You hear it in the news all the time. Families or couples going for a quick “day hike” that turns into a survival situation. From snow-blindness to wrong turns, everyday wilderness adventures can turn ugly if you’re not prepared for everything.
Who would be most physically and mentally prepared for a crisis… the person who stays fit and constantly challenges his cognitive abilities or the person who sits on the couch and does nothing?
With that same logic, you can see why hiking is great preparation for surviving a crisis. But aside from being in better physical shape, there are many other reasons why hiking will give you a slight edge should you find yourself in a life-threatening situation.
The next time you go on a hike, consider it your “survival boot camp.” Be sure to pay attention to these seven key things:
- Identifying Plants. There are two sides to nature. Just because something is natural doesn’t mean it’s good for you. It’s essential to know the difference between poison ivy and a four-leaf clover. Even more important, it’s key that you identify which plants are edible – such as berries. You might need some if you’re stranded in a crisis. Some berries can be deadly, so being able to accurately identify plants is vital. And a hiking trip is a perfect time to exercise this discernment.
- Learn How to Tip-Toe. A great thing to practice while hiking is running quietly. Why? For one, if you see a threatening animal, you won’t want to alert it to your movement. Also, another very real possibility is that you might be in an “every man for himself” situation. In other words, you might be ducking other humans if you find yourself in an end-of-the-world crisis. This is something you can easily practice with your buddies during a hiking trip. The key to running quietly is to not run on your heels.
- What to Wear (and Not Wear). There’s a reason soldiers wear camouflage. It helps to hide them from enemies. This will also work to your benefit with dangerous animals and threatening people. Use wisdom. Depending on the season, you may want to do the exact opposite. For example, if it’s hunting season, you probably don’t want to blend in with a deer. During this season, wear very bright and noticeable colors.
- Know Your Limits. There’s nothing like trying to perform without having any preparation. No one performs excellently on “game day” without first practicing. Think of hiking as your practice… your fire drill. You need to know your limits. In the case of an emergency, you’re going to carry a pack filled with things you’ll need for safety and endurance, so have that pack with you on your hiking trip.
- I Spy Animal Footprints. The average person is probably not overly sensitive to animal prints while taking a casual stroll. Be very cautious and aware of things like that. There could be anything from a deer to a bear around the corner. Observing animal footprints might be equally important if you find yourself forced to hunt for food.
- Carry Protection. Whenever you’re on a hike, keep protection on you. We don’t necessarily mean a gun, but bear spray could work. Unless you are superhuman, you’re probably not going to win a wrestling match with a bear. Keep your wits about you. And while you’re at it, practice using some of your bag’s survival gear.
- See Something, Say Something. If you see a threatening animal such as a snake, say something so others will know, then avoid it. Unless you’ve become a snake breed expert, it’s best to steer clear. Keep in mind that sometimes there’s only a slight difference in appearance between a harmless snake and a poisonous one. Also, just because a snake isn’t poisonous, doesn’t mean it doesn’t bite or can’t kill by crushing someone.
Here are five items to include in your hiking travel pack:
- Compass. Practice using a compass during your hike. It’ll come in handy when you’re facing a real-life emergency.
- Map. In the event your compass breaks, a tried-and-true map is the way to go.
- Binoculars. Use these to scope out areas from afar.
- Whistle. If you are with a group of people and get split up, use a whistle. There will likely be no cellphone signal in the middle of nowhere.
- First-Aid Kit. In a crisis, there’s no such thing as “sitting this one out.” If you get hurt, you have to keep going. There’s no option to go home and rest.