Safety in Nature

There are many benefits to being in nature (LINK). Yet, for those that are not an outdoor enthusiast, there are aspects of nature that you need to be aware of to ensure that you enjoy the time and are safe.

While this list is by no means comprehensive, it provides some basics for you to familiarize yourself with as well as some resources at the end that you can research into the topic further.

I taught wilderness survival briefly, and these are general guidelines that we trained. The operative word is general, every body is different, and depending on stress, weather, and other factors, these can change significantly:

This is known as the Rule of 3:

  • 3 minutes without air

  • 3 hours without shelter

  • 3 days without water

  • 3 weeks without food

Furthermore, there are the 5 Ws of Survival:

Water

Look for:

  • Areas with clean water nearby. These areas provide hydration and food, as well as a possible path to civilization.

Avoid:

  • Damp, marshy ground. Camping too close to the shoreline in case of changes in water level. Lowlands, like canyons that are prone to floods.

Weather

Look for:

  • Keep an eye on signs of the weather changing, and seek shelter before the weather gets bad.

Avoid:

  • Areas that are open to hazardous weather. Don’t camp out in the open, or on top of hills. Don’t camp in a place where fog settles. Don’t camp in places that act as natural lighting attractors if storms are likely. Avoid areas where avalanches are possible.

Widow Makers

Avoid:

  • Camping beneath large, dead trees and snags with large, high limbs. You don’t want to be in the path of a falling limb or tree that weighs hundreds of pounds. Also avoid areas with thick brush, lots of exposed branches, or lots of knotty roots. You don’t want to trip into your fire or put out an eye at night.

Wildlife

Look for:

  • Areas with an abundant sign of small game for hunting and trapping, and there is often edible vegetation and water nearby.

Avoid:

  • Animal dens. Areas with large game trails — you don’t want to startle a moose or bull elk that are passing by. Areas with a sign of dangerous animals, like fresh bear scat or the stripped bark from moose. Areas with active hazardous or nuisance insects around — brush piles for arachnids and centipedes, stagnant water for mosquitoes, and keep an eye out for wasp nests and ant colonies. If you live in a place with venomous snakes, avoid areas where they may sun themselves.

Wood

Look for:

  • An area where fuel is abundant and easy to harvest.

Avoid:

  • Areas where wildfires are likely, or easy to start.

Finally, before going out, some basic skills are good to know by every hiker.

  • Map & Compass Reading

  • Most phones have GPS on them, and you can download apps, however, batteries only last so long and sometimes you may not have a signal.

  • First Aid

While Red Cross first aid training is proper, they generally teach you how to call 911. When you are hiking, and out in nature, 911 is often not available. This is where being trained in Wilderness First Aid is helpful. My certification is due later this year, however, I have had a certification for close to 10 years now and have taken training through both SOLO and NOLS.

This also helps you understand what you need in your first aid kit (FAK). While I have purchased pre-built kits and have built my own, I now rely on the kits from MyMedic (I currently have an Advanced Recon FAK).

Also, take advantage of your local outfitter and stores such as REI and EMS. The employees at these stores often have a passion for the outdoors and can provide you with a wealth of information for guides, guide services, books, and other resources that could prove to be useful.

A few of my favorite books about skills development and wilderness survival are:

  • SAS Survival Handbook by John Wiseman

  • Mountaineering First Aid by Jan D. Carline

  • Wilderness Medicine by William Forgey

  • AMC White Mountain Guide

  • The Falling Season by Hal Clifford