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Play it safe in the great outdoors

If you're planning a hiking, climbing or camping

If you're planning a hiking, climbing or camping trip, make sure to take safety into account. Credit: Getty Images/Imgorthand

Heading into the back country, to your favorite national park or recreation area with your family? Before you go, give your skills, gear and local intel a tuneup. Here are five safety tips: 

1. SNAKE SMARTS. Hiking, climbing and camping in many parts of the country mean a snake encounter is possible. Make sure kids know to steer clear of anything that resembles a snake. According to the University of Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center, more than half of those bitten intentionally provoked the snake in some way. Stay on hiking trails and keep hands and feet away from wood and rock piles, deep grass or crevices. 


2. BE BEAR AWARE. Your goal is to avoid getting up close and personal with a bear. Research shows that bear spray is effective. Travel in groups of three or more and sing, tell stories or shout to let wild creature know you are in the area. When camping, keep your tent and spaces clean and free of odors. Be sure to hang food and trash away from sleeping areas or in bear-proof containers. 


3. DON'T LET LIGHTNING STRIKE. Teach the kids that "when thunder roars, go indoors." Watch for darkening skies, flashes of lightning and shifting and strengthening wind patterns. If you hear thunder, even at a distance, it is time to move to a sturdy building or hard-topped metal vehicle with windows closed. Stay away from tall, isolated trees, utility polls or open areas. 


4. DO THE STINGRAY SHUFFLE. Stingrays bury themselves under a thin blanket of sand for protection. By shuffling into the water, you'll create a vibration and the creature will be alerted and will move off in a different direction. Should a sting occur, use hot water to clean the wound and seek medical attention. The Stingray City sandbar, home to the Southern Stingray, is a popular attraction in the Cayman Islands. 


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