Backpacking, climbing, walking and hiking safety

While nothing makes a more memorable backpacking, hiking, or mountain climbing trip that a genuine emergency, ending up dead is not a good story for those involved.

Growing up in the sticks and spending a lot of time outside, I have had a few real emergencies in my life.

I’ve been lost once. I’ve overreached on a hunting trip in cold weather and ended up huddled over a fire to thaw out myself.

Fortunately, I knew where I was as the only thing that I had to start a fire with was my map! However, I am not an expert on mountain climbing, but these tips will work for those brave souls who do participate in this sport.

The first thing that all backpackers, mountain climbers and hikers need is a first aid kit. While most of the stuff in a first aid kit purchased at a large retailer is junk, you do need some antibiotic ointment, sterile bandages, and other first aid items.

You also need the knowledge to make splints for broken legs, treat hypothermia, and more. Knowing the signs of problems and addressing it before it gets out of hand is indispensable, especially in the outdoors.

The second thing that all backpackers, hikers, and mountain climbers need is a way to signal for help. Cell phones are unreliable in the middle of nowhere. Not only can there be signal problems, but also batteries die and phones can become broken.

A pocket sized signal mirror is a great item to have in case of emergency. Signal mirrors only cost a few bucks and take up very little space in a backpack or pocket.

The third item is a note. Yes, a note. Not only should people back home know where you are going and when you are coming back, but first responders need help finding you as well.

When going on a mountain climbing, hiking, or backpacking expedition leave information on your route and planned return with a park ranger or other responsible person. If this is not an option, leave this info in plain sight on the dashboard of your vehicle. If theft is a concern (you might not want everyone knowing that you won’t be back to your car in three days) only leave location information in plain sight.

Backpacking, hiking, and mountain climbing are all great ways to enjoy the outdoors, but you want to come home safely. Remember these three items along with the obvious ones to assure a safe return.

This is not a definitive article by all means, but if the information given here can save even one life, then it is worth it’s weight in gold.

A copy of this article also appears in the “Safety and First Aid” page of this blog.

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2 thoughts on “Backpacking, climbing, walking and hiking safety

  1. The absolute best thing you can do for your safety is leaving your plans, in detail, with a responsible person, and then sticking to them. If anyone needs a reminder, see the movie about the Utah hiker who had to cut half his arm off. 😦 There’s nothing you can carry with you that will help your safety as much as having somebody know when to expect you back, and where to send help if you don’t come back.

    But as you wrote, it’s good to stack the odds even more in your favor.

    That said, the most dangerous part of any hike or climb is the drive home, and the second most dangerous part is the drive to where you’re going.

    This surprises many people, but it’s also true that flying in an airplane is safer than driving. More rock climbers have been killed in car accidents than in climbing accidents. Just last week two hikers in Maine were rescued from a bad situation, and then died while driving home. 😦

    So don’t fear the trail too much.

    • wow! i agree with what you say….i know of a lady hiker…a close friend of mine in fact….some years ago, she had planned to go on a solo hike in the mountains of BC here….she mustve been kinda real happy about it and stuff….because she was apparently in a rush to get out the house….as fate would have it, she tripped over a telephone cable in her lounge, fell and somehow broke her neck….she has been paralysed from the neck down since then…tragic story, but as you say…sometimes, the dangers are right there in your own home…not the mountains…real good to hear from you, sir!

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