Guide to staying safe on a camping or hiking trip
Safety might not sound very exciting but it is vital if you are to return home happy and smiling after a few days in the great outdoors.
Short note: Because every camping or hiking trip has different problems (climate, topography, wildlife), it’s impossible to provide a contingency for every possible scenario. Instead, this guide hopes to provide you with basic principles that should be employed wherever you go. It is not an exhaustive guide and you should always spend a while working out the risks specific to your journey.
Plan your route
Plan your trip before you leave the house. Once you know where you’re going, tell someone else about it and when you’ll be back — this can aid search-and-rescue operations should you go missing.
It’s essential that you work out the exact route you’re taking and that you understand its recognisable landmarks, relief and obstacles. You’re setting out the route, so you might want to make your expedition a challenge, but try to be aware of the dangers as well.
Outdoor equipment company Above & Beyond is a strong advocate of the Ordnance Survey map, advising that a “map cannot malfunction or run out of batteries”. Plus, examining a map helps explorers understand the area better, enabling them to weigh up different routes and truly imagine themselves in the environment. A scale of 1:25,000 is ideal, as it has all of the complex detail you need to plan your route. Oh, and a compass is a map’s best friend, so that’s vital, too.
Check the weather
Look online to find out a detailed weather forecast specific to the area you’re going to explore. Do this in advance of your trip, then just before it, as forecasts can change at a moment’s notice.
MWIS is one of the best to use for walking in the UK.
Bring more food and water
Pack the food and water that you think you will need and then add extras. If you don’t want to carry a lot of water and you know there will be rivers or lochs, you could take a filter bottle.
Another lightweight but calorie-high option is “survival” food. Survival rations are a great option because they are small and full of the calories you need if you’re stranded or the temperature dips lower than expected.
As well as your camping kit and good quality sleeping bag, take a few extra layers for night-time or when the temperature drops during the day. An extra baselayer, mid-layer jacket,, hat, socks and gloves could offer the difference between comfort and misery. Also, a stove or equipment to make a fire will be a great asset if the temperature dips well below freezing.
(Fire is also a great way to signal yourself to a mountain rescue team in an emergency.)
If you’re in the kind of trouble that you can’t get out of on your own, then it’s vital that you can contact the local mountain rescue team on a mobile phone. (Take a mobile charger so that you always have use of your phone.)
Mountain Rescue across the UK advise that you dial 999 or 112. You should then tell the operator about any casualties suffered, hazards to the rescuers, your location (perhaps even a grid reference) and whether you have whistles or lights they can watch or listen out for. Check out Mountain Safety for more info.
Many rucksacks now come with a whistle designed into clips and buckles, so look out for those. A head torch is a good idea because this leaves your hands free to do other things while using a light.
Exploring the great outdoors should be fun but it’s also important that you know how to stay safe.
* Thanks to Above & Beyond for their help with this blog.