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If you think that ‘Beautiful British Columbia’ has become just an overused bumpersticker, it might be time to leave the couch. This province is home to four mountain systems, 18 volcanoes, and a whole host of lakes, rivers and marshes. One-third of B.C. is barren alpine tundra, icefield and glacier; boasting just over 14 million hectacres of park land and reserves. It’s all just begging to be explored! But first, you’ll need to know a few things! In this post, we are focusing in on BC Hiking Safety – what to pack and what to know before you go. A lot of the same elements apply for your pup as well, but we’ve included a specific section down at the bottom.
For most, a weekend outing is a fantastic getaway from the bustling city life in mainland BC. However, did you know that if you look, and walk, a little further, BC also has some of the best hiking in the world? Ranging from short day hikes, to long, multi-day epics, British Columbia has anything and everything you could want. In the coming days, we will be posting some of our favourite hikes & trails throughout the province. However, we felt it pertinent to create a post dedicated to BC Hiking Safety. Exploring the great outdoors is a wonderful pastime, but we urge you to do so safely! Read on below for the essentials when hiking through Beautiful British Columbia. Looking for a slightly smaller adventure with you pup? Check out some awesome off-leash dog parks in Victoria & Edmonton!
Lucious forest & misty views on the Cape Scott Trail
BC Hiking Safety
Hiking is one of favourite activities here at GoFetch, however, trails can pose many dangers for folks who are not properly prepared. On a serious note, each year, local volunteer run rescue groups respond to dozens of hikers who become lost in the woods. Many more hikers receive injuries, and, unfortunately, some even lose their lives. It is very important that you read the following safety tips as well as educate yourself about the environment, terrain, wildlife, and weather conditions that you may run into. If you would like to read more, check out the fantastic safety page on Vancouver Trails!
Tell Someone Where you are Going
Always let a friend or family member know what trail you will be hiking, where that trail is, and when you expect to be back. That way if you become injured or do not make it back, rescuers will know where to begin their search.
Bring enough Water & Food
This may seem obvious, but make sure to bring enough supplies for your adventure. A lot of trails are longer than 3 hours with steep, uphill climbs and on a hot day, that may mean your body requires several liters of water. Also, contrary to what most believe, the running rivers, including those from glaciers, do not provide fresh water and you can become sick from various bacteria that breed in these waters. Make sure to pack water purifiers (tablets or drops) in order access these water sources.
Good Physical Conditioning
This is where you will have to be honest with yourself. There are a large variety of hikes with through BC, with varying difficulty. Know your, and your dogs’, limits and stay within them. Additionally, make sure to wear good, comfortable shoes that have already been “broken-in”. Consider equipping you pup with little paw-booties for those longer days!
Hike to peaks near Tofino for breathtaking panoramas of Clayoquot Sound and the Pacific Ocean.
Hike with a Friend
Try to always hike with a friend or, preferably in a group. If something goes wrong or you, or your pup, becomes injured, your hiking partner(s) can help get you to safety. The wilderness area is vast and it is possible that you may be the only person on that trail that day. Only consider solo adventures when you are experienced and knowledgable enough in the area & trail.
You won’t have any on your hikes. Additionally, the majority of hikes throughout British Columbia do not have reception. Even though you can be within a kilometre of “civilization”, there is a good chance you will not be able to use your phone to call for help. Take the proper essentials and do your research before you leave.
Bears live in British Columbia and it is possible to come across them, even along Vancouver Island hikes. Black bears are much more common than Grizzley bears, however both can pose a real danger if they feel threatened. Make noise while you are hiking to alert the bears of your presence. If you should come across a bear, calmly turn in the other direction and slowly walk away. There are some protective products you can buy for bears including special bear mace. Bear spray can be purchased at most outdoor sports stores located in British Columbia.
Pack In – Pack Out!
This is less safety and more etiquette and ethics, however, it is just as important. You, the hiker must do your part to help preserve and protect the wildlife and terrain. Always pack out all your garbage, never cut corners and obey all signs. If back-packing in the wilderness, it’s best to carry a stove, and use the designated campsites when possible. Make your toilet arrangements away from any water source. Be aware of the vegetation, wildlife and lands, & tread gently. Let’s protect what we have, so others may enjoy it for years to come!
