Staying safe on the campsite
It’s very rare to have an accident or safety-related incident on a campsite and we’d like to keep it that way. Here are a few pointers to help keep you and your family safe while you’re on site.
Carbon monoxide (CO) can kill
Carbon monoxide (CO) is produced when a fuel such as charcoal, gas or petrol burns incompletely. This could be because an appliance isn’t working properly or might simply happen as part of its normal function. Barbecues, for example, produce carbon monoxide even when they are working well.
Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas and is poisonous. In high concentrations it can kill swiftly. In smaller concentrations CO poisoning can give symptoms similar to flu or food poisoning. Look out for headaches, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness and weakness - but the best advice is to avoid any chance of being poisoned in the first place.
Carbon monoxide safety tips
- Never take a barbecue into a tent, awning, caravan or motorhome.Even a cooling barbecue gives off plenty of poisonous carbon monoxide (CO), which can kill.
- Never use a fuel-burning appliance to heat your tent or awning.Gas and kerosene heaters – unless they are permanently fitted in a caravan or motorhome – should only be used outside. Stoves and barbecues are designed for cooking not space heating.
- Never run a gas, petrol or diesel-powered generator inside a caravan, motorhome, tent or awning. Make sure fumes from a generator don’t blow into your unit or anyone else’s from outside either.
- Don’t cook inside your tent or awning
- Don’t use any other gas, charcoal, liquid or solid fuel appliances inside a tent or awning. Gas-powered fridges and lamps, for example, also need plenty of ventilation to prevent them producing poisonous carbon monoxide. Tents and awnings aren’t generally designed with this in mind.
- Consider using a carbon monoxide (CO) alarm, provided it is suitable for the condition you intend to use it, check with the supplier/manufacturer, though it should never be used as an alternative to the precautions above.
- Always have gas appliances in your caravan or motorhome serviced regularly.
Spotting the danger signs of CO poisoning
You cannot smell, taste or see carbon monoxide but it can kill quickly and without warning. Early stages of carbon monoxide poisoning can give symptoms similar to food poisoning or flu, though without a high temperature.
- Symptoms to look out for include: Headaches; dizziness; feeling sick; tiredness and confusion; stomach pains or shortness of breath
- Higher concentrations can give more severe symptoms: Symptoms of intoxication; vertigo, as if the environment is spinning; loss of coordination; breathlessness and high heart beat rate; seizures or unconsciousness leading to death
There is more information online on the NHS website. You can also download a leaflet about the dangers of carbon monoxide and a warning poster below.
At most campsites – including all Camping and Caravanning Club Sites – tents, caravans and motorhomes are pitched at least 6m apart to prevent the spread of fire.
The Club recommends you have a fire bucket full of water outside your unit, especially on campsites where no fire-fighting equipment is supplied.
Make sure everyone in your group knows what to do if there is a fire and understands the campsite-specific procedures.
As always – the best advice is to avoid fire in the first place. There’s further good advice on the DirectGov website.
Looking after gas and other fuels
The reason we take gas, petrol or other liquid fuel on a campsite is to burn it for cooking, heating or lighting so it makes sense to look after it carefully at other times, so it doesn’t burn at the wrong time in the wrong place.
Always follow the supplier’s instructions on storage and transportation of fuel. Containers should be of an approved type. Fuel containers should be transported and stored upright and positioned carefully, so they cannot accidentally become disconnected or fall over and are less likely to leak.
When you are using any gas or liquid fuel appliances, it’s vital to have adequate ventilation. Don’t forget – many caravans and motorhomes will have a gas fridge working all the time. Poor ventilation and badly adjusted appliances can lead to a build up of poisonous carbon monoxide. If you have a new caravan or motorhome you may have a carbon monoxide monitor fitted, but this should never be a replacement for having your appliances and gas installation serviced regularly.
There’s more information about gas, its use and safe handling in our Gas for Caravans and Motorhomes and Gas for Tent Campers guides. The Club also has guidelines on the use of larger cylinders on site.
Electricity on site
There are several ways to use electrical appliances in your unit, from wind-up torches powered by your own hands through to mains-powered microwave ovens.
Used incorrectly electricity can be dangerous, especially in the damp environment you often find on a campsite.
