I love being outside and have been on hunting, backpacking, motorcycling, mountain biking, and other types of wilderness adventures throughout my life. Although most of my trips have gone well, some have been less than ideal. I’ve never been on a “perfect” trip, because I’ve forgotten specific items or planned a poor route. Some of the following tips are not only useful for outdoor adventures, but also for other types of trips, whether a tour in Europe or a road trip across the country.
Prepare a packing checklist:
One of the most helpful things I do for each trip is to prepare a checklist. I then divide it into several areas: “clothes,” “toiletries,” “miscellaneous items,” etc. If I’m going on an outdoors trip, I am sure to add a category labeled “food, kitchen, and campsite.” I also write down categories for the activities I am involving myself in, such as “dirt biking” or “skiing.” Then, under each category, I write down each item I want to bring. I also use the notes app on my iPhone, which saves the checklist for the future. The most helpful thing I do in this process is reassess the list after each trip. I will add items that I forgot to bring or remove items that were useless. This ensures the next trip is better because I have the things I need.
Prepare a route:
Wherever you’re going, be sure to have a route planned, whether you are driving, walking, or any other type of movement. Bring a map and have an alternate route in case of obstructions to your travel, like poor weather or road closures. It’s more useful to use paper maps than online or GPS maps. Paper maps never need charging or a clear signal. This is especially helpful if you get lost; retracing your steps is much easier with a map than without one. Also, make sure your friends are on the same page. If possible, start the trip from the same area at the same time to avoid confusion later.
Understand the environment:
The hot, dry desert is much different than cold alpine environments. Talk to locals or call the ranger’s station to understand the area you plan to visit. For example, when I climb a fourteener, I know it is best to be below the tree line at noon. This is because afternoon showers lead to thunderstorms, which can lead to slick trails and dangerous lightning strikes. Speaking to experienced individuals is helpful because it is much easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes than to make the same mistake yourself.
Carry Emergency Supplies:
Bring a first aid kit, emergency blanket, and other applicable supplies for any medical issues or wilderness emergencies. Some of the most important things I carry are painkillers like Tylenol or Aspirin. These make a world of difference, even in minor injuries, and can bring comfort to the victim and ensure that you reach safety before worse things happen, like a cold night outside.
Being ready for emergencies doesn’t just require the proper tools, it requires good training. CPR is essential; it can mean the difference between life and death. I have my WFR, which is an acronym for wilderness first responder. It is a ten-day course that goes through various wilderness scenarios and how to treat victims. This course can count towards college credit at Walla Walla University. Another good course is a WFA, or wilderness first aid course. This is a three-day course covering the basics of first aid and applying them to wilderness scenarios. Another helpful course is the avalanche awareness course, which applies to back country opportunities like skiing and snowmobiling. Avalanches are deadly – proper training is essential if you regularly enjoy the snow.
I hope you find these recommendations helpful for your next trip. Being prepared for any trip is essential for safety but it also makes the trip more enjoyable for you and your friends. Happy trails!