Hiking Safety in the Backwoods
Hiking safety falls into 3 general categories. We will explore each of these categories to determine how best to protect ourselves from these threats.
- Safe from Environmental Factors
- Safe from Wildlife
- Safe from Human Predators
Safe from Environmental Factors
Environmental factors are your biggest safety risk in the outdoors. Heat or cold, wind, rain or snow, excessive exposure to the sun and poison ivy/oak are most likely to adversely affect your hike. These are issues that you will encounter on a daily basis. Fortunately, these are the factors that you have the most control over.
No, you can’t decide if it will rain or shine, be cold or hot, whether you will find a meadow of wildflowers or poison weeds. However, by preparing ahead of time for the elements, you can control how large an affect these environmental conditions have on the pleasure of your hike.
Heat or cold? No problem. You have planned ahead with appropriate clothing.
Rain or shine? No concern. You have brought along rain gear and sun protection.
Poison weeds? Ha! You know how to recognize them and avoid them. You remember the advice, “leaves of 3—leave it be.”
Injury? Well, uh, er, okay that would be inconvenient at best. However, you have your first aid kit
and you can handle it.
While you are likely to encounter adverse environmental factors, proper planning can minimize the hiking safety danger they pose.
Safe from Wildlife
One of the most alluring things about experiencing the outdoors is the likelihood of catching a glimpse of wildlife. It is exciting. From watching a chipmunk scamper across the path to the thrill of watching a mother bear teach her cub to fish, nothing captivates us more in the outdoors than wildlife.
Wildlife poses a definite hiking safety risk. It is imperative that you be aware of your surroundings. Research your hiking destination to determine what animals are in your hiking area. Speak to the local rangers.
When we think of backwoods hiking safety and encounters with animals, we typically think of bears, mountain lions and rattle snakes. While these are certainly formidable creatures, they are only a few of the dangers you might face. Consider raccoons, skunks, rabid dogs, male deer, elk & moose during the rutting season.
I once had an encounter with a raccoon that, in the middle of the night, was determined to get into my tent. He was ferocious. Striking him repeatedly with a heavy flashlight barely deterred him from chewing through my tent wall. Only later did I realize that I had inadvertently left a candy bar in my jacket pocket which was inside my tent.
Common sense goes a long way in lessening the danger of animal encounters. After my encounter with the hungry raccoon, I never again forgot to check my pockets before entering my tent.
In bear country, food must always be kept in bear proof containers or hung high between trees out of a bear's reach.
You should not cook and sleep in the same clothing and your cooking area should be a distance away and downwind of your sleeping area.
Be certain that you do not startle animals while hiking. Sing, talk to your hiking partner, attach a metal cup to the outside of your pack where it will rattle when you walk. This lets animals know that you are coming and decreases the chance that they will attack out of startle reflex.
See a young animal? Look for Mom! It can be deadly to get between a mother animal and her offspring.
Mountain lions tend to attack lone hikers, bikers, etc. Hiking alone increases your risk of danger.
If you find yourself in closer-than-comfortable proximity to an animal, slowly back away, don’t make direct eye contact as animals sense this as threatening, and above all else, DO NOT RUN! Animals are creatures of instinct, they chase what runs. Don’t think for a minute that you can outrun a large animal.
A combination of education and common sense will significantly reduce the risk of an animal attack and increase hiking safety in the backwoods.
Not many years ago, the worst crime you could imagine on a backwoods adventure is returning to the trail head to find your car vandalized. Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. Human predators have moved into the backwoods. You can no longer look at another hiker on the trail as certainly not a threat simply because he is an outdoorsman.
My position here is not to alarm you to the point of abandoning hiking. Not at all. Just as with wild animal encounters, a little common sense goes a long way.
Be aware of those that you meet on the trail. Carry yourself confidently. Don’t hike alone.
Conversely from a wild animal encounter, make eye contact, make careful observation. Make it obvious that you are noting details.
Like wild animals, human predators will take advantage of the weak, the unaware, the easier victim. Unfortunately, if a predator is intent on a victim, he will probably eventually carry out an attack. Using common sense can decrease the chances that YOU are that victim. Visit www.Crime-Safety-Security.com - Camping Security for expert advice about protecting yourself from human predators.
Prussian general, Carl von Clausewitz, once said, “The best defense is a good offense.” This is still good advice. Careful planning and common sense goes a long way toward ensuring hiking safety it the backwoods.
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