I hope you never have to deal with a life and death situation in the wilderness. But the odds are good that you will, sooner or later, if you spend significant time in the backcountry by yourself or with groups of backpackers, hikers, climbers, skiers or whitewater kayakers.
I’ve dealt with a myriad of these situations myself as a member of a group, as a group leader or a course instructor, and I’ve found that proper training, preparation and practice are key to keeping a cool head.
My advice is to get trained in wilderness first aid, rock climbing, advanced navigation, and swift water rescue, and practice your skills often so you know what to do when you need to save yourself or help a friend. This takes some determination but I’ve found that it really pays off and has helped me to better evaluate risky situations when I’m out on my own.
In addition, you should extend your knowledge and read widely about rescue and survival skills. This has helped me become a lot more creative when I’m on solo hikes because I have abstracted some common principles that guide my responses with the materials at hand.
Here’s a list of the best backcountry rescue and survival books that I’ve found out there.
- SAS Survival Handbook: How to Survive in the Wild, in Any Climate, on Land or at Sea
- Allen and Mike’s Really Cool Backpackin’ Book: Traveling & camping skills for a wilderness environment
- NOLS Wilderness Medicine
- NOLS Winter Camping
- NOLS Wilderness Guide: The Classic Handbook, Revised and Updated
- NOLS Wilderness Navigation
- AMC Guide to Winter Hiking and Camping: Everything You Need to Plan Your Next Cold-Weather Adventure
- Whitewater Rescue Manual: New Techniques for Canoeists, Kayakers, and Rafters
- Fundamentals of Search and Rescue
If you can recommend any others, please leave a comment.