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.

Always buy the best equipment you can afford….

I was just watching that film about the guy who fell down and trapped his arm in a rock fissure in Colorado whilst walking alone in the desert…guy called Aron Ralston.

If you look past the gory bits and the movie scenes, you can learn an awful lot from that film I think.

Like always letting everyone know where you’re going, when you’ll be back etc. That guy, in his self-assured manner, failed this first essential of going out walking, hiking or climbing in remote areas. So when he fell into trouble, nobody knew what had happened to him ro where.

The second very important point is to try and have a partner with you if at all possible. I’m afraid I must put up my hands here on this one, as I rarely have anyone with me; my reason, silly as it may seem to you, is that having someone with me somehow robs me of the solitude, the silence I am constantly seeking. The funny thing is, it is that silence and solitude that could, if things went wrong, work against me one day. having a partner can be of enormous help if you get into difficulties.

Thirdly, Aron didn’t have a cellphone with him. Much as I hate the relentless march of technology and how it continues to intrude into our daily lives, a cellphone is a virtual necessity these days, and if you are injured or stuck in dire circumstances during a hike or climbing session, a phone call can mean the difference between life and death. So always, always, always try and carry at least one working, fully charged cellphone. I know of friends who carry 2 cellphones with them, in case one fails.

Finally, regarding what happened with Aron in that rocky fissure. Because he was unlucky enough to get his arm trapped between a falling rock etc, he had no choice but to actually hack his own arm off….yes, you read right…he made the agonizing decision to cut his arm off, or face certain death within days.

And when it came to carrying out the grisly task, he used the only thing available, the knife in his multi-tool. that unfortunately proved to be of inferior quality and he had a lot of trouble cutting through his flesh, as he joked about his in a recording he made with his camcorder, “..always make sure the multi tool you buy is not Made in China!

The moral there of course is to buy equipment that has proven reliability and is durable. Again, talking about Aron….if his tool had broken up in use, and he had failed to sever his arm, he would not be alive today.