A coworker of mine has an 18 year old daughter who has just discovered backpacking. She's strong-minded and adventurous, and after a fun experience backpacking with friends, she's decided that she wants to spend a week or two alone on the Juan de Fuca and/or West Coast Trail. These are fairly well traveled trails, and they don't have a history of predatory behavior (from other people).
My coworker doesn't want to stop her from doing these sorts of things (and probably couldn't) but has come to me seeking advice. He's wondering what extra precautions his daughter should take, both in gear and in personal safety. So far I've come up with this list, but would love to hear advice from others (especially fathers and daughters!)
-Check in and out of the trail - this service is provided on the WCT but not the JDF -Have an itinerary and stick to it, be home when you say you'll be home -Make sure other people know your itinerary -Carry a cel phone (they work in a few key spots on these trails) -Take a wilderness first aid course, and let the instructor know you'll be going solo -Keep your pack light to avoid injury -Bring a full day of emergency food
some things I'm not sure about: rape alarm, pepper spray, self defense course...
Do you know how much training or experience this woman has with backpacking? It's never good to assume someone knows what they're doing, even if they think they do. Having "just discovered" backpacking, I'd say a weeklong solo trip is bit of a leap. Some further learning about camping itself might be a wise decision.
The ideas you listed are all very good, though I woludn't rule out a self-defense course. The likelyhood of being in danger from other people is pretty slim, but such courses do teach one to be more aware of their surroundings, which is a good frame of mind for hiking anyway.
How scared is your co-worker? if he's more than $600 scared, suggest he go to MEC an buy her a PLB - they have 'em there. I don't think I'd consider needing one on WCT due to the volume of traffic and patrols. but other places they can save a soloist's butt. Now me, I still solo without one, but I've got it on my wish list in case my wife ever decides she worries about me enough to buy me one for xmas <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif" alt="" />
Loc: north carolina
What is scary for parents is when you realize you can no longer help. I came to that realization when my daughter asked about a calculus problem.
<Laugh> Isn't that the truth. Mine heads off to college in the fall.
I totally agree with food on this. We tend to inflate the dangers involved in things we don't know about (backpacking) and ignore the very real dangers involved in commonplace events (driving.) I also agree with the suggestion that she might need more training and experience before undertaking a week-long solo trip.
Perhaps she could take a week-long Outward Bound or NOLS course?
I do kinda like the bear spray idea. The canister isn't that heavy, and it can be used quite effectively on two-legged predators. Much better than those tiny "pepper spray" bottles they sell at the hardware store.
Checking in and out and leaving an itinerary should be second nature for every hiker, solo or not.
I'd say to make sure she's got the big can of pepper spray, about $40 Canadian, I believe you still have to sign for it. and just stay aware. But she's infinitely safer than a week trip to Miami. And much less chance of coming home with a really tacky tattoo.
Loc: Marina del Rey,CA
If this person is a newbie, like it seems, the best thing you could do Mattress is tell this woman what a bad idea this is. If she has been out for a weekend with friends and thinks she is ready for a long solo trip, she's delusional.
Tell dad to put a satellite tracker on her so he can go find her when she gets into trouble. A SPOT would be better than nothing. Otherwise, get a PLB or Sat phone-both can be rented. Forget cel phones-too unreliable in the wild.
Forget the combat knife-one of the worst ideas I've ever seen posted here.
Don't get me started, you know how I get.
I agree with Tom completely about the knife thing.. forget it. If you're gonna take anything like that (in canada) take bear spray.
In all honesty though Mattress - don't you think one of the best suggestions in the context of coastal BC would acutally be *west coast trail* and not JDF? realisticly the only people who have died on WCT have been on surge channels that are now explicity not reccomended and out of bounds. While yes, it's not risk free, given the amount of traffic and patrol on the trail, if this person gets in trouble on the trail the only likely outcome is that it costs them a bunch of money for an evacuation by parks canada or the indian bands. I mean, maybe it's just my alberta rockies background that makes me treat anything with 30 people a day going in at the trailhead like a zoo, but realisticly that while WCT might have more opportunities to do something dumb than JDF, there's an awful lot of people on it, so it would be a lot harder to do something dumb and have it end up being fatal. You'd get noticed and evac'ed.
I'd stick to maybe a PLB - and remind the father how many people walk across that trail every day.
From the moment I got my driver's license, there wasn't a thing in the world my parents could have done to prevent me from going off on my own adventures. Looking back, I'm a little amazed that my parents didn't try to discourage me or ask me to check in when I would drive off 4-6 hours away to hike and camp. So many things could have happened - the thing is, my parents trusted my judgement and my skills and while they probably spent alot of sleepless nights that I didn't know about, they sucked it up and let me do my own thing.
My advice to dad is: if you trust your daughter's judgement, and you've seen her successfully navigate difficult situations on her own, then let her do her thing and not see you panic. <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif" alt="" /> He can talk her through a few "worst case scenarios" and see how she responds to different types of emergency situations. In doing so, they would also be on the same page so that he would know more or less what to expect of her should something come up. Have her plan out her trip and know all of her bail out points. Let her step up to the plate and show that she does know what she is doing.
There are always going to be those unknown factors that dad will fear but be unable to control. You just can't let your fear of those zebras put a prison around your daughter. Trust in her and it will build a stronger relationship as she transitions to adulthood.
YMMV. Viewer discretion is advised.
The JDF is as well traveled as the WCT (and more concentrated), plus it has 10 or so road-access points, where the WCT has, if you're lucky, one spot where you can take a $100 boat ride back to a "town" where you can wait a day for a $200 bus.
I know this is a old post but I'd thought I'd mention,
No amount of watching videos of people using knifes will help. Its one of those things you got to REALLY practice to learn, otherwise it becomes a liability when you take it out.
There are reasons why the military takes the time to teach their troops on the use of knives in a fight, without resorting to videos for the whole program but instead get "physical" to train for it.
Never mind the legal implications of using a knife or anything else for that matter for self defense in Canada.
Which brings me to my next point for any women who may be hiking alone in Canada and do use their bear spray on a human attacker, under NO circumstances say to the police you carried the bear/dog spray specifically for a human attacker. It was in your pack for what it was meant to do protect you from wildlife.
Former Prohibited Weapons Order, No. 1
1. Any device designed to be used for the purpose of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person by the discharge therefrom of
(a) tear gas, Mace or other gas, or
(b) any liquid, spray, powder or other substance that is capable of injuring, immobilizing or otherwise incapacitating any person.
Don't let the "Former" in the title fool you, its still law, just under a new law instead of a separate order. (They bunched up all the Prohibited orders together, grouping them up with such things as automatic firearms and machine guns, short barreled pistols, etc)