Carry These Backcountry Mnemonic Devices With You on Your Next Hike

Carry These Backcountry Mnemonic Devices With You on Your Next Hike

Carry These Backcountry Mnemonic Devices With You on Your Next Hike


When it comes to being outdoors, there are a lot of things to remember in order for us to have a smooth experience. From keeping safe or finding your way when you’re lost, remembering how to prepare a campfire meal or being sure how to use the resources around you, it’s all a lot to keep track of. Luckily, there are a few tricks to help you retain important backcountry skills.

Mnemonic devices are ways to remember things just by recalling certain poems, rhymes, acronyms, acrostics, etc.. You may remember ‘PEMDAS’ for learning the Order of Operations, just as an example. Anyway, mnemonic devices come in very handy when things start to go wrong in the backcountry.

And these backcountry mnemonic devices are so easy to remember, that a Cub Scout could do it! (Not to mention a lot of these came from the Scouts themselves!)

backcountry mneumonic devices

To Avoid Poisonous Plants- “Leaves of three, let it be!”

To Remember the Dangers in the Backcountry- BOTE: Bugs/Bacteria, Overexertion/Overuse, Trauma, Elements.

Knowing if Berries are Safe to Eat- “White and yellow, kill a fellow. Purple and blue, good for you. Red… could be good, could be dead.

For Remembering Which Kinds of Salmon Are Which-“The Five Finger Method:” Thumb=Chum, Index finger (poke out your eye)=Sockeye, Middle Finger=King, Ring Finger=Silver, Pinky=Pink.

For Keeping Warm During Winter Hiking- “COLD: Clean, Overheat, Layers, Dry.” Wear clean clothes, don’t overheat, dress in layers, and always, always, keep dry.

backcountry mnemonic devices

Testing for Hypothermia- “Are you umble-ing?” If you are mumbling, fumbling, stumbling, and grumbling, you could have hypothermia.

To Know if a Bone is Broken- “SLIPDUCT:” Swelling, Loss of function, Irregularities on the bone surface, Pain, Deformity, Unnatural movement, Crepitus (strange, crunching sound), Tenderness.

When You’re Lost- “STOP”-Stop, Think, Observe, Plan.

To Reconvene When Group Hiking- Take “C.H.U.R.P” breaks: Communicate, Hydrate, Urinate, Respirate, Perspirate!

backcountry mnemonic devices

To Adjust Your Navigation for Declination Without a Dial- East is least, west is best. (Subtract when declination is in the east, add when it’s in the west.)

To Stop Remain Calm in a Scary Situation-“SURVIVAL:” Size up the situation, Undue haste makes waste, Remember where you are, Vanquish fear and panic, Improvise, Value living, Act like the natives, Learn basic skills.

When it Comes to Surviving Outdoors- “The Rule of Three:” 1. Humans cannot survive more than three hours exposed to extremely high or low temperatures. 2. Humans cannot survive more than six days without water. 3. Humans cannot survive more than nine days without food.

So, the next time you head outdoors, “pack up” these backcountry mnemonic devices in your bag. If you think they’re too hard to remember just now, then practice a bit. If the time ever comes where you need to know one of these, we’re sure it will come to you quickly.

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.