Survival Aid

Camping Hazards

Many threats exist in the Australian bush; snakes and spiders are usually the first dangers we think of, but ticks, leaches and mosquito’s can make the outdoor experience uncomfortable to down-right deadly! However hazards can also include trees and even water, not to mention fire ranging from the humble camp-fire to the out of control bush-fire.


Snakes are an important part of our environment, they control some animals from over-populating and are themselves a meal for others. They, like all organisms, are an integral part of our ecosystems.

snake bite first aid

Most snakes are not lethal to people, they’re usually more scared of you! Snakes do not really want to bite people, it requires a lot of energy for a snake to replenish its venom. Snakes do realise they cannot eat most people. Sometimes a mature venomous snake will deliver a dry bite, where no venom is injected. A juvenile venomous snake will inject venom because it doesn’t quite know how to control its venom, it’s still learning and small and probably quite scared. Or it could be trying to show off, who knows! Some snakes are simply more aggressive than others, such as the infamous Brown or the feisty Adder. Different species of venomous snakes produce different venom types and bite symptoms.

Always be aware that pets, particularly dogs, are highly susceptible to be being bitten by snakes. Dogs often do not have fear of snakes and their curiosity is perceived a threat by a snake. A snake bite necessitates immediate immobilisation and delivery to medical treatment. Treat any snake bite as venomous.

snake bite first aid

Refer to our ‘Snake Bite First Aid’ section under Information, written based on a decade of experience and research. This is the latest snake bite first aid methodology available, as there are certainly some misconceptions still existing. For those wanting a copy email us at or simply copy and paste the text outlining the methodology on our website (

It is illegal to kill any snake as all native animals are protected and effective identification of a venom type can be made at a medical centre. With immediate sufficient immobilisation, compression bandaging and delivery to medical services, a person bitten by a snake has an excellent chance of surviving.

Prevention of course is always the better outcome, when in the bush, long grass and foliage, be aware that you are in their territory! Stomping the ground and making noise will keep them away. Never ever pick up a snake, as factually this is how most people are bitten. Snake ‘gators’ can be a worthwhile investment. When walking in the bush keep vigilant to the fact that you may encounter a snake.

snake bite first aid

Snakes & Legless Lizards

Camping hazards
  • Legless lizards can often be mistaken for snakes.
  • Snakes have a forked tongue, which they like to show. Lizards have a fleshy wide tongue.
  • Snakes do not have eyelids so have a constant gaze. Lizards blink.
  • Snakes have no external ear opening. A lizard’s ear opening may be quite small.
  • Snakes have quite a short tail compared to a lizard’s long tail.
  • Lizards can also be dangerous, some do have venom in their saliva, and monitors are lightning fast able to inflict savage bites with severe blood loss.

Keeping Snakes Away

  • All snakes are carnivorous and most like to hunt mice and rats. Eliminating vermin from homes, buildings and campsites reduces problems with snakes.
  • Keeping properties clean and tidy makes it less likely for snakes to want to hang around. Providing less habitat for snakes also keeps spiders away.
  • Maintaining premises, blocking holes and making sure doors are fully closed etc., stops snakes from entering inside your house or tent.


Monitors can grow quite large, in the remote bush they can get to near three metres. They have razor sharp teeth and claws, as mentioned before are lighting quick, have anti-coagulants in there saliva so victims sometimes notice the blood streaming to the ground before realising they have been bitten. Never try to grab a goanna no matter what size. Goannas have little fear of people or pets, and are attracted particularly to campsites in search of any food. They will for a meal try to break into garbage bins and enter into tents without much hesitation. Often goannas probe a camp site as soon as people leave.

Sometimes it can be difficult to discourage a goanna from investigating a worksite, camping or barbeque area, so the all-round most practical thing to do is keep the area clean of food and rubbish to protect yourself and people visiting next. Never intentionally feed any native animal as doing so will reduce the animal’s natural fear of humans, it then becomes a threat, even to itself. Feeding native animals often interferes with natural ecosystem processes and reduces the animal’s health.

Camping hazards

Bites from Critters!

Usually any endeavour outdoors whether be camping, fishing, exploring, or working, and even within our homes presents encounters with insects, arachnids and parasites. In the workplace it is considered an occupational hazards and employers are by law required to make sure everyone is adequately protected.


