Learn to Camp

Camping Safety

Access to Emergency Services

  • If anything goes wrong find a park staff member. All park staff are trained in first aid, CPR and park emergency procedures.
  • The park tabloid you receive at registration will have information on what to do in an emergency, including emergency numbers.
  • If you can’t find a staff member call 911 or the emergency number listed in the park tabloid. Many parks are close to emergency services and have cell-phone coverage.

Tip: have a first aid kit at your campsite to treat small accidents.

Avoid Getting Lost

Plan Ahead to avoid getting lost:

  • Tell someone where you are going.
  • Know your campsite name and number. This is particularly important for young children.
  • Pack and dress properly. For example, bring a cell-phone, whistle, food & water, and warm clothes. Comfortable close-toed shoes are important!

If you get lost (either on the trails or in the campgrounds), remember to STOP...

  • STOP and “hug a tree”
  • Think about what you need to do next. (Take a moment to calm yourself)
  • Observe all around you. (You may have just stepped off the trail, is there a park staff member nearby, another camper or a sign with directions?)
  • Plan what it is you need to do next. (e.g., use a cell-phone, blow a whistle to alert others you are lost). Remember to stay where you are, and someone will find you!

If you realize that a member of your party has gone missing, contact park staff. Park staff are trained in lost persons protocol. After hours, call 911. If you have children, it is helpful to have an identification kit with a photo to help park staff identify your child.

Inclement weather

Well prepared campers are happy campers! Keep an eye on the weather forecast before your trip and come prepared to cope with the elements. Pack rain gear, rain shelter and some fun activities for the rain (e.g. a deck of cards or board game).

If it starts to rain while you are camping ensure all your belongings stay dry by putting them in the tent or car and cover your firewood. Keep an eye on your tent and ensure your belongings are not touching the sides. Although most tents are water resistant, even the very best tent can leak in heavy rain. Watch for puddles forming on the tent itself or on the ground near by and ensure they are well drained.

In the event of a thunder or hail storm the safest place to be is in your car.

Theft

While campgrounds are safe places with park wardens on patrol, it is a good idea to keep your valuables locked in your car and out of sight.

Sun Safety

  • Cover up! Put on a hat, shirt and sunglasses.
  • Wear sunscreen. Choose a high SPF level and apply 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply after swimming. Do not apply sunscreen to children younger than 6 months.
  • Seek out shade.
  • Drink water: Stay hydrated, and drink lots of water.
  • Take a break: Be sure to rest during and after physical activity.

Water Safety

  • Understand your limitations. Don’t push your swimming abilities.
  • Never swim alone.
  • Supervise children at all times. Observe all posted signs.
  • Wear a lifejacket or PFD. If you or your children are not strong swimmers. Many parks loan PFDs to park visitors free of charge.
  • Although many beaches are not supervised by lifeguards, park wardens visit regularly for enforcement purposes.
  • Many beaches have emergency telephones that connect directly to the gatehouse.
  • Stay out of the water during thunder and lightning storms.

For more information on water and swimming safety, visit: http://www.redcross.ca/article.asp?id=1041&tid=024

For boating safety courses, check out: http://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-obs-menu-1362.htm

Bug Bites

Biting insects are a part of camping no matter where you are in Ontario. Here are a few tips to avoid bug bites:

  • Cover up! Wear pants and long sleeves. Light colours are best.
  • Avoid wearing scented products. Insects can be attracted to scents.
  • Spend time in a screen shelter or tent if you are bothered; remember to keep the doors zipped up.
  • Avoid peak activity for mosquitoes (dusk and dawn).
  • Use citronella candles and campfire smoke to help keep the bugs at bay.
  • In areas with ticks, wear long pants and tucked into socks and check regularly for ticks.

What about bug repellent?

  • Bug repellents containing DEET are effective at repelling mosquitoes. Avoid bug repellent with more than 30% DEET.
  • Put bug repellent on clothing rather than on skin.
  • Wash hands after applying repellent.
  • Natural plant-based bug repellents are another option but may require more frequent application.

Kids and Bug Repellent

  • Do not use on infants younger than six months.
  • Do not apply to hands or faces.
  • Minimize use.

Find information on West Nile Virus in Ontario at this website:
http://www.ontario.ca/page/outdoor-health

Find information on Lyme Disease at this website:
http://www.ontario.ca/page/outdoor-health

Poisonous Plants

Ontario is home to a few plants that can cause an allergic reaction. Poison Ivy is the plant campers are most likely to come in contact with.

How to identify and avoid Poison Ivy

‘Leaves of three, let them be’. The leaves can be jagged to smooth, and have red colour where the three leaves meet. The plant has a woody stem and all parts of the plant have the oils that our skin reacts to. Several similar plants exist (e.g., Virginia creeper, wild raspberry).

Not all parks in Ontario have Poison Ivy! Ask park staff.

Stay on your campsite and designated trails to avoid exposure. If you are not sure, don’t touch the plant!

What to do if you come in contact with Poison Ivy:

  • Wash skin with cold water and soap (not warm which opens pores).
  • Wash shoes, clothing and tools that have come in contact with the plant.

Common Reactions to Poison Ivy:

  • Rash usually appears within two days and can last over a week to 10 days.
  • If a rash develops, you can apply calamine lotion, creams containing zinc oxide, cold compresses, or take allergy medication if the reaction is strong. Oatmeal baths can provide soothing relief.
  • See a doctor if reaction is severe or if rash is not improving with treatment.

Be Bear-wise

Not all parks have black bears. Ask a park staff.

Black bears prefer to avoid people, but can become bold enough to visit campsites if food scraps or garbage are left out. This can cause bear encounters.

Prevent Encounters: You can help remove things that attract black bears to campsites. See our tips on Wildlife and your Campsite for more information.

While confrontations are extremely rare, if you see a black bear exhibiting bold behaviour and you feel threatened, follow these three steps:

  1. Slowly back away, giving the bear lots of space. Do not run.
  2. Warn others nearby of the bear in the area.
  3. Report to park staff.

For more information, visit http://www.ontario.ca/page/report-bear-problem-bear-wise