A relaxing weekend camping or glamping trip can be ruined by illness or injury, especially if you’re not prepared for it. Take a look at these six suggestions for staying healthy and safe on your glamping trip. With these useful tips you'll enjoy yourself to the fullest and return home healthier than when you left! We’ll get straight to the point with these ones as they all have some nuance.
1) Stay hydrated and avoid overheating
We all know that when you’re out in the hot sun, it’s important to stay hydrated. But this is especially so when you’re away from home or from easy sources of water.
Pick up free water from wherever you can as you move along on your road trip, such as at service stations, town parks and even asking the local café owner for a water bottle refill when you’ve stopped for your morning coffee.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day, rather than waiting until you’re thirsty or until the evening, as that may just go straight through you and make you need the toilet throughout the night, which is a zippery nuisance when you’re camping.
Following on from that point, we know glamping is a wonderful way to have a few classy drinks while enjoying nature and friends, but alcohol and sugary drinks will slowly dehydrate you, so this is another reason also to have a few waters throughout the day. Dehydration while trying to sleep is also disruptive and tiring, especially when you’re camping.
Know when you or others have gone too far without hydrating. This can be as simple as noticing little things over and above just feeling hot, such as also being unnaturally irritable, headachey, cramped or confused. If you start to feel dizzy or lightheaded, this can end up very serious, so find a shady spot to rest in, remove loose clothing and drink small amounts of water. Once you’re okay again and cooled down sufficiently, you need to keep monitoring yourself and we’d respectfully suggest that you consider properly resting, ending the trip and potentially even seeing a doctor if you have any wierd symptoms.
If you’ve let this dehydration and heat go too far, however, you can develop heat stroke, which is life threatening – and this happens far more often than you may realise. According to the AMA (Australian Medical Association), over 500 people actually die of heat stress each year. This number is insane, and likely to get worse as crazy global warming heat wave numbers increase. When camping or glamping, we have far more exposure to the heat and far less ways to get away from it or get help. Heat stroke causes nausea, vomiting, headaches, rapid heartbeat and pale skin. You will also have stopped sweating as your body goes into shock. The treatment for this is extremely urgent professional medical care. If someone has gotten to this point, the ambulance should be called and the person needs to be placed in shade and under wet towels, especially in the groin and armpit areas. Be ready, you might need to do CPR, as this is a genuinely dangerous situation. This is also where some of the other points we make below will also help.
Also note that the above is NOT first aid advice - having someone or even better, everyone, trained in first aid is the real advice. Noticing symptoms is key for heat and dehydration issues before they become emergencies.
2) Don’t overeat or eat crazily exotic (to you) food
When you’re out camping or glamping, sometimes you'll be doing a lot more physical activity than you’re used to, say, going for bush hiking, for example. On the other side, you may be using the trip as a vent and having a swag of alcoholic drinks. Or you're sometimes doing both! These scenarios can also lead to overeating, which can make you feel sick or can make sleeping, which can be difficult when camping, an even harder exercise.
To avoid this, eat smaller meals more often throughout the day. If you get hungry between mealtimes, snack on healthy foods like nuts or dried fruit instead of junk food or sweet treats. Avoid salty snacks like chips or crackers that will increase your appetite and lead to overeating. Focus on fruits and vegetables with high water content, like melons, cucumbers, tomatoes and celery sticks. Munching on crunchy carrots is also a good idea because they take longer to chew than something soft like raisins.
Pack extra in case of emergencies: Carrying extra dry goods like rice or beans in case there's no way to cook them at camp will help prevent hunger pangs while still eating healthily.
Camping is probably not the time to try the most exotic, spiciest curry you’ve ever made or a different food that your stomach doesn’t like, such as a gluten beer if you’re gluten intolerant. An upset stomach is both dehydrating and extremely uncomfortable – plus when you’re camping, there’s not as much privacy if you're exploding from top and bottom. Glamping is great, but being sick sucks and there’s just not as much comfort (or escape from discomfort) as when you’re in your own bed at home..
We love foraging for little herbs and things to add to our meals while we’re out bush - but you need to be careful. Unless you’re literally 100% sure a herb or native fruit or vegetable is the delicacy you think it is, do not eat it. In Australia, we do have a lot of bush tucker, but there are a lot of false positives too. And getting it wrong with a tomato or a mushroom can literally kill you. There are some excellent books about this worth taking a look at, but make sure any book you’re reading is talking about Australian species though.
One final tip on foraging, it’s good practice to use gloves and stomp around a little bit. The gloves are for spiky plants or sharp sticks or spiders. The stomping is for snakes. Snakes will move away from you as you walk along making vibrations, but if you’re treading softly and quietly, they might not even know you’re there, and they can be aggressive if they think you’ve snuck up on them!
3) Bring medicines you need
Pack a first aid kit. If you’re camping or glamping near an urban area, it’s unlikely that you’ll need everything in your first aid kit. But if you’re further away from civilization, having everything at hand could save yours or someone else’s life.
Make a checklist of what everyone would normally need when they're at home. Then Pack a kit of that, plus bandages, gauze pads, tweezers, disinfectant wipes or alcohol swabs. General pill type medications such as ibuprofen, paracetamol and an anti-histamines are basically essential, as is a snake bite kit.
If you’re carrying injuries, take something for the management of that pain should it arise, such as a knee brace or something to relieve symptoms before they start. Also, something many people forget is that driving for long periods is really difficult with a bad back – if this is you, what do you need to manage that?
A very important point: Be aware of where you have phone reception and where you don't - you may need to get back to a good spot to make a 000 call - and an emergency is no time for guessing.
It's also important to know where the closest hospitals are and their respective numbers. Depending on your planned trip duration, make sure that any necessary prescriptions are filled before you leave home or, at a minimum, take the script with you in the event of an emergency.
