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April 2023
Author: Forest Pike

The wilderness is a place of raw and natural beauty where we can escape the hustle and bustle of modern life and connect with both game and our inner self. However, as much as it is an idyllic escape, it also requires a different mindset and level of preparedness from what we may be used to. Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry hunter or someone new to the outdoors, the ability to self-rescue is a critical component of a safe and successful wilderness experience.

One of the fundamental elements of the wilderness mindset is accepting responsibility for your own safety and well-being, which is something we at Gear Fool refer to as “expecting to self-rescue.” In the wilderness, there are no rescue teams or medical facilities just a phone call away with paved road access to your immediate position. If something goes wrong, it’s up to you and your brothers (or sisters) to handle the situation and get yourself to safety. This means being prepared and having the necessary skills and knowledge to deal with a wide range of potential challenges, from navigating through rugged terrain to performing basic first aid.

This shift in mindset can be intimidating, but it also provides a sense of empowerment and self-reliance. When we expect to self- rescue, we become more confident and independent in the wilderness. We are more likely to take the necessary precautions and make informed decisions, which in turn reduces our risk of encountering an emergency situation in the first place.

In order to successfully adopt the wilderness mindset and expect to self-rescue, it is essential to be properly prepared. This includes having the right gear, and quality gear at that, and understanding how to use it properly. Examples here consist of a well- rounded backcountry first-aid kit to include basic pharmaceuticals, a navigation device (or two), and a means of communication (again, or two). It also means having the necessary skills and knowledge, such as knowing how to use a map and compass, start a fire, and perform basic first aid.

It is also important to be aware of the conditions and potential hazards in the area where you plan to operate. This means researching the area, checking the weather forecast regularly, and being mindful of any warnings or alerts issued by local authorities. By being aware of the conditions and potential hazards, you can make informed decisions about whether it is safe to proceed, and if so, what precautions to take.

In addition to being prepared, it is also important to be aware of your limits and to set realistic expectations. This means knowing your physical abilities and being mindful of the demands of the trail or route you plan to follow. It also means being honest with yourself about your experience level and seeking out training or guidance if you feel that you need it. Preparing ahead of time is imperative to the success of a backcountry hunter, from cold weather adaptation to trail conditioning and beyond.

Finally, it is essential to understand the importance of operating with a partner or in a small group. Having someone to share the experience with not only makes it more enjoyable (not to mention easier to get killer photos of yourself while punching that coveted tag), but it also provides a safety net in case of an emergency. If something goes wrong, having someone with you can make all the difference in getting help and getting out of the wilderness safely. A solid backcountry partner doesn’t come easily, and an SOS scenario doesn’t play out cheaply, so choose wisely!

The wilderness mindset is a crucial component of a safe and successful backcountry experience. By accepting responsibility for our own safety, being prepared, and expecting to self-rescue, we can better enjoy the pursuit of backcountry game and adventure of the outdoors while reducing the risk of encountering an emergency situation. Whether you’re a seasoned backcountry hunter or someone new to the wilderness setting, embrace the wilderness mindset and be prepared to self- rescue. Your wilderness adventures will be all the more rewarding because of it.