Safety is important whether you are day hiking or winter backpacking. Proper planning, preparation, proper clothing and taking appropriate gear along are essential to a safe and enjoyable excursion.
Before you leave? ?
Plan ahead. Learn about the area ahead of time. Study the latest guidebooks and maps that give information on highways, trails, streams and other physical features. Plan your trip carefully according to routes and the time you have available. Check weather reports before you set out.
Prepare yourself physically. If your planned recreation calls for considerable physical exertion, get in shape beforehand. Do not attempt a trip that is beyond your physical capabilities.
Leave word of your destination and schedule. In order to locate you in an emergency or send assistance should you need it, leave word at home or with a friend as to where you are going and when you intend to return.?
Know the rules and guidelines for appropriate behavior for the area you are visiting.
On the trail? ?
Dress appropriately for the season and wear appropriate hiking shoes or boots. Layered clothing is best to meet changing weather conditions. If cool or wet conditions can be expected, it is recommended that you avoid cotton clothing, which insulates poorly when wet and dries very slowly.
Carry a compass and a topographic map of the area and know how to use both.?
Take along appropriate equipment and supplies. A day pack containing rain gear, extra warm clothing, high-energy food, water, first-aid kit, pocket knife, whistle and matches in a waterproof container are recommended. Sunglasses are also handy.
Don't drink water from ponds or streams unless you have treated it first by boiling, filtering or using purification tablets.?
You should sign in at any Department of Environmental Conservation trail register you may pass. This will assist the DEC in finding you should it be necessary to search for you.
If you get lost or someone is injured? ?
If you become lost, keep calm, stay dry, keep warm and stay put.?
If it appears that you will need to spend the night in the woods, build a campfire to provide heat, light and comfort. A campfire will be invaluable in locating you if you have been reported missing. Aircraft may be used in searching when weather permits and smoky campfires may be spotted from the air.
If the weather is particularly cold or bad and you must spend the night in the woods, also build a small shelter using dead branches, hemlock boughs and leaves. The shelter will serve as a "cocoon" and should be just big enough for you to lie in comfortably. Set up camp before darkness falls.
If you feel you can try and find your way out of the woods, remember that following streams downhill will nearly always lead you back to signs of habitation.
Any person knowing you are overdue should contact the New York state forest ranger in the area of your trip.?
In case of accident, at least one person should remain with the injured person. Know and use basic first-aid techniques. Others in the group should carefully note the location and contact the local New York state forest ranger.
(Information courtesy of the New York State DEC)