Outdoor Safety Tips for Camping, Hiking, and Overlanding-Panergy
One of the biggest mistakes that people make is failing to plan appropriately prior to leaving for a trip.
I would always suggest traveling with a friend or in a group, but the reality is, sometimes you want to go and your friends don’t.
You can hike and camp alone responsibly, but whether you’re with a group or not, you must set up a good plan prior to leaving.
That's something that many people fail to do appropriately. They go out on a whim with most of the stuff they need, and unfortunately, that doesn't usually pan out very well when there’s an emergency or even when something just goes slightly wrong, it can compound upon itself.
Prior planning is key and it really is probably the most important thing in your outdoor safety protocol.
The Four W’s
Your plan should consist of the four w’s: the who, what, when, and where.
That information should be sent off to three or four responsible friends or family members.
Who - Who is going? Is it just me or am I going with friends?
What - What activity am I taking off to do? For example, a trailhead might have access to a river for fishing, hiking trails, and/or ATV trails. If someone came to the area you said you would be in, they need to know exactly what activity you’re actually doing for each day of the trip.
When - When do you plan on leaving? When do you plan to be back?
Where - Where are you going? Be very specific. Give trail names and information of planned camping spots. You can even leave coordinates. A trailhead parking lot might have access to multiple trails. You need to leave information about which trail or road you will be on for each day of the trip.
In addition to the four W’s, you also want to think about appropriate gear, your abilities, and a communication plan prior to leaving on a trip.
Communication is an important part of your safety and security, and it’s something that is frequently overlooked.
It’s one of the most underutilized things that you can do to set yourself up for success.
Of course, you want everything to go great on a camping trip or on a hike, but you also want to have a contingency plan for when things go wrong.
So how will you communicate if something goes wrong and you have an emergency?
Do you have cell service in the area that you’re going to? Most of the time, the answer to that question is no.
You can buy satellite communicators that allow you to communicate in an emergency. One option is a Garmin InReach Mini. It’s a small lightweight option for emergency communications.
Some of the Garmin GPS units have the InReach technology built into them. With the InReach, you can go off-grid but stay in contact with two-way messaging and the SOS feature in the event of an emergency.
Based on Austin’s experience in search and rescue (SAR), from the time there’s an InReach activation to when SAR is getting the phone call and deploying on that call is usually 7-10 minutes. It’s happening quickly and it’s very accurate.
Bottom line, if things do go wrong, you want to have a way to communicate and get help. A satellite communicator is going to be the easiest and quickest option.
Other signaling options are a signaling mirror or a bright-colored signaling panel which can be used to help SAR find you. A lot of backpacks even have whistles built into the strap clips that can be used in an emergency.
Know Your Ability
Knowing your ability and what your deficiencies are is important when planning a trip.
I’m an advocate for starting small.
For example, if you’ve never gone on a hike, then going on a strenuous multi-day backpacking trip is not a good idea. It would be better to start with a short local day hike.
If you’ve never been car camping, choose a campground close to home and try it out instead of going somewhere far away deep in the national forest.
Start small, get experience with your gear, and then build up your confidence and abilities.
Along with starting small is knowing where your deficiencies are and what you’re comfortable with.
For example, if you’re really uncomfortable with heights, don’t go on a hike that requires you to scramble up a steep slope over boulders with drop-offs.
Use common sense and assess the risk along with your abilities so you don’t get yourself into situations where you’re uncomfortable.
Another thing that falls into prior planning is your gear and equipment for the activity that you’re doing.
We’ll talk more about gear below.
Amanda on a day hike in Utah.
Mental modeling is when you actually think about some of the emergencies or accidents that could happen while you’re out and then think about what you would do to handle those situations.
This is probably not the most fun activity, but it’s something that you want to be doing before your trip.
When you start mental modeling, you want to focus on the things that are most probable. Anything is really possible, but what is most probably to happen to me or those I’m with on a camping trip or hike?
Based on the time of year and the activity, what are some of the “bad” things that could happen? For example, on a hike, one of the most probable things to happen to you or someone in your group is a sprained ankle.
Okay, now what?
What are the literal action steps that you would take to handle that situation? Think through it.
Imagine yourself doing the things to take care of that situation. Make sure you pack the gear that you need to get through these probabilities.
Someone getting injured or sick should definitely be part of your mental modeling.
This video with Austin on first aid and wilderness medical is a good place to start for medical emergencies. It goes over the most common injuries that Austin sees on search and rescue and what to do about them.