In our family, we love spending time outdoors. Any chance we get we’re out there camping, hiking, ATV riding, and so much more! But if you’re not careful, the weekend of your dreams can turn into a nightmare in no time.

Just a few weeks ago my wife and I went on a hike through the Palisades. Not expecting it to be a long hike we each packed some snacks, and one bottle of water. The hike started out as a very pleasant one, with some slight rain and grey clouds that really deepened the beautiful greens and blue in the valley all around us. Thinking we were prepared, we moved onward and upward with our raincoats on.

As we increased in elevation the temperature began to drop, and by the time we had reached the upper palisade lake, there was a good 2-3 inches of snow on the ground. We were tired, wet, cold, and our water supply was running low. Our lack of thought for outdoor safety put us in a very challenging situation.

That experience taught me a lot about the outdoors, and how to keep safe while enjoying them. The 4 best methods of staying safe that I have found are first, make sure others know where you are. Second, pack lots of water! Third, bring the appropriate gear. And finally, properly store your food!

Make Sure Others Know Where You Are

This has to be the most important outdoor safety tactic. As long as others know where you are, help is never too far away.

One of the most popular methods of ensuring others know where you are is called the buddy system. Wherever you go, make sure to take a buddy with you. Having someone else with you in an emergency can be the difference between life and death.

Other very effective ways to make sure others know where you are is to use some of our modern technology. Social Media can be a wonderful way to keep many people informed of your whereabouts. Leaving a message telling others where you are going over the phone, or even via text are all great ways to protect yourself in the event of an emergency. This way, if something were to happen, and you couldn’t communicate with the outside world, they would still know where to begin the search.

Pack Water!

Water is absolutely imperative to your outdoor safety.

It’s easy to tell yourself that it will be a short jaunt, and the water will just slow you down. But it’s super important that you bring enough water. Water is one of the few elements that our bodies are incredibly bad at retaining. Without replenishing our supply of water, our bodies will shut down after only 3-4 days.

If you are going to be out longer than you can adequately carry water for, be sure to pack an appropriately sized water purifier. Purifying the water you encounter on your journeys protects you from many forms of bacteria and even amoeba. If you find yourself without a water purifier, you can gather water from a natural source, but it must be brought to a rolling boil before it can be safely used for cooking or drinking.

Camping without water is no fun whatsoever. What would normally be a pleasant stroll through the woods can turn into an arduous journey. 

Bring The Appropriate Gear!

The gear you pack is directly correlated to the amount of fun you will have on your outing. It would be a pretty boring ski trip if no one brought skis. The trip could also be a dangerous one without the right amount of clothing. The gear you will need varies greatly depending on where you are, and what you are doing. But a few staples that are good ideas to have no matter where you find yourself are: An emergency whistle – in the event of an emergency, it makes it much easier for others to find you if you are blowing an emergency whistle. Another important piece of gear is, believe it or not, bug spray. Mosquitos are nastly little buggers and they carry countles diseases. Keeping them away with mosquito repellant is a good ideal all around. A last article of gear to keep on your person at all times especially when out in the woods is bear spray. While unlikely, run-ins with bears at close range are a good way to end a weekend very badly. Bear spray is never something you will regret having on your person.

Properly Store Your Food!

The last tactic I’d recommend for outdoor safety is making sure to properly store your food! Improper storage of food is the cause for many animal attacks in the US. Any government-owned property has been prepared with bear boxes where all food should be stored. This will prevent animals from getting into your food, and disturbing your campsite. As long as your food is stored properly you and your food will be protected from wild animals. Another tip for when you are out in the woods is to make sure your food is stored in a dry sack or other water tight packaging. This will help reduce the scent put off by the food, and keep from attracting unwanted visitors while on the trail.