Don’t go into the woods….. unprepared!

Social Distancing doesn’t mean you can’t get outside and enjoy some fresh air and exercise! However, many of our more popular parks and trailheads are seeing an increase in traffic which makes social distancing guidelines difficult to maintain. To combat that some folks will head into the backcountry or to an area that’s new to them. If you’re think about getting off the beaten path, be sure you are prepared!

My husband and I teach Wilderness Survival classes at a few different events throughout the year. We talk at length about how to make some safe choices before you head into the woods, especially the backcountry. Preparedness is the key. That means planning and preparation before you head out. Most likely, nothing will go wrong, but if you operate in that mindset, and don’t prepare, you could find yourself in a world of hurt without an escape plan. So, be prepared.

Familiarize yourself with the area you’re heading to by using online resources, a map, and/or GPS unit. Consider taking some courses on using a map and compass and learning about topography.

Check the weather before you head out and dress accordingly.

When you get ready to head into the woods, it’s best to let somebody know your plans. If you run into trouble in the woods (an injury, without cell service, for example) how will anybody know to send a rescue team if nobody knows that you left? And, once folks realize you’re missing, how will anybody know where to look for you, if you didn’t tell anyone where you were going? So, leave your itinerary with a family member or friend. That includes where you’re headed, how long you plan to be out and what time you expect to come home. If you don’t return by a certain time, your family member or friend can alert the necessary people.

Your daypack should always contain items necessary for your specific trip such as water, snack, extra clothes for changes in weather, bug dope, sun block, etc and your Wilderness Survival Kit. The Wilderness Survival Kit contains items that will help you increase your chances of overnight(s) survival should an emergency occur.

I carry a small daypack with my extra clothing/outwear, water and snacks, and my Wilderness Survival Kit. Below is a list of our recommended items based on our own research and experience in the backcountry. Everything in my Wilderness Survival Kit, with the exception of the last two bullet points, fits into a waterproof container barely larger than a typical Nalgene bottle.

My Wilderness Survival Kit contains:

  • Water purification tablets/drops – in case you need supplemental water
  • Knife and/or multi-tool and duct tape
  • Small LED flashlight, or headlamp with extra batteries
  • Extra food (like energy bars or other things with a significant shelf life and enough calories to pack a punch)
  • Fire Starting kit – Sparking tool, matches/lighter, tinder.
  • Mirror and Whistle (for signaling)
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Small tarp and rope (optional)
  • First Aid Kit (including a few of your prescribed meds)

A few last things:

  • There are numerous websites with recommended items for your Wilderness Survival Kit. The above list is simply my recommendation. Being prepared would mean doing your own research and tweaking this as you see fit.
  • Every one of these items is useless if you don’t know how to use it during an emergency so practice, practice, practice.
  • It is possible to have an emergency and be unable to reach help, even five miles from your home in an area you regularly frequent.
  • Being prepared doesn’t mean you can’t be spontaneous. Invest the time and energy into putting together your Wilderness Survival Kit now and have it in your daypack, ready to go at the drop of a hat.
  • Get outside and have fun AND be smart and be prepared.