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australia:camping_risks

risk management when camping

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Introduction

  • to live is to take risks
  • to reduce harm is to manage those risks
  • as long as you are sensible, are aware of risks, and don't take stupid risks and stay away from others who would be drunk or stupid, then your realistically severe risks are mainly:
    • severe storms - these are lethal if flash flooding causing drownings or death from car accidents, falling trees or lightning
      • so don't go camping if severe storms are forecast and take car on the roads
    • drowning whilst swimming or boating - wear a life jacket on boats and when swimming if you are not a strong swimmer, and know the rip current signs at beaches or swim between the flags
    • getting lost or injured hiking - take a EPIRB radio beacon and some rain/cold/sun protection with enough water
    • burns from camp fires or boat fires - check gear, especially gas connections, don't get drunk around fires or when cooking, and take extra care
  • NB. far more people die in Australia from either holiday car accidents, drownings, falling trees in storms or lightning strikes than from snake bites so don't let a fear of snakes prevent you from enjoying a refreshing experience in nature - and if the insects and snakes are still a worry, camp in southern parts of Australia in winter
    • no-one dies from spiders in Victoria - allergic reactions to bees or ant stings are a risk though.

Research BEFORE you go

  • are there issues with your destination?
    • likely to be over-crowded?
    • closed from storm damage, floods, road closures, rivers may not be able to be crossed, etc
    • region currently infested with pests such as mouse plague, European wasps, mosquitos carrying viruses
    • extreme weather events forecast
    • likely weather for the duration of your trip
      • will there be possibility of snow, storms, heavy rain or strong winds?
      • this will determine what gear you will take and if you should postpone the trip
    • check for up to date local knowledge if possible - hiking tracks may be so over-grown after a wet season they will be hard to navigate
    • what particular risks are there - wildlife, insects, etc
      • take gear to mitigate these risks eg. tick removal tool, insect repellant
  • have a Plan B and C BEFORE you go
    • other camp grounds and back up camping gear
  • plan for worst case scenarios
  • if hiking, map it out and save it for offline use (and paper version)
    • identify water sources and camp sites
    • ascertain how hard it will be - elevation gain, distance, areas of no protection from wind or sun, etc
    • put phone in aeroplane mode to check if your map still displays
    • how will you call for help?
    • have you let someone know where you are going and when you will be back - notify them when you are back
  • 90% of search and rescue efforts are for day hikers - be prepared even for short hikes!
  • most deaths in hiking and camping are due to falling from waterfalls or cliff edges or drowning - an Instagram pic is not worth the risks!
    • other deaths are mainly from trees or tree branches falling, very few are from snake bites or other animal injuries
    • in Victoria, you are far more likely to be killed by people you know or in urban areas (especially where substance abuse issues are rife) rather than by predators in the bush - these are thankfully rare but you must still use your judgement and avoid high risk scenarios

