Outdoor Safety & Ethics

Year-round Safety

  • Please Be Safe Around the Water!
    • If you cannot swim, stay in very shallow water at the river's edge.
    • Always swim with a partner. Never swim alone.
    • Supervise children at all times in and near the water. Remember: there are no designated swimming areas or lifeguards in Los Padres National Forest.
    • Be aware of river hazards including deep pools, shallow areas, uneven footing, immersed objects such as rocks and vegetation, and strong currents.
    • Never swim after consuming alcohol or using drugs.
    • Do not use glass or other breakable containers in or near the water. · Never jump or dive into the water. The water may be shallower than it appears; there may be rocks or other hazards under the surface that you cannot see.
    • Do not slide down rocks into the water. You may lose control and be seriously injured.
    • Stay away from waterfalls. The rocks next to and under falls can be slippery and loose.
    • While rafting, tubing, kayaking, or engaging in other water craft activities always wear a life vest and a helmet.
  • Plan Ahead
    • Plan your trip from start to finish at home.
    • Use topographic map and trail guides.
    • Check elevations and total distance to be traveled.
    • Talk to people experienced in the area you will be visiting.
    • Allow plenty of time for moving over hilly, rugged terrain.
    • Carry a map and compass and know how to use them.
    • Leave your itinerary with a friend or relative. Include a full account of who is in your party, where you are going, when you will be back, where you will exit, and the approximate location of each overnight campsite.
    • Stick to the planned route.
  • Essentials : The following items should be taken on trips into the wildernesses and on day hikes.
    • Sturdy boots, warm jacket and extra clothing
    • Canteen and extra food
    • Whistle
    • Dark glasses, sunscreen and insect repellent
    • Pocket knife
    • Waterproof matches and candle for fire starter
    • First aid kit
    • Flashlight
    • Map and compass
    • Trowel for sanitation and fire
    • Toilet paper
  • Travel with a companion. You don't want to be by yourself in case of an emergency. Tell someone where and when you are going, when you expect to return, and how many individuals are in your party.
  • Be in good physical condition. Set a comfortable pace as you hike. A group trip should be designed for the weakest member of the group.
  • Think about your footing while traveling near cliffs. Trees and bushes can't always be trusted to hold you.
  • Stay on developed trails or dry, solid rock areas with good footing. Wear appropriate clothing for the trail conditions and season.
  • Check your equipment. Keep your equipment in good working order. Inspect it before your trip. Do not wait until you are at the trailhead.
  • Be weather wise. Keep an eye on current and predicted weather conditions. In this area, weather can change very quickly. Know the signs for approaching storms or changing weather conditions. Avoid bare ridge tops, exposed places, lone trees, streams, and rocks during lightning storms. Find shelter in a densely forested area at a lower elevation. Even in the summer, exposure to wind and rain can result in hypothermia. Expect the unexpected. Be prepared for extremes.
    • Lightning. Sudden, unexpected mountain storms are common during the summer, especially in the afternoons and evenings. When there is lightening activity, avoid open areas such as potreros, ridges and mountain tips. Stay away from isolated trees. Find safe shelter among dense, small trees at lower elevations, in a boulder field or a cave. If this is not possible, lie down flat on the ground. In all cases, remove metal frame backpacks and metal tent poles. Summer thunderstorms may cause lightning fires. Be on the lookout for smoke after a storm.
    • Stream Crossing. Don't underestimate the power of moving water. Stream crossings can be dangerous during periods of high runoff. Even when water levels are low, sure footing can be a problem on slippery moss and algae-covered rocks.
    • Winter Travel. Harsh winds, cold temperatures, rain and snow can quickly turn a pleasant outing into a tragedy. Knowledge of the area, weather and the limitations of your body and equipment are essential.
    • Hypothermia. The rapid loss of heat caused by fatigue, wetness and exposure to the wind if the number one killer of outdoor recreationists. It can happen at any time in the high country. Symptoms include shivering, slurred speech, memory lapse, fumbling hands lurching walk, drowsiness, and finally unconsciousness.
      Get the victim out of the wind and wet clothing. Restore body temperature by placing the victim in a dry sleeping bog. Skin to skin contact is the quickest way to restore temperature and should be used in extreme cases. If the victim is conscious, give him/her a warm drink and energy food.
  • Learn basic first aid so you will know how to identify and treat injuries and illnesses. Carry a first aid kit with you. Learn how to identify the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heat stroke, hypothermia, and dehydration, and know how to treat them.
  • Make camp before dark. Traveling after darkness has resulted in many accidents from falls, so travel only during daylight. Set up camp well away from the edge of cliffs, and learn the terrain during daylight. If you have to leave camp after dark, stay in areas you have seen in daylight, go with a friend, and always use a good flashlight.
  • Be alert for slippery areas and take your time to avoid tripping. Low-hanging branches and variable terrains make running unsafe, and leaves can hide slippery areas underneath.
  • Alcohol and cliffs don't mix! If you drink, stay away from the cliffs. Judgment, agility, and balance are all reduced by alcohol consumption.
  • Think before you drink! No matter how clean or pure stream water looks, it's likely to contain water-borne parasites and microorganisms that can cause discomfort and sometimes serious illness. Pack your water in, or purify through chemical treatment.
  • Getting Lost. If you are lost, take it easy and keep calm. Sit down and figure out where you are. Three of anything(shouts, whistles, gunshots) are a signal of distress.
  • Dehydration. Adults require two quarts of water daily and up to four quarts at high elevations. To avoid dehydration, simply drink liquids as often as you are thirsty. Water is scarce in many portions of the Forest, so make sure you take along enough water.
  • Drinking Water. Even though mountain water appears to be clear, cold an free-running, it should always be treated before drinking or cooking. The recommended way to purify water is to bring it to a rolling boil for at least five minutes.
  • Keep Water Clean. Use biodegradable soaps and keep wash water at least 200' from the water source.
    • Dispose of human waste properly.
    • Select a location 200' or more away from water.
    • Dig a hole 8' deep.
    • Cover wastes with loose soil then tamp in sod.
    • Dig one latrine, even if there are several in your group.
  • Snakes. Several species of snakes inhabit this area, however only rattlesnakes pose a threat. Although rarely encountered by visitors, they may appear any time. Be careful when hiking on rocks during the warmer months. Rocks are favorite places for rattlesnakes, providing them with a place to warm up in the sunshine and a quick retreat into the crevices. If you meet up with a "rattler", give it plenty of room and allow it to move out of your way.

