John N. Gans, Executive Director of National Outdoor Leadership School, USA (NOLS) quotes Shantanu Pandit's thoughts on 'Squirrel's Contribution' in their 2013 Annual report.
Check out the original report here.
Please note the title – it mentions ‘comfort’ in addition to ‘safety’! It has been observed that oftentimes ‘comfort’ of campers is not given due attention, with the effect that a few or more participants actually end up being plain uncomfortable, with many nursing niggling injuries and even illnesses. And this mars the joy that one desires for participants to have... Unfortunately, this is also true of ‘experienced’ outdoors people who tend to stay stuck in outdated practices that have proven to be inefficient and unfriendly not only to the environment but also to people!
Please note that this article is far from being comprehensive, and it is recommended that the reader study relevant literature to enhance his/her knowledge of this subject, and practice accordingly. For the sake of brevity, I am going to refer to just ‘safety’ which will also include ‘comfort’, and to ‘organisers’ which will also include ‘leaders, instructors, office holders, etc.’
Components of ‘SAFETY’ - Safety of people, environment & equipment
Safety in outdoors is in the context of
One recommended practice is to dig individual cat-holes to do one’s job. Here are a few ‘specifics’:
Let participants see organisers role-model (e.g., announce loudly that you are ‘going mining’ and be seen walking off with a trowel). Organisers should take ‘inspection rounds’ and...
- Thank participants for being sensitive and supportive of the camp’s safe practices (if they have been diligent), or
- Give them feedback and request them to follow safe practices (if they have been lax) – it is good to repeat instructions as many times as is required.
Organisers should NOT avoid this topic.
Briefings to participants and other interactions
This article was previously published in the souvenir ‘Sahyankan’ brought out by Chakram Hikers.
It was on Malhargad near Saswad during one monsoon in the evening that I first experienced someone having symptoms of ‘mild hypothermia’ progress to those of ‘moderate hypothermia’, which included extreme form of discomfort and uncontrollable shivering. We put the man inside two sleeping bags and served him hot cups of tea before his shivering subsided. After coming out of his tent, the shivering returned so we fed him an early dinner and enforced rest inside the two sleeping bags. That saw an end to his troubles.
So what had happened? Why did one person get hypothermic and the others, who also had got wet in the rain and participated in all activities arranged for the group, did not? To understand that, we need to look at the ‘immediate history’ of the patient:
Since two days after having arrived at the fort, the man had had on just a vest, having avoided wearing a shirt, perhaps to show off his ‘physique’ (which was, we all concurred privately, rather skeletal!). Plus, he had not eaten lunch on both days because ‘he never took lunch’. And he had of course participated in all activities on both days, getting wet in the rain in the process.
Conclusion: The man had not eaten enough for his body to have created the heat required to keep him warm in cold and windy conditions. Whatever his body had got through two meals per day had got utilized for physical activities. Normally, this would not have mattered in a period of two-three days but our man had added to his body’s misery by helping lose a lot of heat existing in his body to the environment by not having dressed appropriately.
The rest of the group members had all eaten heartily and followed periodic instructions on warm layers given by the leadership team. This had kept all of them fit and comfortable. And this also points to another, somewhat uncomfortable truth: the leadership team had fallen short in assertiveness and convincing capability to have prevented the discomfort to the man. For ‘wilderness first aid’ is very clear on this: do everything to prevent a situation that may require first aid.
Most outdoor pursuits like hiking require sustained activity over time. The tips given here are primarily to clarify concepts that should help plan diet and clothing for outdoors, and will use hiking only as an example to illustrate points. While Himalayan weather is cold at all times of the year, there can be cold weather conditions in the Sahyadri in winter as well as in the monsoon.
It is important for hikers to consider the various aspects regarding food intake and clothes-layers that are relevant to the hiking world, especially those who take on the role of ‘leaders’ and take novices on hikes: leaders have the responsibility of understanding the cause behind participants’ specific problems. Following are a few
guidelines on how these two factors (amongst many others!) can help a person stay strong, healthy and comfortable while hiking in any kind of weather condition; based on these guidelines one can take decisions for choosing one’s hiking diet and clothing.
Diet tips for food for hiking
Everything our bodies do – physical activity, digestion, breathing, etc. - depends on water. If we get dehydrated, functions in the body start getting affected. I was walking a Himalayan route once with a ‘local’. This person just refused to drink adequate quantities of water while the rest of us drank as required. Eventually, after about 15 days or so, while climbing off-trail up a steep slope, he started getting ‘stitches’ in his chest – a sure sign of extreme dehydration where the lubrication of the pleural lining gets affected. Sure enough, aggressive rehydration provided him relief.