A leach latched onto you is not the most pleasant of experiences, and are often unnoticed due to the fact that they have an anaesthetic in their saliva to numb the bite. They expel anti-coagulants to assist them gorge on your blood. Leaches are almost guaranteed in wet areas such as rainforest and during /after rain. Leaches have up to a couple of hundred teeth to help lock into your skin, so never try and simply pull of a leach as some of their teeth may dislodge in your skin and easily become infected requiring medical treatment and antibiotics.


To safely remove a leach either try and burn it off with a cigarette lighter, or pour salt onto it so that it removes itself. To avoid leaches in the bush, if possible avoid walking through wet grass and foliage, wear trousers and long sleeves, and basically regularly check yourself for a leach trying to get a good feed.


Different species of ticks are found throughout Australia except in our cooler regions, some a relatively benign but others will cause paralysis. Ticks bury themselves into your skin and can become very difficult to remove. A tick feeding off your blood will soon become itchy, and scratching them will cause agitation, encouraging the tick to dig in further and release more saliva. Trying to simply pull off a tick will cause them to inject more of their toxins, and if a tick is pulled off incorrectly their head may dislodge resulting in the site becoming infected.

It is definitely worth investing in inexpensive purpose tick removing devices that twist or lever a tick out of the skin with the head. Ticks need to be removed as soon as possible as paralysis is something you don’t want, and a trip to the vet with a pet can be very costly. There is mounting evidence that ticks in Australia can infect people with lime’s disease causing an allergy to meat products.



The deadliest animal on the planet is the mosquito, causing over two and a half million deaths annually. Mosquitoes can absolutely ruin a camping or day out adventure. Diseases from mosquito’s in Australia can be debilitating, possibly affecting people for the rest of their lives. Ross River Fever for example can cause extreme lethargy for year. As the planet continues to warm, diseases from mosquitos are on the rise. Mozzies can congregate in swarms forming a cloud, and they are particularly common in wet areas such as mangroves, swamps, marshes, rivers, creeks and estuaries. Homes and campsites with still water, and it doesn’t take much, will usually produce mosquitoes. There aquatic pupate stage of development occurs on average over seven days, so water remaining stagnate for more than a week can breed mosquitoes.

The only real prevention is to wear long trousers and sleeves and apply repellent with DEET. Wearing an insect/fly net is quite effective predominantly if the net is not next to the skin otherwise mozzies will get you through the net. Citrus – mosquito candles do have some effect. Keeping tent fly screens closed as much as possible may be required, and certainly repairing any damaged tents before embarking on a camping journey would be worthwhile.



An interesting fact is that our famous Red back spider is now a feral pest in Japan, colonising via the perfect home, a shipping container! Spiders too can be a hazard anywhere in this country. However there have been no deaths in Australia from a spider bite since 1979. Anti-venom for Red-back spider bites was introduced in 1956, and one for Funnel-web spiders in 1980. Most spiders are not dangerous, but even the humble Huntsman spider (pictured) can bite if provoked. The challenge when camping is distance to medical help, hence the need for a good first-aid kit.

A spider bite is treated the same as for a snake bite – compression bandaging and medical treatment. Applying an ice-pack may help. Refer to our ‘Snake Bite First Aid’ section under Information. Where spiders may be around, always check shoes before putting them on. Basically just be aware that spiders may be around when camping, and that they may want to venture into your tent. Probably the perfect accommodation for a spider is the campground toilet/shower facility. As always the effective procedure for reducing contact with spiders is to maintain a clean site, be careful when walking in the bush, collecting wood and digging the ground.

Funnel Web

Wildlife in General

People are killed and hospitalised by crocodiles, box and Irukandji jellyfish, Blue-bottles, blue-ringed octopus, cone snails, sharks, giant centipedes, kangaroos, etc. etc. …. and you certainly don’t want to be chased by a cranky Cassowary! Officially even a Magpie has killed a person in Australia. People have been scratched quite extensively trying to rescue a Koala. Statistically in Australia you are far more likely to die from a cow than a shark. ‘Bovine-Attack’ doesn’t quite have the same menacing tone.


Kangaroos should never be approached as more people are killed by kangaroos than sharks. These marsupials can grow to a very large size and are indeed quite strong, and have been known to eviscerate (disembowel) people. Even approaching a small or female kangaroo may antagonise the dominant male and they can be quite persistent in their aggression.


