Avoiding burns in the backcountry

  • When pouring hot water into anything - cup, bowl, thermos, dehydrated meal - always put the receptacle onto a flat place, never hold it in your hand.

  • When you’re tending your stove, try to do it from a squatting position and not sitting. If you’re squatting, you can jump up and more quickly move away from spilled hot water or a flaring stove.

  • Lots of modern camp stoves might boil water in just a few minutes, but they are often tall and unstable. Try to secure your stove from tipping over by putting a few rocks around it to hold it in place.

  • Modern outdoor synthetic fabric such as fleece, polyester and capilene can be extremely sensitive to flame. As in, they can melt in a second or two, sometimes directly onto your skin, resulting in a serious burn. If you’re wearing these fabrics, be very careful around campfires and the intense flame of a camping stove.

  • Don’t step over a campfire or stove, step around it.

  • Also, sparks from a campfire can easily land unnoticed on your nice fleece jacket and instantly burn a small hole through it. Probably won’t hurt you very much, but it’s sure not helping your gear.


First aid for minor burns

  • Clean the affected area with cool water, not ice cold.

  • Cool the area by putting on fabric soaked with cold water. Don’t put ice or snow directly on the burn, this can cause frostbite and restrict circulation, which is needed for healing.

  • Moist dressings are fine for small burns (less than three percent of the body surface area). Use dry dressings on extensive burns.

  • Check every 24 hours.

This tip is partially from the excellent NOLS blog.