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Seasonal Reminder: Dress for the weather, not the car.

You can't always avoid the emergency room. But there are simple things to do that can make the best of a bad situation. Click here for tips to deal with trauma (e.g., broken bones, bleeding, etc), chest pain, abdominal pain, respiratory difficulty, and high fever. More info....

Click here for a listing of first-aid essentials for home, car, pack, or trek.

Finding Firewood

´╗┐Firewood is always a challenge, especially during wet or wintery conditions. Click for a tip...

Wildland Safety.

Always be prepared for survival situations.

 Be Safe Out There. Driving to the trailhead, hiking along the trail or bushwhacking and camping in the backcountry need some special techniques and good equipment. Keep your tent, sleeping bag, backpack and other gear in tip top condition.

Wildlife needs your respect, especially if you are part of their food chain. Learn to incorporate preventative techniques in your normal routine and you’ll not need to be apprehensive while in bear or cougar country.

Safe drinking water is one of your main concerns. Water filters and water purifiers provide safe and convenient water wherever you are.

To fully enjoy the great outdoors you must feel safe and secure. Whether you're new to the wildlands or have spent several years trammeling about, learning or reviewing safety tips is always beneficial.

Be aware of hypothermia whenever in cool, moist windy situations.

So pack up your tent, sleeping bag, and camping gear on your pack frame and get out there. 

NOTE: Please click on bolded words for additional safety information< ><-->


Getting There.
Driving. Unless you live off the grid with the wildland at your back door, you’ll probably use a vehicle to access a jump-off place. Getting you, your backpack, tent, sleeping bag, cook stove, and other backpack gear to the trailhead safely is important. Most people are accustomed to driving in the cities and open highways but seldom venture on the back roads and mountain byways.

It shouldn’t need saying but know and observe all State and local traffic regulations. Drive safely while operating the vehicle within its mechanical limits. Ensure those mechanical components are in tip top working order. Observe the “Circle of Safety” rule -- walk around the vehicle and check it out. Wherever you travel you’ll want to make sure everyone is buckled up and that you have warning markers or reflectors in the trunk. A first aid kit should be on board. In the back country its especially important to add chock blocks, tire chains, window scraper and fire extinguisher to the safety essentials.

Before departing you’ll need to determine conditions in the area to be traveled and choose the appropriate vehicle and route. Verify directions to your destination, get a map for reference if possible. Use your computer.

The cardinal rule for driving on narrow, crooked mountain roads is to Keep well to the right side on narrow roads and blind curves. Be able to stop within less than half of the visible distance. When an oncoming rig jumps around the corner at you on a one-lane road, you’ll need to stop quickly!  

Reduce speed when driving on wet, hard-surfaced roads. Mountain roads are seldom level and rain or snow change traction drastically. The front wheels may hydroplane and lose contact with the road surface.

Adjust the vehicle speed and select the proper gear before ascending or descending a hill and entering turns. Once committed its difficult and disconcerting to make the adjustment under stress.

Back country roads often have different standards and purposes than normal highways and travel routes. Many were developed as logging, mining or farm to market, low standard roads. Expect to drive on roads with narrow driving surfaces, roads classified as single-lane with turnouts, and roads with few places to park or turn around.

  • Grade. Federal and State highways normally go up and down hills at a 4-6 percent grade; if unusually steep up to 8 or 10 percent. Backcountry roads have varying grades; range is from 0 to 18 percent.
  • Surface. A variety of road surfaces, including those that may be affected by weather.
  • Sight Distance. Sight distance which may be limited by adverse weather, blind curves, foliage, dust, smoke, and ambient light.
  • Other Road Users. Tourists, heavy equipment operators, motorcyclists, mountain bicyclists, and many other types of road users. Wildlife and domestic stock also may be encountered.

Defensive Driving Techniques.

  1. Drive slowly and use transmission gearing, engine compression, and gravity to slow the vehicle as it travels uphill. Conversely, use engine compression and gearing on downhill grades.
  2. Keep right. Drive as far to the right as possible without driving on the shoulder.
  3. Keep headlights, taillights, mirrors, and all windows clean and clear. When conditions limit visibility, slow down. Drive with your headlights on, but remember to turn them off at the trailhead!
  4. Always maintain control of the vehicle. For example, if unexpected wildlife or domestic livestock are encountered, slow down and try to avoid the animal. Generally, it is safer to hit the animal rather than to drive off the shoulder of the road or cross the centerline and risk a head-on collision.
  5. Parking. While seeking solitude or a special place, you’ll often need to park in other than a constructed parking area. Special techniques need to be taken:
  • Select a location that allows a minimum of a 12 foot width of unobstructed travel area and adequate sight distance in both directions.
  • Assess the intended parking area for soft material, holes, rocks, or other debris that could damage tires/ undercarriage.
  • When parking, position the vehicle for a forward departure. Avoid backing the vehicle, when possible.
  • Shut off the engine, set emergency brake, and put transmission in gear or park.
  • Use chock blocks.

Methods for Backing. In addition to getting parked and turned around to head home, there will times when it becomes necessary to drive in reverse for some distance. Sometimes you’ll need to turn around in narrow places, sometimes not much wider than the width of the road. It is safer to do a backing maneuver when first parking rather than when returning to the vehicle. This allows the operator a complete and full view of the parking spot. It is better to park the vehicle (when possible) so the operator can drive forward and eliminate backing altogether.
a. Never back up or make a U-turn on blind corners.

b. Before backing:

  1. Select a wide spot with a view that provides adequate sight distance in each direction.
  2. Always use a person to serve as a guide for backing when available.
  3. Walk around the vehicle and check for hazards and obstructions.
  4. Back the rear of the vehicle toward a cutbank.
  5. Use caution when backing on fill-sloped edges of roadways.
  6. Always face the danger.

Winter Driving. Snow and winter conditions can occur unexpectedly in many mountainous areas.

a. In the mountains and other areas during winter, identify driving hazards on a site-specific basis. Include precautions and techniques to abate hazards:

  1. Slow down and increase following distance.
  2. Do not use cruise control when roads might be slick. Cruise control can apply power at the wrong time and initiate a skid or make a small skid worse.
  3. Follow precautions in all vehicles. Although all-wheel-drive vehicles and four-wheel-drive vehicles may provide better traction, they do not decrease the normal stopping distance.

b. Consider special equipment/supplies. Such equipment/supplies might include jumper cables, snow shovel, winter survival gear, and abrasive material (cat litter, sand, salt, or traction mats).
c. Prior to winter driving give some thought, or have a discussion about safe winter driving and what to do in the event of a skid.

Four-Wheel-Drive Vehicles.
Operation. Four-wheel-drive vehicles are designed to provide extra power and traction for traveling at a slow speed over rough or unusual terrain. When operating four-wheel-drive vehicles:

  1. Be familiar with the vehicle before using it for assigned field project work or other activities.
  2. Know your limitations and that of the vehicle for all driving conditions.
  3. Do not exceed the safe limits for driving speeds allowed by terrain and road conditions.
  4. When chains are needed, put them on the rear tires or on all four tires.

All-Wheel-Drive Vehicles. Do not confuse all-wheel-drive vehicles with four-wheel-drive vehicles in relation to technical capabilities and driving limitations. All-wheel-drive vehicles have ground clearance and handling characteristics similar to standard sedans and vans. All-wheel-drive vehicles are not specifically designed for unimproved or off-road travel.