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Wilderness preparedness and safety tips

By Contributor
December 19th, 2016

British Columbia is full of opportunities and unforgettable recreational experiences. But to safely enjoy this province, everyone venturing out into the wilderness has the responsibility of adequately preparing for the trip.

As the number of people in the wilderness has increased in recent years, so have the number of search and rescue operations undertaken by volunteers. Emergency Management BC (EMBC) is encouraging all outdoor enthusiasts to make good decisions in order to stay safe.

Anyone who makes the decision to go into the backcountry must be able to take care of themselves and their companions. That means suitable equipment, first aid supplies and an awareness of the risks.

The following safety tips are recommended for anyone venturing out into the beautiful trails, mountains and backcountry areas of British Columbia:

  • Never hike alone. Leave a message with someone on your destination, route and anticipated return time.
  • Planning ahead is a must – before you head outdoors, be sure to leave a trip plan with family or friends and then stick to that plan. For a printable copy of a trip plan, visit:
  • Be prepared for the elements with the essentials – like extra water, layers of clothing, a shelter and something to start a fire with for warmth overnight:
  • Do not venture out of bounds or off marked trails.
  • Be aware of how far you’ve gone and when you need to turn back to avoid hiking in the dark. Always carry a flashlight just in case.
  • Be aware of the time for sunset. During the winter months, darkness comes much earlier.
  • If you become lost, do not keep moving. Stay put and wait for help. Do not presume by moving downhill that you will get back on track – it can lead you into dangerous terrain.
  • Carry a signaling device (such as a whistle) so that searchers can find you even if they cannot see you.
  • Carry communication and navigation devices like a fully charged cellphone, a personal locator beacon, compass and/or GPS unit.
  • Take the conditions into account and plan appropriately. Learn more about avalanche safety and risks. Get the most-recent bulletin and weather forecast:
  • For real-time, location-specific information on conditions this winter, visit the Mountain Information Network:

Staying Warm

Avoid hypothermia by remembering the acronym COLD:

  • Cover: Wear a scarf, hat or toque, mittens or gloves and even a balaclava if necessary.
  • Overexertion: Avoid activities that will make you sweat a great deal. The combination of wet clothing and cold weather can cause you to lose body heat more quickly.
  • Layers: Wear loose-fitting, layered, lightweight clothing. Wool and silk are great choices. Outer clothing made of tightly woven, water-repellent material is best for wind protection.
  • Dry: Get out of wet clothing as soon as possible. Be especially careful to keep your hands and feet dry as it’s easy for snow to get into mittens and boots.

You should also know the signs of hypothermia. They include constant shivering, confusion, poor decision making (such as trying to remove warm clothes), drowsiness and shallow breathing. More information is available from the Canadian Red Cross:

Categories: Health

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