The days are longer and lighter, and that can only mean one thing: it’s time to play outside! Whether you grew up camping every summer or you’re a nature newbie, everyone can use more Vitamin N these days (that’s N for Nature!).
There’s nothing quite like the power and joy of the natural world, whether it’s beach, forest, lake, or desert. Getting outdoors:
- Provides the body with necessary Vitamin D
- Connects you to other living things
- Inspires creativity
- Allows for a change of scene and perspective
Whether you’re headed out on a road trip, a day hike, or a month-long backpacking trip, make sure you think ahead and practice these six safety tips.
1. Let Someone Know Where You’re Going
As you set out on an adventure into the wild unknown of the great outdoors, let someone know where you’re going:
- Tell a friend where you’re headed (even if you’re bringing one along!)
- Call your mom, best friend, or significant other
- Let the park ranger know which trail you’re taking
- Leave a note in your car or at home
Although most outdoor experiences are safe, it’s a good idea to tell someone close to you exactly where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and around what time you expect to be back. That way, someone will know to send help if you’re not back when planned.
Keep in mind: sharing your plan with someone who cares about you is very different than posting your whereabouts on social media. Although it’s fun to share photos and stories of your adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, posting for all the world to see (read: strangers and enemies) that you’re running solo on a particular trail or that your house will be empty for several days is just not a good idea. Use common sense and keep yourself and your property safe by telling someone—but not everyone—where you’ll be.
2. Be Prepared
This safety tip is borrowed from the Girl Scouts, but that’s because it’s an important one! Make it your motto, too. Although being prepared can’t necessarily save you when the unexpected occurs, or if there’s an accident, it’s the best place to start. Prevention works. Check in with yourself:
- Do you know anything about where you’re traveling?
- Did you pack a raincoat just in case?
- Does your headlamp have fresh batteries?
- Are the Band-Aids packed?
- Are you physically prepared for the terrain you’ll be treading?
- Did you train and stretch?
- Are you mentally prepared to be out of touch from email/phone?
- Are you ready to be immersed in nature for the duration of your trip?
- Are you aware of where you are emotionally and sure that you’ll keep yourself safe?
3. Drink Plenty of Water
Bring enough. Bring a lot. Drink it! Although you can go without food for three weeks, common survival knowledge says you’ll only live for three days without water. Pack it, drink it, and survive.
Pat yourself on the back each time you have to stop to pee knowing you’re hydrated. (And while you can drink too much water—it’s called hyponatremia—you’ll really have to drink a whole lot to get sick from it, which is unlikely.)
4. Pack a Snack
Even if you’re only out for a few hours, chances are you’ll get hungry, or at least your kid will. Or the dog will. Also, in case you stay out longer than planned or you need to spend the night somewhere, bring a little extra than you think you’ll need for the day. Lightweight, nourishing snack options include:
- Dried fruit
- Root vegetable chips
5. Take a Map
Your phone’s not so “smart” when you’re out of cell service and WiFi range. GPS could be spotty where you’re going. Although there are some great apps and techie travel tools out there, it’s important to have a back-up plan (sadly, phones die, trackers get wet, and tech tweaks out).
Bring a physical map and put it into a waterproof container (a Ziploc bag works well). Also, know how to read it! Study the map before you leave for your hike, ride, or raft, and scan it again once you’re there to get your bearings. A compass (which you also need to know how to use) could be a good accompaniment to your map.
6. Bring a First Aid Kit
Your first aid kit just needs to have the basics. There are some great ready-made kits out there that include all the essentials, or you can build your own. Put it in a brightly coloured, waterproof case, and make sure it is small enough that you’ll actually bring it along.
As you build your kit, make sure you know what each item is and how to use it properly. During an emergency, you’ll want to access your kit and the items in it as confidently and quickly as possible. Take a Wilderness First Aid or a Wilderness First Responder course to be ultra-prepared if you’re planning a long or technical adventure.
Although what you need will vary with group size and duration of trip, National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) recommends a general first aid kit include:
- Notepad and pencil
- Biohazard bag
- Several sizes of Band-Aids
- Emergency blanket
- Several sizes of gauze pads/rolls
- Safety pins
- Ace bandage
- Signal mirror
- 1” Athletic tape
- Second skin
- 12cc Syringe
- Ibuprofen, Aspirin, Benadryl, other medications
As you venture outdoors, and perhaps out of your comfort zone, remember to also bring an open heart and mind. Breathe in the fresh air and get curious about your new surroundings. Different times of day and different seasons provide a feast for the senses:
- What do you notice in your field of vision?
- What colors and scents pop out to you?
Take a few moments each day and each week to put down your device, pause for gratitude, and bask in the unrivaled magnificence of the natural world.