Keeping it safe out there…
A little bit of preparation can go a long way. One of the best resources out there is the Adventuresmart page. Some of it may seem like common sense, but is common sense really all that common? Visit their site, and consider some of the messages within:
- Does someone know where your group went?
- Do they know when you are returning?
- Do you have the 10 essentials?
- Are you prepared to stay the night if the situation requires it?
If you cannot answer yes to all of the above questions, you should not be entering the backcountry without further education. Wanderung recommends that every hiker take a navigation and first-aid course. We also recommend that every snowshoer take an avalanche skills training (AST) course.
Click on a heading below for more recommendations on staying safe:
Fill out and print this trip plan EVERY time you go for a hike:
Online trip plan from Adventuresmart
If you or your group are reported missing, search and rescue professionals will have a much easier time finding you if you’ve completed a trip plan and left it with a friend.
On a Wanderung hike it is not offensive to question the gear your fellow hikers choose to bring, it’s responsible. Hikers can always afford to bring the proper equipment, extra food, water, and clothing. Here’s the minimum:
- Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
- Firemaking kit – waterproof matches/lighter, firestarter/candle
- Signalling device – whistle or mirror to signal searchers if you become lost
- Extra food and water – 1 litre/person
- Extra clothing – rain, wind, water protection and toque
- Navigation/communication aids (maps, compass, GPS, charts, cellular phone, satellite phone, hand held radio – fully charged battery) – know how to use them
- First Aid kit – know how to use it
- Emergency shelter – orange tarp or large orange garbage bag. These can also be used as signalling devices
- Pocket knife
- Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, hat)
For more information and a pictorial representation of the essentials, check out the North Shore Rescue page.
On a hot day ever notice that you are getting less coordinated, sluggish, or a little slow mentally? You were probably experiencing dehydration. The consequences can literally be deadly and it is important to know that the symptoms increase at higher altitude. Prevention is key. Here are a few tips for staying hydrated.
- Start early, if you sweat less, you need less. In the Summer try to avoid hiking mid-day if possible
- Sports drinks: it’s not just hype, they do actually absorb into your body faster and replenish much more of what you lose when you sweat
- Drink before you start: why carry 500ml you are going to drink within the first hour, drink some at the car, and have more waiting for your return
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty: drink little and often
- Limit sun exposure
- Bring enough water (don’t laugh, bring spare)
If you (or someone with you) is showing signs of dehydration then follow the tips below:
- Obviously drink, but sports drinks will be better than water as they will replace your electrolytes
- Eat some salty snacks
- Cool your core – find shade, place a wet cloth on your head, but don’t be tempted to dive into a glacial lake: your body will not appreciate the shock (and it can be fatal)!
One way to avoid your core temperature getting too high is to limit sun exposure, and avoid becoming sunburned. Pick your hikes appropriately if you are particularly sensitive to the sun, stick to shady trails. Also slap on that waterproof sunscreen, bring sunglasses, and a wide-brimmed hat. And if you think a long sleeved shirt is too hot, remember that tests have shown that a loose breathable long sleeved shirt can keep you cooler than bare arms that have been cooked by the sun.
One last point about water. Despite appearing clear and clean, almost every source of drinking water contains microbes which can lead to severe illness. Unless it is clearly stated otherwise, all backcountry water sources should be considered contaminated and should be treated (with drops/tablets, filtered, or boiled) before consumption. Don’t risk it, even if you’re really thirsty!
Most fashion faux pas in the backcountry revolve around wearing jeans and other cotton clothing items. “Cotton kills” is not a joke. Cotton does not dry quickly enough to be considered a wise choice when hiking, and while wet it draws heat from your body increasing the risk of hypothermia.
For all other clothing tips, see the specific activity resource pages.
Every year there seems to be an increase in the number of avalanche related deaths.
Avalanche.ca is a page you should consult every time you go into the backcountry in winter. For more general winter safety information check out Adventuresmart’s Winter section (frostbite, hypothermia, clothing etc.).
In addition to the risk of avalanche, one of the biggest dangers on the North Shore is the risk of slipping and falling. We recommend that all snowshoers read the following article:
We’re fortunate that travelling in groups of 4 or more tends to make us quite noisy and talkative (Wanderung members are a chatty bunch). This is one of the best defences against bear or cougar encounters, as is staying close together. For more tips on cougar safety check out Adventuresmart’s cougar page. Bearsmart.com offers a ton of interesting information about recreating in bear country.
Mosquitoes and black-flies are the scourge of summer hiking. The best repellents are those containing DEET, a rather nasty chemical that you don’t want too much exposure to. Wear long pants and long-sleeved tops. Light-coloured clothing may also help limit the attack. Consider getting a bug net for your head, especially when camping. Fortunately in BC neither mosquitoes nor black-flies carry deadly disease (although cases of West Nile virus have been reported) and the main impact from their bites is intense itching. Topical ammonia-based products such as After Bite may help reduce itchiness, as do anti-histamines such as Benadryl (with the downside that they may make you drowsy).
Bee, wasp and hornet stings also present backcountry dangers, in the worst case leading to potentially life-threatening cases of anaphylaxis. Carrying an EpiPen may help save someone’s life, and should be a part of any backcountry First Aid kit.
Ticks are a lesser known danger but quite prevalent in the Lower Mainland. Not only are ticks just totally disgusting thingies that bury under your skin and give you a condition called the heebie-jeebies, but they can carry Lyme disease which can be with you the rest of your life. It is important to know how to remove a tick properly, but better yet, how to avoid ticks when hiking.
Disclaimer: The information provided in these pages should not be taken as accurate, complete or up-to-date. You should check this information yourself. The reader is warned that it is unreasonable to rely solely upon the information contained in these pages. By providing this information, Wanderung does not assume any liability for the use of this information by our readers. Terms & Conditions