The challenges of going off grid and preparing for the unexpected!

Tick heaven: Dartmoor…

We don’t normally revisit a topic within a month or so, but a staff member’s recent experience makes a repeat warning worthwhile as we seek to explore uncrowded areas of the UK this summer….

It’s never a good sign when you’re travelling and you look down at your legs only to scream “WHAT IS THAT?!”. It was a tiny “seed” tick……the young larval or nymphal tick stage. Tiny but nonetheless painful and a potential source of infection.

Wild camping requires preparation for the unexpected, ensuring you have the right gear and equipment to see you through a night so you have an enjoyable, safe adventure.

Given the country is in lock down more of us than ever before are enjoying the great outdoors but I wonder who would consider parasite control as part of check list.

Some of us may convince ourselves that ticks were only attracted to foolhardy adventurers and not cautious families out for a stroll. This may be true but the threat of tick infestationis often  present, with seasonality being blurred alongside climate change. Hence tick avoidance strategies should be top of the list to prevent you from becoming home for  a most unwanted guest.

What Ticks Bite Humans?

There are a number of species of ticks that will attach and feed on humans but the species most important when off grid in the UK is Ixodes ricinus, the castor bean or sheep tick. Larval and nyphal ticks are usually found on small mammals such as rodents, with deer, grouse and pheasants the natural hosts for adult ticks.  

Ways To Avoid Getting Ticks

Preventative behaviour is key to avoiding tick bites. This applies to everyone who is camping and hiking though it is not limited to being outdoors in rural areas. Ticks are found in urban centres too. They can live on any tall grass, even in your own garden though the chances are much reduced.

Avoid long grass – this can look graceful in the wind but is prime real estate for ticks. The same goes for thick dense bushy areas and if camping avoid these areas and exercise caution on little used hiking tracks where brushes and grasses are over grown.

Clothes are another area of prevention and long loose layers are considered the best though you can always use the tuck in approach to prevent unwanted guests roaming up your trouser leg. Light colours are also helpful as they allow you an opportunity to spot these critters before they settle in for a feast.

Tick repellent spray – this can help deter them and can be very useful if you need to treat your clothes at a later day.

Your four legged friends should also be protected with a suitable tick repellent and acaricidal product. Seek your vet’s advice for a suitable product.

Cleaning – Post-camping, it’s tempting to collapse on your sofa and chill with air conditioning and a good box set for a while. But before zoning out, wash all your clothing, bedding on a hot water cycle. Put any dishes and plastic equipment [that is dish washer safe] through the dishwasher, and wipe down larger items with hot water, soap or leave them out in the hot sun to disinfectant. This sounds basic but ticks are pros at hiding so cleaning all your equipment before putting it away may save you a bite later down the line.

How To Check For Ticks

This is the same as you would do for a dog or cat but given you are now the one being checked you may need to get someone to inspect you. Check every inch of your body. They like to hide in the most tender of areas.

Spotting ticks isn’t rocket science but it isn’t as easy as you think. These things can be small and I mean small. They can be poppy seed sized so if you’re camping or traveling through a tick-prone area, periodic body checks are a smart idea.

What To Do If You Find A Tick

If you are unfortunate enough to be bitten by a tick, stay calm and follow these steps from the Lymes disease UK and always follow up with your doctor if you should feel unwell.

The motto of the story is always expect the unexpected and when camping in tick hot spots it would be wise to follow the advice above. Most tick bites are harmless other than appearing as mini vampires but they can harbour nasty infections so if you intend to venture out to Dartmoor or any other wild place stay vigilant  and enjoy.

Happy camping!

A picture of Dartmoor taken on one of our staff members’ camping expedition!