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Wilderness health and safety tips for 2010

To stay completely safe, you could just crawl into bed with your helmet on, but that would be a lot less fun than getting out into the wilderness. For 2010, cut the risk of getting sick or injured by taking these precautions:

Take and wear the right clothing and equipment, including: technical clothing, a warm sleeping bag, and a tent that doesn’t leak in heavy rain.

Get fit before you go on a trip. Train for muscular strength and cardiovascular capacity. The fitter you are, the less prone to injury you’ll be.

Take maps and a compass, and make sure someone in your party knows how to use them. If you have a GPS, learn how to use it before you go. (Manuals are usually online and downloadable.)

Drink lots of water so you don’t become dehydrated. This applies in cold weather as well as hot.

Prevent heat exhaustion by wearing a hat when you’re in direct sunlight.

Eat well. Take food that will give you enough protein and carbohydrates to keep you strong. Take a multivitamin and 500 g. of vitamin c every day.

Keep alcohol consumption low—it tends to kill vitamin C, which runs down your immune system.

Take an emergency supply of food to last 2-3 days.

Filter and/or treat your water so you don’t get giardia.

Hang your food or keep it in food barrels so bears and other animals won’t be tempted to break into it for a treat. Don’t leave any food or food scraps out at night.

If you encounter a bear, never run screaming. Hunch down, avoid eye contact, talk to the bear in a quiet voice, and slowly back away so you can clear out of its immediate vicinity. If a bear comes into your camp, bang pots and other noisy objects together as a group and try to scare it so it runs away.

Get off the water immediately if you see lightning nearby. Keep yourself as low to the ground as possible because lightning strikes the highest objects.

Never ski or snowboard out of bounds.

Don’t eat any berries or mushrooms whose identity you aren’t 100 percent sure about.

Cook fish properly to avoid getting parasites.

In avalanche country, heed all warnings about possible avalanches. Get training and use the right equipment.

Don’t try to run any rapids that you are not confident you have the skills to run. Wear a helmet and a PFD in rapids. If you dump, stay in the safety position: right-side up, with your legs out in front of you.

Keep a whistle on you at all times. Blow on it three times in a row if you run into trouble.

Learn how to treat wounds. Stop the bleeding by applying pressure for as long as it takes. Then clean the wound with water, dress it with sterile material, and bandage it.

Don’t bring stoves, candles, or lanterns inside tents, which are really easy to burn down!

Have an evacuation plan ready in case of critical emergencies such as fractures, heart attack, or head injury.

Take a wilderness first aid course. Carry a first aid kit and manual with you, and make sure it’s accessible to everyone.

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