If you’re content with the safety of where you’ll be camping, but are worried about the discomfort of sleeping in a tent, we’ve heard of people taking a small part of a sleeping pill, whether natural or prescribed. It doesn’t seem like a great idea in a dodgy place or a place you’re unfamiliar, but in, say a caravan park, this may be an option for those who really can’t get good restful sleep while camping.
4) Wear sun protection
If you’re an Aussie, you’ll very likely already know, the sun can ruin a trip - and the results can be very serious.
Sunscreen is essential for camping and outdoor activities. Camping and glamping provide ample opportunity for sun over-exposure, so always use broad spectrum SPF 50+ sunscreen with UVA/UVB protection. Apply at least 20 minutes before going outside, every two hours afterwards and after swimming or sweating excessively. Avoid products containing high levels of PABA, retinyl palmitate or oxybenzone; these chemicals may increase your risk of developing skin cancer later in life. There are also some eco-friendly options out there which won’t dissolve into the environment if you’re swimming.
We understand the discomfort of camping when you’re all oily from sunscreen, but half the time with vehicle camping, you can have a shower anyway, so that shouldn't really be a problem. If all else fails, a simple water rinse and rub of your body is enough to take the sweat or oily feeling away before you get in bed. There are also a number of non-oily sunscreen options.
But an even better option, when possible, is to cover with clothing all exposed areas including your ears, neck and face, instead of lathering yourself in sunscreen.
You probably should also take the time to set up some shelter, like a tarp or umbrellas – and try to get the campsites that provide shade for the second half of the day, when the sun makes things relentlessly hot.
Even when camping in good weather conditions in official campfire seasons and places, fire still poses a threat. We're pretty strict in Australia when it comes to fire seasons.
So obviously, you can't make a fire in a non-fire season or in a fire-restricted area, but you also should be aware of the conditions around you - if it's really dry and windy, even if it’s cold - there's a real risk that things could get out of control.
The fire rules normally just enshrine common sense, but common sense should be used all the time. This means, bring an alternative cooking method, or just go at a different time of year or to a different place. When possible, use an enclosed camping stove or gas grill instead of building a campfire.
Many places now require the use of a permanent fire pits or the use of your own steel one - so that should potentially be a camping investment. We have a number of portable fire pits that suit just this purpose and serve to also provide a cooking surface, saving you the need for carrying a frying pan as well.
You don’t need a bonfire and no matter what size you make it, somebody should always be watching your fire. If you’re going somewhere or going to bed, make sure it’s been put out properly. To extinguish your fire, properly smother it with water before leaving camp or going to bed. See the video below for a good example.
6) Stranger Danger
Being aware of your surroundings with respect to the other campers or day-use visitors is essential. If you feel threatened, leave the area and go to a public place where there are plenty of people around.
It's also important not to walk alone at night if you're camping in an unfamiliar area. There may be unsafe roads or people looking for trouble, so it's always better to have someone else accompany you. Having said that, we’ve been camping for many years and have never yet had any trouble with people at any campsite. But maybe it’s because we remember stranger danger common sense, so this could be circular logic!
So, how do you defend yourself while camping? Essentially it’s the same as anywhere else, except the potential downside if things go really badly could be worse due to the remoteness of medical care.
As always, you should try not to engage in any confrontation, as this will only escalate the situation. Most importantly, stay calm and use common sense when dealing with strangers or people you don't know well. Remember that engaging in your own threatening behaviour won't intimidate anyone who’s really looking for trouble, is drunk or drugged, or has self-defence training. But if you’re truly worried about physical confrontation we recommend self-defence classes – if only for the calmness and situational awareness training that many of these teach.
If you can, try to camp at advertised sites, that are owned privately and off the beaten track where you're basically certain to not have randoms visit your site. This is better than just stopping on the side of the road where every man and his dog are passing you, potentially seeing an opportunity to thieve something or ruin your night.
Notice the people around you before the night falls and be aware of your exits, the security of your expensive gear and your mobile phone coverage.
We've found sensor lights on the side of campervans have a good effect of moving people on – you can try this near a tent as well, assuming that you’re somewhere still. These lights may help counter concerns or feelings of not knowing what's going on around you at night.
Another thing you can do is set your tent up over crunchy leafy ground, so that any movement around your tent will be noisy and noticeable.
Lastly, remember not to let your imagination get the better of you. If you've made a smart camp selection and have had good situational awareness, then the only other footsteps around your campsite will likely be the thumping and pentapedal crawl-walking of kangaroos as they munch away on the grasses around the site. (Yes, that’s actually the correct term I believe – never thought I’d get the chance to write it though!)
Conclusion - Know your risks
So much of safety is common sense, although as you’ve seen, there are a couple of things you can do to make it all go smoother if something does happen. Basically take clothing and shelter that are comfortable and attractive, but useful.
When you’re camping or glamping, you’re out in the bush, and that remoteness of setting is always worth keeping in the back of your mind. Many things are much slower to fix or get help for, and there are many new and unfamiliar dangers all around that should at least get some consideration.
Nothing’s worth risking your safety or health for just because you're trying to take some great pics or explore the nature around you. Many people have somehow forgotten that nature isn’t always super-friendly, and that an easy escape from harsh weather or other threat isn’t actually always simple, especially in a camping scenario.
Google makes camp trip planning easier, but you should still always tell someone when you're going somewhere new and give them the site details including how long your trip will take and potentially how to get there. And bring back-ups of things, like batteries, sunscreen, or insect repellent. All common sense stuff we’ve heard a thousand times, but might now ignore or relegate to only be good advice for kids. This stuff still matters in 2022, as it always has.