Four Tips for Safe Adventures in B.C.’s Backcountry

Four Tips for Safe Adventures in B.C.’s Backcountry

Cover image: BC Oil and Gas Commission Director of Compliance and Enforcement, Patrick Smook, regularly travels to remote areas of B.C.

For British Columbians, breathtaking wilderness adventures are right in our backyard. B.C.’s abundant natural beauty is an ideal backdrop for memorable outings, but sometimes rough terrain and unexpected conditions can lead to serious consequences. Safety is at the heart of what we do at the BC Oil and Gas Commission, and our Compliance and Enforcement (C&E) Officers spend a lot of time in remote areas of B.C.’s oil and gas country. In addition to extensive knowledge about safe industry operations, our C&E Officers are also trained in maintaining personal safety in the great outdoors.

Here are a few tips to help make your backcountry adventures memorable for all the right reasons.

Pack smart

Packing to head out into the wilderness is about finding the right balance. Pack too much and you’ll carry around unnecessary bulk. Pack too little and you may find yourself wishing you had come more prepared. Our C&E Officers don’t take any chances when it comes to safety. To do their job, they wear:

·         Coveralls

·         Safety glasses

·         A hard hat

·         Ear plugs

·         Gloves

·         Steel toed boots

Our C&E Officers also carry a gas monitor, a first aid kit and any additional layered clothing appropriate for the weather.

Whether you’re headed into the wilderness for work or for a casual hike, it’s about packing the right items for the task.

Tell someone where you’re going

A simple twisted ankle can mean real trouble when you’re in the woods and a long way from help, and many remote areas have patchy or no cell service. Letting someone know about your plans is a built-in way to make sure rescuers will come looking for you if something goes wrong.

Our C&E Officers travel with a GPS tracking device, a cell phone and/or a satellite phone to keep in touch. Director of Compliance and Enforcement, Patrick Smook, says GPS tracking devices are connected to an answering service. “Every time someone goes into the field, they check into the system, and every four hours or every time they turn onto a new road or go onto a new site, they check in,” says Smook. “If something’s not okay, they can instantly notify us and we know where they are.”

If you don’t have access to high-tech gear, let a friend, colleague or family member know about your planned route before heading out, and give them an idea of when you’re expected to return.

Stay together

Hikers are more likely to become lost when they’re alone. Consider hiking as a group, particularly in unfamiliar areas. When you start as a group, the best way to make sure you finish as a group is to stay together and travel at the speed of the slowest person.

According to Smook, there are times for solo journeys and times for teamwork. “Sometimes there’s safety in numbers. We travel in pairs in higher risk situations, and we work together if there are any signs of potential safety concerns.”

Be realistic about your fitness

Whether you’re ready for a multi-day adventure or a simple afternoon hike, be sure you can handle the distance and terrain before setting out. Choose a journey you know you can finish comfortably, and try a few smaller outings before taking on longer distances over more difficult terrain.

In addition, avoid the mistake of wearing new clothing, such as hiking shoes or backpacks, for the first time on a long journey. Sometimes a small blister can become a big safety issue if it restricts your mobility or prevents you from getting to your destination before dark. Wearing in new shoes over a few shorter outings can help you avoid blisters and strained muscles before wearing them on a longer journey.

Safety matters at work and at play, and a little planning and smart decision making can go a long way to help keep you, your colleagues, friends and family safe in B.C.’s great outdoors.