Trekking past Gorman Lakes on the Dogtooth Traverse
The 10 Essentials – What to Bring for BC Hiking Safety
- Headlamp — Pack a headlamp with spare batteries. Forested trails often become darker before sunset and having a light source with you can ensure you make it out even when it’s dark.
- Fire-making Kit – Waterproof matches are preferred or a lighter in a ziplock bag. Being able to start a fire may make the difference between staying warm at night and increasing your chance of survival.
- Signalling Device – A whistle will help signal rescuers to your location.
- Extra Food and Water – Pack extra high-energy food bars and water for your trip. Refuel yourself in order to keep your energy as high as possible during the time you are lost will help your mental and physical ability.
- Extra Clothing – Pack extra clothing such as a jacket and gloves to ensure that you stay warm if you are lost on a trail overnight.
- Navigation Aids – A compass and map are a must on all hikes. Make sure to protect your maps with plastic bags so they don’t get wet in case it rains. GPS devices are ok but they are not a substitute – technology can fail.
- First Aid Kit – Hikers should pack a small first aid kit in case of injury. The kit should include items such as bandages, gauze, blister dressings, gloves, and more. You should know how to use these items.
- Emergency Shelter – Pack a thermal tarp or large bright coloured plastic bag. This will not only help protect you from the sun or rain but the bright or reflective colour can help rescuers spot you from the distance.
- Pocket knife – A good quality knife that is sharp can help you cut branches to be used for a fire or to build shelter.
- Sun protection – Pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to ensure you protect yourself from the sun, which can be debilitating and lead to disorientation and dehydration.
BC Hiking Safety – Adventuring with your Dog
Going on and getting out with Fido can be some of the most memorable experiences of your life. Your dog can help enhance your own experience, and as always, they are are an invaluable companion. However, just like preparing yourself for a hike, your pup needs to be aware of a few things as well.
Keep your dog healthy on-route
- Food — start with your regular brand and portion size, increasing the amount by up to 50 percent based on his fitness, typical exercise, and the hike’s difficulty. (Rule of thumb: one cup of food per 10kg of pup per day.) Give your pooch a small serving about an hour before hiking for extra energy.
- Water — use your own thirst as a guide and offer water when you stop to drink (every 15 to 30 minutes), depending on trail difficulty and temperature. And yes, dogs can get Giardia. In high-risk areas–lots of cattle or campers–limit drinking from lakes and streams with a leash, voice commands, and a ready supply of treated water.
- Training — build up to longer trips (with both adult dogs and puppies) with a series of shorter hikes to toughen paw pads and develop stamina. We advises waiting until your puppy has received all his shots (about five months) before taking him on the trail, and keeping hikes shorter than one hour to start.
- First aid — pack bandages and an antiseptic (such as iodine) for wounds, a liquid bandage for split or cut paw pads, and tweezers for tick removal (remember to check your dog each night).
Huskies make for excellent adventure companions
Camping with your Pup
- Keep dogs leashed around other hikers, bikers, horses, and on steep or slippery terrain (so they don’t knock anyone over). Step aside and yield the trail to all others.
- Pack out poop on dayhikes (double-bag it!). On longer trips, follow BC Trail regulations and bury away from the trail and water sources.
- Bring a camp towel and brush to clean and dry dogs thoroughly before letting them in the tent. Trim nails pretrip to prevent rips in the tent floor
- Pack a foam pad for sleeping, and a wool or down blanket in cold weather.
- Keep track of your pooch at night with LED lights or glowstick bracelets on their collar/harness.
Folding backpacking bowls are multi-use for you and your pup
Fitting & Loading their pack
Make sure to adjust the harness on your dog so it’s snug but won’t chafe (remove saddlebags first, if the pack allows). You should be able to fit two fingers under the pack. Load the bags with dog food, treats, water (some packs come with hydration bladders), bowls, and extra gear for you if need be. Make sure both sides are weighted equally; total load shouldn’t exceed one-third of your dog’s body weight!
Hiking through scenic river trails on the south end of Vancouver Island
We hope you have found our post on BC Hiking Safety fairly useful! As always, make sure to do plenty of research before embarking on an adventure with your pup. Bring a friend or two, pack all of the essentials, and give yourself time. Time to enjoy the outdoors, explore Mother Nature, and to get back home safely. Be on the lookout for more posts on some our favourite trails in the province, and around Canada! Much love,
– The GoFetch Team