One thing that often gets overlooked, especially for day hikes, is a proper safety kit. You often hear stories about stranded or injured hikers, and often times, their situation and/or chance of survival could have been greatly improved with some relatively inexpensive safety gear. Things can and often do go wrong when you’re out in the wild, but being prepared can make them little speed bumps instead of a huge ordeal.
My parents also bought me a flare gun last holiday, as they are often worried when I am out for long hikes. I still haven’t decided if I want to keep this as a permanent item in my kit (lol).
These are a simple and highly functional component of every safety kit. These thin, lightweight foil blankets can have the following uses:
Water Filter or Iodine Tablets
Calorie Dense Foods
Bear Knowledge & Spray
A question that I often get when taking clients hiking is “what about bears in New York? Should we be worried?” – For the most part, my answer is usually no. Black bears are rarely aggressive, and can usually be scared off with yelling, banging pans, making loud noises, etc. According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, there are about 2,000 or so bears in the Catskill Region – but I have yet to see any of them!
Here are some important tips to remember if you ever encounter a black bear while hiking:
- Never run – this can invoke the chase instinct. Hold your ground, or back away slowly while making noise.
- If a bear continues to advance, increase your apparent size by waving arms and increasing noise. Still, do not run.
- If the bear continues and attacks, either deploy bear spray, or be prepared to fight
Luckily, it will probably never come to the above. Since 2010, there have only been 7 black bear attacks that have resulted in fatalities in all of North America. You are far more likely to be killed by a horse, cow, dog, hornet, wasp, bee, deer, and many others.
However, if you are hiking in areas that are prone to having brown bears (mostly out West or in Alaska) ,or if you are just an extremely cautious person, you may want to invest in bear spray.
Bear spray is essentially a much stronger version of mace (pepper spray) that is extremely effective in deterring a charging bear from attack. Due to bears’ highly sensitive noses, the combination of their increased sensitivity to smell, with the spray’s incredible strength makes for an extremely effective defense.
Never discharge bear spray against a non-threatening bear. The capsicum (what makes things spicy) in the bear spray temporarily reduce’s the bear’s ability to see, smell, and breathe, which gives you time to get the hell out of there.
For more information about bears in New York, bear defense, and using bear spray, I wrote a blog post about it here!