potential flash flood area. If you absolutely have to, then dig a trench around the sides of your campsite – 3 to 4 inches deep- to detour the water around your shelter.

Beware of wildlife bedding sites, paths

Many animals, especially hoofed animals such as elk and deer will move at night. If you are in the middle of a heavily traveled path or their favorite early morning sleeping spot, you may be trampled in your tent or shelter in the middle of the night.

If you are in bear country …

Clean all cooking utensils thoroughly, and a good distance away from your tent site. Hang food and perishables as well as pots and pans you cook in at least 200 yards away from your campsite.

Myth: Bears are attracted to menstruating women. According to studies and statistical analysis of bear attack data, there is no evidence to support this theory. Bears are more strongly attracted to odors from food, food scraps and garbage. The campers that draw in the most bears are those who fry bacon, meats and fish, dumping the scraps and grease in the water, fire pit, or latrine or washing their dishes too close in proximity to their campsite.

Some great camping tips from the book “Babes in the Woods” (2003):

Air out your hiking boots by pounding two upright sticks into the ground, just outside your tent. Hang your boots upside down on the sticks to dry out when you aren’t wearing them. If it looks like it might rain, place a plastic bag over each boot to keep them dry. Be sure to tuck the shoelaces inside the boots, too.

When you’re tucked into your sleeping bag, try not to burrow in so that you are breathing into it; this increases the moisture content inside the bag, limiting its ability to keep you warm and dry.

Did you know?

Some people sleep cold and may need a 0-degree bag in 20-degree weather (and would be wise to keep a pair of down booties with their sleeping bag).

Others sleep warm and may only need a 32-degree bag in 20-degree weather. Experience helps determine how much of a bag you will need. Some people are comfortable going with a bag that goes to their expected temperature range knowing that during a cold snap, they may spend an uncomfortably cold night on occasion. Others aren’t willing to take that chance and hike with bags rated much colder than their normal hikes on the off-chance they encounter some temperatures colder than expected.

And finally, are you warmer if you sleep naked? According to experts at Outside magazine, the idea that sleeping naked will make you warmer is ridiculous. To suppose otherwise is to suppose that you’ll also be warmer if you wear a down jacket without wearing anything underneath.

So wear as much as you think is reasonable, but not so much that you sweat. This could mean long underwear, plus a fleece jacket or down jacket, plus hat, gloves, socks and so on. In fact, you can save weight by wearing clothes to bed, because you can carry a lighter sleeping bag than you might otherwise take, then supplement its insulation with clothing you’re packing along anyway.

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