Getting away with it – Aug 2011

In “An Inspector Calls”, a family are accused of a heinous crime by a police inspector. After having established their guilt, by piecing together their individual mistakes and mishaps, he disappears, only to be revealed as a fraud and not an inspector at all. The family breathe a sigh of relief and prepare to carry on their lives as if nothing had happened. The fact that they had got away with it was all that mattered; not whether they had done anything wrong or could learn from their mistakes. The play ends with another twist: that maybe they won’t get away with it after all.

I think tramping can be a bit like that sometimes. We forget our head torch on a day walk, but thankfully we get back before dark. We have a hole in our pack liner and our down sleeping bag is at the bottom of our pack, but luckily it doesn’t rain heavily. We carry no spare food, but we get out as planned.

But when things do go wrong, and if you spend enough time in the bush they inevitably will, simple mistakes like those mentioned above can end up making life more than a little uncomfortable. Over winter especially, they could even be fatal. Maybe it is time to learn from our mistakes that we ‘got away with’ at the time, and not just breathe a sigh of relief and carry on as if nothing had happened.

Most of the time it’s just a question of keeping your gear in good condition, and deciding  or remembering to pack everything, even when you think you won’t need it, such as on a day walk. Some top tips that are not rocket science, but can make a huge difference to your safety margin in the hills include:

Shelter. Use a survival bag as a pack liner and check it for holes before each trip. Best to carry a groundsheet, sleeping mat and fly or tent even if planning on staying in a hut.

Shell layer. Make sure you look after your waterproof jacket and trousers. Wash them regularly and reproof them so they bead nicely when they get wet, rather than soaking through after 5 minutes.

Food. Take extra snacks in case you end up having a mission, or getting stuck the wrong side of a river.

In your car. Keep a blanket, water, snacks, and enough dry clothes to keep warm if you have to leave your car (or sleep in it!)

On day walks as well as tramps: Always take a map, compass, EPERB, headtorch, extra snacks, survival bag, first aid kit, cellphone. Always use a packliner. Matches and cut up inner tubes are a good idea too in case you need to light a fire. Take spare batteries for your head torch.

Finally, always tell someone where you are going! Oh, and carry a pocket knife. You never know when you might need it….

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