In recent weeks we have had a few tragedies here in BC within the outdoor community. I would like to help those new to our front and back country, and even those who feel experienced, by reviewing some key information.  I also offer a 101 online course in Field Leadership including a certificate from the Outdoor Council of Canada that will help you feel more prepared to venture by yourself or as a leader to your group for basic outdoor travel. My hearts go out to those impacted by any loss or injury. The outdoors has inherent risks, some events are more preventable than others. Spending time in nature should be a place that awakens our souls, feels like home and is accessible to all. Let’s educate ourselves and take actions to be safe and prepared for the times when things don’t go as planned. Big love community.

The need for us to exercise, center and connect with our environments is high. Many indoor facilities have been closed due to the pandemic and we are finding more people wanting to pursue activities outdoors.  It’s easy to get outdoors as we live in such a stunning province, and with all the amazing gear we can buy, it can feel like we are prepared when in fact the picture needs to include a lot more. I want to keep this really basic, and of course if this spikes your interest and after reading this you feel like you are learning something new, follow up with my 2-day weekend online course to really nail down a solid foundation for outdoor preparedness.

Let’s review trip route planning, leaving a route plan with someone not on trip, 10 essentials to bring, risk awareness, and finally basics of what to do when things don’t go as planned.

TRIP ROUTE PLANNING

Fill this out for your next trip:

  1. Trip Name/place:
  2. Mode of travel:
  3. Travel time/distance to trail head or parking area:
  4. Distance of excursion:
  5. Start time at trailhead:
  6. Route description:
  7. Seasonal Conditions:
  8. Sunrise and Sunset times:
  9. Hours needed for route (include how much time should you include for getting ready at the start of the trip, lunch, contingency):
  10. Is this trip new to you:
  11. What maps do you have (basic trail map, topographic map, paper, electronic):
  12. What type of tracking device do you have? (compass, Google Maps, GPS, InReach, Spot):
  13. How many people are coming on the trip:
  14. Any pre-existing medical issues for anyone:
  15. Level of fitness of participants:
  16. What is the difficulty of the trip:
  17. Where are people in spirit and in mind (tired, stressed, hazy, upset, happy, focused):
  18. What is the forecasted weather (look at weather in days prior and day of):
  19. Where are the decision points on your route:
  20. What are local contacts (9-1-1, search and rescue):
  21. What communication devices do you have, are they charged:

LEAVING A ROUTE PLAN

Leaving a route plan and giving someone a heads up of your day out is not always something that comes to mind for people to do. It may be a spontaneous outing and it may happen all so fast that letting someone know may not even come up on your radar. We have all done this, so lets make ourselves accountable now and make it a habit, and sharing your plan with friends or family. This will easily make every trip safer and this will also encourage your loved ones to do the same. It is a simple, responsible act. Should you really be in danger you don’t want this to be something you wished you would have done. Its also a good idea to leave a basic route plan visible from your windshield for others returning to their cars to see as well.

So what to include when sharing your route plan:

  1. Trip Name/place:
  2. How many are in your party
  3. What vehicles are you bringing (include make, model and license):
  4. Where is the trail head:
  5. Mode of travel:
  6. Color of your gear (kayaks, bikes etc)
  7. Distance of excursion:
  8. Start time at trailhead:
  9. Route description:
  10. Hours needed for route (include how much time should you include for getting ready at the start of the trip, lunch, contingency):
  11. Check in times:
  12. Latest you will be back at your vehicle or in range to call:
  13. Communication numbers (cell phone, InReach number):

You can also include:

  1. Is this trip new to you:
  2. What maps do you have (basic trail map, topographic map, paper, electronic):
  3. What type of tracking device do you have? (compass, Google Maps, GPS, InReach, Spot):
  4. Any pre-existing medical issues for anyone:
  5. Level of fitness of participants:
  6. What is the difficulty of the trip:
  7. Where are the decision points on your route:

10 ESSENTIALS TO BRING

There are 10 essential items that can be packed into a small area of a backpack that could make all the difference to your next adventure. This is more of a list, than informative of how and why to use each item. Follow-up on any piece that you are unfamiliar with before relying on it and bring at least one item listed under each of these 10 essentials if not multiples. If you need a nice visual and great 2nd resource, have a look at the North Shore Rescue page.