The human factor

  • is it legal?
  • lack of preparation, knowledge and understanding
    • failure to risk manage:
      • dehydration risk
      • hypothermia risk / hyperthermia risk
      • UV protection
      • wet weather protection
      • mosquito protection - they can carry deadly or nasty viruses such as encephalitis viruses
      • navigation management such as map and compass as well as smartphone or GPS, and recovery options such as carrying an EPIRB and informing others of destination and expected return time
      • trauma - first aid care
      • drowning - if swimming in deep waters, consider wearing a life jacket if you are not a strong swimmer
      • snake bites - bring your crepe bandages and be vigilant at all times
    • in May 2021, 21 very fit alpine ultramarathon runners (of 171 who participated) died from hypothermia when a storm hit
  • inadequate hygiene or drinking/eating contaminated water or poorly kept foods
  • risky behaviours
    • being foolish is not really a great option
      • fires inside your tent while you sleep is very risky even with safeguards and not recommended but doing so without a carbon monoxide alarm is plain stupidity
    • being drunk or drug affected seriously raises the risk of harm:
      • falling into fires
      • failing to do safety checks for gas BBQs before lighting them
      • falling asleep with unattended fires
      • other injuries due to falls, etc
      • aggression and violence risk, esp. when everyone is cranky and intolerant with short tempers on extreme hot weather days
    • leaving camp fires unattended or lighting them on Total Fire Ban days or in Fire Danger Period regions when wind is > 10kph:
    • 4wd off-road Land Cruiser demolition derbies are not only expensive but may cause injury or leave you stranded in a remote inaccessible area
      • 4WD recoveries are high injury risk events - if you have a choice, avoid those potentially deep mud holes and river crossings
      • perhaps there are less expensive and safer ways to get your adrenaline rush!
  • stubborness in the face of danger
    • yes, we have all been there - put a lot of energy into planning and preparations, taken time off work, and then then weather forecast turns sour - do we or do we not cancel or at least change destination plans
    • in June 2021, a Low pressure system brought over 200m rain and very strong winds to Victoria's alpine region blowing over perhaps hundreds of thousands of tall mountain gums and pines, not only destroying over 100 houses but damaging access roads which were blocked by the massive gums and knocked out regional water, electricity supplies and mobile phone towers for over a month - obviously even if you did survive in your tent because you chose a sheltered location away from falling trees, strong winds, flooding and landslides you were not going to be getting out of there for a long time and you were not going to be able to call for help so easily.
    • If bad weather is predicted - cancel your plans!
  • accidental harm from third parties
    • cars driving over poorly visible swags at night
    • road traffic accidents especially on busy “long” weekends or school holiday periods
    • boating accidents - not seeing swimmers in the water, boat fires, etc
  • malevalence
    • the main crime issue in camp grounds is petty theft and break and enter crimes
      • there will always be those who seek to take advantage of vulnerability or opportunity for theft and complacency of campers is a major contributor to risk of petty theft
      • avoid taking expensive gear - a cheaper tent with minimal camp gear is preferred if day hiking away from the tent
      • lock up bikes, etc
      • do not leave expensive gear in an unattended tent or caravan - take it in the car with you if you go for a drive
      • lock you caravan when leaving it (although this may not prevent theft)
      • have you car close to your tent and locked with attractive gear covered up
    • aggressive behaviour at camp grounds
      • this is more likely to happen if:
        • campers do not display tolerance and respect to each other and do not acknowledge others especially those who are financially challenged
        • campers getting drunk or using drugs - aggressive drunkenness is especially a problem in hot weather with noise (loud music, generators) which may impact others
        • thieves caught in the process of thieving
    • see camping security for more details on minimising theft, etc
    • fortunately major crimes at camp grounds are rare in Australia
      • if solo woman camping, consider taking a second chair to give the impression you have company, get to know fellow campers but perhaps don't stay too long if they seem to be giving too much unwanted attention
    • attacks on hikers are rare, even for solo women, but if hiking alone:
      • look confident even if you are not, don't run scared, stare them down whether it be a human or an animal
      • don't let the world or other hikers know you are hiking alone until you are back home safely - no need to encourage stalkers, if need be tell other hikers your “friend” is not far away just checking something out
      • consider carrying a self protection tool if that is legal, or at least take a trekking pole
      • have a whistle ready at hand to scare of animals or as a distress signal
  • be aware of your surroundings at all times
    • avoid headphones while hiking or at least only use one ear bud with low volume
    • know what is in front of you , to the side and behind you
  • if hiking take these essentials even if day trip
    • navigation gear
    • torch
    • shelter
    • extra water
    • extra food
    • extra clothes
    • sun protection
    • fire starting gear
    • knife and gear repair kit
    • first aid kit
    • EPIRB (and/or iPhone 14 or later for satellite messaging with power bank)

