Due to the style of my blogging, you may be surprised that I take safety and "wellbeing" very seriously on the trail. My blogging style is somewhat casual with a hint of humour, but I always take care of myself when on a remote hike. Ultimately, I must, nobody else will as I am solo on most hikes. I always assume responsibility for myself when in the wilderness, I never take it for granted that I can pick up a mobile and call for help in many places or text for a helicopter.
For myself the planning, risk assessment and the art of self-preservation using the skills and the equipment you have on your bag is part of the joy and the thrill of a remote hike. With this in mind I thought I would just discuss some of the ways I keep safe when outdoors on a remote hike. Some of these also apply even when just out for the day walking the dog in a rural location so don't think they are just for extremely remote places.
I cannot stress enough how important planning is. I believe it is the biggest factor for staying safe outdoors. Do your research, it will help to keep you safe and hopefully will not let you get into some dangerous situations. If you are not sure, read How Do I Plan an Adventure. It will take you through the steps I follow when planning a trip. Pay attention to gear lists. They seem nerdy but you need to make sure you think through your gear list thoroughly in plenty of time to ensure you have and pack everything. Forgetting something when you are near civilisation is not an issue, you just buy a replacement at the shops, but discovering you are missing an item when you are in the middle of nowhere, could be even fatal.
Let Someone Know Your Plans
Always let someone know your plans. In my case for each trip I have a detailed itinerary showing locations, expected targets for each day, emergency national park contact numbers, local police etc. Leave this with a friend or family and give them some guidelines on if you think you could be late, and on which stretch and a guideline as to when to contact authorities.
I believe it is important to have a form of electronic communication for emergencies, especially in remote locations. This may be a mobile phone, a personal locator beacon or another form of satellite tracking communication system. These items have come a long way in the last few years and they are reasonably priced now. Having an electronic method of communication does however mean you need to think about a power strategy.
This item alone is worthy of a future blog post, but for now let us just say I always make sure I have a suitable method of electronic communication with me.
It is unusual to not have any forms of electronics on a trip. At the very least you will have a head torch, at most you could have a phone, camera, satellite tracker etc. It is important to know how much power each of these items use and to calculate how much you need. This may involve a solar panel or just an external battery but ensure you have enough. Also remember the cold will affect your devices and so you will need to ensure you have spare capacity and try and keep your batteries from getting to cold in the day, but mainly at night. Keep them in your sleeping bag if possible if cold.
I never rely solely on GPS or other electronic methods of navigation, yes, I use them, but I always have a paper map and compass as a backup. If your phone or GPS device breaks or you run out of battery, then I can use the map/compass to find my way. Importantly make sure you can use a map and compass, practice, take training. You do not want to be learning that skill when you are lost.
I have several first aid kits for different styles of trips, but typically I will make up a specific first aid kit for each trip with items tailored to the type, length and conditions of the trip. My first aid kits tend to be minimal, I work on the basis that if anything serious was to happen there probably would not be much I could do about it anyway. But I do keep all the normal minor things and a few more major items. But still lightweight, typically under 200g.
Your feet are very important so look after them, they are what gets you from the start to the end so don't take them for granted. Take a little time each day to try and air them, soak or wash them each day if possible and take care of them before going to sleep. This includes dealing with any toe nail problems, blisters or hot spots. I have a specific routine and a way I deal with blisters which I put in a future blog post.
This can be difficult on some trips, but clothing management is key. It does not have to be freezing to get hypothermia, just some mildly cold temperatures and wet clothes for a few days can catch you out. Try and keep a complete set of base layers dry along with your sleeping bag/quilt to change into at the end of a wet day. In wet weather sometimes it isn't fun putting on wet clothing in the morning but at least when you have a dedicated set of base layers to get into at the end of the day it does make it easier.
Be safe and happy hiking.