Did you know the number one reason people get lost is due to wandering off the trail? In fact, a recent study with 100+ news reports found that 41% of cases were because the hikers strayed from the correct path. That same study found that the most vulnerable hikers weren’t one trekking into the woods for months at a time, but ones who were just going out for a day-hike.
Obviously, no one expects to get lost, but it’s always a possibility. In this article, we’ll provide you with tips that will help you if you find yourself in an emergency situation. Whether you’re driving, hiking, camping or just walking around your local neighborhood, you should have this basic knowledge to take care of yourself if a problem arises.
First, we’ll cover basic first aid knowledge so that you’ll keep calm and in control. Then we’ll provide tips useful in the wilderness like how to navigate when you’re lost and how to prevent hypothermia. Lastly, we’ll provide some advice on the kinds of tools you should carry with you or keep in your car for any situation.
How to Practice Medical Preparedness
In a medical emergency, your chances of saving someone are drastically improved by your ability to identify common health emergencies and act quickly. Brushing up on your first aid skills is important for hiking trips, but also very useful even if you’re more of a city dweller.
Remember CAB – It used to be known as ABC, but in 2010 the American Heart Association changed the order to stress importance. This is a commonly taught acronym to remember if someone is unconscious or collapses.
C stands for Chest Compression. Check for a pulse by pressing your fingers on their wrist or neck just under the ear. Many people struggle to find a pulse even if there is one, but it’s better to start doing compressions since the benefits outweigh the risks.
A stands for Airway, which you can check by opening their mouth to see if anything is obstructing their breathing. If they have a heartbeat then you will want to look to ensure they aren’t choking or suffering an allergic reaction.
B stands for Breathing. Look at the person’s chest to see if it’s moving up and down or put your ear beside their mouth to listen for breaths.
This acronym will help you identify common health emergencies such as allergic reactions, diabetic emergencies, choking and heart attacks and help you to respond accordingly.
Once you identify the emergency, act quickly. If the person is not breathing or breathing in an unusual, noisy way call 911 and start CPR. Here’s a video on how to perform CPR.
Other Emergencies – There are lots of less serious emergencies that can arise as well and if they’re not treated properly, they can escalate and become severe.
Cuts – If there is a small cut, you need to stop the bleeding. Apply pressure and raise the injury in the air. Once that’s done, you need to clean the wound. While sterilizing is preferred tap or bottled water is fine as well and will also clean out any dirt. Apply an antibiotic like Polysporin to reduce the chance of infection. Finally, cover the wound to keep particles from getting in there while it’s healing.
Sprain – One of the most common hiking injuries is a sprain. To treat a sprain remember the acronym RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Take a break from hiking and apply ice packs if you have them. Applying compression by wrapping the injury with a cloth or bandage and lifting it in the air will also help.
Broken Bones – In the case of a broken bone, you’ll want to be able to identify it. The signs are intense pain in the area especially when it moves, numbness, a bluish color, swelling, and deformity in the injury’s location. Other major signs are also seeing the bone and heavy bleeding.
Treat the broken bone in the order of importance. Stop the bleeding first by applying pressure. You also need to stop the person from going into shock by covering them with a jacket or blanket and telling them to stop moving. Finally, create a splint or a sling in order to keep their body part still. If you have emergency ice packs you can activate, then applying cold will help reduce the swelling too.
Crucial First Aid Supplies to Carry with You
In addition to your ability to identify health emergencies and apply first aid, you can vastly improve your preparedness by having a few supplies and tools. We recommend checking out the first aid kit guide suggested by the Red Cross. The items below are the most important to pack in your first aid kit when camping or going out for an extended hike. It is also a good idea to keep a kit like this in your car.
- Antibiotic ointment packets
- Antiseptic wipes
- Bottle of Aspirin
- An emergency blanket
- Absorbent compress dressings
- Adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- Adhesive cloth tape
- Instant cold compress
- Gauze rolls
- Emergency first aid book
Extra items to include in your car include booster cables, a wool blanket, clean water, snacks, and a battery jump starter. The jump starter can also be used to charge your phone. It’s important to think ahead especially when you do a lot of winter driving because even the best cars can break down suddenly.
How to Navigate when You’re Lost
When you’re lost, you need to keep a number of things in mind. It’s easy to freak out, but it’s not helpful. We’ve compiled the best tips if you find yourself in this situation and increase your chances of survival.
Stay Put – Before you start panicking and running, take time to breathe and calm down. Acknowledge your situation, and make your next decisions with a clear head instead of stressing out.
Crossing Streams Safely – Look Downstream: What’s the risk if you were to be swept away? If there are waterfalls or logs you could get trapped under, then maybe reconsider your crossing point. Despite what you might think, shallow water can be more dangerous than deep water. You should also consider the time of day, streams run faster in the middle of the day when the sun has melted the glaciers or snow.
Protect Electronics – Place your phone and other items in a waterproof bag so they’re still usable if you get wet from rain or crossing a stream. Even if you don’t have a signal on your phone, it’s important that it works when you do.
Look for Human Activity – If you’re still relatively close to the trail, keep an eye for signs left by other hikers. Look for footprints, trail markers, or other items left behind by people.
Use Your Tracking Apps – Many cellphones track your movement nowadays, and that’s important information in a situation like this. Look at the distance you’ve gone and see if that helps you get back on the path.
How to Combat Hypothermia
Exposure to cold temperatures is a big concern when you’re lost and it’s not only dangerous while hiking, but even while driving on a long road trip. Extreme cold temperatures make it difficult for your body to function. If your car or snowmobile breaks down, here are some things you can do:
Stay in your vehicle – This will be the warmest place and the easiest spot to be found. Use your engine sparingly to add warmth if it’s still running. You should also move all your emergency supplies to be accessible from the trunk to the cabin.
Don’t fall asleep – Since it’s not a safe situation, you will want to be alert and watch for help as well as preserve your body heat. If you must sleep, eat a snack before so that your metabolism will burn more energy to keep your body warm.
Watch for hypothermia – There are 3 early signs of hypothermia: feeling cold, shivering, and the “mumbles.” If you’re mumbling, grumbling, or stumbling then you need to do what you can to keep warm. Put on more layers and eat some food if you have some.
For more tips check out our previous article on how to stay warm in cold weather.
Useful Tools for Emergency Situations
Here at MGear, we want to ensure you’ve got everything you need for a safe and fun adventure. So we’ve put together a small list of items that we highly suggest purchasing to ensure proper preparedness. One thing we always suggest is a multitool since it’s small and has a variety of functions. We’ve hand-picked some awesome products that are practical for emergency and day-to-day use.
This 18-in-1 Multitool has tons of great functions. You’ve got a ruler, protractor, can opener, and even a screwdriver in your pocket. Plus, it’s got a built-in seatbelt cutter that can save your life if you’re trapped in your car.
This handy gadget is not just a carabiner but also a Firestarter. It’s light and the perfect item to slap on your pack even if you don’t plan on needing to make a fire for your casual day hike.
Not only is this bracelet useful as rope, but it also has a compass and many other built-in features. The small compartment also has a hidden fish hook with string should you need it. Plus, you can wear it on your wrist and it looks pretty cool.
It might be up there in price, but there’s no doubt the Leatherman Skeletool is useful. Clip it onto your bag and you’ll have a strong and sturdy wire cutter, plier, knife combined in a single tool.
No matter what happens, it’s best to plan ahead. Hopefully, today’s article makes you feel more prepared in case the worst happens. First aid knowledge is important and keeping up to date with best practices will make you a stellar adventure.
Thanks for reading & happy hiking!