Camp site risks

  • camp fires are always a major hazard
    • it is critical to not only follow Fire Safety requirements of the region but also avoid trip hazards, avoid being drunk, and wear low flammable materials
    • NB. puffer jackets are not great around camp fires as embers will melt holes in them
  • falls risks, especially if there are cliffs or river banks
    • unfortunately falls hazards, particularly guy ropes are a problem and one should take steps to minimise risks - ensure they are visible at night, etc.
    • avoid camping near a cliff edge or river bank or having the camp fire near the edge - they may become invisible at night and a fall down them could be disastrous
  • flood risks
    • don't camp on dry river beds - distant storms can bring overnight flash flooding without warning
  • any fire - gas or wood - inside an enclosed space can be lethal
    • ensure there is adequate ventilation to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning
  • falling trees or tree branches are a significant cause of death in Australia
    • don't camp under native Eucalypt or suspect trees, especially high risk ones

Equipment failure

  • a compromised shelter can expose you to life threatening hypothermia
    • take repair kit or back up shelter such as a tarp, space blanket, etc
    • if heavy rains are possible, avoid camping on ground likely to fill up with rain water
      • even your “waterproof” floor of your swag or tent may not deal with this adequately and a wet mattress or sleeping bag can easily end your trip!
      • if avoidance is not possible, consider getting everything off the ground eg. use a stretcher bed or use additional waterproofing such as a tarp (as long as water does not get on top of it)
    • large hail from supercell thunderstorms and their associated strong wind gusts may damage equipment
      • hail < 1cm is unlikely to cause tarp or tent damage even with ultralight materials such as 20D nylon as long as they have not deteriorated due to prolonged UV exposure
  • electrical systems failures such as AC inverters and lithium battery explosions can result in you being severely injured or your vehicle being damaged - make sure they are operated safely and not exposed to physical damage, water or short circuiting (NEVER put lithium batteries in pockets with car keys!)
  • exploding gas bottles
    • a gas bottle with a light attachment on top fell over and when a girl went to pick it up, it exploded sending flames into adjacent tents causing major burns 1)
    • even smaller butane gas canisters can explode if they are damaged or if the temperature inside rises suddenly to over 50degC, such as if it falls into a fire, overheating by an excessively large pot which overlies the canister, or even leaving it in direct sunlight (some have a CRV or RVR release valve which prevents some explosions as long as there is no naked flames around - this can be an issue when used indoors or in enclosed spaces where the butane release may build up) 2)
  • portable diesel heater fires
    • lucky escape as an unattended tent being warmed by a diesel heater catches on fire 3)
  • electric blanket catches fire
    • higher wattage (eg. 75W) 12V electric blankets need to be kept flat during use as folds can create hot spots which can start fires
  • faulty 240V power cables can cause fires
    • faulty cables can set fire to mattresses etc 4)

