Wilderness Travel Tips

Wilderness Travel Tips

If you are planning a wilderness trip, please respect at all times the wildlife and vagaries of the weather. Both are unpredictable and potentially dangerous and both could seriously endanger the unprepared.

When planning your trip, remember that the temperature during the winter can get extremely cold, and daylight hours are greatly reduced. Therefore, it is ill advised for visitors to travel on the land unescorted during winter in most of the Northwest Territories. Only those with specialized skills, equipment, and experience should attempt such travel.

During parts of the summer, biting insects can be a significant nuisance in some locations. A good insect repellant and bug resistant clothing, may be your best friends for summer trips onto "the land."

Remember, common sense and preparation will lead to enjoyable outdoor activities like camping, fishing, hiking, berry picking, cross-country skiing and snow shoeing.

If you plan to travel into the wilderness, or the 'bush' as we call it, hiking or canoeing even for only a short way, it is imperative that you advise a friend, relative or your host where you are staying, where you plan to be going and when you will be back. It is no fun to be lost, or possibly injured, and not be sure if anyone knows where to find you. Oh, and did you report your safe return?

Don't cause the disruption and expense of unnecessary rescue efforts. In summer, take an insect repellent or a good "bug jacket" with you - mosquitoes and other biting insects can be very irritating in some locations. For winter travel "on the land", take along sufficient layers of protective and insulating clothing to meet the needs of an unforeseen delay. Note that the hours of daylight are short and travel on foot in these layers of clothing can be both slower and more tiring than under summer conditions. In all seasons, take emergency rations, drinking water and a first aid kit. If you plan to be boating, we strongly recommend that you wear a life vest at all times. The water in our lakes and rivers can be cold, quickly sapping your ability to recover if you fall in. Note that at any time of the year, weather conditions can change - be prepared!

A few simple safety tips:

Wool vs. Cotton: It is recommended that you wear wool or polypropylene rather than cotton clothing for outdoor activities whenever possible. Wool is best for wet or cool weather. Furthermore, wool retains warmth even when wet. Cotton clothing like jeans are less suitable because when soaked, they increase the loss of body heat.

Fires: Build fires on sand, earth, or gravel. Do not leave a fire unattended, and always make sure it is out when you are finished.

Remember to be careful with fire while out on the land, and respect the restrictions on open fires when they are posted.

Set Boundaries: If you have children with you, make sure that they are familiar with the camping area. Show them where and how far they can go. Do the same for swimming areas.

Whistle: Each member in your group should carry a whistle. Make sure everyone knows that three blasts on a whistle or three shouts are recognized as a distress call.

Swimming: Make sure that you check for hidden obstacles under the surface of the water (i.e. rocks and logs) before you allow anyone within your group to go diving and swimming. Avoid water with fast currents. Remember, never swim alone.

Wildlife: Do not approach or feed wild animals, even if they appear to be friendly. For information on bear safety issues, please visit Parks Canada and the GNWT Department of Environment and Natural Resources.