What you should know about health and going camping?

Before you go camping, there are a few things you should know about health matters. This includes how camping is good for your health, common camping injuries, the benefits of camping for kids and adults, the dangers posed by bugs, how to care for your skin, how to stay fit when camping, and how to prevent serious ailments while camping. 

Is camping good for your health?

Several studies have, in recent years, demonstrated that camping is great for your health. 

One study published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism revealed that campers’ exposure to vitamin D from sunlight and physical activity significantly reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies published in the National Library of Medicine have also revealed that camping can improve sleep, reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, lower blood pressure, and provide several mental health benefits to boot.

What are common health concerns when camping?

The most commonly sustained camping injuries are minor things like scrapes, sprains, and bug bites. Other fairly common injuries or health issues include sunburn, dehydration, sunstroke, heat stroke, minor cuts, allergic reactions, and rashes or blisters from poisonous plants.  

How to prepare for potential health concerns when camping?

Start by packing all personal medication, allergy medication, and a well-stocked first aid kit. Also make sure you have plenty of sunscreen, bug spray, and water, and some way of filtering or purifying water in case your supplies run out.

What illnesses are common when camping outside?

The most common illnesses when camping outside are heatstroke, hypothermia, waterborne illnesses like cryptosporidium and giardia, and the cold or flu (often as a result of dehydration, a lack of nutrients, and the difficulty entailed in maintaining good hygiene).

How to prevent illnesses while camping?

Below, we’ve listed a few precautions you can take to prevent illness while camping.

  • Ensure you’re getting enough nutrients by eating a varied diet and/or taking supplements
  • Hydrate regularly
  • Dress appropriately (using the layering system)
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Bring biodegradable soap for personal hygiene and to wash dishes and cooking utensils
  • Filter or purify your water
  • Change out of wet clothes immediately

What health risks are associated with various camping environments?

Below, we’ve summarized the main health risks associated with camping in different environments.

  • Forest. Tick bites, rashes or allergic reactions to poisonous plants, bug bites.
  • Desert. Sun-related ailments and injuries, dehydration, rashes or allergic reactions to poisonous plants, prickly cacti wounds, snake bites.
  • Beach. Sun-related ailments and injuries, dehydration.
  • Alpine. Hypothermia and altitude sickness.
  • Frontcountry. Sickness related to poor personal hygiene, unsanitary food, and unhygienic food preparation, bug bites. 
  • Backcountry. All of the above!

How to make sure drinking water is clean when camping?

There are five ways to ensure your drinking water is clean and safe to drink when camping: by carrying bottled water, using a filter, using purification tablets, using a UV sterilizer, or by boiling. 

How to manage allergies while camping?

We’ve put together a few tips to help you manage your allergies while camping below.

  • Pack and store your allergy medication carefully
  • Deep-clean your tent before leaving
  • Research the area you’ll be camping in and avoid areas with a high concentration of tree or grass pollens (and check the pollen forecasts)
  • Avoid camping in spring if you have tree pollen allergies
  • Avoid camping in summer if you have grass pollen allergies
  • Avoid camping in fall if you’re allergic to ragweed pollen 
  • Bring plenty of your own food if you have food allergies and pack it separately from your camping companions’ food
  • Buy a hypoallergenic tent
  • Don’t make a campfire if you suffer from asthma

How to stay healthy when camping?

Below, we’ve listed our top tips for staying healthy when camping.

  • Hydrate
  • Eat healthily
  • Take vitamins
  • Wear sunscreen and UV-protective clothing
  • Practice good hand hygiene
  • Pack spare clothes
  • Bring extra water to wash undergarments
  • Remember to bring personal and allergy medication
  • Wear high-wicking clothing
  • Let your feet air out for half an hour or so at the end of each day
  • Don’t forget your toothbrush, toothpaste, and floss!

How to ensure overall well-being when you camp out?

Below, we’ve listed a few tips to help improve your general well-being while camping.

  • Bring a few creature comforts
  • Disconnect your devices
  • Explore nature
  • Take vitamins
  • Learn a new skill
  • Be aware of the weather
  • Take a bath in a river, stream, or lake

What are common camping injuries that need first aid?

The most common camping injuries requiring first aid are blisters, bug bites, sprains, burns, rashes, cuts, scrapes, and heat-related illnesses.

What essential first aid kit items should you pack for camping?

The most essential items to bring in a camping first aid kit include antibacterial ointment, antihistamine, antiseptic wipes or cream, assorted band-aids, butterfly bandages, gauze pads, insect sting treatment, medical tape, moleskin (or other blister treatment, non-stick pads, pain-relief medication, safety pins, scissors, and tweezers.

