Monday, February 18, 2013

How to avoid a disaster when day hiking with kids

Upon the first sign of danger - such as bad weather
or a distant forest fire - immediately return to your
vehicle and leave the area. Photo courtesy of NPS.
The worst case scenario for a day hiker is getting stuck in the wilds for a night with no way out. This usually happens because the hiker is lost, injured or cut off by some natural calamity like a flashflood or forest fire.

Given this, the best way to avoid such a crisis is to ensure you navigate the trail correctly, that everyone plays it safe, and that you stay out of or leave the wilds on days when the weather turns bad. All of that is easier said than done, of course.

The good news is the chances of you ever having to stay a night or two in the wilds while awaiting rescue are extremely low.

As Marc S., of Lakeport, Calif., notes, “Despite years of going day hiking, including getting lost once and peakbagging a mountain on the day a devastating fire began in the same forest, I’ve never had to go into survival mode and spend a night wondering if it would be the last either my children or I were alive. By being safe and immediately returning to our vehicle when weather looked bad, we’ve always made it back home well in time for dinner.”

Marc S. is right: By playing it safe, you’ll almost always avoid an even more threatening situation. At the same time, strange events can conspire against you, leaving you stuck in the wilds despite your best efforts. In such instances, you’ll need to know how to survive until rescuers reach you.

Read more about day hiking with children in my Hikes with Tykes guidebooks.