Consider safety when enjoying time in the great outdoors

Having fun in the great outdoors is easy, but making sure you stay safe while doing it takes a little bit more attention.

Not too many years ago, relatively speaking, I would take on summer fun with more reckless abandon, but over time I’ve learned from a few mistakes and managed to survive a few close scrapes to be able to offer some guidance for those who don’t want to learn by trial and error.

Adequate sunscreen is a don’t-leave-home-without-it item anytime you are going to experience hours of exposure, but it is particularly important when highly reflective water is part of the activity. Reapplying is also important when the first coat washes or gets sweated off.

Paul Drury’s hat, like the rest of him, is way cooler than me and my wide-brimmed sun shade.

Whether I am fishing, hiking, or golfing in the sunshine, I pride myself on wearing the most ridiculous floppy hat on the course. Sunglasses are as helpful for eye protection as they are in cutting down glare allowing vision through the water.

Fair-skinned and freckled, I am certainly more susceptible to sunburn, but I know plenty of dark-complected people who turned a day on the water into a rock lobster imitation by the end of the evening.

Drink plenty of water and limited amounts of alcoholic beverages when out on hot summer days. Cold drinks and boating seem like a perfect combination, but operating a watercraft while intoxicated is a dangerous situation. When the temperatures soar and the humidity soaks your shirt with sweat, you almost can’t re-hydrate enough. Snacks like watermelon, cantaloupe, grapes, and tomatoes provide added liquid your diet. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty.

Wade fishing is my favorite summer outdoor activity, but rivers and lakes can be dangerous places to step off of the shore and into the water. The bottom surface is never consistent and can change rapidly. River currents can be sneaky strong just a few paces away from where you seem to be standing on firm ground.

Rivers usually provide clearer water that may provide a view to the bottom surface, but the depth can change by feet instead of inches in an instant. I consider myself a strong swimmer but swift water that is over your head can make reaching the shore challenging, especially while trying to hold a fishing rod and reel above the water level while you kick and pull with your free arm.

Personal flotation devices are required for each person on a boat, but wearing them is considered optional for adults. Anytime the “big motor” is providing power, wearing your like jacket should be an individual mandate.

Good insect repellent may not smell attractive, but fragrant lotions have never been as effective for me. When you are spending your day on the water or in woods this time of year, you are going to need a shower before the end of the day anyway, so be sure to liberally apply bug spray especially on your shoes and socks to avoid chiggers, ticks and mosquitoes. They can provide reminders of your outing for days, weeks, or even longer term in some cases.

Last but not least is attention to outdoor burning. Campfires are a staple of a great summer time outing, but the potential danger extends well beyond the fire pit. Getting too close to the flame is an obvious concern, but keeping that fire contained during dry conditions is important to the woods we enjoy.

Campgrounds usually have fabricated fire places, but when planning an outdoor burn site that isn’t predetermined, be sure to clear a wide area around the fire site. Never use gasoline or other flammable liquids to stoke or start a fire. Keep fire extinguishing options like a bucket of water close by, and always put the fire out at night before heading to the tent or camper.

Fireworks are fun for community displays, but they are too dangerous for places that are surrounded by dry grass, leaves and forest under story. Most public camping areas prohibit fireworks.

Enjoy the great outdoors, but remember to do it safely.

Originally published by Leader Publications on July 14, 2022.

Published by John J. Winkelman

A freelance outdoor writer for more than 30 years

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