Now, we often don’t like to admit that there’s anything we gals can’t handle. When questioned about what we’d do if a mountain lion attacked us, we spin a scenario which has us lookin’ like Lara Croft and slicing the beast’s neck, Tomb Raider Style. If our Dad or brother buys us mace or insists that we carry a weapon in the backcountry, we might scoff. Nothing bad is gonna happen to us. WE ARE WOMEN, HEAR US ROAR! Right?!
There are very real dangers for both women and men in the outdoors; however, whether we ladies like to admit it or not, in most cases, we’re even more vulnerable than the men. By and large, we’re smaller, slower, and weaker based on our very biology. Now, let me clarify: I’m not saying you are weak, small, or slow. I am saying that, if faced with a man intent on doing you harm or a mountain lion intent on eating you, you are most likely smaller, weaker, slower, and dinner…or much worse.
That being said, there are some simple precautions you can take while you’re hiking, trail running, climbing, or just playing alone in the great outdoors. These precautions don’t make you weak, they make you smart, strong, and alive.
The Devil is in the Details
It is extremely important that you tell at least 2 people the following ( Yes, even if you’re just going on your typical morning trail run):
-When you left and when you’ll return
-What gear you took with you
-What vehicle you’re driving
-What you’re wearing
-If you’re carrying protection, i.e., Mace, a club, a firearm
When you leave these details, it ensures that someone will be looking for you and, if you don’t come home when you’re supposed to, they can alert the police or search and rescue that much sooner. In outdoor survival situations, time is of the essence.
Vary Your Route
Animals and humans are the predators that you need to concern yourself with in the great outdoors. Predators stalk their pray, which means that if you’re taking the same mountain trail each morning a mountain lion or human being may take notice and lay in wait for the opportune moment. There have been several incidents of cyclists being stalked and picked off by mountain lions and women have disappeared after their normal morning jog because a human knew where she would be, that she would be alone, and that she would be an easy target. When you change up your routes, you keep predators from capitalizing on your predictable patterns.
Though you may not feel comfortable carrying a firearm through the backcountry, there are other means of protection. Bear Mace can be effective on wild animals and humans, a large club or stick can ward off mountain lions and snakes, and even taking your big ol’ puppy dog (who wouldn’t hurt a fly) can serve as a deterrent. A more passive form of protection is a whistle, which can scare off coyotes and alert rescuers when you’re in danger or lost. Or go with an airhorn, which is effective for scaring away large predators.
Have a Plan
It’s always wise to have a plan that you’ve gone over several times in your mind’s eye should a survival situation go down.
What could you use in your pack to make it through the night? Two nights? Three nights?
Where would you strike an attacker to slow him or her down?
Who will you call if you have reception and are injured?
Where’s the nearest hospital?
Knowing the details before you need them is essential and can save your life.
Travel in Packs
Though this article is specifically for women who are outdoorsing alone, you can still have your alone time on the trails and in the backcountry while simultaneously packing up with other humans. Say hello to the people you pass on the trail. Strike up a conversation with the ranger you meet above treeline. Notice if there are others camping in the area. This way, if something happens to you, the people you met along the trail can give search and rescue workers some of the details we mentioned above: Where you were going, what you were wearing, etc.
Never Stop Fighting
If, God forbid, you find yourself in a dangerous survival situation outdoors, whether you’re fighting off a wild animal, another human being, or fighting for your life: Never Stop Fighting. Kick, scream, bite. Use whatever blunt object you have to free yourself. If you’re lost or injured, don’t lose hope and keep a positive attitude. Sing to yourself. Think of all the delicious food you’ll eat and the beer you’ll drink when you or the search and rescuers get you out of this mess. The majority of survivalist research shows that those who don’t give into panic and never stop fighting are the ones who walk away. So walk away strong every time by playing by these safety rules.
By Hope Gately