Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Planning A Safe Backcountry Adventure

hiking essentials Always check weather and trail conditions, regulations, and advisories before heading out on an outdoor adventure.

Know before you go:

Before heading out on a hike, paddle, fishing, or camping trip, ask yourself these important questions first:

10 hiking essentialsAm I prepared for any situation?

  • Run through a checklist of all gear, food, and clothing needed before leaving to be sure you have everything.
  • DEC’s 10 Hiking Essentials is checklist for guidance.
  • Does the weather look clear for my trip, or is there a chance of rain, thunderstorms, snow, wind, hail, etc?
  • Always check the weather forecast for the morning, night, and morning after your trip for a clear idea of what to expect.
  • Checking the weather for the night and morning after allows you to be better prepared in case you are forced to spend an unexpected night in the woods. This includes packing extra necessary clothing layers to prevent hypothermia.
  • If the weather does not look favorable, choose to go another day. Weather in the mountains can be very unpredictable and what may seem like a small chance can drastically turn worse quickly. If weather worsens while on your trip, turn back immediately. The summit will be there another day.

When does the sun set?

  • This will ensure you plan enough time to complete your trip during daylight hours. Always bring a headlamp and extra batteries with you in case your trip takes longer than expected.
  • Cell phone batteries are unreliable and will more than likely die on your trip when using it as a flashlight. They also tend to die more quickly in colder temperatures.

Do I have a map of my route?

  • Carrying a paper map of your route along with notes of where junctions are, trail marker colors, and trail conditions to help ensure you are on the correct trail. Cell phones are not reliable in the Adirondacks due to poor service in mountain areas.

Do I have the emergency dispatch number written down on a card in my pack and saved in my cellphone?

  • Be sure to always carry the emergency dispatch number in case of an emergency. The DEC emergency dispatch number for the Adirondacks is (518) 891-0235, or call 911.

Does someone know my itinerary in case I do not return at my expected time?

  • Leave your trip plans including start time and expected time of return with someone at home or where you are staying in case your cell phone dies and you do not return on time.
  • This person should also know the emergency dispatch number and should know to call immediately if you do not return within your expected time frame.

Be Prepared: Properly prepare and plan before entering the backcountry. Visit DEC’s Hiking Safety webpage and Adirondack Trail Information webpage for more information about where you intend to travel. The Adirondack Almanack reports weekly Outdoor Conditions each Thursday afternoon.

Photo of hiking essentials provided by DEC.

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4 Responses

  1. Nazir Usman says:

    Knowing when does the sun sets is so important. I remember once I didn’t have enough time to complete the hike in daylight and it got dark, I wasn’t carrying torchlights or headlamps. Each tip is so very important for a safe adventure. Absolutely loved this article. thanks.

    • Boreas says:


      Indeed – it is a simple concept, but often neglected in inexperienced hikers. Things also get darker in the mountains and woods earlier and quicker than in other areas we may be accustomed to. One doesn’t get much of a warning, so every outing should have a scheduled turn-around time with a buffer to make sure you can walk out without electric aids. I always hated hiking with flashlights or headlights because it is not as safe as with natural daylight to enhance the slippery spots. Plus they can be a beacon for bugs!

      • Suzanne says:

        Agreed, Boreas. However, I always carry a flashlight (and extra batteries) when hiking. You never know what can cause a delay–a sprained ankle, a slower hiking companion–so best to be prepared. I prefer a flashlight to a headlamp, because I find it easier to keep one’s eye on the trail and see the roots and rocks on the ground. One must also keep in mind that as Fall approaches the days get shorter very quickly, and turn-around time needs to be adjusted accordingly.

        • Boreas says:


          I agree, one definitely should carry some sort of lighting device in their pack regardless, just like a map, compass, and whistle, etc.. I prefer a hand-held flashlight as well, but when I started skiing it obviously didn’t work. And many people use poles today, so they would probably prefer a headlamp as well. Some lights can be used either way. The newer LED headlamps are probably much better than what I used to use and often have variable brightness and emergency settings. And that touches on another point – I would strongly advise a LED lamp or flashlight to give you much longer battery life in an emergency.

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