For most people, a trip into the wilderness is not a solitary experience. Safety experts recommend that you travel in groups with a minimum size of two to four. The individual wilderness education of the travelers can be different, there should always be an expert or experienced person to serve as a leader. If you travel alone, you increase the risk of injury or death in the wilderness.
Even though you may start a trip into the wilderness in a group, there are always possibilities that lead to separation and/or injury. Injured members of a group may have to stay in a safe camp while some, or all, of the others return to civilization to bring help. It is important to plan for the worst on any wilderness excursion.
Trip Planning for Safety
When preparing for a trip into the wilderness each member of the party should be familiar with the group’s general plan for the excursion. This will include the locations and designs of shelters located throughout your scheduled trip. Research ahead to have knowledge of the availability of fire rings, sites, and combustible piles of wood. Each proposed stopping point should include locations for safe drinking water as well as fire protection water. There should be a plan for signaling the outside world if you are in trouble. This may include such high tech concepts as mobile or satellite communications, or GPS guidance, and mapping data to find the nearest help.
Make yourself familiar with the route you will be taking through the wilderness. Whenever possible, take trails rather than planning adventures across country. Carry a marked map with you which includes your itinerary. Be sure to make notations of the points where you can get assistance should it be necessary.
Validate your Navigation Methods
There are several ways to navigate through a wilderness. Some are only feasible if weather and visibility conditions prevail. Try to have two methods of navigation available for any trip into the wilderness. One of the newest and best methods uses the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) to find your exact position relative to other desired destinations. There are handheld units that you can pre-load with the maps of your chosen area so the GPS system can point out visually where you are on the screen’s map. It is a good idea to have a light and hardened laptop. This would provide precise directions and choices should weather, or unexpected events cause you to vary from your arranged trail.
GPS systems not only need a sensor that can capture three satellites’ signals in the sky and triangulate your position, but they require enough memory to hold a detailed topographic map. The latest handheld GPS trail systems have the ability to add memory cards. These memory cards will allow you to store a wider geographic map of the wilderness area you are visiting.
Back-up Navigation Systems
If you don’t have GPS navigation, you can use topographic maps, the stars, and a compass. If you know how to use one, a sexton can also be used to locate your position relative to your surroundings. The sexton will tell you the direction that you are facing in degrees of the compass. Using the map along with a good map compass, you should be able to find the latitude and longitude of your position on the topographic map.