Mountain Survival .Com

Return to Home page

Thursday, April 5, 2001

Safety Guide



When hiking in the mountains, please be advised that weather conditions are very changeable, and dress accordingly. Hypothermia is the number one cause of death for outdoor recreationists. Even in temperatures as warm as the 70s, hypothermia can occur. Cool winds, wet or damp clothing, and even lack of sunshine can cause hypothermia. Signs of hypothermia include shivering, slow or slurred speech, stumbling around, exhaustion and sleepiness.

Always check weather reports, use layering techniques when dressing, and carry wet-weather gear.

Drink water and nibble on small snacks as you travel.

If you or a companion seems to be suffering from hypothermia, remove all wet clothing and replace with dry clothes. Wear a hat, and wrap up. DO NOT SLEEP!

Notify someone of your whereabouts, when you hike, bike, and ski in the mountains. Place, on the windshield of your car, a description of where you expect to be and the time you expect to be back.

Even though mountain water looks sparkling clean, it is important that water from springs, lakes, ponds, and streams be properly treated before drinking. One inexpensive method is to boil water at a rolling boil for five minutes. Filters should filter down to 1 micron.

Pay attention to your body -- if you start to experience muscle cramps, nausea, dizziness, weakness, and exhaustion, you may be experiencing the first steps of heat related illness. Find a cool place to rest, and cool with wet towels or clothing. Rest, and drink a half-glass of water every half hour. Avoid drinks with sugars, caffeine, and alcohol, and do not take salt tablets.

White, puffy clouds may turn into thunderstorms. If caught in a storm, stay away from high ridges and take cover in a valley or ravine. Stay away from tall trees and be careful about flash flooding. A group of people should separate, each standing a few yards away from each other.

When in National Forests, please obey posted regulations. If entering a Wilderness area, be advised that permits are required and no mechanized vehicles of any kind, including bikes, are allowed.

Firearms are prohibited in National Forests without a NFS permit. Many song birds, birds of prey, and much of the wildlife in the forests are protected.

Place your trash in provided containers or pack it out with you.
Please follow all fire safety guidelines, as stated below.

Do not urinate or defecate near water sources! Use designated restroom areas whenever possible.

Fire Safety
9 out of 10 forest fires are caused by people.

Smoking: leave at least a 3-foot clearing around the smoker. Grind out the cigarette, cigar, or pipe tobacco in the dirt. Never grind it out on a stump or log. Also, it is unsafe to smoke while walking or riding a horse or trail bike. Use your ashtray while in the car.
After a BBQ:
After using briquets, dunk them with water -- don't just sprinkle. Soak the coals and stir them until they are out and then soak them again. Carefully feel the coals with your bare hands to make sure.
Building Campfires:

* Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pile any extra wood away from the fire.

* Keep plenty of water handy and have a shovel for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.

* Start with dry twigs and small sticks.

* Add larger sticks as the fire builds up.

* Put the largest pieces of wood on last, pointing them toward the center of the fire, and gradually push them into the flames.

* Keep the campfire small. A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Scrape away litter, duff, and any burnable material within a 10-foot-diameter circle. This will keep a small fire from spreading.

* Be sure your match is out! Hold it until it is cold. Break it so that you can feel the charred portion before discarding it. Make sure it is cold out. Conserve matches -- carry a candle as a fire starter.

* Never leave a campfire unattended! Even a small breeze can cause a fire to spread.
* Drown the fire in water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks -- there may be burning embers underneath.

* Sir the remains, add more water, and stir again. Be sure all burned material has been extinguished and cooled. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough soil and sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cooled.

* Feel all materials with your bare hand. Make sure that no roots are burning. Do not bury your coals -- they can smolder and break out.


Animal Safety
Bears: Do not approach bears, and most especially cubs! With black bears, as a rule, you should fight back and behave aggressively, and play dead with Grizzlies. When bears approach your camp, make as much noise as possible and wave your arms in the air. Often you will be able to frighten the bear off this way.

Mountain Lions: Keep all members of your party close to you. Make yourself seem as large as possible and fight back as aggressively as you can. Do not run!
The fire safety copy is from US Department of Agriculture NFS #92020. Smokey the Bear is a registered trademark of the US Department of Agriculture Forest Service and may only be used on fire safety-related publications.

Many thanks to Karel Todd for her research and to Phil Sexton of the USFS for advice and assistance.

| Equipment | Survival Table of Contents | Recreation activities |


Return to Home Page