What first aid skills to learn for camping?

The most important first aid skills to learn for camping are listed below.

  • How to treat scrapes and cuts
  • How to dress wounds
  • How to treat burns
  • How to treat hotspots and blisters
  • How to treat hypothermia
  • How to treat sunstroke 
  • How to treat hyperthermia
  • How to treat dehydration
  • How to make a splint
  • CPR

Are there first aid courses to take before camping?

Many organizations, such as NOLS, REI, and Outbound offer courses on which you can learn wilderness first aid both in-person and online.

What are benefits of camping?

There are several benefits of camping and spending time outdoors for both physical and mental health, ranging from reduced inflammation and lower risk of cardiovascular disease to mood elevation, improved short-term memory, and reduced anxiety.

How does camping benefit adults?

In addition to the myriad physical and mental health benefits camping can confer on adults, it’s also a great way to socialize, build relationships, get away from your screens, learn and develop new skills, connect with nature, and spend quality time with the family.

How does camping benefit kids?

Camping benefits kids in many ways, most notably by getting them away from screens, allowing them to learn new skills, and helping them get in some healthy exercise, build self-esteem, and immerse themselves in nature.

How does camping contribute to being mindful?

Camping contributes to mindfulness by providing a change of scenery and a break from daily norms, allowing us to disconnect from inhibitors of mindfulness (all those screens!) and stressors, providing a sense of perspective, and providing the peaceful environment needed to focus on the now.

How to practice mindfulness when camping?

There are various ways to practice mindfulness when camping, but the most effective is to note the coming and going of aural, visual, olfactory, and tactile sensations. Listen to the sounds of trees swaying in the wind or a running river. See the panoply of colors and shapes in your surroundings. Smell the various scents – earth, wet foliage, plant life, mud. Notice anything arising in your feelings and thoughts as you do so and pay attention to your breath.

When doing your campsite chores, don’t multitask. Try to do one thing at a time and engage fully in each action as you do it.

What bugs may cause illness when camping?

Below, we’ve made a short list of bugs that may cause illness when camping.

  • Mosquitoes
  • Ticks 
  • Horseflies
  • Flies
  • Fleas
  • Chiggers

How to keep mosquitoes away when camping?

Below, we’ve listed some tips to help you keep mosquitoes away when camping.

  • Steer clear of standing water when setting up camp
  • Buy an effective repellent such as DEET-based products
  • Invest in a mosquito net whatever your sleeping set up — tent, hammock, bivvy, or mountain hut
  • Wear light-colored clothing made of tightly woven fabric
  • Don’t bother with citronella candles, garlic, or expensive electrical zappers — they are, to use a technical term, crap

What devices keep mosquitos away when camping?

Bug zappers and ultrasonic buzzers are two devices campers have used to try and keep mosquitoes at bay. Sadly, both types of device are minimally effective, so we highly recommend sticking to more old-school (and cheaper) prevention methods like bug nets, DEET, and clothing with tightly-woven fabric.

How to avoid mosquito bites when camping?

Below, we’ve listed a few ways in which you can prevent mosquito bites when camping.

  • Steer clear of standing water when setting up camp
  • Go camping outside of bug season!
  • Go camping on windy days
  • Make a campfire
  • Wear a headnet
  • Reinforce window and door screens and spray clothing with permethrin
  • Wear an effective repellent such as DEET-based products
  • Invest in a mosquito net for your sleeping setup
  • Wear light-colored clothing made of tightly woven fabric

What to do if bitten by a mosquito when camping?

According to the CDC, the best way to treat a mosquito bite is to wash the area, apply an ice pack to reduce swelling, dab a little baking soda and water on the area to reduce itching, and then apply a topical antihistamine.

Can you avoid ticks when camping?

There’s no failsafe way to avoid ticks when camping, but there are a handful of measures you can take to reduce the risk of a bite. According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), these include wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants, tucking your pants into your socks, avoiding grassy, brushy, and wooded areas, treating your gear and clothing with permethrin, using insect repellent, and showering immediately after outdoor activities.

What to do if bitten by a tick when camping?

Below, we’ve listed the steps to take to remove a tick when camping.

  • Remove the tick immediately with tweezers or a tick-remover tool 
  • Position the tweezers as close to your skin as possible
  • Pull outwards to remove the tick
  • Clean the bite area with rubbing alcohol or soap and water
  • Ensure the tick is dead by crushing it with the tweezers (not your fingers) or soaking it in alcohol
  • If the mouth/head of the tick is not removed, visit your healthcare provider as soon as possible

Does camping skincare differ from regular skincare?