Driving on our roads certainly has proven to be fatal. People have died on the road hitting camels in Central Australia and wombats in the more south-eastern parts. There is a reason why rental car companies in central Australia forbid driving at night. Most of the road kill occurs at night. Much of our wildlife are nocturnal and at night these animals don’t see a car approaching but only the lights which they cannot determine the distance of. However staying safe is readily achievable with a bit of common sense and some planning.


Certainly not to discourage our international visitors but campers certainly have to be aware of our native trees. Some eucalypts are known as ‘widow-makers’ for a very good reason. Gum trees have been killing unsuspecting visitors to this continent since colonisation and Indigenous people have always been careful under large trees.

It takes on average one hundred years for a eucalyptus to develop to the size where it can provide habitat for our native animals such as possums, sugar gliders and many bird species by forming hollows. After a certain age weaknesses occur in the limbs weighing as much as a tonne which simply periodically come crashing to the ground. So be aware of our killer native trees and don’t take the risk of setting up a camp site under a big eucalyptus.

Widow maker


Having a fire is just one of those things people create when camping! It’s basically tradition! However these days some public camp sites do not allow visitors to construct a camp fire, and cooking can only be done using your own gas equipment and/or provided barbeque facilities. This is due to the fact that camp fires do have the potential by some to establish destructive bush fires. Bush fires or wild fires in Australia have had devastating catastrophic impacts, killing literally hundreds of people throughout our history, burning down thousands of houses and farms, destroying people’s lives, killing incalculable numbers of wildlife and wiping out vast amounts of bushland.


Therefore some planning is involved to check beforehand the situation with camp fires at intended sites. Also be aware that fire restrictions are often enforced at certain times of the year when it’s either hot, windy and/or dry. Fires have the very real and often amazing ability to escalate out of control within seconds. Bush fires can start when driving off-road through dry grass if the grass accumulates under the vehicle, becoming combustible around hot components like exhausts, usually resulting in the loss of the vehicle. A fire extinguisher is a must that is readily available in the vehicle, and it’s always a good idea to have one when travelling and camping.


When establishing a camp fire try if possible to utilise one already created to reduce the visual impact of multiple camp fire sites dotted all over the place. Utilising one already used also makes the job easier and may already have a ring of rocks to help contain the fire. If starting from scratch first choose a site away from combustive bushland, clear away leaf litter and dead vegetation so this will not alight, and be careful and selective when choosing fire wood so as not to destroy native habitat for wildlife and insects.


A good option is to collect dry fire wood alongside roads and tracks as this is already disturbed land and may contribute to reinforcing bush fire containment boundaries, however do not do this in a National Park as the entire landscape is protected. Pack old newspapers for fire starting. Proper fire starting techniques should never relay on using petroleum fuels as this can be dangerous, instead consider packing specific fire starter substances and gear, even first aid alcohol wipes or even alcohol hand sanitiser gels if desperate when the timber is a bit wet.


And always remain vigilant when using a camp fire. Ensure that logs will not role out of the fire when burning, and always monitor if having to burn long sections of timber, especially if trying to burn these in half to allow the making of a more compact fire. Same with portable and fixed outdoor BBQ’s, as gas does leak and excessive fat / oil accumulation can ignite. Always be vigilant of children as it is very easy to trip over near a camp fire. Often it is a long journey to medical assistance if someone gets burnt, and consider packing burn treatment creams and burn specific bandages in the first aid kit.


Never forget that many camping accessories are highly combustible such as sleeping bag, clothing and tents made from synthetic materials. A synthetic tent can go up in flames within seconds and literally encapsulate any occupants inside with hot melting materials that can burn into exposed skin. When handling cooking equipment make sure to have appropriate grabbing implements and remember some handles can get very hot. And never dispose of rubbish in a fire unless it’s just paper, as glass and metal will simply remain posing risks of cutting people and wildlife. Plastic will not readily break down and will remain to contaminate the environment, not to mention exposure of extremely toxic fumes emitted by burning plastic.


Water in our vast diverse landscape can pose many threats. More people in Australia drown in rivers and dams than at the beach. Diving and jumping into rivers and dams have killed and severely injured numerous people by not checking for water depth and underwater objects likes rocks and logs. Numerous people have died by underestimating floodwaters when attempting to drive over crossings. Unfortunately it is a common occurrence in this country for authorities to rescue stranded people stuck or washed away when stupidly trying to drive through floodwater. A strong flowing swollen river with a depth of just one foot (30cm) at the vehicle crossing has the potential to wash away a person.