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5 Top Tips to Stay Safe in the Outdoors.

Posted on May 30, 2013 by Simon Coker

The first in a 2 part series of tips to stay safe in the outdoors from Wilderness Scotland guide and Mountain Rescue Team member, Simon Coker. Part 2 is How to Get Yourself out of Trouble.

5 Top Tips to stay safe in the Outdoors

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.

Simon regularly guides Wilderness Scotland mountain biking, sea kayaking and walking holidays.

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.

5 Top Tips to stay safe in the Outdoors

Using a flare to attract 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.

4. Plan your day from start to finish.

Include everything from getting up to getting home and check enough time has been allowed.
Make sure you’ve left your detailed intended route with someone and they know what to do if you don’t return or make contact on schedule; “They’re definitely somewhere in the Cairngorms” from a concerned relative isn’t much help to the Mountain Rescue team leader who’s looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack.

5. Have a flexible attitude.

In flying there’s an adage “there are old pilots and bold pilots but there are few old bold pilots”. When adventuring in the outdoors there are many variables outside of our control, such as weather or unexpected terrain, that come into play to determine whether or not we succeed in achieving the goals we set ourselves. Therefore to stay out of trouble it is important to be continuously reassessing our plans during a trip and to be prepared to alter them if the situation has changed. For me the overriding aim of any adventure in the outdoors is for everyone to get home safe.

What Next?

Part 2 of this blog looks at what action to take when despite your best efforts you do find yourself in a spot of bother, in 5 Top Tips to Get Yourself Out of Trouble.

5 Top Tips to stay safe in the Outdoors

Simon ski-touring on Ben Nevis, Fort William, Scotland.

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