Recreational Activities Safety Tips

Recreational Activities Safety Tips

Have a pleasant stay on the Sawtooth National Forest, but always consider the hazards. Be prepared for unexpected weather changes or medical emergencies, especially if recreating during the winter or in the backcountry.

Prepare for Safety

Before you leave, notify a responsible person of your planned route of travel, and time of departure and return. Be sure to check with that person when you return.

Clothing & Equipment


Layers of clothing, which can be adjusted to prevailing conditions, are best. A good quality windbreaker jacket and wind pants are excellent. Avoid tight-fitting clothes and boots which may restrict circulation. Take extra socks, gloves or mittens, warm cap, extra sweater, matches in a water proof container, candle, firestarter (000 steel wool works well when pulled apart), a light-weight aluminum stove, nylon cord, general purpose knife, head lamp, high-energy food, space blanket, first-aid kit, wide tape for repairs, small metal container for melting snow, insulated water bottle, map, compass, light shovel, and avalanche transceiver if in avalanche terrain.

Snowmobilers should carry tools for emergency repairs, including: extra spark plugs, extra gas, emergency flares, and drive belt. Experienced snowmobilers also carry snowshoes (in case of machine failure), as well as the normal emergency and survival gear for winter.


Food & Water

A good rule is "lightweight but loaded", meaning loaded with calories. Plan your meals to ensure a diet of high-energy foods.

Water is often difficult to find in winter. The only water available to you may be what you carry in containers or melt from snow. Under exertion, the body loses as much as 2 to 4 quarts of fluid per day. Body fluid must be replaced to maintain good physical condition. Eating snow provides only limited water (10-20 percent); it also drains energy and cools the body temperature. The best method to melt snow is on a small , lightweight backpacking stove, not by body contact. Save your energy.

Can I Drink the Water?

The answer to this question is an emphatic yes - and no. No matter how clear or pure the water may look, it's a good idea to purify all unprotected water. Water-borne parasites, including Giardia Lambia, have been found in Sawtooth National Forest water. Purification methods include chemical treatment, filtration, and boiling.

Fish, clean water and soap (even biodegradable ones) don't mix. Wash your dishes - and yourself - 200 feet from the water source.


At rest, an adult requires 2 quarts of water daily; and, up to 4 quarts of water are required for strenuous activity. Stamina decreases up to 25 percent when an adult loses 1 1/2 quarts of water. Avoid dehydration -- simply drink as often as you feel thirsty.

Hypothermia Myths

In the past hypothermia was referred to as "freezing to death" or simply "exposure". This is misleading because many cases of hypothermia occur during the summer at
temperatures well above freezing.

What is Hypothermia?

It is lowering the inner core temperature of the body. If uncorrected, the victim can die within a few hours. During the summer, it most frequently strikes fatigued people who get wet and then are exposed to the wind. As air blows over the body, it removes heat very quickly, especially if the body is wet. As the body temperature decreases, even a few degrees, it is undergoing hypothermia. If this continues, cold will reach the brain, depriving the victim of judgment and reasoning power.

Initial Symptoms:

  • Shivering
  • Lack of Coordination
  • Fatigue

Advanced Symptoms:

  • Incoherence
  • Listlessness
  • Hallucinations
  • Decreased Shivering
  • Unconsciousness

If you detect or suspect hypothermia in yourself or others take immediate steps to restore normal body temperature:

  • Get the victim out of the wind and rain.
  • Remove wet clothing and replace it with dry garments.
  • Keep the victim dry.
  • If the victim is conscious, give warm drinks and high energy foods.
  • In advanced cases, warm the victim yourself by skin-to-skin contact inside a sleeping bag to retain heat. Victims of hypothermia cannot produce enough heat of their own.

Prevention is the best cure

  • Avoid getting wet
  • Beware of the wind
  • Dress warmly
  • Cotton next to the skin may keep the body damp
  • Wool clothing will insulate even when wet

If you encounter foul weather

  •  Start a warming fire
  • Set up camp as soon as possible (while you still have an energy reserve)
  • Stay put

Even mild hypothermia symptoms demand immediate treatment!


Frostbite is caused by exposing inadequately protected flesh to subfreezing temperatures. Tissue damage results from reduced blood flow to the extremities, as opposed to hypothermia, which causes lowering of the body's rate of metabolism.

  • Symptoms - Loss of feeling and a dead white appearance.
  • Treatment - Restore body temperature as quickly as possible, preferably by immersion in a water bath of less than 110 degrees temperature. If it is necessary to continue travel, the affected area should be covered and the victim moved immediately to a location where treatment and evacuation can be obtained.
  • Prevention - Party members should periodically check their companions, especially the nose and cheeks, for signs of frostbite. Snowmobilers, due to their speed of travel, are particularly susceptible to frostbite.

Altitude sickness

At 10,000 feet, air contains only two-thirds of the volume of oxygen that it contains at sea level. In addition, the higher air pressure at sea level easily forces available oxygen through the thin lining of the lungs into the bloodstream. At higher elevations, there is less air pressure and the available oxygen is not so easily forced through the lung walls.

  • Symptoms - Listlessness, loss of appetite, weakness, apathy, nausea, dizziness, and drowsiness.
  • Treatment - Stop and rest, breath deeply a few times. Obtain nourishment from simple sugar, like candy or fruit juices. Travel to lower elevations.
  • Prevention - Keep in good physical condition and eat a well-balanced diet. Avoid sudden trips to high altitudes which involve immediate physical exercise.


The reaction to altitude is caused by too rapid breathing and a decrease of the carbon dioxide level in the blood.

  • Symptoms - Lightheadedness and feeling cold. Victims may be apprehensive and excitable.
  • Treatment - Calm the victim. Have him/her relax and breathe into a glove, bag or hat, until normal breathing is restored.
  • Prevention - Same as altitude sickness.

Avalanche Survival

If You Are Caught in an Avalanche

  • Discard all equipment, except your day pack.
  • Get away from your snowmobile.
  • Make swimming motions, try to stay on top and work your way to the side of the avalanche.
  • Before coming to a stop, put your hands in front of your face and try to make an air space in the snow.
  • Try to remain calm.

If You Are A Survivor

  • Check the safety of other surviving party members.
  • Ensure that it is safe to travel onto the avalanche debris.
  • Mark the place where you last saw the victims.
  • Search for victims directly down slope below the last seen point. If they aren't on the surface, scuff or probe the snow with a pole or stick (after locating them with an avalanche beacon).
  • REMEMBER -- YOU are the victim's best hope for survival.
  • Do not desert victims and go for help, unless help is only a few minutes away. After 30 minutes, the victim has only a 50% chance of surviving.

If There is More Than One Survivor

  • Once you recover all victims, send one person for help, and have them mark the route so a rescue party can follow it back.
  • Contact the ski patrol, the local sheriff, or Forest Service personnel.
  • Administer first aid.
  • Treat for suffocation and shock.


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