Outdoor adventures lead to lessons on health insurance

I spent the last few days camping with a group of young women in my neighborhood. Girls from ages 12-18 in our area drive an hour and thirty minutes to a campground surrounded by solitude. Here the girls learn how to build fires, make their own food and hike in nature. It becomes a great bonding experience for the girls, and after you have been with a group of people with no showers, it is easier to become close.

But like any outdoor activity, it does not come without its own set of risks. One activity proved especially risky. At a confidence course (and low ropes course that girls practice their confidence in themselves, their group and practice precise balance), one girl jumped off the rope and landed on a log. Her landing made the log roll and her ankle snapped. After a quick assessment, it was determined the girl had to be rushed to the hospital for X-rays.

When camping, the last thing someone wants to do is use their health insurance coverage to cover injuries while camping, especially if that means leaving the campgrounds early.

That young girl will be fine, but here are some other ways to keep safe while camping.

Know how to build a fire correctly. Fires can create warmth, cook your food and melt marshmallows for treats. But fires can also bring great harm. When building a fire, only use dead wood and timber. It will burn better and has less chance of spreading. Use rocks to create a circle to make a fire pit. This can help contain the fire. Do not build the fire near a lot of shrubbery. A fire can be a great way to get rid of garbage, but only paper kind. Any other kind of garbage (plastic, aluminum foil) will not burn and can be dangerous. If you use an accelerant like starter fluid, be careful to stand back and use sparingly.

Know how to put out a fire. Just as important as building a fire, knowing how to safely put out a fire is imperative. Only build the fire as big as you can handle and as big as you need it. When the fire is low and the coals are glowing, you can pour water over the fire. But stand back, because the steam can burn. Always keep a bucket full of water next to the fire so you can quickly extinguish it if you have any emergencies. Dirt is also a great extinguisher.

Be safe around water. Many people will plan camping trips around a lake. Keep an eye on kids near water of any depth. And wear a life jacket for any adults, even with the strongest of swimmers. Cold water can debilitate those who may have great swimming ability, but a life jacket will live up to its name.

Wear sunscreen. Nothing puts a bummer to your camping trip than getting a sunburn. Sunscreen will help you avoid unncessary pain and eventual skin cancer.