  1. Light – headlamp and extra batteries, flashlight, Cyalume stick
  2. Signaling Device – whistle, bear bangers, flare.
  3. Fire Starter – matches that are waterproof or in a waterproof container, lighter, tea light or candle, (I also include a piece of aluminum to melt snow or boil water above the candle).
  4. Extra Layers- Warm hat, gloves, puffy vest, rain gear, wool socks
  5. Knife
  6. Shelter – Orange survival plastic bag, silver emergency blanket
  7. Water and Food – bring extra bars, water tablets, water bottle or platypus bag
  8. First Aid Kit – include blister care, plastic bandages, tensor, pocket mask, Sam Splint, bulk dressings and protective gloves.
  9. Navigation – Compass and topographic map, interpretive trail map, GPS,
  10. Communication – cell phone, InReach, Spot

You may also need:

  1. Bear Spray
  2. Rope
  3. Good Footwear – hiking boots with ankle support, snowshoes, crampons, warm socks, extra socks.
  4. But pad to insulate when sitting or lying.

RISK AWARENESS

This is a big topic to skim over and one that any new or experienced outdoor seeker should continue to review and educate themselves on. Here’s the basics to ask yourself:

  1. What degrees of risk is involved in my activity and location (walking around Trout Lake in East Vancouver would be low in risk, rock climbing the Chief would be high in risk)?
  2. What is the probability of risk in my activity (Trout Lake would be low and the Chief could be moderate)?
  3. Have I done this activity before? Is there equal or more risk involved due to weather, season, participants etc.?
  4. What risks can I manage in my activity and what risks can’t I manage? When do I decide it is too much to manage and make a turn around plan?
  5. Group Dynamics – Who is the leader, how easily can participants express their unease or discomfort in group or leader decision making? Is the group able to identify decision points and ongoing risk acceleration?
  6. How is the weather changing? What time of day is it? How much mental and physical energy does everyone have?
  7. What are your contingency plans?
  8. How goal driven are we in comparison to personal safety? Can we let go of our original plan that we set for ourselves
  9. When do we stay put and make the call for outside help?

WHAT TO DO WHEN THINGS DON’T GO AS PLANNED

There are often seven or more key decisions where preventative actions could be taken before a major accident. Of course, as more decisions leaning towards risk happen, the pace and size of the risk also increases. Because of this, it is important when you first start getting the sense that you are in a situation, that you take pause, breathe and consider your options. Too often we make quick decisions either because we are scared, or because we let our ego lead, thinking we can get out of the situation, or because we don’t have the knowledge base or experience and nothing like this has ever happened. Recognize that we need to be alert in the wilderness, we do not have the same access to help as we do in a city and that being near the city can sometimes give a false sense of security and often have the majority of emergency calls. So here are a few pointers when it all goes wrong.

  1. Stay put if you are not totally certain where you came from. Do not venture further.
  2. Call 9-1-1 before calling loved ones in case your phone battery dies. They can track your location.
  3. Establish yourself, meaning check out the resources you have on you  and around you whether it’s a wind shelter, running water etc.
  4. Take note of what you can see whether the ocean, a mountain top, anything that stands out.
  5. Record the time when you stop. As well, what time were you last somewhere, that you knew? Remember the details of what you saw leading up to when you stopped.
  6. Are you injured? Treat your injuries or minimize the pain if you can. Get warm.
  7. Are you wet? Do you have dry clothes/ Can you keep yourself dry and warm? Can you make a fire?
  8. Can you signal for help with a whistle? Continue to do this.
  9. Save your battery life on your phone. This is why a headlamp is a key travel piece.
  10. Use signaling devices like flares sparingly. For example, if you hear someone or see a helicopter. It may be missed otherwise and you have a limited supply so consider your timing.
  11. Again, stay put, especially at night time.

I truly hope that this is a helpful piece of information and a reminder to those who need it. Let’s enjoy the beauty of our back country and always hold mother nature in our highest respect. We have more and more tools that make going into the back country accessible to all, but this can also lead to a false security  of feeling safe. It is for all of us to learn the basics of outdoor travel, know how to make a safe trip plan, leave a route plan with someone, bring the essentials and manage our risk throughout our days.

I encourage everyone to take a course or explore these topics further before venturing out of your comfort zones. Our wilderness is meant for everyone and offers so much to us. It has immense power, beauty and lessons to share. Lets soak up its richness and travel smart.

Please check out this 2 – day Outdoor Council of Canada course that I will be offering in the coming weekends. This is a great tool for individuals, teachers, leaders and organizations to participate in. I would be happy to offer a discount to groups of 4 or more if you are part of an outdoor group, a school or work organization.

Wild Love,

Silke
www.WildRootJourneys.com

Wild Root Journeys