When you live at Stepping Stone, it’s pretty easy to get out into the wild. The south metro area puts a lot of incredible places easily within reach: Castlewood Canyon State Park, Roxborough Park, Waterton Canyon, and all the gorgeous Pike and San Isabel National Forest destinations that offshoot from U.S. 285.
All the more reason to be up on your wilderness safety tips. So, for your summertime pleasure and safety, here are some guidelines to keep in mind for your next outdoor adventure.
Eat, drink, and be safe
Hot July days can do a number on the food you bring to the great outdoors. In hot weather (especially above 90°F), never let your food sit out for more than one hour. More than two hours and you definitely should toss it out. Why? While most bacteria grow slowly at temperatures below 40 °F or above 140 °F, the “danger zone” in between is bacteria heaven, and after two hours the level of those picnic stowaways can be dangerous.
Keep your perishables in a cooler with ice or freezer packs and keep in mind that a full cooler maintains cold temperatures longer. Be sure to keep raw meat and poultry wrapped separately from the other food. Limit the times the cooler is opened and keep it in a shady spot, covered with a light-colored tarp or blanket.
Avoid dehydration, which quickly saps strength, by bringing plenty of water. Two quarts per person, per day is recommended. (Water weighs about 8 lbs. per gallon, so don’t overdo it.) Drinking out of streams is risky, unless you boil it or use water purification tablets first.
Un-friend the bears
At most campgrounds, bears aren’t too much of an issue. But it’s definitely worth talking to a forest ranger or camp host to find out if there have been any recent unpleasant encounters. You can also take some simple precautions to keep these hungry guys uninterested in your stuff.
Stow your food in a smell-proof and hard-to-open container, like the metal food locker that some campgrounds provide or in a bear-resistant food container purchased from a camping supply store. Or, create a bear hang with these instructions from backpacker.com.
Also, remember to cook and wash dishes at least 100 yards from your tent. Change clothes after cooking and keep those tasty smelling clothes away from your sleeping area. And above all, don’t ever take food into your tent!
Pack the essentials
On a more serious hike, be sure to take a map, compass or, less reliably, a GPS device, which may or may not have service. Bring a flashlight, lighter, and/or matches (waterproof or be sure to keep them dry). A knife can come in handy in infinite ways. Pack a simple first aid kit with gauze and bandages, anti-bacterial cream, and aspirin. See a complete first aid kit list here. And don’t forget the toilet paper.
Protect your skin
Bring plenty of sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher and re-apply your sunscreen every couple of hours—or sooner if you’re swimming or sweating. Apply liberally, using about one ounce per application of sunscreen. Remember, those burns happen faster at higher altitude.
Dress for success
Because weather can change quickly here in Colorado, wear layers. Breathable wind and rain gear are good too, depending on the forecast. Prevent blisters and all the attendant agony of hiking in bad footwear (shudder! See details in Wild by author Cheryl Strayed) by getting lightweight boots that are slightly larger than your street shoes, and wearing breathable hiking socks.
Use a guidebook, call a park ranger, talk to those smart and friendly people at REI. You want to choose a destination that is full of beauty, not surprises like flooded trails and mountain lions. Get your permits, if needed. Check the weather before you go. Plan on hiking no more than 5 to 7 miles a day. Let someone at home know your plans, and stick to your route so you’ll be easy to find if necessary. Even better, take someone with you, which means you’ll have someone to help in case of emergency. And you’re sure to have more fun anyway.