Outdoor Safety

Category: Science Tool

Heading outdoors can be rewarding on so many levels, but it also involves a number of variables and risk factors you need to consider first. After all, sunshine doesn’t always equate warmth. Maps can get lost and technology can fail. The wind, nearby trees and proximity to water can affect your personal comfort. Injury can happen without warning. Plan and prepare for your outdoor adventure, even if it’s a short one. Here are some basic tips to follow:

Never travel alone. Whether you’re going for a day-long hike or just a morning walk, take someone else with you and let others know where you’re going to be, the route you’ll be taking and your approximate return time. Set up a system in which you text or phone friends or family when you start your journey and again when you finish it.

Make sure you’re up to it. If you haven’t spent much time outdoors, or aren’t in great physical shape, be realistic about what you’re going to do. Maybe a short walk on a flat strip of beach is more appropriate than climbing a mountain?

Dress for success. Weather forecasts can be wrong or conditions can change rapidly. Make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing – including footwear – for your adventure. Dressing in layers is a good rule of thumb, making sure the outer layer is waterproof. Take a hat and sunglasses and use sunscreen if needed.

Take food and water. This is one of the most common errors made during outdoor excursions. Some hikers may tell themselves that the hike’s too short to bother with food or water, but since you’re constantly burning calories and probably sweating, you need to replenish yourself. Or what happens during an emergency? Do you have enough supplies to sustain yourself until help can arrive? Take plenty of water and high-carbohydrate foods.

Pack deliberately. What you carry with you may make all the difference when it comes to your outdoor safety. Aside from the food and water mentioned above, it’s always a good idea to take a map, compass or GPS device; waterproof fire starter; a whistle or mirror for signaling for help; a personal shelter or thermal blanket; a cell phone; and insect protection. Click here to download a helpful list of basic supplies you should take on any outdoor adventure.

Learn basic first aid and CPR. Even if someone knows where you are or you can call 911, it may take some time for help to reach you. If you or a hiking partner are injured or sick, do you know how to handle the situation until professionals arrive? Basic first aid and CPR classes are a lifeskill everyone should have. Contact your local American Red Cross office to find out more. Make sure you take a first aid kit on any outdoor adventure as well.

Plan your time. If you get a late start on that hike, are you going to be back before it gets dark? Make sure you allow plenty of daylight time to complete your adventure… but just in case, it might be a good idea to pack a flashlight with extra batteries, too.

Drugs and alcohol increase risk. These substances can impair everything from your balance to your judgment, placing you at higher risk of making a mistake or not handling an emergency situation appropriately. Before you head outdoors, make sure both body and mind are clear and functioning at peak performance.

Related Information: United States Department of Agriculture, Travel Advisories: Outdoor Safety