How to stay safe when you’re cash-strapped


My fiancé and I are currently in the market for a satellite phone. We’re also planning a wedding. What do the two have to do with each other? Well, when we looked at the price of a Sat phone – and then our wedding expense spreadsheet – we realised that we can’t currently afford safety measures. . . or can we?

If you regularly spend time hiking, biking or camping off the beaten track, it pays to put precautions in place to protect yourself. If your budget doesn’t stretch to a backpack of James Bond gadgets, here are some shoestring strategies to keep you safer. . .even when you’re cash strapped.

Emergency Foil Blanket(s)

Also known as ‘space blankets’, you can buy these for less than a $5 on Ebay. There is really no downside to buying them in bulk as they’re super lightweight, don’t have a use-by-date and can save you from exposure or shock by regulating your body temperature. They can also be fashioned into a very cool skirt (#fashionicon) with just a safety pin, as I discovered when we got caught in a rainstorm at the top of a volcano in Costa Rica and I didn’t have any spare pants to change into.

Electrolytes

We all know the dangers of dehydration, which is why we always carry electrolytes. Okay, you can make your own electrolyte drinks (salt + citrus) but on a long hike I’m often grateful for the sugary taste of the commercial variety. Hydrolyte and Nuun are my personal favourites, because their tablets come in waterproof tubes which can easily be slipped down the side of a backpack. They also compliment (kind of) the taste of iodine tablets if you’re mixing them together in a CamelBak bladder. I call it an Outback Cocktail.

Paracord

My partner Kurt has an entire Pinterest board dedicated to cool things you can do with Paracord (sorry babe, was I not meant to tell people?) The lightweight rope, made from braided nylon and Kernmantle was originally used in the suspension lines of parachutes and was even used by astronauts to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. The list of how it can help hikers is endless, from repairing backpacks to splinting broken leg. Here’s a list of 101 other uses (really!) I laugh when my girlfriends compliment my Paracord bracelet. It’s not just an eye-catching accessory. . . it could be a life saver!

A fire starter

It’s vital to carry some way of starting a fire, whether it’s a flint, a lighter or a box of matches stored in a dry bag. When I quizzed Kurt about which he would recommend he had this advice. ‘Ideally a flint because it will still work if it gets wet BUT there’s no point carrying a flint if you aren’t confident using it.’ This is true of any safety equipment. I carry a ‘snake bandage’ in my first aid kit, but I only recently realised that if I was bitten by a snake I’d have no idea how to position it (bandage upwards from the lower portion of the bite, according to this tutorial). It might sound obvious but buying a piece of safety gear isn’t enough if you don’t know how to use it. The same applies to a compass. . .

Smartphone apps

There are now smartphone apps, like LocaToWeb, which will periodically send your GPS location to selected family or friends either through emails, tweets, or text messages. The downside is, unlike a satellite phone, it only works when you’re within cell signal. But, at least it will give your loved ones a starting point if you do go AWOL. Another useful app is FiresNearMe, which alerts bushwalkers in NSW to fire dangers in certain areas.

If you do have an iPhone, update the medical information feature. This means that without unlocking your phone, someone can access your emergency contact details and find information about your allergies or medical conditions. You can also list your blood type and whether you’re an organ donor.

Borrow until you can buy. . .

Hikers in the Blue Mountains can borrow a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), as part of the safety initiative Think Before You Trek, which is a joint project by the NSW Police Force and the National Parks and Wildlife Service. PLB’s can be loaned from Springwood and Katoomba Police Stations and Blackheath NPWS office (more information here). Hopefully more National Park will offer such loans in the future. As for us, a Spot Tracker and Sat Phone is at the top of our shopping list – after a wedding dress. . .