Camping essentials, from a search and rescue deputy


BYU students live close to many beautiful camping sites in the nearby mountains. But with the beauty of nature there is also unforeseen danger that students expose themselves to on camping trips. Taking precautionary steps before heading out the door for a few nights in the mountains can save lives.

Search and rescue deputy Ron Zeeman participates in avalanche training. Photo courtesy Ron Zeeman
Search and rescue deputy Ron Zeeman participates in avalanche training. Photo courtesy Ron Zeeman

Ron Zeeman is a Utah County Search and Rescue sheriff from Springlake, Utah. During his time in Search and Rescue, Zeeman created a list of 10 essentials for campers. According to Zeeman, this list should be used as a checklist before leaving for any outdoor activity.

1. Navigation tools

“It’s best to learn orienteering so you can navigate using a map and compass,” Zeeman said. “There are a lot of people who rely strictly on their Global Positioning Systems (GPS) to help them navigate around. What a lot of people don’t realize is that if they are in a deep canyon, or in an area that obstructs the view of satellites, they may not get signal.”

2. Sun protection

Too much exposure to the sun can cause heat exhaustion, dehydration, heat stroke or water intoxication. Appropriate protection includes the following items: sunscreen, chapstick, sunglasses and a hat.

“When purchasing a pair of sunglasses, look for polarized sunglasses, as polarization blocks glare as well as radiation,” Zeeman said.

3. Knife and repair kit

A knife and a repair kit are crucial for preparing a shelter for dangerous weather conditions. Campers never know when they will need to cut through harsh materials that cannot be broken by hand. A knife can also be helpful during food preparation.

4. Illumination and appropriate batteries

“Always carry a flashlight or head lamp and extra batteries with you even if you’re planning to just take a day hike; things happen, so be prepared for the unexpected,” Zeeman said. “There have been numerous Search and Rescue call outs where the victims took a day hike and ended up stranded on the hillside because they didn’t have a flashlight with them or their batteries went dead so they couldn’t get off the mountain safely.”

5. Nutrition

Food is an obvious item on the checklist, but it’s important to pack enough for at least three days more than campers intend to stay. The weather and other dangerous circumstances can be unpredictable, so it’s always better to pack more as a precautionary measure.

“Freeze dried meals are ok, but try to use meals that you don’t have to cook that have an almost infinite shelf life,” Zeeman said. “Carry lots of jerky, nuts, dried fruit and energy bars.”

6. Hydration

“Trying to ration your water is not a good idea. Drink as much water as your body needs, and make sure you have enough,” Zeeman said. “Without food you can go about three weeks; without water you can only go about three days.”

7. Insulation

“No matter where you go camping in the state of Utah it can be hotter than blazes one minute,s and there will be snow or rain the next,” Zeeman said. “So always be prepared to stay warm with layers such as fleece, wool, polyester and other breathable materials.”

8. First aid kit

Most drug stores have a pre-assembled first aid kit. Kits should include adhesive bandages, sterile gauze, gloves, antibiotic ointment and some type of antihistamine.

9. Fire materials

According to Zeeman, appropriate fire materials consist of waterproof matches, a lighter, candles and a magnesium fire stick. Zeeman also said campers should go out of their way to make sure their fire is out before they go to sleep at night.

10. Emergency Shelter

An adequate emergency shelter can save campers’ lives. The shelter should include a tarp, space blanket, tent and a 20-degrees-and-below sleeping bag.

Zeeman said if he could give campers one final tip for camping it would be to not go alone.

“Since I have been in Search and Rescue all of the incidents have consisted of someone getting hurt and being alone,” Zeeman said.


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