Being Safe Rather Than Sorry Outdoors

Being Safe Rather Than Sorry Outdoors

10 Essential Items Needed On Any Hike Of Any Duration.


Today’s blog is brought to you by the letter ‘P’, for ‘Power-cut’. It was drafted by hand, because all the technology in the house had fallen silent, from the electric kettle to the Apple Mac on which this piece was finally typed up and dispatched.

And what the power-cut threw into sharp relief was how dependent we have become on modern technology, and how risky such a reliance can be. This applies as much to the outdoors as it does to the home or the office. And, just as I was able to fall back on a pencil and a piece of paper to draft these words, it is always a good idea to have a back-up plan when you’re out in the landscape with your camera.

Stormy light over Melrose and the Tweed valley in the Scottish Borders, Scotland, hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

In mountainous areas the weather can change unexpectedly. It pays to prepare for all eventualities.


Every year thousands of people need the help of search and rescue and sadly 100’s die of exposure, heat or dehydration.

Smartphones and GPS devices have their place and can be invaluable when you’re out and about. But imagine getting into trouble in the middle of nowhere, and relying one of these devices, and having it fail.

This may never happen. In which case – great. But taking a little care before you set out could make all the difference when you are not so lucky.

Misty morning on Abbotside Common, Wensleydale, Yorkshire Dales National Park, England, hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

Prominent landmarks make good navigational aids.


Let’s look at the most basic needs first of all. It may seem obvious, but it’s worth pointing out that keeping warm and dry, and not getting hungry or dehydrated, are crucial if you wish to stay safe out in the landscape. Wear layers of clothing, for warmth, and a waterproof layer to keep you dry. Comfortable, sturdy footwear is important too, especially if you intend to walk over uneven terrain. And take food and plenty of water with you.

The idea of a map and compass may seem a little primitive in the 21st century, but get one of each. And learn how to use them. They could be crucial in keeping you on track, and helping you home, should bad weather and poor visibility suddenly set in.

Walker holding an Ordnance Survey map of the Cheviots hills, Northumberland National Park, England. OS REF: NT 883143, hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

Basic map reading skills are useful to plan photographic trips as well as a way of navigating through the landscape.


Another cheap and simple aid to safety is the humble whistle. I have a small whistle on my key-ring, so it automatically goes everywhere with me. Something as simple as this can be invaluable in helping you to attract attention should you get into trouble. The recognised International Distress Signal consists of six blasts of the whistle (or six flashes of a torch, and so on), then a minute’s silence, and then six more blasts.

hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

Drink and eat enough in hot weather


Keeping yourself comfortable temperature wise, whether hiking in hot or cold climates.  Hiking takes a very large amount of energy (FOOD). You need to make sure that you eat a lot more than you normally do. Eat small amounts of complex carbohydrates (breads, fruits, crackers, grains, non-fat energy bars..etc.) throughout the day (every 1/2 hour).

Drink lots even before you are thirsty. Your body’s fluid/electrolyte loss can exceed 2 litres/quarts per hour if you hike uphill in the direct sunlight, during the hottest part of the day.

Windblown heather on the slopes of Harbottle Moor in the Northumberland National Park, England, hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

Using long shutter speeds is one way to capture the effects of wind on the landscape. Wind-proof clothing stops it affecting you.


It is also worth knowing that, if the worst comes to the worst, you should communicate your distress to a rescue helicopter by holding both arms up and outwards, so that your body makes the shape of a ‘Y’. Whereas waving frantically could be ambiguous to the Search and Rescue crew, the ‘Y’ signal will leave them in no doubt that you are in need of assistance.

The hills of the Otterburn MOD range in the Cheviot region of the Northumberland National Park, England, hiking safety, hiking essentials, hiking safety tips, what to wear hiking, navigational aids, landmarks, Warm, cold, weather, climate, snow, heat, exhastion

Snow and ice is very photogenic. You do need to wrap up well though. Fingerless gloves allow you to alter the controls on your camera.


Finally, if you do intend walking to an isolated spot, check the weather forecast before setting out, plan your route in advance, and be sure you know where you’re going. And just as importantly, write down your full trip plans and give them to someone responsible, so that if you do not return as scheduled that person will contact appropriate authorities.

You may now be thinking that the great outdoors is a threatening and dangerous place, from which you’ll be lucky to return alive. And, that you’d be safer sticking to portrait photography than venturing out into the landscape, right? Well, no, of course not. There really is no feeling to match being out in a sweeping landscape and using your photography skills and knowledge to create images you feel proud of. All you need in order to be safe out there is a little common sense. By being sensible and taking a few basic precautions, you will be able to enjoy trouble-free and immensely satisfying photography expeditions.

If you would like to learn more about landscape photography why not consider taking Sue Bishop’s 4 week online photography course Fine Art Landscape Photography.