Survival tips and tools to help you master your next outdoor adventure

I can still hear it now … the sounds of my family preparing for our annual camping trip. There’s the silky rustle of fabric as I excitedly shove my sleeping bag into its sac … the click-clack of tent poles as my mom looks over our equipment … and the warning in my dad’s voice. “Always remember the 6 P’s - prior proper planning prevents poor performance.”

As an adult, I try to keep this simple, catchy reminder in mind as I prepare for all my hiking, biking and paddling trips in the Raystown Lake Region. Accidents happen, but our preparedness and response to an emergency is entirely within our control and can be the difference that prevents an accident from becoming a tragedy.


There is a reason that “Plan Ahead and Prepare” is the first “Leave No Trace” outdoor ethic. Having inadequate gear and zero knowledge of the area you’re traveling in and around may put yourself and others at risk. Take the time to plan so you can have a safe and enjoyable trip.

Knowledge is power - Prior to arrival, consider purchasing a map and call ahead to chat with land managers in the area you’re visiting. Park rangers love to talk and are available to answer your questions with as much detail as possible. 

For example you may ask, “Do you permit dispersed camping at your park?” At Raystown, the answer is no; camping is only permitted in campgrounds.

Tell someone - Be sure to share your hiking/biking itinerary or paddling “float plan” with a family member or friend who can call for help if you don’t return on time. In this plan, include your route, timeline and emergency contact information for each group member.

Have no fear. Pack the right gear - Equipping yourself with the right gear can make the difference between an enjoyable experience and an unpleasant - or even disastrous - one. Dressing WISE and researching the equipment you need for your activity of choice is essential to accident prevention. It will also help make you feel more confident. 

Know your group - There is safety and strength in numbers. Travel with at least one other person and familiarize yourself with your group’s ability and comfort level before choosing where you will go and what you will do.


Dressing WISE is useful for any outdoor activity year-round (especially in cooler months), so consider using the following acronym to help guide your clothing selection for your next adventure: 

Wicking - First, wear a next-to-skin base layer that is moisture-wicking and well-fitting, made of synthetic material like polyester, rayon or silk. 

Insulating - Next, wear an insulating layer made of fleece, wool or down material. In general, the thicker the insulating layer, the warmer it will be.

Shell - Then, wear an outer layer that protects you from wind and rain. Depending on conditions, this may include a light windbreaker, a water-resistant soft shell, or a waterproof shell made of a synthetic waterproof fabric permeable to air and water vapor, such as Gore-Tex. 

Extra - Finally, carry an extra layer in the event of an emergency, changing weather or an unexpected night out. This can include an extra jacket and pants, gloves, a blaze orange hat or vest, etc. carried in your pack.

Pro Tip: There is a saying in the outdoor industry that, “Cotton is rotten!” Cotton holds in moisture, so it may be OK for warmer days when you want to stay cool (due to its breath-ability) but is not ideal for cooler days or for activities like paddling when you want to stay dry. 


Consider the following list of basic essential gear that you should take with you on any outdoor adventure: Water/snacks, cell phone with protective case (a sealable plastic bag works fine in most cases), waterproof map, sunglasses, sunscreen (SPF 30 minimum), insect repellent, lip balm (SPF 15), biodegradable toilet paper and a pocket shovel (only in remote environments where bathrooms are not available. Remember to dig your cathole at least 6-8” deep!), headlamp and extra batteries (headlamps preferable over flashlights, so you can be hands-free), quick-dry travel towel, first-aid kit (e.g., and basic survival kit. 

Basic survival kit - All of these items can fit into a 5”x7” waterproof case: Multitool, water purification system (such as Life Straw), fire-starting equipment (lighter, flint, matches), signaling items (mirror, magnifying glass), shelter items - para cord (200 ft.), tarp/foil blanket, garbage bag.

Stand-up paddle boarding at Seven Points Recreation Area
Stand-up paddle boarding at Seven Points Recreation Area

Besides the universal gear listed above, here is a list of some specific items you should take with you on paddling trips:

Essential - Boat, paddle, life jacket, map, whistle. Many states require you to carry a whistle. Whistles can be used to signal for help or to communicate with a partner out of range. 

Optional, but important - Throw bag (Rope can be just as dangerous as it is helpful in the water, so practice throwing a rope bag to be prepared when the time comes.), bilge pump or large sponge, dry bag, wet suit and spray skirt (for cold water/weather or fast-moving water). 

Pro tip: Always wear your life jacket when paddling. Most drownings happen fast. Many adults drown in less than a minute and children in less than 30 seconds. Victims usually can’t make noise when they’re in trouble. Learn the signs of drowning:


Besides the universal gear listed earlier, here is a list of some specific items you should take with you on biking trips:

Essential - Bike, helmet, trail map, core repair gear, spare tube(s) and/or patch kit, compact pump, tire levers, cycling multitool (with Allen wrenches), chain tool and replacement links. 

Optional, but important - Gloves, saddle or handlebar bag, bike lock, headlight/taillight, blaze orange vest/helmet cover (for hunting seasons). 

Pro Tip: Have you ever noticed the double letter markers (e.g. CE, BG) posted at every trail and road intersection on the Allegrippis Trails? These markers provide emergency personnel a more specific location to find injured individuals. The trail maps at the Raystown Reflections Gift Shoppe detail these markers.