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Backwoods Lessons: Hunger Games Edition

Catching Fire, the second installment of The Hunger Games films, is going gangbusters in theaters this weekend.

My friend Jessi and me dressed up for the premier.

To some, the series is a fun action adventure, and for others it’s an important commentary on totalitarianism.

For everyone, the series can teach important lessons about safety in the backwoods, so let’s take this opportunity to discuss the wisdom it offers.

Keep Your Water Bottles Filled.

I harp on this one a lot, but Katniss would agree that it’s absolutely essential.

Water is the most important resource you can possibly bring with you in the backwoods. Every time you pass a natural source and don’t refill your bottles (using proper purification techniques), you may be endangering yourself.

This is especially true in arid places, like West Texas, or in places where the heat is extreme. You know… like West Texas.

Dehydration can sneak up on you quickly, no matter where you are, so don’t give it the chance.

Beyond water, food, protective clothing, and shelter, the other must-bring item is a first aid kit. Unfortunately, no parachutes will fall from the sky should you need Advil or a bandage, so take what you might need with you.

Know Local Threats and How to Respond to Them.

Katniss responds to the various threats within the Games in different ways, and this is part of what helps her survive.

In the same way, when we venture into the woods, we must know what methods to use when defending ourselves against the different animals that might see us as prey. Surviving an encounter with an angry bear requires different tactics than one with a mountain lion or rattlesnake. Know what dangerous wildlife is in your area, and learn how to avoid actions that may turn a scary situation into a deadly one.

Be a Good Neighbor.

Katniss is wary of dangers, but she makes friendships that count.

While ensuring you respect others’ privacy, greet the people you meet on the trail or in campgrounds. Don’t be embarrassed to ask them for assistance if you need it. Fellow campers are a nice bunch, and they want to be helpful.

Some time ago, my friend and I were camping at Texas’ Pedernales Falls State Park. We were miles from the car and all set up for the night. It was right when we were getting ready to cook dinner that we discovered our fuel canister was faulty and we had no way to heat our food. We asked the folks at the next site over if they could boil us some water, and they generously obliged.

A year or two later, it was my turn to pay it forward by giving my extra ice to a stranger who was car camping a few sites down.

Don’t Go Alone.

Whether you think Katniss should fully cast her romantic attention on Gale or Peeta, she’s wise to never go into a potentially dangerous situation alone.

Unless you’re a seasoned camper, always take someone with you, and make sure family and friends back home know where you’ll be and how long you’ll be gone.

If there’s a logbook at the trailhead, sign it so the rangers will know when you were last there. Should anything adverse happen, you’ll want someone there with you — and you’ll want someone with telephone and internet access to be able to alert authorities if you’re very late in returning.

Know When to Back Down.

Just as Katniss avoids making a break for the cornucopia at the very start of the 74th Hunger Games, make sure you know when you should and should not take the trail ahead of you.

If the weather is bad, for instance, if the hour is too late, or if you are already exhausted, it’s best to play it safe and enjoy your time at the campsite instead of needlessly endangering yourself.

Most trail guides recommend starting the hike to the 14,259 foot summit of Longs Peak hike at Rocky Mountain National Park by no later than three o’clock in the morning to ensure you’re back below the tree line by the time thunderstorms often hit. Talk to rangers wherever you are mountaineering to get tips on how to make your time in the outdoors as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Know When to Stand Out.

Just as Katniss uses synthetic flames on her clothes to draw attention to herself when it counts, cause a scene if you need help.

Wear visible, bright colors not found in nature, and carry a reflective emergency blanket should you need to be seen from the air. They’re super lightweight and a literal lifesaver in certain situations.

Do you have more tips that can be learned from The Hunger Games? Let me know in the comments!

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