My mission here at Virginia Wilderness is to encourage more folks to get out and enjoy Virginia’s wild places. Below are a three tips that I find improve the quality of my excursions.
1. Remember the essentials. There are many lists and commentaries out there on what you should take with you into the wilderness (REI, wikipedia, the Sierra Club and others). Below is a list of ten essential pieces of gear and examples of items I find useful:
- Navigation: Garmin Map 60 csx, Silva compass, UTM grid square, map
- Sun protection: hat, long sleeve shirt, long pants
- Insulation: season depending, usually synthetic fleece or wool
- Illumination: Petzl Zipka Plus head lamp & spare batteries
- First-aid : individual .5 lb. first aid-kit (slightly modified) and one foot care kit
- Fire: Bic lighter
- Repair kit and tools: needle and thread, duct tape, multi-tool
- Nutrition: depending on the length of the hike 1 or 2 granola bars, piece of fruit
- Hydration: 3 liter hydration system, 1 – 2 sports bottles of sports drink
- Emergency shelter: emergency bivy
Note: this list changes depending on the sport. For example, if I am mountain biking, I add spare tubes, a tire pump, tools ect. So, employ common sense.
2. Develop core knowledge. The stuff you carry is important, but the knowledge you carry into the wilderness is doubly so. If you plan to spend lots of time in the woods there are a few key skills that will serve you well.
- First-aid for people and pets. The American Red Cross hosts great classes on basic first-aid for humans and their four-legged companions. Also check out INOVA classes. A little knowledge goes a long way whether you are dressing a minor blister or treating a major wound.
- Finding your way. Most outdoors stores host training classes on navigation by GPS. I believe it is important to understand basically how to use a map and compass if you are planning to strike out on a wilderness adventure. Prince William Forrest Park has an orienteering area to practice navigation by map and compass.
- Escape when you can, survive when you must. Adventure, by definition, is unpredictable. As such developing a sense of when to bug-out and when to shelter in place is key. If you can avoid a bad situation-like a thunderstorm or a big snow-then I say hit the road or delay your trip. However, if you do have to extend your stay having some basic wilderness survival knowledge and tools on hand can make all the difference in the world.
3. Have a game plan and share it. Some one once said proper prior planning prevents piss poor performance and I take that advice to heart. I usually try to have a plan and share it with a responsible party who can raise the alarm if I do not return by a predetermined time. The following are the basics I usually try to plan out before I take any trip:
- Where am I going.
- How long do I plan to stay there.
- Making sure someone knows where I plan to be (just in case I do not make it out as planned)
The key with this sort of plan is to have a “hell or high-water” time. By this I mean that come hell or high-water you will hear from me by the specified time, and, if you don’t… you should probably call out the SAR teams. I usually build in some slack; sometimes as much as 24 hours if it is a long trip (like a week or more). This gives me some flexibility if there is an emergency or an interesting side trip during an adventure.