• Pathloom Guest Blogger

Top Tips for Keeping Snakes Away from Campsites

11 Tips for a Stress-Free, Snake-Free Camping Trip


a rattlesnake stares directly at the camera, black forked tongue extended

Arizona Rattlesnake - Photo Credit: Meg Jerrard


 

Find a dispersed campsite near National Park land. Learn a new camping recipe, or get tips to enhance your thruhiking. Be among the first to get exclusive stories, trail reports and more from our growing team of experienced campers, backpackers, thru hikers, and fellow adventure lovers.



 

Eagerly planning your next camping trip, but concerned about confronting a snake? Understandable, especially if you’re visiting states like Arizona where there are plenty of rattlesnakes, or Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, or Kansas where there are also Copperheads and Cottonmouths.


Most snakes are harmless, but the ones that aren’t are reason enough to take this species seriously. If you’re camping with your pet, you have even more reason to be vigilant as your dog won’t know about the dangers. They are also more likely to confront a snake and try to harass it, rather than just leave it be.


In this post, we’ve included some helpful hacks to ensure that you and any snakes in the area can both enjoy the outdoors as safely and peacefully as possible.


a cottonmouth snake native to Florida shows off why they are also referred to as water moccasins, as its tight coil and open mouth resemble a shoe that one could step into - and likely die in the process

Cottonmouth Snake (aka Water Moccasin), FL - Photo Credit: Bradley Feller



Snakes and the Great Outdoors


Going camping can be an exciting experience that strengthens your connection to nature and forces you to adopt healthy survival skills. But even the most seasoned campers can’t get too cocky when it comes to snake avoidance and safety.


Of the 3,500 snake species found around the world, only 600 of them are venomous. However, all snakes are best left alone, whether they’re poisonous or not. And if you’re going camping, you need to know how to avoid them all as much as possible. Some areas also have far more snakes than others.


Snakes are far more common in the southwest than they are in the northeast of the US, so it’s good to know what the risk factor is like beforehand. But regardless of where you’re camping, most snakes are just as put off by the idea of a confrontation as we are. However, there’s still the potential for accidentally scaring one, stepping on one, or attracting one into your personal space.


Knowing how to keep snakes away from your campsite and create an environment that actively deters them will mean you get to enjoy a safer and more relaxing camping experience.


If you’re new to camping, or simply a little terrified of snakes - fear not! We have rounded up eleven of the most useful practices for keeping snakes away from your campsite - no matter where you are or what your survival skills are like.

 

A dusty rattler in a dusty desert

Rattlesnake in the Desert - Photo Credit: Duncan Sanchez



1. Find A Snake-Free Campsite


Sounds a little too obvious, doesn’t it? But this practice is definitely worth mentioning. Not all campsites or nature reserves are known for having high snake populations, and picking one that has a reputation for being generally snake-free is the first step to putting your mind at ease.


Even though Hawaii and Alaska are the only US states that are technically snake-free, there are still plenty of recreational grounds and national parks that don’t contain venomous snakes throughout the contiguous 48 states. Some prime examples include Acadia National Park in Maine, and Olympic National Park in Washington State. These two places are both known for rare snake sightings and even fewer incidents.


In terms of campsites in locations where snakes are found in abundance, there are a few names you should avoid. Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks in California may be beautiful, but they are known for high snake activity, and thus visitors must prepare accordingly.



2. Camp In The Cooler Months


Generally speaking, snakes like dry, hot weather. As cold-blooded creatures, they rely on external warmth to stay healthy and keep their circulation up, so summertime tends to see some of the highest snake activity over the course of the year.


Camping during winter, fall, or early spring is going to mean a significantly decreased likelihood of encountering a snake in the wild. During the colder months, snakes are more likely to be hibernating in a dark cave, hole in the ground, or nest to conserve their energy.