If you’re camping in the frontcountry and have access to showers, then there’s no need to change your skincare regime. In the backcountry, however, you probably won’t want to carry the extra weight. This being so, we recommend simply bringing enough face wipes to last the duration of your trip and a use-anytime (daytime and nighttime) moisturizer. Also be sure to bring chapstick with UV protection for your lips and facial sunscreen.

How to take care of your skin while camping?

Below, we’ve listed some tips to help you take care of your skin while camping.

  • Wash your face every morning and every evening before bed
  • Reapply sunscreen every 2–3 hours
  • Use an SPF-rated lip balm
  • Bring extra moisturizer if you’ll be camping in an arid location or windy conditions
  • Avoid anything with a fragrance – this may attract wildlife
  • Avoid exfoliators – these make your skin more vulnerable to sunburn
  • Use a leave-on nighttime repair mask to help your skin recover from the damage done by the sun, wind, and water during the day

How does hot or cold weather affect camping skincare?

Weather conditions affect what products you should use when camping, and also how much of them and when. In hot weather, you’re more likely to be dealing with oiliness, while in cold weather dry skin is the main concern.

In cold conditions, it’s best to use a gentler cleanser – and use it less frequently – and a heavy-duty moisturizer for dry skin. It’s also wise to avoid exfoliation so you don’t strip the skin. Apply lip balm and hand cream every 2-3 hours and don’t forget to wear sunscreen. 

In hot conditions, it’s a good idea to exfoliate once per day and you can afford to use a stronger cleanser or a mild cleanser twice per day to help shift all of the oiliness and grime off your skin. We also recommend wearing little to no makeup, especially in humid conditions, and using a high-SPF sunscreen and lip balm.

How to stay fit while camping?

The best way to stay fit while camping is by exploring your surroundings, either on foot, by bike, or by paddleboard, kayak, or canoe. Failing that, you can get into several other fun camping activities like a scavenger hunt, geocaching, or games of tag, beach volleyball, or dodgeball. And if you find a flat space, it’s also easy to do a tent-side workout with push-ups, squats, lunges, crunches, and burpees.

What camping activities keep you fit?

A few camping activities that can help you stay fit include hiking, biking, trail running, water sports, swimming, beach volleyball, tennis, soccer, or frisbee.

How to adapt a fitness routine while camping?

With a little ingenuity, you can carry on just about any fitness routine while camping. For cardio, hit the trails for a hike, bike, or spot of trail running. You can also maintain weight training by bringing along a set of resistance bands, with which you can do everything from shoulder presses and lat squeezes to squats and quad curls.

What are potentially serious ailments when going camping?

Some potential serious ailments that might befall campers include heat stroke, hypothermia, frostbite, and altitude sickness.

How to prevent hypothermia when camping?

Below, we’ve listed advice on how to prevent hypothermia when camping.

  • Dress in breathable layers
  • Cover exposed skin
  • Stay dry
  • Change out of wet clothing immediately
  • Wear a hat, gloves, and neck gaiter
  • Take breaks to avoid sweating excessively when doing any physical activity

How to treat hypothermia when camping?

We’ve listed the steps to take to treat hypothermia when camping.

  • Remove wet clothing immediately
  • Cover the victim with warm clothing, blankets, or a sleeping bag 
  • Ensure the victim is off the ground using a sleeping pad, backpack, or clothing
  • Huddle into the victim to warm them up with your body heat
  • Give the victim a warm drink
  • Call emergency services if the victim’s breathing stops or is abnormally low

How to prevent heat stroke when camping?

Below, we’ve listed a few tips to help you prevent heat stroke while camping.

  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • Wear a sun hat
  • Hydrate
  • Eat foods that hydrate (watermelon, cucumber, lettuce, celery)
  • Bring a sun canopy
  • Do any physical activity early in the morning or late in the afternoon when temperatures are lower
  • Soak your t-shirt in water every so often
  • Bring a tent fan

How to treat heat stroke when camping?

Below, we’ve made a list of the steps to take if someone in your camping crew is showing signs of heat stroke.

  • Stop all activity
  • Move the victim to the shade
  • Remove any restrictive clothing
  • Help to cool the victim down with fans and cool water
  • Have the victim hydrate with water and electrolytes
  • Seek medical assistance if the victim shows no sign of improvement after an hour