You are not a bear: 8 outdoor safety tips for Spring Break

Rule #1: We don’t demand that you hold hands while crossing the street (nor are we opposed to it), but the buddy system is tried and true. Whether you’re camping, hiking or kayaking, carving the mountains or carving the waves, the outdoors are way more fun with friends (and dolphins). Keep in mind that, no matter how tame your adventures may seem, accidents do happen; having a buddy helps keep them from becoming disasters.

Rule #2: GO WITH A BUDDY. No exceptions.

American Black Bear. Part of the Illinois Urban Landscapes Project:

Rule #3: The water may look clear, but remember that amoebas are really, really tiny. Before you eat or drink anything out in the wild, make sure you know where it came from, and what risks may be present by consuming it. You can boil your water, or chemically sterilize it, but more often you’re just better off bringing enough from home. Additionally, if you feel inclined to eat anything, make sure you know exactly what it is. Or better yet, if you find it on the ground, just leave it there. You are not a bear.

Rule #4: It’s highly unlikely that you will encounter a shark over Spring Break. Or ever. And despite what you may hear, it’s actually really difficult to hold yourself still in a little ball while a 20-foot apex predator evaluates you for marbling and tenderness. There are many (by now, cliché) defensive strategies you can resort to if you encounter hostile marine life – curling up in the aforementioned ball, or punching wildly at its gills, nose and eyes. But bear in mind that it’s not only sharks you have to be cautious of, and the safest way to enjoy the ocean is usually by staying where everyone else is. Your goal may be to avoid the crowds, but sharks and jellyfish feel the same way.

Rule #5: terephthalylidene dicamphor sulfonic acid, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane and chap stick should keep the elements at bay.

Geïmproviseerd zonnescherm / improvised sun screen from Nationaal Archief.

Rule #6: It rubs the sunscreen on its skin or else it gets the melanoma again – among the top ten cancer types in the US, according to the National Cancer Institute. Sunburns aren’t just annoying; they can be really painful, become infected, blister, and even leave scars. And by Spring Break your skin is primed for them – after hiding underneath layers of clothing all winter, your skin isn’t as ready as you are to deal with the sudden, intense exposure associated with frolicking joyfully on the beach. And just realize this: it’s much more fashionable to massage sunscreen into someones shoulders than to slather aloe vera all over their dry, sun-beaten back.

Bonfires Are Permitted on the Camping Ground of Long Key State Park, Midway between Key Largo and Key West. From Project DOCUMERICA

Rule #7: 10/10 doctors, teachers and Supreme Court justices agree that campfires are fun. But they can also go awry very quickly, and without you necessarily noticing. If you’re building a fire, make sure you follow some of the basic rules, like setting it in a pit (some campsites have them prepared for you) and clearing the area around it of all loose debris. Make sure the wind isn’t going to send your tent or anything else up in flames. And even when the embers look like they’ve finally cooled down, they haven’t. This is especially true with charcoal, which can remain hot for hours. Nothing can ruin your day like a surprise coal-walk.

Rule #8: If you go anywhere, particularly by car, it’s always handy to have a bag of snacks and supplies. Inevitably, somebody this Spring Break is going to get stuck on the road, in the middle of nowhere, waiting and wondering why, oh why did they not at least pack some Gatorade or bring the bag of Gummy Bears they left on the counter. Keeping some basic tools, a small first aid kit and some non-perishable snackage in the trunk at all times is an easy, one-time way to give yourself a little insurance against that one tack in the road. Also, toilet paper is like the evolutionary cousin of duct tape: it does one thing really well, but has endless possible uses at the same time. Pack a roll.

By Cade Cleavelin and Tina Casagrand


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