Besides challenge, there is a certain amount of risk involved in wilderness tripping. In the heart of the wilderness, you may be hours from your car and from a doctor. In situations like this, you can never be too careful. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind during your wilderness trip.
Filter or boil your drinking water. Although wilderness lake water is clear and pristine, it may still contain bacteria and other organisms harmful to humans. Giardia lamblia is a parasite commonly found in back country water. Consuming untreated water can cause an uncomfortable intestinal illness. If you cannot carry sufficient safe drinking water to your campsite, you should treat lake water in one of the following manners before consumption:
Boil water vigorously for 3 to 5 minutes.
Purify your water with a filtering device designed to remove Giardia.
Treat with a chemical designed to kill Giardia.
Use a map to find your way. Wildernesses have few signs to help you find your way. A current map and compass should be kept with you at all times, and referred to as needed.
Mosquitoes and biting flies are part of the wilderness challenge. Generaily, May and June are the worst mosquito and blackfly months. Most insects can be discouraged by covering up with long sleeves, pants and head protection.
Swim with a friend. Don't dive without checking to see what's below the surface of the water.
Stay off the water during storms or high winds. Use extreme caution during electrical storms. If a storm arrives while you are on the water, head to the nearest shore and take shelter avoiding tall trees that may attract lightening.
Be prepared to give FirstAid. No wilderness outfit is complete without a good First-Aid Kit. Before leaving home, make sure the kit is complete, and that medicines have not reached their expiration dates. Review First-Aid procedures that may be needed in a wilderness setting. Remember that a doctor is not nearby. The First-Aid you administer could save a life.
Dress for the weather. Here in the North Country, days can go from sunny and hot to rainy and cold in no time at all. Evenings can be quite cool. Dressing in layers is the best way to handle this variety of weather conditions. Cotton is cool and dries quickly. Wool and polar fleece keeps you warm even when they're wet. Rain gear is essential, and can double as a wind suit
Don't forget life jackets. All watercraft, including canoes, must have one personal flotation device (PFD) per person on board and accessible. PFDs must be Coast Guard approved.
Bring and extra canoe paddle. Canoe paddles can break, or even fall overboard. Keeping a spare will insure that no one has to paddle solo.
Leave a trip itinerary at home. Make sure someone else knows where you are going, and when you plan to return. You should also leave the numbers of the Forest Service District Office and area police so they can be contacted if you do not return home as expected.
A little pre-trip planning can go a long way toward insuring a safe and enjoyable wilderness experience.
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