The weather

strong winds

  • most larger nylon tents are only rated to Beaufort force 6 winds (< 50kph)
  • Beaufort 8 gale force winds > 60kph can destroy your tent or tarp set up and expose you to life threatening wind chill, rain, and possibly injuries
    • twigs will break off trees, walking against it becomes difficult
    • fibreglass hiking tent poles may snap
    • broken poles will not only compromise your shelter but the sharp ends will pierce the fly letting in rain or cause other damage
    • if using a tent or tarp, in addition to it being well guyed out and securely pegged, it should be relatively aerodynamic and strong enough to cope with these winds
      • aerodynamic tents include geodesic dome tents, tipi tents, low tunnel tents or hiking 1-2P dome if oriented correctly - but perhaps the best is a strong canvas swag
      • ultra-light tent materials tear more readily so ensure your tent has reasonable strength - perhaps at least a 40D fabric
      • alloy poles will survive wind distortion better, especially if they are thicker eg 9.6mm rather than 8mm diameter
      • tall, straight sided fast frame tents with plastic hubs may not be your best option although I have used a 4P one in 60kph with extra strong angle iron pegging and sprung heavy duty guy ropes and it survived
    • tipi style tents / tarp set ups rely upon the integrity of the pegs and/or guy ropes to provide tension on all sides to keep the centre pole in place
    • ensure your pegs are stable enough for the soil and wind conditions (if the pegs push in easily by hand, they may not hold in strong winds)
    • many pegs will rotate in strong winds resulting in the guy rope falling off
    • ensure all guy out points are guyed out and regularly check the tension in the guy ropes
  • strong gale force winds > 75kph:
    • these are likely to damage most tents, tarps, awning and gazebos - take them down early and then you will still have it in one piece after the storm has passed
    • your car, or a swag may be the safest option outdoors
  • storm force winds > 100kph:
    • can cause damage to houses with roof tiles blowing off - so your tent is probably not going to fair well
    • place trees at high risk of having large branches snapped off, or, particularly if the ground is wet, the trees uprooted, especially if wind is from an unusual direction
    • this is what can happen in a tall tree forest in a wind storm even without a tornado or cyclone - you don't want to be there!
  • take care with site selection and consider avoiding camping when strong winds are forecast - unfortunately, not all forecasts are accurate!
  • consider taking an emergency shelter such as a emergency ultralight bivy bag or a spare ultralight tent or tarp

alpine influences

  • if air is well mixed (as in windy conditions), the air temperature decreases with increasing altitude at a rate of 0.6–1.0°C per 100 m for humid air, and about 1.0°C per 100 m for dry air.
  • moist air masses hitting a steep mountain will be pushed upwards resulting in cloud and rain on that side of the mountain and warmer drier air over the other side of the mountain
  • the reduced friction at high elevations means winds are stronger and more steady - the wind speed on open land above 1000 m is 2-2.5x stronger than on low-lying land.
  • sunlight at 1200m has twice the UV radiation as at sea level

convection lightning storms

  • being caught outdoors in a storm is dangerous and these can occur quite quickly without much warning and are especially a risk in alpine areas where the harm can be much greater
  • may occur in fair weather days in the late afternoon or evening following convective columns over hot land
  • may occur preceding cold fronts
  • are common in association with low pressure systems and humid weather
  • sound of the thunder travels 1 km in 3 seconds
  • risks:
    • lightning
      • in summer this will also create a bush fire risk
      • when the time between lightning and thunder is less than 30secs (ie. storm is less than 10km away), you become at risk of being hit by lightning
    • hail - if large enough, can easily compromise your shelter and risk physical injury
    • flash flooding - especially in valleys and risk of land slides
    • gale force winds
      • likely to compromise your shelter and break tent poles
      • high risk of injury from falling trees or branches or flying debris
      • will significantly increase risk of hypothermia due to wind chill
      • high chance that fallen trees will block your routes out of the camp ground as well as damage local power and mobile phone infrastructure - often for weeks!
    • rain will risk you and your gear getting wet and risk severe hypothermia
    • rarely a tornado may form
    • in May 2021, 28 of 172 ultramarathon runners died and 8 others were injured in China when a freak storm hit with high winds and freezing rains causing severe hypothermia whilst they were running across the mountain trek, some wearing only T shirts and shorts. Many lost their way due to poor visibility.
  • risk mitigation
    • avoid camping (and delay setting up tents until the storm has passed) if storms are forecast or at least keep away from:
      • exposed sites such as ridges, open slopes, coastal areas, near bodies of water
      • any high points; crags, rock outcrops, isolated trees, power lines.
      • gorges or narrow river valleys are particularly dangerous as risk of flash flooding
      • being adjacent to large trees which may be hit by lightning or blown over by the wind
      • standing or sitting on tree roots
      • entrances of caves or under rocky overhangs
      • any metal objects (but getting inside a car or a building is a good option)
      • other hiking members to reduce risk you all get hit
    • lightning and how to reduce your risks such as adopting lightning posture

