Whether you’re a backcountry newcomer or seasoned professional, preparation is the key to backcountry safety. We asked a few seasoned backcountry adventurers –our inReach ambassadors – to share their top tips for trips that are both epic and safe.
Tips for Backcountry Safety
- Plan your route.
- Tell someone where you’re going.
- Be trackable.
- Know how to navigate.
- Carry a two-way communicator and GPS.
- Dress in layers.
- Check the weather forecast.
- Have a turn around time.
- Have fun!
Plan your Route
Plan your route along with landmarks to track your progress along the way. Identify potential hazards and decide how you will avoid these or manage the risk before you head out. Determine your approximate travel time using the distance and elevation profile of your route. Use this info to help you pack the right gear, food and water for the trip.
Leave Word of Your Plan
This can be as simple as a piece of paper on your dash listing your name, the trail you are on, when you left and your estimated return time. It’s an even better idea to give your trip plan to a friend before you go and check in when you return. The important thing is that someone knows where you are – and when you are planning to come home.
With today’s technology, there isn’t a reason not to have a tracking device with you on every adventure. The ability to pinpoint your location in an emergency can save your life!
Know How to Navigate
It might seem like common sense, but don’t simply rely on trails for navigation in the backcountry. Trails can become indistinct. It’s easy to wander off track in places where only flagging tape or cairns are used. Bring a compass, map and/or GPS and know how to use them. You should feel confident that even if you lose the trail, you will be able to navigate your way back out of the wilderness.
Carry a Two-Way Communication Device and GPS
A device like an inReach is critical to backcountry safety because it allows you to send and receive messages. It’s more than just an emergency button, it’s an excellent way for friends and family to feel assured of your safety while you’re exploring. You can even invite people to track your adventure. The inReach Explorer includes a GPS system so you can plan, track and navigate to your destination. Whether it’s just for a quick check in or a complicated message explaining a rescue situation, the two-way communication device will ensure your message gets to the people you need to contact.
Dress Appropriately – Layers are Best
Comfort is important, but safety comes first. In my region, temperatures dip below 10 degrees Celcius much of the year. You’re more likely to get hypothermia than heat stroke hiking out here. Being able to recognize the signs and symptoms of hypothermia is important in backcountry safety. Early warning signs are often referred to as the “umbles”. You start to fumble, stumble, or mumble. More serious signs are shivering, slowness and muscle stiffness.
So how do you dress for a weather system that’s moodier than a toddler at Walmart? It’s all about layering. Depending on the region, expect to wear three layers of clothing (base, mid and outer layer) and to manage the layers as you adjust to the cold or heat.
Check the Weather Forecast
Speaking of weather, another safety tip for anyone spending time in the backcountry is to be prepared for what mother nature has coming. The weather forecast feature on the inReach Explorer lets you get weather updates wherever you are – essential to maximizing outdoor fun while keeping everyone safe.
Have a Turn Around Time
This may be the most important way to stay safe. Even with all the gear you can pack, returning at a safe time can mean the difference between life and death.
We can often get caught up in the excitement of the moment and pursuit of a goal. Setting a turn around time in advance takes out any risk of misjudgment that may happen in the wild. You can determine your turn around time based on what supplies you’re packing and how long you estimate it will take to get back safely.
Bonus Tip: HAVE FUN!