When I go camping, whether it is for one day or a week, I try to go where no one else will go. I like to rough it, but sometimes I take the kids, so we have to go to more hospitable areas that are a bit safer. However, whether you are in the deep wilderness only eating what you kill, catch or gather, or you are at a manicured camp ground where you have a built-in barbecue pit, there are some things that you should do and not do. Wild animals do not care if you are in the middle of nowhere, or right off the highway. They want your food, and if you get in the way of that, they might make you the food. Also, research the area that you are going to camp in. Understand the terrain, wildlife, and resources that are associated with the particular neck of the woods that you will be traversing.
Make a good, solid plan. Have a map of the area you are going to. As I mentioned above, know the terrain, animals natural to the area, the bodies of water, closest town, and different ways in and out of the area you will be camping in. Make sure to let at least two people know where you are going, the name of the wilderness or camp ground, the location, when you are leaving, and when you are planning on returning home.
#4. First Aid
Make sure to carry a first-aid kit with you that contains nothing less than bandages, antibiotic ointment, iodine, bug spray, allergy medicine, anti-inflammatory medication, aspirin, a cold pack, gauze, band-aids, a snake bite kit, butterfly strips, blood clotting and wound packing material, scissors, a pocket knife, and even a small fishing kit. The absolute must have is a lighter, matches, or some other means of starting a fire. You will need this to not only make fires to stay warm and cook, but to sterilize water, and sterilize needles and knives in the event that you sustain a severe wound and cannot get help or get out quickly. Preferably, you would also have a tourniquet and a field dressing, but a folded shirt and a belt will work, too. You do not want to find yourself in an emergency situation without anything to treat yourself with.
The best defense is a good plan, knowledge of your area, preparing plenty of the necessary resources that you have with you or that are available, and being aware of your surroundings always, but sometimes even when you cover all of these bases, it all goes out the window when you are face to face with an angry bear, a territorial moose, or a hungry cougar (not the good kind). In these instances, you will want to have a firearm of some sort at your side to survive the situation. However, some of us do not carry guns or feel comfortable with one, so with that in mind, you should at least have a powerful bear spray with you, a good-sized hunting knife, a hand axe, or at the very least, a big, solid stick.
Wild animals rarely attack humans, but it depends on the animal, the situation, and your actions. With bears, stand your ground, make a lot of noise, and try to appear bigger than you are. Throw rocks, yell, but do not run or take your eyes off of it if the bear is not attacking. The same goes for cougars, but truth be told, if one attacks you, you will not usually know it is there until it is on you. Whatever animal you are encountering, if it attacks you, try to protect yourself, fight back, and if possible, run and get something between you and it. Each person is going to react differently in these situations, so I have no real advice other than do what you need to do to survive. Moose are actually the most dangerous animal that you can come face to face with in the wild. If you do, get between the biggest tree and it that you can and run when you get a chance.
# 2. Food
Whether you have shot and killed your own game, field stripped it, and butchered it, or brought a cooler full of food and boxes of snacks, you have got to put it away as soon as you are done preparing it and clean up after you have cooked it and ate. If you leave it out, uncovered, or near your tent, even sealed, you are asking for potential trouble from critters. If you are a hunter, make sure to throw the organs of the animal in a near by river or creek. The fish will eat it and the running water will keep it from contaminating the water. You can also burn it. The same goes from already prepared food or food in a cooler. It is best to throw leftovers in the water or burn it in the camp fire. Make sure that whatever your food source is, that it is wrapped up, sealed, and either hung from a tree up high to keep the scent off the ground, or locked up in your vehicle which should be parked away from camp. Whatever you do, do not leave the food exposed out in the open. This will attract wild animals.
The most important thing that you need to have and remember is to have plenty of clean water. Bring plenty of clean water with you. Bottles and bottles of sealed, clean drinking water. Do not drink river, creek, or pond water, and do not drink any water from standing pools. If you find yourself without a clean water supply, thoroughly boil any water you find for at least 10 minutes or use water purifying tablets if you happen to have any. Even if you are at a camp ground with running water, do not trust it from the faucet. There are just too many microscopic bugs and viruses out there today to risk it. Gone are the days of drinking cold mountain water from a running stream, even if you are in the middle of nowhere in the Rocky Mountains. The water, unfortunately, is just not clean enough anymore.
God Bless You
Daniel P. O’Rourke
(In the interest of full-disclosure, I wrote an article for Memorial Day with the same tips for Yahoo, but I own all the rights to the article, and all of my camping survival tips apply year-round, especially if you go off the grid when you camp like I do.)- See Yahoo for original article by Daniel P. O’Rourke