cold fronts

  • these are usually predictable a few days ahead thanks to the weather bureau and by the presence of high cirrus clouds forming well ahead of the front or high flying aircraft leaving long-lasting contrails in the air which indicates relatively high levels of moisture.
  • may be preceded by very strong winds and thunderstorms and the rare tornado
  • are followed by cold air masses, clear skies (add to cold night risk) with frequent periods of rain showers
    • at elevations above 900m may result in snow falling especially if the air mass is polar maritime rather than southern ocean maritime
    • hypothermia is a major risk especially at higher elevations
    • faster moving type a cold fronts generate powerful cumulonimbus storm cloud systems ahead of the front
    • slower moving type b cold fronts generate a larger altostratus and nimbostratus cloud covering a wide area ahead of the front and producing a longer period of rainfall after the front has passed
  • risk mitigation
    • see as for storms
    • plus avoid being at high elevations as risk of hypothermia is high

low pressure systems

  • these are predictable in advance by a few days and generally cause prolonged heavy rain periods often lasting 24-72hrs and flooding often with periods of strong winds which are likely to blow down even the biggest gum trees which will cause road access issues as well as knock out regional power, internet, mobile phones and water for weeks
  • may be associated with frequent thunderstorm activity
  • of course in the tropics these may form or come from cyclones which are certainly not a time to go camping!
  • risk mitigation
    • see as for storms
    • be aware that roads and tracks may become impassable for a few weeks
    • land slides may be an issue
    • ensure you take extra steps to keep your gear dry as it is unlikely to dry out for several days

really hot days 35-45deg C

  • dehydration, UV burns, hyperthermia and confusion are all high risks and death can come quickly for the unprepared
  • bushfires are a major risk, especially if there is also a forecast of thunderstorms
  • risk mitigation
    • do not hike in bushfire prone regions on Extreme bushfire risk days
    • avoid hiking on very hot days but if you must, then take plenty of water - much more than usual, wear protective sun cover clothing and regularly drink as much water as possible

very cold nights

  • this is mainly an issue in inland areas, in valleys, or in alpine areas, particularly when there are clear skies with little wind which allows the local ground to become colder
  • risk mitigation

Animal life

  • many insects are attracted to light, a phenomenon called positive phototaxis, the good news is that most cannot see our visible red light in the range of 600-740nm so use orange/red lights when camping
  • of course, other insects such as mosquitoes are attracted to high levels of CO2 (your exhaled air) and skin odours so an orange/red light will not suffice for these
  • the most common issue is that of insects - mosquitoes, sand flies, bull ants
    • these are largely mitigated by no-see-um mesh in modern tents
    • mosquito bites and the risk of infections such as Ross River virus, Japanese encephaitis virus, etc can be further reduced by:
      • cover skin when outdoors with loose fitting clothing
      • use of insect repellants when outdoors
      • additional use of a mosquito net hanging inside your 4P or larger tent to drape over your bed
      • use a 2P Mozzie tent inside your larger tent for extra protection
  • a chemical from certain very tiny beetles in NE Victoria (peak cases are around Wangaratta to Wodonga region but can extend west to Echuca) and SW NSW may cause an intensely painful eye condition called Christmas Eye
    • wear glasses outdoors in these regions where possible
  • ticks while walking can be an issue on the eastern coastline in particular
  • leeches can be an annoyance walking in moist areas such as rainforests and near waterfalls (land leeches) and when wading or swimming in freshwater creeks (water leeches)
    • there are 70 species of leeches in Australia and apart from sucking blood do not seem to transmit diseases
    • Victoria is one of the few places on earth you’ll find leeches living on land
      • it usually takes land leeches about 30 minutes to fill up with your blood, and then they will drop off, or you can scrape them off with a fingernail or piece of paper - the site will bleed for a while due to the anticoagulant injected - take care not to get it infected
      • you can minimise land leeches by wearing long sleeve shirts and trousers and using insect repellants
    • water leeches include the Australian tiger leech (Richardsonianus australis))
  • rodents, wombats and other animals, and even occasionally, large bullants, may create a hole in a tent if they smell food or other smelly things (including perfume, smelly socks or backpacks inside)
  • mice
    • mice plagues often occur in inland Australia in particular after flood events along the Murray River
    • mice, when in large numbers can cause havoc with campers - mouse urine on canvas, holes eaten in canvas, etc
    • keep all food enclosed and try green camphor moth balls as deterrents
    • exposure to rodent urine does run the risk of catching the serious infection leptospirosis - this is not a significant risk to campers unless perhaps they are in plague proportions

