Staying safe outside

I recently saw North Shore SAR’s post about “Top 5 Favourite Hikes (To Rescue People From).” In it, they challenged bloggers and photographers to share more outdoor safety information. Good point!

The best place to get safety information is from the pros, such as:

I also find it really helpful to talk with other friends about what gear they carry and what training they’ve done. I often learn about a new product or a better way to organize my systems.

So in that spirit, I thought I’d share a bit about what I do. Hope it is helpful and interesting to some of you!

What I carry

I have small plastic bin where I keep all my safety equipment and my favourite hiking gear.


I have a list of the 10 essentials taped to the top of the lid for a quick reference.


I’ve bundled the basic survival equipment together to make it easier to grab and go without forgetting anything.

For lower risk activities, I have a lightweight survival kit that fits in a small stuff sack.


Here’s what’s inside:

  • Basic first aid kit (band aids, Advil, Benadryl, medical tape, triangle bandage)
  • Fire starter and lighter
  • Lightweight saw ($10 from Capitol Iron)
  • Extra batteries for my headlamp
  • Water treatment tabs
  • Emergency blanket

I carry this when I’m with a well-prepared group, the weather seems fairly nice and help is realistically not more than 12-24 hours away.

For higher risk activities, I pick and choose from my heavier duty survival gear.


In this photo I have:

  • A multi-day, multi-person first aid kit
  • Folding saw for firewood and building a shelter
  • Lighter and fire starter
  • Water treatment tabs
  • Large tarp (one side is reflective) and rope for building a shelter
  • Pot for boiling water (prevent hyporthermia)

I have used this exact gear to spend a night out in February. (It was for survival night with Search and Rescue that all new recruits get to enjoy!)

Tired. But not definitely not dead. Or cold!

I always carry a headlamp. And a backup light too, if I am planning on being out in the dark.


As I am starting to adventure in more remote places with smaller groups, I decided to purchase personal locator beacon. I bought the one that only sends an SOS signal if all other methods of self-rescue have been exhausted. It does NOT allow for two-way communication with friends / family like a SPOT or InReach.  Here’s the article I used to help me make that decision.


This is not on the list of 10 essentials, but I consider it really important. My warm layer is a down jacket, which is totally useless when wet. So I always put it inside a waterproof bag when I am not wearing it.  Sometimes I also line my bag with a heavy duty trash bag.


And all of my bags have whistles in them! I know that some people think you should always wear a whistle, but I just can’t remember to do that every time. So this is my compromise.


Navigation tools is a whole other topic. (But if I meet one more person in the mountains has absolutely no map with them… not even something on their phone. It’s just unbelievable.)

Extra clothes, water and food are pretty self explanatory.

So that’s what’s in my backpack!


Wilderness First Aid

This is a great certification to have and to make sure your friends have, too! Luckily I haven’t had to use my first aid training much on other people. But I have had to coach some adventure buddies through helping me with an problem or two.


I did this as part of my GSAR course with the Justice Institute, but I believe stand-alone survival courses exist. Actually spending a cold, wet night out with almost nothing was definitely a huge confidence boost.

Map and compass

I play some games to try to keep my skills current. One thing I do is to look at a topo map and try to guess what the terrain will look like ahead of me.  Another is figuring out where I am on the map and then double checking with a GPS.


There is little that can replace going out with someone more experienced than you. I used to find this quite daunting, as I thought it had to be one person much more experienced than me. And we’d have some sort of magical bonding experience.

So… this has yet to happen. But I am starting to realize I can learn from many people. Some have years of experience on me. Some have only done something a few times before. But I can learn bit and pieces from them all on how to achieve my goals while staying as safe as possible.

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One thought on “Staying safe outside

  1. Awesome information Jen…in the Adventure Smart site there is a link to down load a pre-trip planner, which, in my opinion, is an essential tool for any outdoor adventure. Happy trails to you.

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