Camping safety

A camping holiday can be great fun for all the family. Pitching your tent is one of the least expensive accommodation options for a holiday.

Kids love the freedom of staying in a tent: sleeping under the stars, eating simple meals and enjoying the great outdoors.

To ensure your holiday under canvas goes smoothly, especially if it's your first time in a tent, make sure you're aware of how to stay safe on your camping holiday.

Campsite cooking and fire safety

Fire is a significant risk when you're camping. Camp fires, barbecues, gas canisters and camping stoves all need to be handled with care.

“Cooking on a camping holiday is completely different from cooking in your own kitchen,” says Barry Norris, technical information officer for the Camping and Caravanning Club. “You are in a much more confined area than at home, especially when the weather is bad.”

Norris says that cooking is best done outside and advises campers to ensure that any gas equipment is securely supported when it's being used and kept away from children.

To reduce the risks of fire when you’re camping, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) advises holidaymakers to take some precautions:

  • Assess the site before you pitch your tent. Ideally, be at your site before sunset so you can see what you're doing and see where other campers have made fires or set up barbecues, stoves and heaters.
  • Check that tents are positioned well apart from each other to prevent the risk of a fire spreading. Check the specific rules at your campsite. Some recommend that tents are pitched at least six metres apart.
  • Practise using your stove before you go on your trip.
  • Cooking inside a tent is not advisable because even a fire-resistant tent can burn. There is also the risk of deadly carbon monoxide poisoning. Check out the Camping and Caravanning Club's tips on carbon monoxide safety.
  • Don't change gas canisters or refuel petrol or meths-burning stoves inside a tent. Keep flammable liquids and gas cylinders outside the tent and away from children.
  • Keep matches and lighters locked away and, where possible, out of the reach of children.
  • Don't use naked flames such as candles and lighters inside a tent. Use a torch instead.
  • Don't use oil-burning appliances in or around tents.
  • Check the rules regarding open fires and barbecues at your campsite and make sure all fires, stoves, gas lamps and barbecues are out before you go to bed.
  • Make sure you know about the fire-fighting arrangements on the campsite and where the nearest source of water is.
  • Don't smoke inside a tent.

If there is a fire in your tent:

  • Get everyone out without delay – fires in tents spread extremely quickly.
  • If your clothing catches fire, don't run around as this will fan the flames and make them burn faster. Instead, lie on the ground as this makes it harder for the fire to spread. Smother the flames with heavy material (a coat or blanket for example) or roll around to smother the flames.
  • Call the fire and rescue service and give as exact a location as you can. If you have a mobile phone, it may be able to give GPS co-ordinates.

Pitching your tent safely

According to RoSPA, common accidents around tents include people tripping over guy ropes or treading on tent pegs. Give tents a wide berth when you’re walking around a campsite, especially when it's dark.

RoSPA's advice to campers is:

  • If possible, choose a tent with guy ropes that are a bright colour or have fluorescent tags attached to them so people can see them in the dark.
  • Practise putting up your tent before you go away so you won't be stressed when you arrive at the campsite.
  • Check that you've got all the equipment you need before you set off on your trip. That way, you won't be tempted to improvise with other items that might not be suitable for the task.
  • Don't pitch your tent right under a tree or on the banks of a river or lake.
  • Don't obstruct walkways or tracks with your tent's guy ropes.
  • Supervise children at all times. Be especially careful on the first and last days of your holiday because children can easily wander off while you're busy pitching or taking down your tent.

Packing tips for camping trips

Barry Norris, from the Camping and Caravanning Club, advises people to do the following:

  • Pack at least one torch.
  • Organise your first aid kit.
  • Buy sun cream. You spend a lot of time outdoors when you're camping so you'll need to protect your skin from sunburn. See how you can protect your skin in the sun.
  • British weather is unpredictable so pack clothes for wet weather, warm weather and cold weather.
  • The temperature drops at night so take a warm sleeping bag and enough bedding.

For more camping tips, especially for first-timers, see the Camping and Caravanning Club's new to camping section.

Page last reviewed: 15/08/2015

Next review due: 15/08/2017

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