  • Insects. Mosquitoes, ticks and deer flies are present and can be a nuisance. Ticks are known to transmit Lyme Disease and rocky mountain Spotted Fever. An insect repellent (with active ingredient DEET) is definitely a worthwhile addition to your pack.
  • Important Websites. Information on insect and rodent-borne diseases that might be in our local backcountry.
  • Mountain Lions - There have been recent sitings of mountain lions on Santa Barbara Front Country trails. Please familiarize yourself with these safety tips at the California Fish & Game site.
  • Bears. Many black bears make their home in the forest. They are most often found foraging for berries and tubers in riparian areas. During the fall they move up to the oak woodlands looking for acorns. Hungry bears will walk through camps and pick up packs and food bags, ripping them apart if they smell food. If the bears become accustomed to obtaining food from backpackers, they will develop a habit of approaching humans. In order to avoid confrontations, we urge the following steps.
    • Do not approach any bear, especially a cub. Do not feed bears or try to retrieve food from them.
    • Keep your camp clean and and counterbalance everything that has an odor, including soap, toothpaste and freeze-dried food
    • Leave packs empty on the ground with all zippers and flaps open so that visiting bears can nose through them without doing any damage.
    • If a bear approaches your camp, make noise to try to scare the bear away. If the bear does not retreat, you should.
    • Pack out any trash. Never bury it. Bears will dig up trash, including empty cans.
    • Report any bear damage to the Ranger.

    Winter Safety

    • Call before your trip to obtain current road and snow conditions. Call Caltrans at (800) 427-7623 or visit their website http://www.dot.ca.gov/hq/roadinfo/hi.htm for conditions.
    • Leave your itinerary with a friend or family member. Don't travel alone. Take a good map.
    • Wear layered clothing, gloves, a warm hat and footwear suited to wet and rugged terrain.
    • Carry blankets, dry clothing, extra food and water, a flashlight, first aid kit, matches and a shovel in the trunk of your car.
    • Make sure your tire chains fit properly and that you know how to install them. Make sure your wiper blades work. Fill up the gas tank.
    • Watch for heavy, slow-moving traffic. Don't pass cars except in passing lanes. Always park off of the traveled portion of the road where you are not blocking traffic or other roadways.
    • Watch for ice on the road, particularly in late afternoon shadows. Beware of "black ice" - pavement that looks clear but is glazed over with ice.
    • Be careful when hiking or walking in snow and icy areas. Watch your footing.
    • When sledding or tubing, be sure you have a safe place to stop with plenty of distance between you and trees, parked cars and other people.
    • If you become lost or injured, stay calm and dry, and shelter yourself from the elements if you can. Do not wander from your planned route. Use your cell phone to call 911, but don't rely on your cell phone to summon help. Cell phones don't work in many areas of the forest.

    Other tips for snow play :

    • There is a lot of private land inside Los Padres National Forest in the Mt. Pinos Ranger District near the communities of Lebec, Frazier Park, Lake-of-the-Woods, Pinyon Pines and Pine Mountain Club. Respect private property. Do not park your vehicle or play on private property.
    • Figueroa Mountain has less private land, but respect the private land that is in the area.
    • Use the trash receptacles provided; better yet, take your trash home with you.
    • Be sure to display your National Forest Adventure Pass, Golden Eagle Pass, Golden Age Pass, or Golden Access Pass on your vehicle if you are parked within the national forest while recreating. This applies for all types of recreating, both summer and winter.




https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/lpnf/learning/safety-ethics/?cid=STELPRDB5097674