Most of the outdoor survival situations that occur can be prevented with a little preparation and planning. A survival situation is something that can happen to anyone, regardless of his or her experience or expertise in hiking. Survival situations don’t always arise because someone is inexperienced or reckless. If you want to have the best time you can on your hiking vacation, while keeping yourself and your family as safe as possible, there certain steps you can take.
First and most important, be sure to leave a travel plan with someone at home. A travel plan lists the possible locations you expect to cover while on your hiking vacation. It does not have to be a detailed list. You can use a map and just mark the spots on it where you plan to be. If you leave a travel plan, then searchers will have an idea of where to look for you if you become lost.
Second, always carry a few basic items with you in case you have to spend the night on the trail. Take a garbage bag, a lighter, a whistle, a pocketknife, and a water bottle. This is the minimum number of essential items you should bring with you whether you are hiking for a day or for a week or longer. These items address the basic needs from shelter to water and heat. Depending on your outdoor activity, level of skill, and the climate you plan to hike in, you may need to carry more extensive equipment.
Third, be sure to pack something you can turn into a shelter quickly. A garbage bag is an example of such an item. It can be easily made into a shelter. Just cut a slit in the middle of the closed end and pull it over your head. This is a great solution to the problem, and a bag is easy to pack in a pocket. It only costs a few pennies, and it may save your life. Hypothermia can occur even in 50-degree weather, so it is critical that you have a way to make a quick shelter should the need arise.
Always carry a wool cap in your vehicle and your daypack. Eighty percent of your body heat leaves you if your head is exposed. You must always protect your head when you are hiking. If you don’t have a cap, use a sock or a bandanna. You can wear anything on your head as long as it keeps your head warm.
Finally, make a habit of carrying at least three fire-making resources with you. Having a lighter is always a good idea, but having only one source of fire making while hiking is inadequate. Lighters may get wet, and then they won’t light anymore. Also carry a spark rod and windproof matches in your pocket or pack. You are like to make a fire in rainy or otherwise bad weather. While this can be tricky, it can be done. Just collect dead twigs from evergreens like pines, firs, or spruces. These trees have a lot of resin so they will catch fire faster than other types of wood.