Great experiences in the outdoors are so valuable! But occasionally things can go wrong.
The first in a 2 part series of tips to stay safe in the outdoors from Wilderness Scotland guide and Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team member, Simon Coker.
- Part 2 is How to Get Yourself out of Trouble.
As a Wilderness Scotland guide it is my job to manage experiences so that everyone has a great time, learns lots and perhaps most importantly, stays safe in the outdoors. As a Mountain Rescue Team member I get to pick up the pieces when people haven’t been able to stay out of trouble. Many incidents in the outdoors are a catalogue of small errors that have snowballed out of the participants control and have led to unfortunate outcomes. So if something here seems a bit trivial, it’s worth thinking about what would happen if it was combined with a few other trivial factors.
Here are a few top tips for staying safe on your adventures in the wilderness.
1. Keep your map dry with a waterproof map case.
The Scottish climate is not renowned for its dryness and will make short work of turning your paper map into a soggy pulp that is quite hard to read! The alternative of keeping your map in your pocket to keep it dry makes it much harder to navigate with – and you need it most when the weather is poor.
2. Be able to attract attention.
Mobile Phone: With a fully charged battery and registered with the 112 emergency text service.
Torch: If you run out of daylight in the outdoors without a torch that’s it – you’re staying where you are for the night. You can’t read the map or see enough to know you’re not about to walk off a cliff. And even in the long days of summer a flashing torch will make you infinitely more visible to Search and Rescue aircraft and from a much greater distance.
A quality rescue whistle allows you to be heard by other people in the area or rescue teams on the ground more effectively and with less effort than shouting. On a misty windy day rescuers can walk within metres of casualties who aren’t able to attract their attention.
3. Carry extra insulation and Emergency Rations.
“That extra fleece, bivvy bag and bar of Kendal Mint Cake look heavy. I carry them around all the time and never use it” – but the time your companion takes a simple slip and breaks their ankle, leaving you with a four hour wait for assistance on cold ground stuck out in the wind, they’ll make all the difference. Broken ankles or falling in water doesn’t kill you but getting cold afterwards does. Insulation and calories will slow the onset of hypothermia that does affect people year round in the outdoors. Very importantly people who are warm and well fuelled think clearly and make better decisions.