6 tips to keep you safe when hiking or in the backcountry

There is a saying we’ve all heard many times that is very fitting when going into the wilderness.

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

In the last six months we have experienced several incidences in the backcountry that really heightened our awareness at just how dangerous the backcountry can be. Eagle Lake Peak 1_smallFrom a person breaking a leg only a mile from the trailhead to another getting severely sick we quickly went from a fun outing to a life threatening situation.  We aren’t experts, but we just want to get you thinking before going out for hike.

The Basics:

Let someone know your plan

Eagle Falls Trail_smallArriving at the trailhead be sure to register with the forest service and let them know your plan for the trip when available. Regardless if this service is available, you should always notify a friend. Key details to include:

  • Where you are going
  • What time will you return
  • Who is with you

These simple bits of information could make all the difference in an emergency situation.

Check the weather forecast

National Weather Service 1

Before even stepping outside for a hike check how the weather is going to be. Don’t use the typical weather.com service instead go to the National Oceanic and Atomspheric Administration website and use the pinpoint tool to determine the conditions.  It’s also good to check out the forecast discussion. Here you will find any additional concerns meteorologists are discussing. Understanding what type of weather to look for will make you better prepared.

Bring Mylar Space Blankets

Mylar Thermal BlanketFirst thing you’ll think is why isn’t water a higher priority? You can last a couple of days without water, longer without food, but not even a couple of hours without protection from the elements. Sure you can bring extra clothing, but having a cheap mylar space blanket is a better option. Why? Because they are multi-purpose. Often they are used as a rain cover, a rain catcher, a solar still, or a blanket. It’s something that everyone should carry.

Water Purifier

lifestraw-bottle-explanation-2If something bad does happen another thing everyone should always be concerned about is dehydration. Especially in the Sierra Nevadas waiting for rain to get water is like thinking that you’ll win the lottery. The majority of precipitation falls in the winter. Having something like a straw filter or pills could save your life if you do end up being in the wild longer than expected.

Fire is always critical

Depending on how much of an expert you are in the wilderness you could bring a flint to spark a fire or better yet some matches. You never know what will happen and fire will keep you warm on a cold evening when the temperature drops.

First Aid Kit

rc_first_aid_kitFinally, the forests and desserts of North America are exciting and beautiful, but one wrong step you could break a leg, put a gash into your skin, or make you sick. Falling is the number one cause of death so having a small medical kit is something you should at least think about carrying.

This is not an exhaustive list, but to make you think before heading out there by yourself.

Are there other items do you consider critical when heading out for a hike?

4 thoughts on “6 tips to keep you safe when hiking or in the backcountry

  1. I always take enough bars or nuts for at least a night and day, a whistle, light wet weather cover like a jacket with a hood, and a flash light or head lamp.

    1. Kim, those are awesome suggestions. As we said earlier, we learned the hard way when we didn’t bring a headlamp when one of our friends broke a leg in the backcountry. We were stuck on the side of a mountain until almost 8:00 pm in pitch black darkness with only a headlamp to share. It’s all about us helping each other learn more to keep us safer out there. Thank you for posting. 🙂

      1. Ah, crap! That sucks! Yeah, I posted below before I saw this but I like overload on lights now. I have one LED clipped on to each pack that has extended time in blinking mode, that I just turn on near dusk, in case I get injured and aren’t responsive. You can see those buggers from so far away! And it helps as a global light when you’re trying to find stuff, like if a friend is injured. I carry some extra batteries for them because they’re lighter than my headlamps, but I even carry a spare headlamp in my day pack now. My list is very close, basically:
        -space blanket
        -filter straw
        -extra water bag
        -LED and extra batteries for it
        -2 headlamps
        -very simple first aid kit
        -tissues and baggies for waste
        -light weight add-on clothes: hooded jacket (because it’s always cold at night here, always,) extra pair of cheap tights, gloves, and socks, (again, just from experience in my area. The desert gets so COLD so fast. Even if I just have them to give them away if someone needs them. It’s happened.)
        -my phone and one of those extra USB rechargeable battery packs for it.

  2. A light. To shorten the story: I had to give someone my headlamp because their dog had a problem and they needed to get him back, and theirs just died. I was seriously able to walk over a mile to get back to my tent on a moonless night at 10,000 ft with just my dogs’s dog collar single LED. (Those cheap Nite Ize, like $7 and they weigh nothing) Other people here have had to call SAR because night fell before they were done and they didn’t have shelter supplies, but had they been able to see, they would have been able to stick to the trail and been down in an hour or two.

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