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"Throughout the next few days I would encounter no less than 6 bears while hiking through the park."
One of my greatest accomplishments? Finishing a 120 kilometre trek on the Boreal Trail in Meadow Lake Provincial Park in Saskatchewan – all on my own. Admittedly I was nervous as I was in the backcountry, in the off season, with very limited cell service while hiking through bear country.
On my first night at sunset, I was putting my one-man tent together when I looked up to see my very first bear of the trip. With not enough time to get to the next campsite before it was dark, I chose to sleep at the backcountry site with the bear in the area. Needless to say, I slept with one eye open with my axe, bear spray, marine air horn, whistle and knife next to me all night. Throughout the next few days I would encounter no less than 6 bears while hiking through the park.
Hiking solo is a rewarding experience but there are some very real risks to consider before hitting the trail. Thankfully, I was prepared in both gear and knowledge for what to do when I encountered the bears. (Most of the bears ran off when I encountered them but I did need to use my airhorn for a mom and cub).
I want to make sure you’re prepared for your next hike, whether it’s a half day loop or a multi-day trek. Here are 5 tips to make sure you’re safe and prepared on the trail.
1. Tell someone
Register at the park entrance and leave a rough trip plan behind with a loved one so people know when to expect you back. Depending on the terrain and location, there may be no cell service to call for help if something goes wrong. Consider carrying an inReach or Spot Satellite Messenger device as a solo hiker for emergencies.
2. Do your homework
Make sure you’ve read up on the trail you’ll be hiking. Be aware of where you can access water and any animals you may encounter on the trail and how to deal with them. Don’t forget to carry a map with topographical details or GPS headings. Nothing is scarier than accidentally getting off the trail and getting lost.
3. Carry water purification
Whether it’s purification tabs or a water filter, make sure to carry the proper gear so you don’t get sick on the hike. If you’ve researched appropriately, you should have an idea of how many water sources are along the hike and where and when you can refill.
4. Carry the right gear
If it’s your first hike, make sure you know what kind of gear to carry with you. Proper fitting and broken-in shoes, layers of clothing, rain gear, a multi-tool or knife, food and high energy snacks are the basics. If it’s a multi-day trek don’t forget necessities like a tent, rope, camp stove, sleeping bag and sleep mat.
5. Don’t overpack
Hiking with a pack that’s too heavy isn’t enjoyable. Your (properly fitted) backpack should weigh no more than 25% of your body weight. If it’s more than that, consider purchasing lightweight gear or downsizing on unnecessary items.
6. Pack a first aid kit
It doesn’t need to be a big kit, but make sure you’re carrying a few medical supplies. Small items like band-aids, ibuprofen and Tylenol, a needle, alcohol pads, antibiotic cream and a small roll of duct tape to cover blisters are a great start to a medical kit that’s lightweight and easy to pack in your bag.
Author - Ashlyn George
With opportunities like flying in military jets with the Canadian Air Force to driving her own dog sled team, no adventure is too crazy for travel writer and adventurer Ashlyn George, a supposed-to-be high school teacher. You can follow her adventures at The Lost Girl’s Guide to Finding the World .