The old adage of ‘Fail to prepare, Prepare to fail’ is always good advice to live by, but when it comes to the outdoors it’s a crucial thing to remember. Planning ahead can save lives and avoid turning a simple trip to the outdoors into the stuff of nightmares. We’ve broken it down into a simple list so you can always be ready when the outdoors are calling your name.
It might be a lovely sunny day in the car park, but the weather can be a lot different when you’re up the mountains or out on the water. There are some great apps to help you with this. We recommend: The Met Office, YR and Windy. These all provide forecasts for mountain summits, which is critical to know when you’re planning your activities.
The Met Office app tells what the temperature will feel like, taking into account the wind. Windy allows you to see how strong the gusts will be, plus you can compare forecasts from five different sources. All three provide hourly predictions for rainfall. They’re still only forecasts, so you need to be prepared for the weather to be potentially worse than expected, but they allow you to plan your activities taking into account the most likely weather conditions.
There’s so much to talk about when it comes to equipment, so we’ve broken it down to make it simpler. It’s not about having the most expensive gear with you; rather it’s about having all the gear that you will need and knowing how to use it when/if needed. You can’t guarantee signal for a YouTube tutorial in the outdoors so ensure you know the basics before leaving the house. Lists are going to be your best friend and we’ve found some that might save you some time but it will vary depending on your activity and location so do your homework before heading out the door and think about your navigation (maps/compasses/battery for GPS), clothing (hot and cold possibilities), and equipment (safety equipment like helmets and buoyancy aids might not be necessary but a whistle and a torch are always going to be useful). Food and water are also essentials so fuel up and prepare snacks ahead of time.
Adventure Smart is a great resource for planning what to pack: Think about gear | AdventureSmartUK
Parking can be stressful. We’ve all been there – the gang packed into the car, ready for whatever insane combination the Northern Irish weather has planned and playing a depressingly long round of ‘Musical Chairs’ in the car park, waiting to leap into action at the glimmer of a reverse light. Go early, don’t obstruct anyone’s way and have a Plan B if your first choice is full – this might be frustrating but you can always return another less busy time. For the best advice on parking, check out our handy guide.
You have nothing to prove when it comes to the outdoors. Just because you’ve seen others out exploring and having a great time, doesn’t mean it was easy for them to get to the top of that mountain or the bottom of that river. Know where you’re going, do the research before going, making sure to look at maps and check for any diversions or closures on the route. If you’re not sure, there are lots of experience guides and activity providers in Northern Ireland who can help you enjoy the outdoors safely. Think about your fitness level, the terrain you may experience and how well you will be able to get from A to B and back again!
The safe way back might not be the same way you got to that point so have a couple of emergency routes planned out ahead of time and know where the nearest assembly point is or where you might be able to find safety if caught in a bad spot.
It might not sound like much, but by making sure someone knows your plans, where you’re headed to and what time your expected to be back at, it adds one more safety measure. Which means that if you’re not back at a reasonable time and no one can contact you, someone might be able to send (potentially lifesaving!) help.
It’s hard to go too long these days without having a phone in your hand and although getting out to the outdoors might inspire a nomad/off-the-grid mentality, you shouldn’t go out exploring without having a phone fully charged in case a call has to be made. Battery packs are a great way to boost the juice on your phone so having one is a big help as battery life can drop faster in colder temperatures.
They don’t take up a lot of room in a backpack or a pocket, but they make a huge difference for keeping on the right side of outside and leaving the outdoors litter and waste free. By packing a small roll of food waste bags or dog poo bags, you’ll always be able to leave the trails as tidy as your found them, plus many of them have handles it’s easier to carry until you do reach a bin.
If things do go wrong when you are outdoors, don’t leave it too long before you put this step into action. Accidents can and will happen, it’s a known risk when we go outdoors but if you’re prepared and know what to do if something does go wrong, it can ease some of that panic. Familiarise yourself with ASSIST and call 999 for emergency services.