Australian snakes

  • a snake inside your tent is RARE in Australia - but wise to check before entering
  • the venomous Australian snakes are generally not active at night unless it is a very warm night (ie. they are diurnal) - they are NOT likely to crawl into your sleeping bag with you - I have never heard this happening in Australia, but eastern brown snakes in Queensland have been known to get into beds in a house
  • non-venomous pythons (these are the most common snake as a pet) live in trees and are active at night but are rare in southern parts of Victoria being mainly found north of Wangaratta and along the Murray River system and latitudes north of this - a third of houses on the Gold Coast in Qld have a python living in the roof!
  • snakes are generally well-natured and they will avoid humans whenever possible, although may remain still if they sense nearby danger
  • whilst they are common they are usually only a danger if one does not see them whilst walking and steps on or near them, or is stupid enough to try to catch them without training
  • they are not going to chase you but may come towards you if you are between them and their preferred safety destination - just move sideways out of their way or stay completely still - biting you is usually their last defensive resort
  • they avoid exposed open areas and prefer longer grassed areas, vegetation, or fallen trees (however, in the morning they will often bask on paths to get direct sunlight)
  • snakes are more common near waterways where they have a better food source in frogs, lizards and rodents and generally more vegetation for shelter
  • snakes are far less active in the colder winter months in southern parts of Australia
  • on warmer days they occasionally will seek shelter under or inside a tent, or under a vehicle (especially on a warm day where there is little other shade they can access safely)
  • reduce snake issues in or near your tent by:
    • pitch tent in an open area with low grass or no grass and away from bushes, fallen trees and branches
    • if you are leaving your tent up during the day:
      • zip it up and seal any holes - assuming it has a floor
      • if it does not have a floor or you have a large tent, consider having a sealed 2P tent inside in which you can store your sleeping gear and sleep in
      • keep the floor of your tent tidy so it is more easy to spot a snake when you enter
      • do not have open food in your tent, this attracts mice and birds which attracts snakes (snakes themselves are not attracted to human foods though)
      • on returning to your tent:
        • check the outside for snake tracks or a snake tail sticking out from under it (if possible lift the tent up to check under it)
        • check the inside before entering
        • if your sleeping bag is not in a sealed tent, take it outside and carefully shake it upside down away from you - better still use a quilt or leave the sleeping bag fully open
      • if you are paranoid, consider white vinegar around your tent as this is said to reduce snakes as they don't like slithering over it - not sure if there is good evidence for this though!

goannas (lace monitors)

  • these apex predators are very large lizards up to 2m long and 20kg with sharp claws and a strong, sharp edged tail which can do a bit of damage, not to mention their mildly venomous bites which can cause infections and tissue damage
  • in Victoria, they are mainly in coastal areas east of Wilsons Prom and also including the alpine areas in east Gippsland
    • the Bell form has been reported in Healesville, Rushworth, and Murchison in Victoria, and the Flinders Ranges in South Australia (as well as NSW, Qld)
  • they will run up trees to escape threats (especially the younger ones)
  • they will generally leave you alone UNLESS they get upset if you have been feeding them and then run out of food - DON'T FEED WILDLIFE! and keep your distance!
  • the even larger Perentie monitor lizard is rarely seen as it is shy and lives in central Australia and across to the west coast

dingos

  • these native dogs roam in packs and can be dangerous especially to younger children
  • mainly an issue on Fraser Island but are also common in the Snowy Mountains and various other regions
  • DON'T FEED WILDLIFE!
  • I must admit I don't enjoy being in a 2P hiking tent hearing the howls of a pack of wild dogs or dingoes - perhaps a roof top tent might be better in these areas!

