On the campsite
Before the great outdoors can be truly "great," you'll need to do a bit of homework.
Set up a weatherproof campsite
It takes some extra prep time, but these preventative measures can save your outdoor adventure from being a total washout if the forecast takes a nasty turn.
• Sew additional stake loops onto your tent's base, and secure them to the ground with more stakes or pegs. If wind picks up, you'll be grateful for the extra anchors.
• Stretch a nylon tarp over your tent and tie it in place. This extra layer serves as a second roof, reducing the risk of leaks if it rains.
• If possible, check the camp office regularly to stay informed about changes in the weather forecast, and adjust your plans accordingly.
• Pack clothing that can be layered in response to changes in weather and temperature. Be sure to include light clothes that will dry quickly if you get caught in a storm.
• Load the car with a cache of rainy-afternoon activities for the kids, including puzzle books, board games, books and magazines. Investigate nearby indoor attractions as day-trip options.
Build a safe campfire
• Choose a site on either bare dirt or rock, at least 15 metres from your tent and three metres from any logs, stumps, trees or overhanging branches.
• Locate a ready source of water nearby, and keep a pail of water and shovel on hand in order to extinguish the fire quickly.
• Clear a one-metre radius of pine needles, leaves or debris that could catch fire.
• Don't line the campfire with a ring of rocks – they could shelter hidden coals that might start a new fire. If rocks are already there, move them around after dousing the fire to make sure nothing's still burning.
• Never use gasoline to start a campfire.
• Ensure the fire is supervised by an adult at all times.
Page 1 of 5 – Learn how to repel bugs, stay cool without A/C, treat poison ivy and survive when your cellphone dies on page 2.
Treat poison ivy
Urushiol, the oil from poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac, can cause an itchy, red rash, accompanied by inflammation, hives and blisters.
• If you come into contact with any of these plants, wash the affected area immediately with soap and water. Calamine lotion and cool compresses can help to ease the itch.
• Wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and closed-toe shoes when walking through brush to reduce the risk of contact with your skin.
Beat the heat
When there's no air-conditioning in sight, it can be hard to regulate your body temperature. Take these preventative measures against heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
• Drink water throughout the day. Your body can only absorb eight ounces of water every 20 minutes, so drinking moderate amounts several times a day is more beneficial than filling up on a huge amount once or twice daily.
• Watch for signs of dehydration, which include dry eyes, mouth and skin, headaches and dark-coloured urine that has a strong odour. Avoid drinking alcohol, as it contributes to dehydration.
• Avoid eating high-protein meals, which increase your body's water loss and heat production.
• Slap on a hat and some loosefitting, light-coloured clothes. Synthetic materials with a mesh weave allow your skin to breathe better than linen or cotton, which tend to absorb moisture and keep it close to your skin.
• Take it easy. Any strenuous activities should be completed in the early morning, before the sun is at its peak.
Fight bug bites
• Wear light-coloured clothing and cover as much skin as possible. Dark colours attract blood-feeding insects.
• Use an insect repellent that contains DEET. The higher the concentration of DEET, the longer-lasting the protection. Children and pregnant women, however, should stick to insect repellents with low concentrations of this ingredient.
• Invest in mesh-net jackets and hats to wear over your clothing.
• Dry off thoroughly after swimming or sweating excessively. Horseflies tend to bite when the body is wet.
Survive without a cellphone
You can't count on a strong signal off the beaten path.
• Leave written details of your camping plans with a family member or friend. Include how long you'll be staying, where you'll be setting up camp and a detailed map of the region if your campsite is significantly off-road.
• Before going on hikes or canoe trips at a national park or campground, be sure to sign in and out with a park ranger. If you haven't reported back after a set period of time, your absence will be noted, and alerts may be raised.
• Have everyone carry a whistle. If anyone in your party gets lost or disoriented, he or she can blow the whistle – you'll be able to find them by tracking the sound. At the Cottage Work some risk management into your R&R, whether you're roughing it in a rustic cabin or lounging in luxury at a lakeside resort.