An Arizona Diamondback (not a baseball player) rests his head on his own body, casually observing the photographer

Diamondback Rattler - Photo Credit: Amber Wolfe



3. Avoid Dense Forest Or Boulder Terrain


Snakes like to find shelter under rocks, bushes, and dense foliage. If you’re in a dense forest or terrain that features lots of boulders, chances are there are snakes hiding where you can’t see them.


The more rocks, leaves, tree branches and other coverage there is around you, the higher the chances of a snake (or several) in your area. If you want to avoid snakes while camping, you should always aim to pitch your tent in a clearing, where there are minimal hiding spots for slithery critters. Wide open spaces are unappealing to snakes because it means they don’t have anywhere to hide or blend into. Avoiding condensed natural areas is one of the most effective ways to prevent unwanted interaction with a snake.



4. Avoid Areas Next To Water Sources


Contrary to popular belief, snakes are great swimmers. Many species use lakes, ponds, and other water sources as a channel to travel and hunt, as well as to escape predators. Many of the animals that snakes would hunt as prey live close to water sources, so it’s definitely an attractive area for roaming snakes.


Even though camping close to a body of water has many benefits for us humans (hydration, swimming, cleanliness, etc), one of the few downsides is that snakes may like some of those ideas just as much. If you camp near water, be mindful of this, especially if there’s an abundance of foliage that goes right up to the edge of the water.



5. Keep Your Food In Airtight Containers


While snakes have almost zero interest in human food, leaving food out in the open can attract animals that they do want to eat. Exposed food is never a good idea at any campsite, as it can attract everything from insects to grizzly bears. You don’t want that, and neither do the campsite rangers.


Keeping your food locked and sealed should be a standard habit when camping in the great outdoors. This will prevent prey from being drawn to your tent, and subsequently, prevent the appearance of hungry predators. Keep your food in airtight containers, cans, or Ziploc bags to be extra safe.


A snake snakes his way across the grey rocks, snaking to the beat of his own drum

Snakely Business - Photo Credit: Francesco Mocellin



6. Maintain A Tidy, Clutter-Free Campsite


There are several compelling reasons to keep your campsite as clean and tidy as possible. To begin with, it’s just good practice to keep an organized environment. But more relevant to this article, you reduce the chances of attracting snakes.


As we’ve already discussed, snakes love to burrow, hide, and nestle under things that they can either camouflage into or use as a source of protection and warmth. Leaving chairs, tables, trash bags, and other random items strewn about could present an enticing hideout for a nearby snake.


The less clutter you have around you, the less appealing your campsite will be to passing snakes. With any luck, they’ll see a relatively bare clearing with a tent or two, and move on about their snakely business.



7. Make Your Presence Known


For the most part, snakes want to avoid us just as much as we want to avoid them. If you make your presence known, they’ll get the message that you’re near and will likely do their best to stay out of your way.


A good way to do this is to stomp loudly on the ground, as snakes ‘hear” through vibrations. Not only is this an effective way of alerting snakes to your presence, it’s also far less likely to disturb other campers enjoying the peace and quiet than it would be to shout to the heavens.



8. Always Check Your Tent, Shoes, And Sleeping Bag Before Use


If there is a cozy, warm, and accessible hideaway for a snake, they’re likely to take advantage of it. It’s not a decision based on them wanting to bite you, they’re simply seeking somewhere safe and cozy to hide.


Bearing this in mind, it is extremely important to check your tent, shoes, and sleeping bag before climbing into them. Like with several other of these tips, this is a standard camping practice that everyone should adopt, especially if they are particularly afraid of encountering a snake.


If one has crawled in, a quick check could be what prevents a very startled and scared snake from lunging and biting. In addition to this, it’s also important to keep these potential snake hideouts zipped tight and sealed off in order to discourage the situation from happening in the first place.


Missouri isn't as well known of a snake destination as the Southwest, but you'll still need to check shady burrows for them when camping in the wilderness

Snake Basking in the Missouri Shade - Photo Credit: David Ballew



9. Use Naturally Pungent Snake Repellents


There are loads of natural snake repellents that you can use to deter snakes from entering your personal space, and most of them are probably in your kitchen cupboard. Snake skin is absorbent, so anything highly acidic or pungent is going to put them off.


