By Iris West
If you are a fan of activities that often take you to the wilderness such as camping and hiking, then it is important that you familiarize yourself with safety and survival for the wilderness. If you have little or no outdoor survival skills, then it’s best to do a little research before starting your trip. Remember desert, forest and clear skies will be your closest friends. Also of much benefit is to have an idea of your enemies too; including bugs, some animals and some flies!
Packing for the wilderness
If it is your first time, you need to know about the essentials that you need to pack before you leave the house. First of all, travel light and anything non-essential should not accompany you on your trip. Always pack for the estimated time that you will be there. For instance, if the hike will take no more than three days and nights, then you should not pack for a fourth. You should only pack what you can carry as dragging unnecessary and/or extra weight may only endanger you and those around you. Knowing what to pack and how to pack is both a survival and safety skill, most especially if you are travelling alone. Some essentials that you need to pack include:
- Flashlight or other sustainable source of light that does not rely on electricity for recharge
- Map and compass as well as any other navigation equipment that you can use effectively
- Sunscreen and insect repellent
- Shelter equipment among others that you need to read up on depending where in the world you are.
Understand each person’s skills
If you are travelling as a group, it is important that you understand the skills and contributions of each member of the group. Those who do not have survival skills can be assigned tasks that do not require specific skills such as the collection of firewood. That is to say that they should play a supportive role. If you are alone, it is equally important that you know the extent of your skills. For instance, can you build a fire without using a lighter or matches? If not, then you will need to carry them as essentials.
Always follow the trail
Remember that you are out in the wilderness and you are no doubt bound to come across a number of wild animals. It is therefore, important that for your own safety, you follow the trails. However tempting it might be, do not wander off to create your own path unless you have a trained guide with you. Some trails are also equally dangerous so it is important that you watch your step.
Do not just eat or drink anything
Not everything that has meat on it is edible and in just the same way, not every plant is edible. If you have no idea what is edible and what is not, then do not attempt to eat anything. It is much better to carry your own food instead of eating anything out in the wilderness.
Watch your fire
It might be tempting and reassuring to just keep adding wood to the fire, especially if you do not have a stove to use. That might be the beginning of a fatal fire. Always watch your fire so that the flames do not grow out of control. At the same time, account for the wind strength and speed as it might just carry embers around and start an uncontrollable fire. Always put out any unmonitored fires, especially when you go to sleep. Otherwise you will end up starting a wilderness fire.
Request to be accompanied by a guide
This applies if you (when travelling alone) or anyone in the group, has safety or survival knowledge. If there is no guide available, because not all places have guides, then align yourself/yourselves with a group that has a knowledgeable person of the area. I would however recommend that before you even plan the trip, you familiarize yourself with basic survival skills such as building a fire or fishing.
Stick to and with the group
Unless you are travelling alone in some secluded part of the wilderness, it is always important to stick with a group. Alone, you are an easy target to some wild animals and there is increased chance of getting lost. As a group however, you have the collective knowledge as well as strength in numbers. You will also enjoy the sight of animals in their habitat. When sticking together in a group, some animals might appear to be your friends. However don’t go too close to them to test this impression!
Even if you do not have medical training, you should ensure you have basic first aid skills. If you don’t, then you should at least have a first aid booklet or written guide.
In any case, always carry a first aid kit for emergencies. There are so many types of first aid kits available, you are bound to find one that is perfect for your circumstances.
Familiarize yourself with safety procedures
Just because you are out in the wilderness, does not mean that there aren’t emergency safety procedures. In the event of an emergency, you need to be aware of what to do before you get additional aid or assistance. It is therefore necessary to learn the procedures relevant to your area as well as the emergency contacts.
One other the daytime safety precaution that you should never forget is ‘never walk bare foot’ (the wilderness poses lots of threats).
At night, ‘walk around the camp site and always zip your tent while you sleep’.
Do not take risks that you cannot safely get out of
The thrill of being in the wilderness might make you take unnecessary risks. If you know you cannot get out of any situation safely, then it is not worth getting into it in the first place. For instance, do not dive into the river without knowledge of its depth and speed. However, if you really want to then consider if are you an exceptional swimmer and diver. If not, then avoid it.
In short, never take your personal safety for granted. You can never be too careful.