Page 2 of 5 – Bedbugs love cottages, too. Find out how to spot and protect yourself from bedbugs on page 3.
Check for bedbugs
Rental cottages aren't immune to the ever-growing bedbug epidemic. Until you've had the chance to give your holiday digs a once-over, leave your luggage at the door: these pesky parasites would love to hitch a ride home on your suitcase.
• Adult bedbugs are flat, wingless, oval and brown in colour, and about the size of an apple seed. After feeding they swell in size and darken to a red colour. Young bedbugs are not as easily spotted, as they're colourless and smaller in size.
• Inspect the beds, paying close attention to prime bedbug hangouts, which include the headboard, bed frame, box spring and mattress. Thoroughly check mattress seams and nooks and crannies – where the bugs like to hide.
• Even if you don't find any creepy-crawlies right away, check for any tiny bloodstains on your sheets the next morning, which is a sign that you may have been bitten. Reactions to bedbug bites run the gamut from rashes, swelling and redness to no reaction at all. Bedbug bites often occur in a telltale pattern – look for three raised bites in a row.
Don't let the bedbugs bite!
Before checking into any rental or hotel this summer, check out the Bedbug Registry for reported cases of bedbug infestations in Canada and the United States.
Choose the right PFD or life-jacket
Safe Kids Canada reports that nine out of 10 boaters who drown in Canada weren't wearing lifejackets. Whether you're in, on or around the water, make it a habit to ensure that everyone in your party is strapped into a snug-fitting life-jacket or personal flotation device (PFD).
• Life-jackets are designed to keep your upper body in an upright position, with your face out of the water. PFDs, on the other hand, will definitely keep you afloat, but will not necessarily keep your face above water.
• PFDs tend to be less bulky than lifejackets and, as a result, tend to be more popular for active water sports such as canoeing and water skiing.
• For children, invest in PFDs that have special safety features such as safety straps to prevent the device from going over the child's head, reflective tape and a whistle.
• Ensure a proper fit. According to the Canadian Red Cross, if there's a gap of more than three inches between the child's shoulders and the shoulder harness of the PFD, it's too big.
• Life-jackets should be approved either by Transport Canada, the Canadian Coast Guard or Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Jackets approved by these agencies will be orange, yellow or red.
• There are no Canadian-approved life-jackets for infants who weigh less than 20 pounds, so it's best to keep babies off the boat and away from the shore.
Grill with skill
When it comes to casual cooking at the cottage, nothing beats the barbecue. But before serving up your favourite alfresco foods, make sure your grill – and grilling skills – are up to snuff.
• Inspect your barbecue for damage that may have occurred over the winter. Check for leaks in your propane tank or gas lines in particular.
• Avoid the risk of a carbon monoxide buildup indoors by ensuring the barbecue is at least three feet away from any windows.
• Always make sure the grill's lid is up before lighting a gas barbecue. With the lid closed, gas can build up, resulting in a burst of flame.
• For a safely cooked burger, grill the patty until it has reached an internal temperature of 71°C (160°F). Don't rely on colour alone as an indicator, since ground beef will usually brown before it reaches a temperature that's high enough to kill bacteria.
Page 3 of 5 – Do you know how to remove a tick? We walk you through the process on page 4.
• Invest in a digital thermometer to accurately check the temperature of your meats before taking them off the grill. Probe the thickest part of the patty.
• Avoid cross-contamination by using separate cutting boards, plates and utensils for raw foods such as meat and ready-to-eat foods such as salad.
• Don't keep leftovers too long. Even if they're kept refrigerated, barbecued meats should be eaten within two to three days, and reheated on the grill or stove at 74°C (165°F).
Safely remove a tick
Although most ticks don't carry diseases, they should still be removed immediately.
• Avoid handling the tick with your bare hands. Instead, use fine-tipped tweezers, wear latex gloves or cover your hands with a tissue. Specialty tick pliers are also available at outdoor stores.
• Gently grab the tick by its mouth and pull directly upwards – don't twist! Be careful not to squeeze too hard, and avoid grabbing the tick's bloated belly – you could risk pushing infection into your body.
