6 Backcountry Dangers…and How to Deal With Them

6 Backcountry Dangers…and How to Deal With Them

6 Backcountry Dangers…and How to Deal With Them


Experienced hikers are perfectly aware of the dangers outdoors. No matter how much you prepare for these situations, sometimes they can happen unexpectedly. While a typical survival guide might have all the answers, it seems like they can never quite prepare you for the worst case scenario. If danger approaches, these easy steps will help you make it out in one piece:

Sinking in Quicksand

Believe it or not, there are many places in the US where quicksand can be found, especially where you may be hiking. All it takes for quicksand to develop is sand and rising water. If you find yourself stuck, here’s what you can do:

  • Drop everything you are holding. More weight means sinking faster.
  • Don’t panic. Like a rip-tide, the more you move, the faster it will pull.
  • Try to unstick your feet without pulling too hard. Try to take off your shoes, because shoes create suction, making you go down quicker.
  • Move horizontally, and try to lay flat on your back, gradually picking up your feet.
  • Once your feet are close to the surface, slightly roll over and maneuver away from the quicksand.

What to Do If You've Eaten Poisonous Plants or Berries

Eating a Poisonous Plant or Berry

The only time you should be eating unknown plants or berries outdoors is if you’ve run out of food supply and have no other options or else you’ll starve. If you find yourself in that situation and you’ve mistakenly eaten a poisonous berry, here’s how to curb it:

  • Touch the plant. If you’re skin breaks out, it’s probably poisonous.
  • If you begin feeling nauseous, having abdominal pain, and start to vomit and have diarrhea, then you’ve eaten a bad berry. Don’t eat anymore.
  • If you can, call for help. Describe where you are and what the berry looks like, as well as how many you’ve eaten, how long ago, and what you’re experiencing.
  • Wait for help, and try to remain calm. If you haven’t eaten a lot, then you should be fine until help comes.

Getting Bit by a Venomous Snake

Snakes on remote trails are never good news. If you get bit, there’s a few things you can do:

  • Call for help. If help will take more than one hour, do the following:
  • Let it bleed out the first couple of minutes.
  • Expect symptom takeover; fever, burning, convulsions, and difficulty moving limbs.
  • Take deep breaths. Don’t move much.
  • Clean the wound with soap and water, but don’t flush it. Tie off the limb a few inches above the wound, without restricting the blood flow. This will slow down the spreading of the venom.
  • Once help arrives or you find help, you will need antivenom.

What to Do If You are Being Chased by a Mountain Lion

Being Chased by a Mountain Lion

Encountering a mountain lion while out in the backcountry certainly isn’t unheard of. While you might think that it’ll never happen to you, it’s best to be prepared if it does:

  • Studies have shown that the chances of dying were actually less likely than in those who chose to freeze.
  • Don’t turn your back completely. If the cat gets your spinal cord, you won’t have much of a chance.
  • Brace yourself for an attack.
  • Look for rocks and use your hands to push away. Stay in the fetal position, guarding your organs. Go for the eyeball. Make a lot of noise to scare it off, while also alerting others nearby that you’re getting attacked.

Being Scouted by Bears

If you notice a bear scouting you out, there is time to escape:

  • Keep your distance, while watching the bear. At 300 feet, there’s still time to escape. Don’t let the bear see you. Get out of the area quickly and quietly.
  • When you get far enough way, make noise to ward off the bear.
  • If the bear sees you, keep your arms raised high and talk in a low voice, showing it you are not a threat.
  • If it gets a lot closer, play dead. Typically bears will attack in self-defense, so if they think you are dead, they may leave you alone.

What to Do If You're Being Scouted by Bears

A Sudden Act of Nature

When you’re out in mother nature, know that she can surprise you at any time. No matter where you are, different types of natural disasters can strike whenever. Here’s how to save yourself:

  • In an avalanche: Lie on your back, and ‘swim’ with the snow. Keep a fist up, so when it covers, you can be found.
  • In a flash flood: Find higher ground as quickly as possible, or hide behind a desert wall. Don’t walk, or the currents can take you. Keep yourself afloat by pursuing anything above the water; even a tree.
  • In a volcanic eruption: Find shelter. If you can’t, find higher ground. Hide behind a ridge, then protect your face from flying debris and ash. Cover your mouth with a cloth until the danger passes.

While dangers are ever present in backcountry, don’t let the fear of them stop you from exploring.

hanalarock I'm Hana- a freelance travel writer and teacher who currently lives in South Korea. I'm originally from New York, but have spent the last two years traveling and living abroad. My first time hiking in the US was when I traveled around the country as a teenager. Though, my first adult backpacking trip was a year ago, when I hiked from Thailand down to Singapore for a month. I'm looking forward to many more adventures in the future. Visit my site for more information.