"Could've Died" Camping Safety Scene:
Where: Valley of the Gods, Utah
What: Rural boondocking spot with friends.
Why: What happened on this day changed the way we camp forever. Learn from this camping experience and it may save your life.
The incident is something I never want to experience again. (Neither does Marshall!) It's the kind of thing that, while it's happening, you don't really believe it's happening.
Marshall could have died. He only lived because of one important safety factor.
What was his one life-saving safety tip?
He's alive ONLY because he was camping with other people.
Though WE don't do so often, there are many safety tips you need to consider when boondocking or tent camping all alone. Well, that is, if you want to stay alive.
Here's the quick version of the story.
Below the story we share our camping safety tips. They just might keep you alive while you're camping 'out there' or all alone.
Just An Ordinary Day Camping
It began like any other moving day while camping on public lands.
Marshall and I were packing up and getting our trailer campers hitched up to our vehicles. We were about to adventure to Moab for an RV gathering.
Inside my RV, I heard Marshall call me. It sounded aggressive. Urgent. I wasn't sure about that but I started heading outside right away.
Then he yelled again. This time it was unmistakable that something was very wrong.
Something's Definitely Wrong
I rushed out to find Marshall squatting beside his RV trailer tires.
I quickly found that his finger was caught between his levelers. The weight of the travel trailer was crushing his pointer finger.
I tried to move levelers. Nope. I couldn't dig him out, couldn't get him out.
I didn't know how to help. In his rising pain and panic, neither did he.
Then, "GO GET IN THE TRUCK AND MOVE IT FORWARD!!" he shouted, which is very much unlike him. Normal reaction.
But, well, his finger was LITERALLY GETTING CRUSHED UNDER THE WEIGHT OF HIS TRAILER.
(Attempt at funny 're-enactment' photos below for your amusement. Though he was kneeling when stuck.)
How Do We Fix This?
Freaked out, I asked "How much should I pull forward??"
"JUST A LITTLE!"
Well, crap. That's specific.
I understood that if I moved it too far forward (or back) I would likely do more damage.
I ended up moving his setup THREE separate times.
After try number three, he was no less stuck.
Then some friends in our group finally realized something was wrong and came to help. (And thank god they did.)
Long story short, our friends had to JACK UP the trailer to free Marshall. His finger was horrifyingly flat when released. But it survived.
His injuries were minimal and his only reminder now is occasional numbness in the finger.
The Ominous Camping Safety Realization
Right after we freed Marshall, something huge quickly dawned on ALL of us.
"OMG, what if we hadn't been here?"
What if Marshall had been camping and boondocking all alone? He couldn't have freed himself. He might have frikin' died, trapped under his RV!
Again, He COULD HAVE DIED From Simply Going Camping!
It was a sobering thought. Literally, Marshall needed our help to get free.
Or, we shudder to think what his fate might have been.
Gross. And horrifying.
Death by dehydration, and/or being eaten by coyotes? No thanks.
This camping revelation opened our eyes to a few things about (and we are now hyper-aware about) camping remotely and solo.
He, or you, can easily die in the 'wild' all alone, with no other people around.
We aren't saying to never do it. There are just extra risks and safety steps/tips you should take if you do go camping (or hiking) alone.
Here are ten camping safety tips to help you to stay alive out there when planning your adventures anywhere outside of campgrounds.
10 Solo/Remote Camping Safety Tips
Safety when camping should be part of your planning. Here's our advice for your next camping trip to lower your chance of serious issues or death.
1. Tell one or multiple people exactly where you're going and when you will be back from your camping trip
Not much else to add here. Best to have someone expecting you back from camping on a certain date and even better, at a certain time. This way if you don't show up, they know something is amiss. This is camping safety 101.
2. Get a satellite locator
If your camping lifestyle takes you off in the wilderness alone, this is a good safety investment. Make sure to have it with you at all times such as a Garmin InReach or a SPOT. There is often a monthly fee for this, but what is your life worth? Image being lost on a trail, on day two. Won't you wish you had just gone ahead and paid for and gotten one? My guess? Absolutely!
3. Park where others will be periodically passing by
Needless to say, if you park or tent camp (OR hike) in locations and campsites where NOBODY is ever going to pass nearby, if you have problems and scream, they won't hear you. You can do this, but it will up your danger factor.
4. Don't be dumb
If you are hiking in an area with bears, make noise, wear a bell, and have your bear spray immediately accessible for animals. Be aware of your surroundings and environment. If you're going rafting or kayaking, wear a life jacket. Check the weather forecast and watch for rain. Watch the temperatures. Wear sunscreen so you don't get a sunburn. You get the jist. Don't invite trouble. Be on the defensive. You're a vulnerable little peon in the great outdoors.
5. Camp where you have cellular signal
And try to keep your phone on you at all times. Had we not been there, and if Marshall had had his phone on him (he didn't), he could have saved himself because we had signal. And thanks to Bob's suggestion in the comments, having a watch with cell service/ability to make calls would be another great idea and easier to keep it on your body.
6. Tools for your camping trip
Keep essential tools in your RV that can help you get out of a situation. Example- MAXTRAX to help get vehicle unstuck, a tow strap, a jack, the proper tire-changing tools, a battery jumper, etc, in addition to the must have RV accessories.
7. First Aid
Keep a hefty camping aid kit with you for camping safety, even in your backpack if you go on a hike. Learn some first aid skills before you go.
8. Emergency Whistle
Have this on hand as well. Both at your camp and if you go on a hike. Save your voice and make it easier for others to find you in a forest.
This is not a bad idea in the event you lost phone power or get lost in the woods without signal.
10. Vehicle Stocking
Keep a good supply of water and high-calorie foods inside your vehicle. In cold climates, have warm clothing/blankets and fire-making supplies in case you get into a wreck in the middle of nowhere. Keep a first aid kit in your camper, too.
Nothing like a near-death experience to bring to light how fragile we humans really are. Especially while outside of the safety bubble of man-made society and hanging with the risk of wildlife hanging around.
Had Marshall been on a camping trip out all alone with nobody around, he may have died.
The incident led us to REALLY understand how dangerous camping is when you are alone and outside of a campground.
Please be careful, have fun, and follow these camping safety tips when you do venture out on your own, campers! DON'T FORGET your first aid kit!
And don't forget to always follow the Escapees Boondocking Policy when camping on public lands!
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.