Sprinkling any of the following natural products around your campsite will quickly have them slithering in the opposite direction:

  • White vinegar

  • Clove oil

  • Garlic and salt solution

If you want a really strong repellent, you could even combine all of these ingredients into one wide-nozzle spray bottle for a seriously potent anti-snake solution. Due to their absorbent skin, these pungent chemicals will cause a lot of discomfort for a snake. They’ll avoid any ground that these are sprinkled on.



10. Don’t Buy Into Artificial Snake Repellents


A quick online search will affirm that there are plenty of artificial snake repellents on the market. However, these repellents also often cause harm to humans and the environment, and not just to snakes.


Instead of buying into overpriced, bio-harmful artificial repellents, stick to the ones listed above or adopt practical snake avoidance techniques, they are much more effective.



11. Watch Where You Walk


If you walk recklessly around a nature reserve, you may accidently tread on a resting snake. Once that happens, they will feel attacked and may attempt to strike. Unfortunately, this is the cause behind many fatal snake bites.


Fortunately, there’s a simple solution: watch where you are going, especially when walking through dense areas where snakes are easily hidden from the casual observer.


As anyone who enjoys spending time in nature knows, you’re the intruder, not them. Be sensitive to the environment and with any luck, you can spot a snake before it spots you.

 

Another cottonmouth snake - and an amazing view of the cottony interior of the open mouth where the species gets its name from

Another Cottonmouth, showing off that Cotton - Photo Credit: Meg Jerrard



Camp In Harmony With Nature


One of the most important things to remember about snakes is that they are trying to avoid you just as much as you are trying to avoid them.


If you do happen to come across a snake in your campsite, sleeping bag, shoes, or anywhere else, it’s best to back away slowly and quietly. Then, keep watch to see where it slithers off to. If the snake doesn’t leave, you can use a long stick or a broom to move it along - but only if it’s safe to do so. Another option (if fires are allowed) is to light a fire and direct the smoke towards the location of the snake.


Whatever route you take, always err on the side of caution, do not provoke the snake, and do not trust that it’s sleeping and safe to pick up and relocate. And even if the snake appears to be dead - beware Snake Zombies, because that’s actually a thing.


When planning your next camping trip, remember to be vigilant, cautious, and respectful of these beautiful (albeit often dangerous) reptiles. After all, they were here first - you’re in their home, not the other way around!


 

Guest Blogger Donna Jefferson is a writer, editor, and health and wellness enthusiast covering topics on parenting and senior health. Donna leads a fairly active lifestyle, and enjoys sweating it out at the gym or going on hikes with friends during her free time. Look for more of her writing in the weeks and months to come here on the Pathloom Blog!

 

Find a dispersed campsite near National Park land. Learn a new camping recipe, or get tips to enhance your thruhiking. Be among the first to get exclusive stories, trail reports and more from our growing team of experienced campers, backpackers, thru hikers, and fellow adventure lovers.



 

Check out these other articles by Pathloom which you may enjoy:


Summer Astronomy Series: The Strawberry Supermoon of June 2022

Summer Astronomy Series: How To See the Buck Supermoon July 13, 2022

2022 Guide to Upcoming Planetary Conjunctions

Riley's Gap Year: Adventures in Skiing and Wildland Firefighting

The Call of The Road

The Medicinal Value of Camping Alone

The Glory of Yosemite

Very Superstitious: Phoenix In The Fall


Sign up for exclusive, early access to the Pathloom BETA trip planning app. Enhance your outdoor adventures when you claim access to our BETA camping app FREE!

Sign up today and we will send you a list of our favorite dispersed campsites in California!

Pathloom is a Bay Area-based technology startup on a mission to get more people outdoors, more often by reimagining the outdoor trip planning app.