Hiking Safety & The Ten Essentials
Each year in B.C. there are over 1,000 outdoor rescue missions, more than the rest of Canada combined. Most of these missions are necessary because of a lack of preparation by those heading into the backcountry. We live in a beautiful corner of the world where we can enjoy numerous outdoor activities, but please be cautious and prepared before heading out. The information provided here is meant to be a basic overview of outdoor safety. Hands-on experience is ultimately the best way to make sure you are prepared for the outdoors, and your best bet is to take a few courses (Canada West Mountain School, Spiritus Training and Slipstream offer great courses locally). Avalanche safety training, wilderness first aid, wilderness survival, orienteering, and so on. There are plenty of courses available. Not only do these courses prepare you for the outdoors, but they are fun in themselves! Also, for some good online safety sources visit AdventureSmart.
Before heading out on any trip you must be prepared – even if you are heading to a familiar location on a day trip. The unexpected can occur, including sudden weather changes, injuries, getting lost, and wildlife attacks. It is a good idea to fill out a Trip Plan and leave it with someone you trust, so they can know when to expect your return, and can have all the relevant information they need to provide to the authorities if you don’t return.
The Ten Essentials
The Ten Essentials are a MUST for any outing:
- Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
- Firemaking kit – waterproof matches/lighter, firestarter/candle
- Signaling device – whistle or mirror to signal searchers if you become lost
- Extra food and water – 1 litre/person
- Extra clothing (rain, wind, water protection and toque)
- Navigational/ Communication Aids (maps, compass, GPS, charts, cellular phone, satellite phone, hand held radio – fully charged battery) – know how to use them
- First Aid kit – know how to use it
- Emergency shelter – orange tarp or large orange garbage bag. These can also be used as signaling devices
- Pocket knife
- Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat)
Aside from the ten essentials, proper gear is important. This means buying some decent, sport specific gear. For example, proper footwear for good grip and to avoid blisters, and layered clothing to regulate body temperature. You don’t have to break the bank on the best gear, but you will appreciate having proper outdoor gear. Avoid cotton materials as these will draw heat from your body when wet and take a long time to dry.
Bring water, and bring extra water. It is also a good idea to have a purification or filtering system for longer journeys. Sports drinks are also a good idea as they work to replenish the electrolytes, carbs, and other nutrients you lose in sweat. Try to keep cool, wear a heat and stay on shady trails if possible.
In case of injuries, you may want to be better prepared by taking the St. John’s Ambulance’s Wilderness First Aid Course.
Bears and cougars aren’t the only wildlife you have to worry about, ticks can also pose a problem. If they burrow into your skin, make sure you know how to remove them properly to avoid any chance of contracting Lyme disease.