British Columbia

Heading into the B.C. wilderness this weekend? Be prepared!

Search and rescue teams across B.C. respond to an average of 20 calls over the July long weekend.

Search and rescue teams across B.C. respond to an average of 20 calls over the July long weekend

Adventure Smart's Emma Courtney holds up a few of the items that anyone heading into the wilderness should be packing. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

School is out and the weather is warm, but hopefully that doesn't mean you'll let your guard down if you're heading into B.C.'s vast wilderness. 

Search and rescue teams across the province respond to an average of 20 calls every July long weekend, according to the SAR education organization, AdventureSmart.

"It's a great time to get out with the kids, get out camping," said AdventureSmart's Emma Courtney. "It's a very busy time of year for us. This weekend is extremely busy, extremely popular to get out into the woods."

North Shore Rescue, one of the 80 SAR organizations in B.C., has seen a 63 per cent increase in calls this year, according to Courtney.

"Some of the worst case scenarios we're seeing are people that have no direction as to which way they're headed and they're also unable to move because they're injured somehow," she said.

Two young adults on a first date were escorted out of the woods by two North Shore Rescue volunteers in October 2015. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Courtney said that — even if your outing turns into an emergency — there's a lot that you can do to make sure everyone gets safely out of the woods.

"If you go missing today, will someone know to look for you?" she asked, adding that all trips should involve thorough planning, including a detailed trip plan shared with someone who's staying at home.

Beyond that, Courtney urges people to train appropriately for the adventure they're planning.

"Whether it's rock climbing, simple hiking, scrambling, or anything like that, you need to know that you know your limits and stay within them," she said.

10 essentials for backwoods adventures

Then there's the equipment you should always pack, even if you don't think it will be needed.

There are a few items that anyone heading into the wilderness should pack to prevent tragedy in the backcountry. (Rafferty Baker/CBC)

Courtney highlights AdventureSmart's 10 essentials:

  • Flashlight.
  • Fire-starting kit.
  • Signaling device (whistle and mirror).
  • Extra food and water.
  • Extra clothing.
  • Navigational aids.
  • First aid kit.
  • Emergency shelter.
  • Pocket knife.
  • Sun protection.

According to Courtney, taking these basic steps can significantly help rescue volunteers, both in terms of reducing calls, but also by making a rescue easier and quicker for them.

"B.C. Search and Rescue has 2,500 volunteer professionals," she said.

"That's trained professionals who are volunteering their time and their hours to help people and assist people who have gotten lost or injured in the woods."

Courtney points out that, while the July long weekend is when the frequency of calls ramps up, it will continue to be busy for SAR volunteers all summer long.