As someone who has loved exploring wilderness areas all my life, mostly in California, here are my safety tips. Also below are some links to articles I’ve created about how to deal with specific plants and animals that are potentially harmful.
Twenty safety tips:
- Know how to identify and avoid harmful plants and animals in the area you are exploring.
- Wear sturdy boots that cover ankles, and long pants. This greatly helps protect from such things as ticks, venomous snakes, and dangerous plants such as cactuses or poison oak.
- Avoid grass or bushes as much as possible. Again, this helps protect from dangerous animals such as ticks or venomous snakes.
- Carry a stick. Use it to test areas you’re unsure about (such as long grass you want to walk through), and it can become a weapon in the very rare event that you have to fight a wild animal such as a bear or mountain lion.
- Have a working cell phone if possible.
- Know what to do if a problem comes up with a dangerous plant or animal, such as if you or someone else brushes poison oak or gets bit by a venomous snake.
- Have a flashlight if you’ll be there after sunset.
- Don’t hike alone, and be extra careful with children.
- If you’re camping, keep the tent closed completely.
- Have fine tweezers handy – not just for extracting ticks, but for splinters or bee stings also.
- Make sure you drink and have plenty of water with you. Consider bringing a really good water filter or purification system of some sort, such as if you would need to refill from a stream.
- Wear a hat and sunscreen, and sunglasses are advised as well.
- Don’t leave trails. Practically everyone who ever got lost didn’t think they would.
- Don’t hike in very hot temperatures, such as over 95 degrees (35 C), especially for an extended amount of time, or if you’ll be in the sun.
- Have basic first aid stuff available, beyond any items already mentioned such as tweezers. Have stuff for sunburns or bee stings. Scorpions are also possible to encounter, which hurt about the same as bees, although I almost never see them.
- Don’t try dangerous things like climbing a very steep hill or cliff, or jumping across chasms.
- Don’t try to eat any type of berries, plants, mushrooms, or anything you come across.
- One specific plant to avoid entirely is oleander, shown in the photo above. It’s a pretty plant found all over where I live in Southern California, including in the desert areas, due to being drought resistant. It’s also incredibly poisonous. Touching the leaves is usually okay, but not any leaves or branches that are broken open. Ingesting any could kill a person.
- Before going on a hiking trip, let others know where you’re going and when you expect to be back.
- This last one should be very obvious. Don’t start fires anywhere except in a pit specifically designated for it. Even still, care needs to be taken, such as making sure dry vegetation is cleared from around the fire pit.
Very highly recommended book for medical emergencies: