For a safe forest hike
There’s nothing better than a walk in the woods to unwind and recharge your batteries! However, this nature activity requires a bit of preparation first, starting with the route. It’s also necessary to bring some essential items, especially if the adventure will last a few days.
With these safety tips in mind, you can breathe in big gulps of fresh air in complete tranquility.
Before heading out
No multi-day forest expedition would be complete without proper planning. Do your homework and get all the information about the trail you want to explore. How long is it? What’s the trail climb?
You should also take into account a trail’s level of difficulty when choosing your route as well as your physical condition, equipment and outdoor skills (your time in the Scouts or Guides would really come in handy here!)
No point in pretending you’re a superhero. Respect your limitations and plan a route with safety in mind!
Even if you have planned your route down to the smallest detail, remember it can be changed along the way depending on your physical condition and the weather.
Mother Nature’s whims
Rain, wind, glaring sun, freezing rain, temperature variations... Just some of the potential scenarios that could arise during a hike. This is why you should check the weather before leaving.
It will determine what you bring in your backpack. You could also alter your route as a result.
Are they calling for bad weather? Check if it’s a good idea to postpone your adventure until a better weather day.
What to bring on the hike?
You should carry a backpack at all times during your trip.
The length of your route will determine how much you should pack.
Make sure your clothing is suitable for hiking and the temperature.
Wear layers to avoid getting wet.
Clothing should be loose enough to provide all the required freedom of movement.
Pay special attention to your shoes. Pick them based on the following criteria:
- Type of terrain
- Weight of your backpack once filled
- Length of trip
- Hiking ability
In first aid mode
Whether it’s a sprained ankle, a scrape or an open wound, be prepared for any possibility before your forest hike.
Depending on the length of your adventure and the number of people involved, your first-aid kit should at least contain the following items:
- Sterile gauze to make bandages
- Adhesive tape
- Adhesive bandages in various sizes
- Antiseptic swabs
- Eye bandages
- Instant ice packs
- Latex gloves
- Mosquito repellent
- Tick remover (removing a tick after a bite)
- Blister pads
- Sunscreen (perfume-free if possible)
Include a first-aid and CPR guide in your kit to have access to step-by-step advice for any injury.
When you get back from your adventure, replace the items you used in your first-aid kit. This way, you’ll avoid an unpleasant surprise on a future hike... And will make planning your next outing that much easier.
In survival mode
You can never predict the unexpected... That’s why seasoned outdoor enthusiasts never leave home without a survival kit in their hiking bag.
It will help you deal with any hitch in your plan.
Your forest survival kit should include, at the bare minimum, the following items:
- Durable multi-function knife
- Compass or GPS along with a map
- Water bottle with water purification tablets or water bottle that filters water
- Lighter or waterproof matches
- Whistle and mirror to make your location known to emergency services
- Flashlight and headlamp for times you need to keep your hands free (don’t forget the batteries!)
- Change of clothes
- Emergency blanket
- Tarp to build a temporary shelter
- Good ole’ duct tape (you can’t live without it, even on a hike)
- Garbage bag
In satellite mode
Is a satellite phone really necessary to go forest hiking? Sure, especially when you know there’s no cell network coverage on 75% of the land.
In the event of an emergency, you will appreciate being able to communicate by satellite.
There’s no need to buy a new one. You can turn your cell phone into a satellite phone that can geolocate you and send emergency messages.
And if Rover is joining you...
Will your dog be tagging along? Pack protein-rich food and treats. He’ll need it to keep up.
Bring his own water bottle to avoid dehydration. Pick up a collapsible bowl to save room.
Rover also deserves some accessories to ensure a safer hike. For example, a bear bell to attach to his collar and booties to protect him from the elements.
Add a clean wool sock and duct tape to your first-aid kit. That will come in handy if your loyal companion gets injured along the way.
Keep doggo on a leash or under close watch at all times, even though you’re in the middle of nowhere. A bear could follow your dog right to you.
Solo or in a group?
It’s often said that two is better than one! This saying also holds true for forest or mountain hiking.
Don’t hike alone. All daily tasks in the woods will be easier and safer.
You can count on the group in case of injury or if you get lost.
Stay together whenever possible. Follow the pace of the slowest person.
Walk the beaten path
When you arrive on site, check if you have to register at the visitor reception desk. This is often mandatory, including in Quebec provincial parks. You can mention you are there to hike and specify the route you plan to take.
Stay on marked trails to avoid getting lost.
Is thick vegetation making it hard to find the path? Hand a map plus compass or GPS to the best navigator in your group and leave it up to that person to find the best route.
Best time to hit the trails
Head out early to enjoy a cooler hike before the sun starts beating down.
Hike during the day, avoid dusk.
How to keep bears away?
Are you worried about coming face-to-face with a bear on your forest hike? Know that the best way to avoid this situation is to hike on marked trails and make noise as you go to signal your presence.
Some hikers like to carry bear repellent. It’s a spray that contains cayenne pepper. It won’t hurt the beast, but will give you a 15-60 minute window to leave the scene..
Don’t use this safety device without proper instructions. Ask for a demonstration when you buy it to be able to use it appropriately.
Go hiking with peace of mind
Do you know about the ideal insurance for hikers? It includes a medical assistance service (ground and helicopter transportation), available all the time throughout Quebec.
For other outdoor tips
Consult the Airmedic blog. It is full of useful articles to plan your next outing.