How to keep your gear safe from animals and nature while camping
It is the opportunity to spend peaceful time in nature and chance of seeing wildlife which lures most people to go camping. While camping may provide a chance to relax away from all the stress and worries of work and home, there is the potential for nature to cause you a bit of hassle as well.
Both wildlife and Mother Nature herself can not only harass us in the form of biting insects, sunburn, and poisonous plants, but they can also wreak havoc on your camping gear if you aren’t careful.
Whether it’s protecting your electronics from the elements or preventing cunning animals from running off with your food and other belongings, here are some helpful tips that will help keep your camping gear protected and long-lasting.
Inspect your campsite before setting up
The first step to protecting your camping gear is choosing a safe campsite and giving it a good inspection before getting set up. You’ll want to set up your camp a safe distance from rivers and coastal environments to avoid flash flooding taking out your tent and washing your other belongings away. It’s also a good idea to camp a safe distance from bodies of water that may be home to dangerous animals like alligators and crocodiles, which have been known to cause injury to campers and steal gear.
Check for sharp objects like glass and sharp twigs that could potentially snag or rip your tent and sleeping bags. You may want to lay a large tarp down before setting up your tent if the ground is especially sandy, muddy, or dusty in order to keep your gear clean. It never hurts to pack a rake to tidy things up a bit as well.
Make sure your campfire is set up a safe distance away from your tent and other gear, making sure the fire is also downwind from your tent so as the smoke and any embers will not be blown in the direction of it and any other gear you have with you. This will prevent your gear from accidentally catching fire.
Eliminate odors from your campsite and gear
While animals are generally more scared of people than people are scared of them, wildlife around popular campsites have grown accustomed to people and welcome the easy access to food whether it is being fed to them intentionally or having to scavenge from campsites. You may have raccoons and bears to contend with in America, dingoes and possums in Australia, or monkeys in South America, Asia, and Africa which are all cunning and will be eager to get their paws or hands on any food you bring camping.
What attracts wildlife most to your campsite are the odors of food, especially food that you cook at camp. Most animals have a much better sense of smell than humans and can smell whatever you’re cooking from miles away.
You will need to properly dispose of any trash that may have food smells on it and securely store any food items you plan to eat later. This may mean keeping food in your vehicle, hanging it from a tree in a secure cooler, or better yet placing all food in specially designed animal-proof food lockers which are available at many well-established campsites. You will also want to thoroughly wash all pots, pans, plates, and cooking utensils you used.
Always wear different clothes to bed than those you wore while cooking, as clothing that smells of food can lure wildlife into your tent which could end up resulting in harm to both you and your gear. Store your cooking clothes in an airtight bag to avoid it attracting wildlife both while you are in your tent yourself with your gear or are off hiking and leaving gear behind in your tent.
It’s also important to note that animals are not only attracted to food smells, but can also be enticed to check out certain toiletry items like lotions and toothpaste. Any item you take camping which has a strong scent that may be mistaken for food should be securely stored in airtight bags or containers.
Keeping Your Electronics Safe
Despite camping being a great time to log-off from technology, most campers these days can’t bear leaving their electronic devices at home. While electronics like smartphones and laptops may be great for keeping us entertained and connected to the outside world while camping, they aren’t often designed to be used in the great outdoors.
There are a number of dangers that can ruin or damage various electronics. Rain and moisture of any sort are two of the biggest factors that can cause damage, so it pays to keep electronics in waterproof dry bags or water-tight plastic bags. Adding silica gel packets which absorb moisture is another good idea.
Sun is another potential danger to electronics as they are usually made of materials that absorb heat quickly. Electronics left out in full midday sun can quickly overheat, causing them to possibly shut down, lose battery power, cause batteries to leak, or experience data loss and corruption.
Lastly, animals are often drawn to shiny objects and can make off with smaller electronics or damage larger items. It’s important to keep your electronics secured in a cool, dark, and dry place when not in use. You may also need to create a barrier around things like your portable camping solar panels, which help keep all your electronics charged or running while camping, so wildlife cannot gain access to them and cause damage.
Don’t park your vehicle or set up camp directly beneath trees
It’s never a wise decision to park your vehicle or set up camp directly beneath trees at your campsite. Although they may provide lovely shade from the sun, there are a number of potential dangers that could damage both your vehicle and camping gear.
