Winter is finally (almost) over and it’s the beginning of a new camping and hiking season. Many of us are dusting off our camping and hiking gear and getting ready to hit the trail. A certain percentage won’t be properly prepared and might become lost, injured or otherwise debilitated on the trail.
Don’t be one of those statistics!
Always carry a small pack with enough gear to cover your basic needs if you get lost or have to spend a night out. Instead of getting lost and huddling under a tree with the rain falling and wind blowing and wishing you had some food, you’ll find yourself sitting under a poncho, heating coffee on your small stove and eating a power bar. Of course getting lost is never on someone’s list of things to do while out hiking, but most people who get into a car accident aren’t looking to do that either. Think of your small pack as an insurance policy if you get lost.
So what can you do to stay safe and comfortable?
1. Make sure you tell someone where you’re going and when you intend to be back. “Hey sis, I’m heading up Katahdin on the Abol Trail today. I expect to be back around 6:00 pm. I’ll call ya when I get to the car.” In this example you’ve conveyed your destination, a planned path, a time of return, and a plan to call her when you get back. If she doesn’t hear from you by 7:00 pm hopefully she’ll call someone to check up on you.
2. Know where you are. If you have a GPS I would still carry a map of the area and a compass. You don’t have to be a land nav expert to know how to follow a cardinal direction such as due east. Let the compass point north, then point your feet towards the big E. Walk. This would be handy if you’re hiking in an area you don’t know and according to the map there’ s a road to the east. The cool thing about a road is that it’s long and very hard to miss. In our example the road is east of where you’re hiking, so all you have to do is walk east until you find the road. I call this a “bail-out azimuth.” Meaning if you wander off the path and get lost all you have to do is follow your bail-out azimuth and you’ll find your way out. I used this once in a snowstorm and it saved my butt.
3. Know how to use the gear in your pack. It won’t do you one bit of good to have a pile of gear and no idea how to use it. Watch Youtube vids to get an idea, but the best way to learn how to use your stuff is to go out and practice using it.
4. You might want to invest in a bug net or some bug dope. Spring in Maine brings out clouds of blackflies and they can get horrendous. After the black flies are gone it’s mosquito season and what was miserable now becomes awful. If you don’t like bug spray long sleeves and a net will help protect, but I’ve found they also make you hot when hiking. I like anything with Deet in it.
5. Have some kind of communication device on you. Cell phones are good, but they don’t always work in the deep woods. There are various types of radios and even a sat phone might be a good choice depending on the location you’ll be in. While it’s good to have any one of these devices be prepared to go it alone if you have to. Don’t depend on them to save your life. You might be disappointed.
6. Hike with a friend or a group. If you get injured or lost while you’re out there the odds are in your favor if you have a friend with you. You can send them for help, or divide up the labor, pool resources, or use two heads to problem solve instead of just one.
7. Don’t bother the wild life. It’s fun to watch them, but don’t interfere. They aren’t called wild for nothing.
8. Put a pack together. A good place to start is with Dave Canterbury’s 10 C’s of survival. If you’re properly prepared what might have been an over night survival situation is an unexpected over night camping trip instead. See the difference?
9. Be mindful of insects. The black flies are getting ready to come out up here in Maine and they’ll drive you crazy if you don’t have some bug spray or a bug net.
10. Be ready to help others if necessary. If you come across someone who’s lost or injured on the trail be ready to help. In the past I’ve helped pull porcupine quills of a dog’s nose, set people on the right path, found a guy who tried to commit suicide and dozens of other interesting events. Keep the boy scout motto in mind – Be Prepared!
Any other tips you might want to throw in?
Sound off below!