• If the tick breaks apart, remove as much from your skin as possible.
• After the tick has been removed, wash the bite with warm water and soap (mild dishwashing soap works well).
• If you're in a region where deer ticks have been found, place the tick in a sealed bag for identification and testing for Lyme disease by a doctor, public health unit or other healthcare professional. Keep an eye out for joint pain or a bull's-eye rash surrounding the tick bite – two of the symptoms of Lyme disease.
Get the most from your sunscreen
We all know that wearing sunscreen can help reduce your risk for developing skin cancer and other damage caused by exposure to the sun, but how you use sunscreen can be as important as which sunscreen you buy.
• Health Canada suggests investing in a sunscreen that is SPF 15 or higher. Make sure you reapply at least every two hours, especially after sweating or swimming.
• Apply sunscreen to dry skin at least 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Don't forget to spread a layer onto your lips as well – the sensitive skin there burns easily.
• Make sure to wear sunscreen even on overcast days: 80 per cent of the sun's rays can shine through light clouds, mist and fog.
• Limit the time you spend in direct sunlight between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are at their most intense.
• Check the expiration date on that bottle of sunscreen leftover from last summer. Sunscreens have a limited shelf life and lose potency over time.
In the car
Ready to hit the open road? Run through this checklist before pulling out of your driveway. Make sure your ride is road-worthy In between regular tune-ups with a professional mechanic (including an oil change every 5,000 kilometres, or every three months – whichever comes first), it's important to take a proactive approach when it comes to vehicle maintenance. Make sure your ride is ready to roll with these tips from Alayne Crawford, manager of public affairs for the Canadian Automobile Association (CAA).
• Ensure that all lights (including hazards, turn indicators and brake lights) are functioning.
• Check that your tire pressure is up to standard. You'll normally find the recommended pressure per square inch listed in your owner's manual, inside the driver's side door or inside the glove box.
Page 4 of 5 – Discover how to set up an emergency plan for your road trip on page 5.
• Did you know that most windshield wipers have a lifespan of just 12 months? Inspect your wiper blades and replace them if they are worn or damaged.
• Stop off at the car wash. Clean windows and mirrors will help ensure you have the clearest possible view of your surroundings.
• Check the levels of fuel, oil, coolant, brake fluid and windshield washer fluid, and top them up if necessary. Keep extra washer fluid in your trunk in case you run out en route.
Plan your route
Sure, a dashboard GPS is great, but it never hurts to have low-tech backup. Always carry printed maps and directions to your destination. Even a compass could come in handy if you get off the beaten path.
Buckle up properly
Not only is the proper use of seatbelts the law across Canada, but it's also mandatory for wee ones under 36 kilograms (80 pounds) to be fastened into a car seat.
• Check the car seat's expiration date, and ensure that it's the appropriate size for your child. Car seats are designed to accommodate children who fall within a specific weight and height range.
• Test for a snug (and safe) fit. According to Transport Canada, you should be able to fit just one finger between the harness and your child's collarbone.
• Remember, the safest place for kids aged 12 and under is in the back seat of your vehicle.
Get in the right frame of mind for a road trip
• Driver fatigue can be deadly. Plan your trip around your normal sleeping pattern, and avoid driving during the hours you'd normally be in bed.
• Avoid distractions, including mobile phone use. Legislation banning texting or talking on a hand-held device while driving has been passed in every province.
• Stop for a meal, snack or bathroom break every two hours. These pit stops may slow down the pace, but are an opportunity to relax and stretch your muscles.
Establish an emergency plan
• Ensure your mobile phone is fully charged before setting out, and pack your phone's car charger.
• 911 service now exists across most regions in North America, and even if you find yourself in an area without 911 service, most mobile phones are now designed to automatically connect you with local emergency services.
• If your vehicle breaks down in the middle of the highway, warn other drivers by turning on your hazard lights. CAA recommends that you remain in your vehicle (if it is safe to do so) with your seatbelt fastened until help arrives.
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