Falling branches during strong winds along with various seeds, fruits, and leaves that may fall from trees can all cause significant damage to vehicles and camping gear. Leaves can get trapped in a vehicle’s air inlets causing the cooling and heating to malfunction, while heavy fruits and seeds along with tree sap can cause dents, scratches, corrosion to paint, or smashed windshields in the case of heavy pinecones or coconuts.
Another danger to a vehicle’s paint is animal droppings. Both bird and fruit bat droppings can be quite acidic and can eat into a vehicle’s clear coat and paint job in as little as a day. Droppings can be especially difficult to remove from vehicles and camping gear during hot weather and tend to cause more damage the longer they remain on surfaces.
Safely store gear when not in use at camp
We have already discussed how wildlife can steal your food, but they can also be tempted to thieve shiny objects or anything they find amusing. Birds are often attracted to objects that are specific colors and will pinch them, New Zealand kea parrots commonly remove parts from campers’ vehicles, and bears have been known to run off with entire hiking day-packs.
Not only can animals steal your gear of not securely stored, but they can decide to mark their scent on things via urine, feces, or other fluids which can not only be unpleasant but also be unsanitary and spread diseases. Hiking boots can also look like enticing new homes for things like spiders or scorpions if left out.
The lesson is to always safely store your gear in your vehicle or some other secure location when you’re not using it. Sadly, wildlife doesn’t respect ownership of items very well and things like rain and moisture can damage items like flashlights and cooking gear if left out.
Avoiding vehicle collisions with wildlife
Another way that wildlife can potentially damage your vehicle and camping gear you’re carrying with you is by collisions on the road while travelling to and from your campsite. While small animals may cause little impact, larger animals such as deer or kangaroos can cause significant damage or lead you to swerve your vehicle to avoid them, thereby causing an even more potentially serious accident.
Because campsites are often located in national parks and natural reserves where wildlife is more abundant, the chance of encountering animals on roadways is more common. You can reduce your chances of animal collisions while driving by avoiding driving at dusk and dawn when most wildlife is more active. Use your high beams at night when no street lights are present to allow yourself the ability to spot wildlife well in advance. It is also wise to slow down when you believe wildlife may be present.
You may also want to consider attaching a bull bar or push bumper to the front of your vehicle which will help to take a lot of the impact caused by an animal collision on the road, thereby reducing the potential damage to your vehicle. And of course, always attempt to save an animal that has been injured by your vehicle by calling a local animal rehabilitation professional for help.
Storing your camping gear after use
Protecting your gear from nature and critters doesn’t stop once you get home after your camping trip. To keep your camping gear fresh and usable for years to come requires proper storage. Mice, bugs, and moisture are just some of the things that can damage your gear when not stored properly.
Starting with your tent, you should make sure the fabric and poles are clean of dirt and debris before allowing everything to fully dry out before packing it away. If your tent contains any moisture, mold and odors can grow on the fabric and metal parts can corrode. Pack your tent loosely to allow air flow and store it in a place that is dry, cool, and free of direct UV light. You may also want to apply lubrication to zippers every once in a while.
Sleeping bags, mats, inflatable mattresses, and any blankets you used should also be washed and stored in a cool dry place, sleeping bags ideally being hung up in a closet or behind a door. Remove batteries from your camping flashlights and other battery-operated camping gear you don’t plan on using in the near future. Leaving batteries in objects for long periods can lead to corrosion and leakage which could damage your devices. Store the batteries separately in a plastic bag near the devices you use them in so you have them handy for next time.
Portable fuel canisters should be removed from camp stoves since they could potentially leak fuel if punctured or damaged. It would be wise to use up the fuel before storing your cooking equipment. Refillable fuel canisters you plan to use again should be stored upright in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight and flammable liquids or aerosols. Turn all valves off and have the bottles tested every ten years. Check with your local council for advice regarding the safest way to dispose of disposable fuel canisters.
These are just some of the ways you can protect your gear while camping. Remember to store as much of your gear as possible together in order to make it easier to gather up for your next camping trip. And always try your best to pack up all your belongings and trash from the campsite, and leave no trace in order to protect and preserve the environment.
Lastly, leave valuable items at home or at the very least look into purchasing portable contents insurance which may cover items like expensive sunglasses, computers, and surfboards should they be damaged or stolen while camping.