wombats

  • these gentle marsupials have large claws and will destroy your tent if they smell food in there - keep all food out of tents or at least in sealed containers!
  • unfortunately many of them have mange (scabies) which is potentially contagious to dogs so keep them well separated

bats and flying foxes

  • don't handle bats or sleep under where they sleep as they may harbour various pathogens:
    • Australian bat lyssavirus (ABLV) is a rare (3 recorded cases in Australia - all in Qld) rabies like illness from the bat saliva which is usually fatal
    • Histoplasmosis is a very rare lung infection from inhaling dried bat faeces
    • Leptospirosis (as with rodents)

hairy caterpillars

  • do NOT touch any hairy caterpillar as it may have nasty hairs such as:
    • Ochrogaster lunifer processionary caterpillars
      • hairs can penetrate the skin and break off and as they have microbarbs cannot be easily removed and carry proteins which cause local dermatitis reactions
      • getting the hairs in your eyes can cause blindness
      • pregnant horses who accidentally eat the caterpllars have been known to abort their foals
      • they forage at night for food mainly on wattle trees (acacia) as a group, often in a long line
      • airborne hairs can land on surfaces which humans may contact such as bed linen and clothing

Trees and other plants

sudden limb drop

  • some trees, in particular, some species of Eucalyptus such as red gum and yellow box have a potentially lethal and silent habit of suddenly dropping large branches without warning even when there is no wind
    • this is particularly the case if the tree has been identified as a risk and marked with a K (“Killer”), or an X (which may be inside a circle)
  • general advice is not to camp under large branches (especially if they are almost horizontal in orientation) of high risk Eucalyptus trees or where an at risk tree may fall over
  • risk is perhaps 1-2% per annum for such trees with branches 10-30cm in diameter
    • mainly occurs in summer, especially after a drought or after floods
    • thus if one assumes risk is around 1% over 3-4 months then the risk of branch falling whilst camping overnight in summer is perhaps of the order of 1 in 20,000 per night camping under such a branch. Risk may be significantly higher in periods of high winds.

stinging plants

  • mainly a problem in northern Queensland (see under tropics)

Additional factors at lakes and rivers

  • slow flowing water courses, especially lakes often have toxic algae growing - do not drink it, and consider avoiding swimming near it!
  • water treatments such as chemical sterilisation, boiling, filtration and UV sterilisation will NOT decontaminate the water of the blue-green algae toxins and thus the water cannot be readily made potable! These toxins may have many effects such as destroying your liver.
  • water that is over 28degC with dirt and no chlorine may harbor lethal amoeba Naegleria fowleri that causes a 99% fatal amoebic meningitis - avoid swimming in at risk waters, or at least avoid water going up your nose
    • cases are RARE - usually only 1 or so every decade - you are at far higher risk of drowning - but worth being aware of the risk!
    • not usually a problem in Victoria other than in thermal pools, although the Murray River can hit 28degC in late Jan/early Feb
    • cases have occurred in Drakesbrook Weir, WA south of Perth 5) as well as in Qld

Additional factors taking young and even not so young kids

  • will they drown if not closely watched?
    • unfenced rivers, dams, etc are a risk
  • will they wander off and get lost?
  • will they get hit by a car?
    • are the fences to stop wandering onto main roads, etc?
    • is there adequate traffic management within the camp ground?
  • is there phone reception in case they get into trouble?
  • are there likely to be bad humans around?
    • caravan parks with onsite managers may be more safe in this regard
    • very hot days are conducive to people getting very drunk and some can get aggressive
  • are there likely to be snakes in the camp ground
    • eg. camp sites adjacent to natural bush or rivers, east end of 33rd/34th Ave Tidal River Wilsons Prom

