Water Safety: Common Sense Counts

By Tom Britz

A large part of the appeal of the camping experience is the unexpected adventure. But when it comes to enjoying the water, every camper should know how to keep the unexpected from transforming fun into misfortune.

Old-fashioned common sense is probably the best safeguard around water, and the specific precautions are easy enough to learn. The basic fact to remember is, because water is not man’s natural habitat, being in, on or near it holds potential danger. As obvious as that sounds, many people seem quite willing to splash around without knowing how to swim or even keep afloat.

Learning to swim is a relatively simple process; even toddlers can be taught to swim remarkably well. The Red Cross, YMCA, YWCA and other groups offer lessons for all ages at little or no cost. Even if swimming isn’t on your schedule, if you plan to be around the water, you should at least know how to keep yourself afloat in case of a mishap.

The ability to swim isn’t necessarily a guarantee of safety, however. Swimming on a camping trip can be much more dangerous than taking dip in the local pool or lake back home. The campsite swimming spot may be unfamiliar to you and there probably won’t be any lifeguards around. Aside from those caveats, and assuming that you are at least capable of keeping your head above the surface, a few rules should be observed.

  • First, never swim alone. This is an oldie, but it’s as important as ever, especially in ocean water where strong undertows may exist. If you have a large group, someone should serve as lifeguard.
  • Don’t overexert yourself. While this holds true for everyone, young boys, according to the Red Cross, apparently take the most risks and are more likely to foolishly test their strength and swimming abilities. Also, remember that swimming in cold water or at high altitude will reduce anyone’s normal swimming endurance.