The key to having a safe and enjoyable wilderness experience is planning.
Take the time to plan your route using maps, and/or a GPS and to make sure that you have all of the equipment you may need. Ensure your equipment is in good repair, and most importantly, don’t forget to tell a responsible individual where you are going and when they should expect you to return.
SARVAC provides several trip documents to help you plan your wilderness trip. The documents below will help so that you don’t miss anything. Volunteer ground search and rescue teams train hard and will do all they can to find you and transport you to safety. However; remember that returning safely, is ultimately your responsibility!
Note: Outdoor activities are assume-risk sports. This Trip Plan information is intended as a guide and cannot be expected to replace approved and appropriate courses in outdoor survival, navigation, first aid, CPR, or emergency procedures. Planning, experience and education are essential for all safe, successful, wilderness trips.
- BE PREPARED FOR YOUR CHOSEN RECREATION – Being fit enough to go the distance takes physical preparation. Stick to your turnaround time (a general rule of thumb is to allow 1/3 of your time for the trip in, and 2/3 for the return trip). Take the proper equipment, have a trip plan, use maps/GPS, reference guide/survival books.
- ALWAYS CARRY THE ESSENTIALS – Check your equipment. Ensure it is in proper working order before leaving. If necessary, be ready to stay out overnight. Always carry extra clothing, water, high energy food, and a flashlight – many people become lost because of darkness. Remember – even a short trip can be lengthened because of unexpected circumstances such as bad weather, or becoming lost or injured, so BE PREPARED!
- COMPLETE A TRIP PLAN and LEAVE IT WITH A FRIEND – The trip plan explains your destination, your route, who is in the group and your expected time of return. If you do not return as planned, the friend you left your trip plan with can provide the information to the police to initiate a search.
- NEVER GO OUT IN THE WILDERNESS ALONE – Always travel with a friend or group. Stay within sight of one another and designate a time and place to meet in case someone becomes separated. No matter what you are doing in the wilderness, travel together and stay together. Travel at the speed of the slowest person; if a person separates from the group by going ahead or falling behind, he or she is more likely to become lost.
- LEARN HOW TO NAVIGATE – Buy a compass and a map of the area or a GPS. Learn how to use them. Topographical maps are usually available from Natural Resources Departments. As you travel through the wilderness, pay attention to your surroundings, take note of landmarks, and periodically look back the way you came. Be aware of the distance you have traveled and the time. Reassess your destination goals and travel plans throughout the day.
- DO NOT PANIC – Maintain a positive mental attitude if you become lost. Remain calm and control your fears; you will be able to think more clearly. Being lost is not dangerous if you are prepared. If you become lost, remember the acronym S.T.O.P. : sit, think, observe and plan. Once you have a plan, you will feel much better, action is an excellent antidote to fear.
- STAY WHERE YOU ARE – Stop as soon as it is apparent that you have become separated from your group, are lost or in trouble. People who carry on after becoming lost usually get further from roads and trails, and further from people who are looking for them. Stay with your boat even when capsized.
STAY SOBER – Alcohol and drugs affect clear thinking, coordination and reaction time.
- USE SIGNALING DEVICES – Blowing a whistle, lighting a fire and staying visible will help searchers find you. Help searchers find you even if you are embarrassed or afraid. Remember that animals will not be attracted to your signals. Three of anything – for example, three whistle blasts, three fires, or three gunshots – is an internationally recognized distress signal. (When using fires as a signal ensure that they are contained, keep a careful watch of them).
- BUILD OR SEEK SHELTER – Protect yourself from the snow,rain, wind, and excessive sun. It may take several hours to build shelter and collect fuel wood, so do it early while you still have energy. It is important to be as comfortable as possible, but when it is daylight, make sure you are visible to searchers in helicopters or other aircraft.
- THE MOST COMMON MISTAKE – Don’t be fooled by thinking that “it could never happen to me.” By being prepared, you can enjoy your trip outdoors regardless of what nature throws at you!
- Flashlight, spare batteries and bulb
- Fire starting kit – waterproof matches/lighter, fire starter/candle
- Signalling device – whistle or mirror to signal searchers if you become lost
- Extra food and water – 1 litre/person
- Extra clothing (protection from the elements, rain, wind, cold)
- Navigational/Communication Aids (maps, compass, GPS, PLB, charts, cellular phone, hand held radio) and know how to use them
- First Aid Kit and know how to use it
- Emergency shelter – (Tarp, parachute cord)
- Sun protection (glasses, sunscreen, hat)
One never expects to get into trouble outdoors. However; all it takes is a turn in the weather, mistake in judgment, unexpected injury, equipment failure, or sudden nightfall to quickly change any recreational outing into a crisis.
How prepared are you?
REMEMBER: unexpected delays, bad weather or injuries can turn any outing into an extended crisis.