A sure sign of onset of dehydration is yellow coloured urine. If not attended to, then the dehydration could start causing cramps, typically in leg muscles - by which time the dehydration state has advanced to levels necessitating first-aid.
It is good to have at least two litres of water in one’s rucksack while starting on a hike. Sipping water throughout the day is ideal for hikers (hence the growing popularity of ‘hydration packs’).
Hiking needs a lot of carbohydrates. While some ‘simple carbohydrate’ foods like sugars release energy ‘instantly’, this is of use only for a short time. So what one needs are complex carbohydrate foods like in wheat, rice and potato to carry out any sustained activity. It is no wonder that hikers typically eat breakfast-foods like upma, pohe or phodnicha bhaat! The sprinkling of dal and ground nuts (sheng-daane) adds to the share of proteins, while a liberal slice of fruit or chocolate drink helps in getting things started before the energy from the main breakfast food kicks in. It is recommended that as much as 70% of a hiker’s food in a day could be carbohydrates. At the end of a hiking day, a quick ‘dose’ of carbohydrates helps recovery and setting one up for the remaining chores of the day (like pitching tents, cooking dinner or even enjoying the location while taking photographs or birding).
Proteins help in muscle-repair. For example, those who end up with sore muscles should take extra helpings of proteins during dinner. Eating nuts, chikki, etc. periodically through the day is recommended. Sprouts (mode alele kad-dhaanya), pulses (dal), eggs, cheese and other milk products are typical examples of protein that hikers can pack in. These of course need to be taken with normal quantities of chapatti/roti and rice, along with servings of vegetables (fibre!).
Fats help in keeping warm, apart from their other benefits. In cold climates, it is recommended to include lot of fats during dinner. During sleep, the inactive body effectively digests fats (3-4 hrs.). So, on a Himalayan hike, if there is someone who has been ‘sleeping cold’, his/her comfort (i.e., warmth) can be dramatically increased by having that person eat extra fatty food during dinners. (Here it is assumed that the person is appropriately using his/her sleeping bag: see below). Butter, oil, eggs, cheese and other milk products are typical examples of foods that supply fats to our bodies.
‘Managing layers’ is all about helping one’s body retain or lose heat as necessary. For instance, one loses/gains a lot of heat through the head; so, after reaching camp in cold conditions, when one is hungry and tired, wearing a woolen/fleece cap makes a huge difference in terms of feeling warm. While today all-weather hiking T-shirts and trousers are easily available, the ‘layering guidelines’ advocate clothing made of synthetic material for cold weather conditions where one cannot afford to have sweaty clothes on which take a lot of time to dry, if at all. In warm weather, cotton works great and many people find this fabric more comfortable to wear.
Two sweaters of thickness ‘x’ each with a layer of air between them are better than one sweater of thickness ‘2x’, as air is a great insulator. Also, if two sweaters make one feel a bit too warm, one can remove one sweater and feel comfortable. The windcheater, the uppermost layer, does the work of forming a cocoon outside one’s body and trapping one’s body heat. Refer to the example stated at the beginning of the article – it is a crime to lose the heat that the body has manufactured! Similarly, appropriate use of sleeping bag prevents heat loss and ensures sound (and warm!) sleep. I am strongly reminded of what I had heard great sport psychologist Mr. Bhishmaraj Bam say in one of his lectures, ‘When you rest, rest with commitment’!
For outdoor persons, ‘wilderness first aid practices’ define onset of hypothermia as beginning with the first sign of shivering, which is ‘controllable shivering’. It is important to arrest further deterioration of this condition (from ‘mild signs and symptoms’ to ‘moderate s & s’, and, worse, to ‘severe s & s’).
Heat is lost through;
1. Conduction (direct contact, e.g., sitting on a cold rock)
2. Convection (e.g., breeze)
3. Radiation (spontaneous heat loss to a colder environment) 4. Evaporation (e.g., during breathing) Heat (for our context) is produced/gained by:
(Refer to http://www.survivaltopics.com/survival/how-body-heat-is-lost)
If one pays attention (‘listens’) to one’s body, one can generally get a good idea as to what is one going through, and then it becomes easy for one to take preventive action rather than get into situations that need first aid.
You could try the following links, with the caveat that a) these articles all refer to items from a foreign diet and b) you will have to connect specific sections and even sentences from the articles for gaining relevance and comprehensive picture.
This article was previously published in the souvenir ‘Sahyankan’ brought out by Chakram Hikers.