Additional factors taking dogs

Additional factors in the tropics

  • its hot and humid BUT swimming is generally only advised in the tropics in some fresh water streams and in swimming pools
    • lethal jellyfish are a major risk in sea water in summer and crocs can be a major risk all year in estuaries and beaches
    • there is NO surfing in tropical Australia that I am aware of!
    • obey warning signs - there is a particular drowning risk due to a peculiar water current and boulder formations in the popular Mossman Gorge, Nth Qld 6)
  • avoid going to the tropics in summer months (Dec-Apr) unless you really love hot, humid conditions with lots of heavy rain and severe lightning storms
    • roads are often cut due to flooding of river crossings or general damage from rains - so you may not be able to get to those magical waterfalls, and worse, you may get stranded in a remote area and survival will be your challenge
    • lethal jellyfish are a major issue in summer - you won't see them coming!
    • mosquitoes may transmit Dengue fever especially around Cairns
    • sandflies tend to be more problematic
    • mould grows a LOT faster in hot humid weather and it can be hard to dry your gear out
    • heat illness - it is nearly always hot and humid which leads to heat stress and difficulty cooling down - stay hydrated and take care!
    • fungal rashes from sweaty skin - especially in the groin area
    • heat rashes
    • melioidosis is rare, mainly affecting those in poor health, and mainly acquired in the wet season via muddy waters contacting cuts or skin sores, or from drinking or inhaling aerosols of contaminated water
      • it is a bacterial infection and people can get sick a few days to many years later, treatment is at least a 3 month course of strong antibiotic.
    • you probably won't be able to get out to the islands for snorkeling and scuba diving
    • cyclones may destroy your travel plans
  • crocodiles - you probably won't see these clever opportunistic predators until its too late - read up on the warnings and how to reduce your risks!
    • don't camp near them or go near the water's edge (especially not as a habit over a few days - crocs will learn and then wait for you)
    • don't swim in waters where crocs are known to inhabit
    • perhaps a roof top tent might be better in these areas!
  • many more tree snakes than in southern Victoria - thankfully the far majority of these are non-venomous but can still bite and can be a danger to small pets or young children, and they can turn up in unexpected places, like inside the toilet bowl
  • a range of venomous land and water snakes
  • cane toads these are more a nuisance - but you don't want to get their secretions in your eyes
  • avoid walking barefoot
    • tropical soils tend to have a range of worms that can penetrate intact skin and cause chronic infection such as:
      • strongyloides - this can be fatal if taking steroids or immunosuppressants - even years later - mainly infected from faecally contaminated soils
      • creeping larva migrans - a chronic localised larval infection under the skin - can occur in coastal beaches
      • others.
    • northern Australia also is home to death adder snakes which just lie on the ground waiting for prey - they can be hard to see - you don't want to be stepping on these, especially barefoot
  • Gympie-Gympie stinging tree
    • of the genus Dendrocnide, can cause extremely painful stings which may last months and can drive one to suicide
    • Rx with analgesics, waxing to try to remove the tiny needle-like hairs embedded in the skin, warm dressings and 3% HCl for 30min has been advised 7)
    • 42% of cases occurred at Crystal Cascades, a favoured Cairns swimming hole
  • stinging caterpillars
    • cocky apple stinging caterpillar
    • river red gum moth (locally) or mottled cup moth (CSIRO)
  • very itchy caterpillars
    • freshwater mangrove itchy caterpillar
    • stringybark itchy caterpillar
    • bag shelter moth or processionary caterpillar
australia/camping_risks.txt · Last modified: 2024/04/23 21:04 by gary1

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