Every year, thousands of people venture into the wilderness for recreational purposes. And while communing with nature is an excellent way to alleviate the stresses of everyday life, many people fail to take into account just how harsh the wilderness can be to those who are unprepared.
In fact, underestimating the dangers posed by a day or week in the woods and being unprepared to handle them can lead to life or death struggles to survive until help arrives. To help prevent this from happening to you, here’s three major mistakes to avoid:
1. Miscalculating the risk. Most people only venture into the wilderness on weekends or for occasional camping trips. As a result, the first and most common deadly wilderness mistake most people make is miscalculating the level of risk that venturing into the wilderness poses. For instance, because many people plan what they expect to be only a day adventure, they fail to take into account just how quickly the local weather can change and the danger that inclement weather can create. Excessive heat, for example, can quickly cause hypothermia and dehydration, which can lead to disorientation, poor decision making, and ultimately death.
Also, although most people are aware of the dangers posed by excessively cold weather, they fail to understand that even a light rain in relatively warm weather can lower a person’s core temperature enough to cause hypothermia, which poses the same dangers as excessive heat. Furthermore, many areas of the US are inhabited by dangerous creatures such as bears, wolves, mountain lions, poisonous snakes and poisonous insects. In fact, the black bear can be found in most mountain ranges of the US and is responsible for more attacks on humans than grizzlies or brown bears combined. Numerous people each year are bitten by poisonous snakes in the wilderness, because they are either unaware of their presence or unaware of their preferred habitat.
2. Not being properly prepared. The wilderness can be deadly for those who are not prepared. It is essential to plan for accidents and emergency situations by carrying a properly stocked daypack that contains extra clothing and extra high-energy, non-perishable foods such as dried meat, dried fruits, trail mixes and hard candies in case you need to unexpectedly spend one or more nights in the wilderness.
Furthermore, everyone venturing into the wilderness, regardless of how long they intend to stay, should assemble and carry a well-stocked survival kit, along with a sturdy survival knife, and know how to use them to build survival shelters, start a fire and obtain food.
3. Not knowing survival basics. Because most people venture into the wilderness using well-marked trails, they mistakenly feel that they do not need to know how to read a topographical map or how to use a compass. However, people often leave the trail to explore. Because they fail to note and memorize distinguishable landmarks, they suddenly find they are lost. Having both a topographic map and the knowledge of how to read it can be a life-saver. Also, while a person’s general direction of travel can be determined by observing the sun’s path, a compass can be an invaluable tool in determining the proper course for returning to the trail. Keep in mind, however, that sometimes even those who are familiar with wilderness navigation become disoriented and are forced to spend one or more unexpected nights in the wilderness. Therefore, taking the time to learn and practice basic wilderness survival skills can mean the difference between life and death.
Anytime you head into the wild, prepare accordingly. Having proper supplies and basic survival skills can literally mean the difference between life and death.