Preparation: The Key Ingredient to Safe, Outdoor Fun

While certainly eager for your upcoming outdoor adventure, you’re probably asking, “Am I prepared”? As with most endeavors in life, preparation and organization are essential in meeting unforeseen challenges, thus a means to an end to ensure safety and, most importantly, having a good time.

The first crucial step in avoiding any mishaps is creating a comprehensive checklist that includes the basics, such as food, snacks, and extra clothing and gear. More importantly, life saving objects like first aid-kit, maps, compass, and medications are essential. By creating a good checklist, you are well on your way to having a safe trip. But, if an unfortunate accident occurs, you must also be prepared to meet that emergency. Let’s examine some potential instances below, and the suggested course of action.

If you’re heading out into the wilderness on a multi-day trip, the possibility of getting lost always exists. To prevent this from happening, become familiar with the area simply by reviewing guidebooks and maps so as to learn more about the trails, mountains, and streams you will encounter, and any nearby roads that you may need access to, for quick evacuation. Also, learn how to use a compass and map or GPS, which allow you to store the location of a trailhead. The “track-back” feature, which is built into the device, will help you navigate your way back to the car at the trailhead.

But if you get lost, always remember the following rules: Stay calm and do not panic. Gather your thoughts and have a drink or a snack before rendering a decision. Wilderness survival experts claim that the first rule for being found is to stay calm!  Next step should be to find some shelter from the elements. Stay in one place and mark your location by utilizing a brightly colored object, such as a tarp that stands out against the backdrop of the forest. Finally, it is wise to leave a detailed plan of your adventure with a family member or friend that indicates your starting point, destination, and estimated time of return.

For day trippers, preparation is just as important. Include in your daypack not just food and water but a first-aid kit, headlamp, extra clothing, rain gear and a protective covering layer such as a space blanket, in case of an emergency.

While carrying a bear whistle and bear spray is prudent for possible wildlife encounters, the chances of contracting hypothermia are much greater. Hypothermia occurs when body temperature drops from 37.5 degrees Celsius (normal 98.6°F) to below 32 degrees C (89.6°F). It can be life threatening and happens not only in cold weather but in summer as well. Typical symptoms include shivering, slurred speech and confusion, with extreme cases leading to unconsciousness.    When a person becomes cold, the body shivers in order to create heat, but significant energy is lost in the process. Invariably, a victim of hypothermia is unable to produce enough energy to keep the body warm.

The best way to prevent hypothermia is to keep the body warm.  Technical garments, from shirts and pants, to underwear and socks, feature wicking fibers which move moisture away from the skin to keep the body relatively dry, since the body has a better chance of staying warm when it’s dry. When packing for your trip, make sure to include extra layers of clothing, since most fibers lose their ability to retain heat when they get wet (wool is an exception). You always want to have something dry to change into, if what you’re wearing gets wet.

If someone exhibits any symptoms of hypothermia, move them to a shelter and replace wet garments with dry clothing. Serve warm but not hot drinks, preferably sugary liquids or soup. If the person is conscious, encourage some gentle exercise, like walking, to warm up the body.  If unconscious or unable to exercise, place the individual in a sleeping bag with an insulating sleeping pad underneath and seek medical help immediately.

For further information, you may want to consult the recommended resources below:

Be An Expert With Map & Compass GPS for Dummies

How to Stay Alive in the Woods Prepare to Survive – DVD

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