Hiker Safety and Basic Survival Tips

There is no question that Ontario is full of natural wonder and endless hiking trails and outdoor opportunities. As a result, this is many Canadians favourite pastime. However, prior to getting lost in nature, there are a few things that all hikers should know. This information will help them avoid danger and feel confident that if something were to happen, they are prepared.

Tips for Spotting Poisonous Flowers or Plants

In addition to purchasing a guide to identify plants, there are a few ways to determine if a plant or flower is poisonous. The best way to determine this is to learn a few helpful tips:

•    Any leaf with three leaflets, growing from one stem will likely mean this is a plant to stay away from.

•    Plants with a milky sap.

•    Plants with naturally shiny leaves.

•    Plants in the shape of an umbrella.

•    Plants that features white or yellow berries.

While this is not a complete list, it is a good one to get hikers started. When any of these characteristics are noticed, the plant should be avoided at all costs.

Tips for Spotting Poisonous Mushrooms

When hiking, most people will likely notice mushrooms growing under trees or on the path. However, for those who have decided to forage, it is essential to know whether or not a mushroom is safe to pick and eat.

An important tip to remember is if a person is not 100 percent sure that the mushroom is safe, then they should not eat it. There are some wild mushrooms that may cause a person to become ill, or even kill them if eaten.

When looking for mushrooms, there are certain things that should be avoided:

•    Eating mushrooms raw. These are difficult to digest when eaten raw. If wild mushrooms are on the menu, be sure they are cooked well.

•    Old or decaying mushrooms. Only choose fresh options.

•    Parasols. Avoid mushrooms that look like a parasol or mushrooms that look like an open umbrella that has a white ring on the stem or milky, white gills.

•    False morels. If mushrooms are seen with an irregular, wrinkled cap that appear to be brain coral or a saddle, it should be avoided.

Mushrooms that are safe to pick up include puffballs, chanterelles and oysters and hen of the woods. Take some time to purchase a guide for mushrooms in Canada to ensure only the safe ones are picked up.

How to Handle Getting Lost?

Hiking is fun, but for those who are not familiar with it, there are times when it can be downright scary. Some tips that will help a hiker avoid getting lost, or handling themselves if this occurs are found here.

•    First rule of not getting lost - "don’t get lost". This is the easiest way to avoid this scenario. This can be achieved by becoming educated about where the hike will take place. Bring along a portable GPS device if necessary. Take steps to ensure getting lost is not in the equation.

•    Devise a plan and share it with others. Be sure someone knows where the hiking path goes to know where they need to look in case of an issue.

•    Be prepared. In addition to the proper navigational gear, be sure to have hiking essentials such as water, dry clothing, a whistle and food.

•    Pay attention to the surroundings. Streams, tree stumps, big rocks – these are all landmarks that can help a hiker find their way.

•    Stop. If things become unfamiliar, stop right away to figure out what is going on.

•    Think and don’t panic, this will only result in getting more lost.

•    Stay in place. If all else fails, wait for someone to come along.

How to Handle Ticks and Other Toxic or Deadly Insects?

Being in the woods means that there are going to be bugs and insects around. Taking steps to prevent bites will help ensure they do not impact the experience. Some ways to ensure these insects are kept at bay include:

•    Wear insect repelling clothing such as clothing that is treated in permethrin-treated.

•    Avoid wearing any type of fruity or floral fragrance since this will only attract more bugs.

•    Don’t consume or bring along foods that are high in potassium or salt. When you sweat, it will produce a stronger scent that will attract more bugs.

•    Naturally repel insects with lemon eucalyptus oil. This provides protection that is similar to DEET, which is found in most store-bought bug repellents.

•    Use products containing DEET.

Tips for Preventing West Nile

Mosquitoes are present in the woods of Canada. This means when a person is hiking, they will be prone to being bitten. Without protection, being bit repeatedly by mosquitos may put a hiker at risk of contracting West Nile Virus. The best way to avoid being bit is to wear protective clothing or use insect repellent. Currently, there are no vaccinations that will prevent this infection, which means prevention is a must.

Stocking a Basic Survival Kit

While hiking is a fun and leisurely activity, there is no way to know what will happen while in the woods. Being prepared is the best way to ensure that no serious events occur that could cause injuries or other issues. Being prepared means making a basic survival kit. Some things that should be included in this kit are:

•    A folding knife

•    Firestarter tool

•    Cordage that can be used for fishing line, nets, tying down shelters and more.

•    Small compass

•    Flashlight or pinch light

•    Water purification kit

•    First aid kit

There are a number of pre-made hiking kits that can be purchased. In many cases, this will be the most affordable option; however, if a hiker wants to customize their kit, purchasing the items separately is likely the best course of action.

Hiking can be fun, educational and great for a person’s health. However, regardless of where the activity is taking place or how knowledgeable a hiker is, being prepared is a must.