Use the right kit
Always use a purpose-built lead designed for your type of unit. These have special weatherproof plugs and sockets designed to connect to the site’s hook-up point and your unit. If you have a caravan or motorhome, plug the lead into your unit first – then into the site bollard. This way you will not be carrying a live lead around.
If you would like to use mains electricity in your tent, check out the Club’s guide 'Using Electricity in your Tent' on the subject. It’s especially important to keep all your electrical equipment dry. Make sure everything is kept off the ground and away from the tent fabric, where condensation can form.
Residual Current Devices (RCDs)
Wired into the circuit between your appliances and the site’s hook-up point will be a safety device known as a Residual Current Device (RCD).
An RCD is designed to cut off the supply immediately in the case of a leakage of current to earth. Such a leakage could occur if an appliance is faulty or in damp conditions. Do test them every time you camp.
How much power
Another thing you’ll need to think about is just what equipment you can plug in. At home you’ll probably have plenty of sockets and it’s rare to overload them, but a campsite supply is likely to be limited.
Try to use electrical equipment specifically designed for campers unless you know your kit is low powered. Don’t try to run your heater and kettle together – you’re likely to overload your pitch socket causing it to cut out and you may even cut out other sockets on the campsite.
Most of us will trip over a guy line or tent peg at least once during a camping trip, but it’s worth reminding everyone to look out for them – especially when returning to a tent or awning in the dark. And please don’t try to push tent or awning pegs into the ground using your foot – too many puncture wounds are caused this way.
Make sure everyone is aware of the dangers of cars, caravans and motorhomes moving around the site and keeps well clear of them. Reversing caravans and motorhomes can provide particular hazards since the driver’s view is likely to be limited.
On a smaller scale, be extra careful when you are using portable steps to get into your trailer tent, caravan or motorhome. These can easily slip so it’s best to secure them to the ground if you can.
Many campsites are beautifully situated by lakes, rivers or streams but water can be dangerous if you don’t take proper care. Young children are especially vulnerable as they can drown in less than 2 inches (5cm) of water.
If there are electrical power cables overhead, be extra cautious with tent poles, fishing rods and kites. See the leaflet at the end of this section for more details.
After the animals
If you camp in farmer’s fields you’ll sometimes find evidence of animals that have been there before you. Cattle, sheep and other animal droppings should be avoided because they can carry infections such as E.coli, salmonella and other nasties.
Children in particular can find animal droppings fascinating, so if you do find yourself in this situation, encourage children to wash their hands frequently. Make sure you wash your hands frequently, especially before preparing food or even pouring drinks. An anti-bacterial hand gel is a good first line of defence against these kinds of infections.
A holiday on a campsite is just the same as any other holiday when it comes to sun exposure, protection against biting insects and the like - except you could spend longer outside so you may need to take extra care.
Remember to use appropriate sun protection products and clothing. The SunSmart website has some useful information to help.
In the UK most insect bites or stings are annoying but not dangerous – unless you suffer from an extreme reaction or the puncture site gets infected. However, it’s always best to remove a tick if it attaches itself to you, your child or your pet since some ticks carry Lyme Disease.
You may like to consider using one of the many sprays, lotions or creams on the market that aim to prevent insects biting you in the first place.
Always have a first aid kit to deal with simple emergencies. Don’t keep it sealed up until it’s needed. Check what is inside and make sure you know how to use the contents. Read the leaflet before an emergency occurs. That way you’ll be prepared.
The most important thing to remember is that first aid is precisely that – initial help for small cuts and bruises. If you are in any doubt at all about treating the patient, if you think there may be something seriously wrong then get proper medical attention.
Seasonal Canine Illness
Seasonal Canine Illness is an illness that seems to affect dogs during the autumn months. This illness is something of a mystery as no specific cause has ever been identified, however experts say that its effects dogs who have been walked in woodland areas specifically, so we recommend keeping your dog on a lead in these circumstances.
The severity of the illness varies and in some cases has been fatal, although the number of canine deaths has declined dramatically over the last few years. It is essential that you can recognise symptoms including sickness, diarrhoea and lethargy typically experienced within 72 hours of walking in woodland and seek veterinary help immediately if you do feel your dog could have contracted the illness. To read more on the topic and understand what to look out for, please visit the Animal Health Trust website.