If there is ever a message you hope never to receive it is this one:
I got lost last night in the woods. RCMP found me at 4 A.M.
We are avid hikers and I knew the friend this message was from wasn’t a newbie to the woods. She was also a regular trail hiker. She had done everything right, she had taken a friend, she had her cell phone, she took a whistle and water. And she got lost!
It immediately made me question: Are we prepared? Do my children know what to do if they find themselves lost in the woods? Do yours? I am sharing family hiking tips! You can grab your check-list from the Homeschool Bookshelf. (Get your key!)
Family Hiking Tips-Safety First!
Before you leave home:
Always plan ahead.
We take the time to scope out online new trails we are planning on hiking. We check the difficulty level, time expected and weather. Although not 100% accurate having this information allows you to have informed expectations. We talk with the children about where we get this information.
For example, Nova Scotia Trails shows a map, directions of how to get there, what seasons are best, when the trail has been updated and more. You need this type of information to be prepared. Consider: Can you and your family handle this type of hike?
Also, let a family member know where you are going, how long you plan on being and when. A simple text asking them to contact help if they do not hear from you by a certain time and for them to call you at this time, this small thing, can be a lifesaver.
Be sure to wear suitable clothing and dress in layers.
You can always take off if you are wearing too much but you can’t put on what you don’t have. Bring extra socks and lightweight rain gear. Even a large plastic bag can be a poncho if needed to protect you from the rain. Wear footwear with good treads. Wet leaves this time of year and mud can be very slippery.
Hike in groups or with a buddy!
Wear bright colored clothes that make finding each other in the woods easier. Teach your children before you leave why hiking with a buddy is important!
Take a pack.
We always take a packed backpack. Now you might think this is overkill for a short hike however I prefer to be prepared. You can also use fanny pack styles or whatever you have. It does not need to be fancy but needs to be comfortable and able to handle the supplies you put in it.
So what is our backpack?
We carry items for a family of four.
Whistle -each child has their own whistle, my son has it on his coat zipper and my daughter likes her’s on her sneaker!
Small First Aid Kit -you can build your own but be sure to have a waterproof case!
Knife with fire steel-My husband loves bush crafting, so he uses a knife to start fires. You might be more comfortable with matches in a waterproof case. If this is the case you may like to keep a small knife on you in order to cut the rope, bandages, etc.
Paracord/nylon rope. We prefer paracord as it doesn’t kink or keep knots! The best price for paracord we found was Amazon.
Food-trail mix and/or dried fruit something that keeps and is lightweight
Cell phone-for map, compass, GPS, flashlights and more. Kathleen reminded me to make sure your cell phone is charged before you head out! We have a car cell phone charger for those times we notice it is not fully charged but have already left the house.
Please Note: This is a suggested list of items; please use your own judgment depending on the particular trip you are planning.
On the Trail:
Once on the trail be sure to “notice things”. Where did you come in on the trail? Where was the sun located if visible? What is the ground conditions like? Take note of how slippery, muddy or root filled the trail is and adjust your speed accordingly.
Stay on the trail.
I know that flower, animal, plant, cave is really neat but please try to stay on the trail. Once you wander off the trail, even for just a few steps it can be hard to find it again. Also, remind the children not to touch animals or plants unless you say it is ok. There are poison plants and animals, do your children know what they are?
Remember we talked about wearing light, bright and easily visible colors of clothing? This is where it comes in handy. Be sure you can see one other person at all times. Stay together.
If you need to relieve yourself, also known as “go pee” you will need to venture off the trail momentarily and do not want to be seen by your companions. Let them know that you need to go and in the general location, you will be in. (Pro tip: ladies take a throw away cup, baggie, and wipes with you. Peeing in a cup reduces the chances of peeing on a foot or clothing! Dump the cup, wipe it out and store used wipe and cup in a baggie for disposal at home)
Take breaks when needed, if eating please do not leave trash in the woods. Take it with you.
Teach the children to look for markers, most trails are clearly marked. We like to play a game called, “find the next marker”. This teaches the children and reminds us to keep a lookout for the next marker and prevent getting lost.Unwind and Unplug with Family Hiking Tips-Safety First! Click To Tweet
As shown my the message I received from a friend even the most prepared experienced hikers can find themselves lost. Do you know what to do?
First, if you find yourself lost in the woods. Stop and look around well. Try not to panic.
Next, look for a clear spot for rescuers to find you, make a shelter if possible. Look for something to protect you from weather conditions. Do not light a fire in a cave, do it at the mouth of a cave if needed to prevent smoke in the cave and the “rain” which will not be water but rather bugs. (ew!)
Sit on dry ground if possible, gather together leaves, needles, or moss to sit on. The cold ground can speed up the process of you getting cold.
Try not to wander around especially in the dark. You can easily fall and cause injury in the dark. Wandering also makes it harder for rescuers to find you as you are now a moving target.
When you are home from a trip:
Be sure to empty out your backpack and restock missing items.
Take note of the items you wish you had taken with you.
Clean out your treads on your footwear.
Do a bug check, especially if you are hiking in an area known for ticks!
Walking in the woods is one of our favorite family activities! I love how refreshing it is to unplug and get back to nature. There is no reason you can’t enjoy this activity with your family-be prepared and be safe! You can grab your check-list from the Homeschool Bookshelf. (Get your key!)