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2019 VAEC Conference Recap

March 8, 2019

Written by Linda Galvez

Last month, I had the privilege along with some of our staff to attend the 5th annual Virginia Adventure Education Conference in Fincastle, VA. This conference brings together Virginia’s outdoor educators, collegiate programs, guides, and leaders to network and discuss industry trends. The conference also provides opportunities for students from Virginia’s college adventure and outdoor recreation programs to present new group development ideas, techniques in outdoor photography/videography and a great networking event for future careers.

Though I attended several sessions throughout the day, I was most intrigued by the speaker Lester Zook from WILDGUYde Adventures.  During, “Seven Things Leaders Never Want to Hear Themselves Say in the Outdoors”, Lester spoke on the verbal traps that leaders can find themselves in while in the backcountry.  I was hesitant to even go to this workshop, as I have never been in the backcountry or led a trip on my own.  Though, after the session, I was glad I went!

At the start, we were all given a sheet of paper with the 10 statements. “Hurry up!”, “I’ve done this (trip, skill) so many times, I could do it blindfolded!” and “Why would we change a perfectly good plan just because conditions are a little different than we thought?” were just a few decrees that made the list.  I was easily able to apply these statements and the following discussion to my current position in the department and my personal life as well.

I learned 5 key lessons from this workshop:

  1. When we present mixed messages (words v. actions) people will believe our actions first.
  2. Human behaviors and words impact risk. The outdoors are not dangerous – people are.
  3. There is rarely a need to rush in the outdoors.
  4. Training people to do the same thing, the same way every time leads to mindlessness. Training people to see the end result and find their own way of getting there leads to mindfulness.
  5. Be humble and be flexible in leadership.

I am a planner. Through and through, I love to make list, schedules, timelines, etc. I also love to find the “best way” (my way) to do something and think it’s the only way or the “right way”. Listening to Mr. Zook present these points helped me realize a plan is our best attempt to predict circumstances and design an approach. A leader who is flexible, humble, and not stuck to their plan, is a leader who can reevaluate and mend their plan as needed.  This leader is stronger and can better manage any type of team or situation.

One of the last quotes Mr. Zook left us with summarized his whole workshop.  “A rigid person is a lover of death, a soft and subtle, a lover of life.” It sounds pretty strong, but I think it is a valuable piece of advice.  In the Bible, King Solomon also understood how easily we as humans can be consumed by our plans to the point where we are no longer rational or flexible: “The prudent see danger and take refuge but the simple keep going, and pay the penalty.” (Proverbs 27:12, NIV)

The conference overall was great and exceeded my expectations. I learned a lot and spoke to some very passionate and all around “cool” people from the industry. Next year’s conference will be hosted at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia on February 28th. I encourage anyone who loves the outdoors and is seeking a career in it to attend!  I assure you it will be worth it!

Falling into rivers

November 9, 2018

Written by: Danielle Ledgerwood

One of the great things about working in the outdoors is that I learn so many lessons that I can apply to other areas of my life. Lately, I’ve been noticing a trend in my experiences that didn’t seem to mean much in the moment, but looking back now, I realize that it’s taught me a few things.

It started this summer, when a few of our managers took a scouting trip down a river we had never been before. We went to the Maury River in Lexington, a designated class I section through a wooded area that was supposedly a very peaceful paddle. The four of us were about 9/10 of the way down our section of river when suddenly, the bottom of my kayak skidded over a rock and tipped me right into the river. Given my experience paddling, I had been pretty confident that a class I river trip was not going to result in my body submerged in water, so I had kept my phone in the pocket of my PFD. It’s an iPhone 6, with no Lifeproof case, and no plastic bag to keep the water out, so needless to say a 5 lb. bag of rice could not resurrect it. It was toast.

Moving ahead to our fall break fly fishing trip, where we were wading almost up to our waists to catch trout in the fast-flowing Jackson River. I had finally reeled in a fish after several hours on the river, and I wanted a photo to prove it. I clumsily dropped my phone (in a plastic bag this time) as I was trying to take a picture, and in a purely instinctual reaction, I collapsed onto the river bottom to grab it, dropping the fish and bruising my knees.  No picture of my hard-earned catch.

Fast forward further to our whitewater rafting trip a couple weeks ago on the Gauley River in West Virginia. These rapids are high class IV, almost class V, and it had been raining a lot due to Hurricane Michael, so the water was moving quickly. Our raft flipped all six of us into one of the largest rapids on the river. We were underwater for what felt like forever, stuck underneath our own raft going through the rapid. When I finally came up for air, I was shaking. I had never swam such huge water before, and it made me hesitate to even get back in the boat.

To sum all that up, I feel like I’ve been falling into rivers a lot lately. Maybe you feel like that too. Maybe you’re not literally submerged in water, but maybe life hasn’t been exactly going your way lately, or it seems like there’s a reoccurring theme of things not going according to plan. But that’s okay! Take what I’ve learned and apply it to your life:

  • Get back in the boat. You can’t quit when something knocks you down. You can’t give up because you failed the first time. You can’t let one bad experience ruin a lifetime of good ones.
  • Learn from your mistakes. They can be turned into lessons, and you’ll be less likely to repeat them.
  • The river will keep moving. Just like your life. If you feel embarrassed, time will pass and it will fade. People will forget. The only thing that will keep you stuck in your past is you, and you’re ever going to get anywhere, you’ve got to start by moving forward.

When plans go awry…

October 3, 2018

Written by: Hunter Steadman

Being an employee of the Outdoor Rec department at Liberty has continued to expand my love for the outdoors as well as my knowledge of outdoor related topics. I have even acquired certifications in things I knew little to nothing about just a few years ago such as swift water rescue and challenge course facilitation. However, the best piece of knowledge I’ve gained since beginning my time here would undoubtedly be the 4 E’s of decision making.

  1. Environment
  2. Element
  3. Experience
  4. Equipment

The 4 E’s are kind of like a checklist of things to think through before making a decision.  By using the 4 E’s you should be able to make sound decisions regarding the planning and execution of any trip you may be taking. This helps us here at outdoor recreation throughout the process of planning trips, executing trips, as well as making changes of the plan “on the fly” when needed.

I use the E’s to plan and prepare for my own trips. Though, I remember an experience that was definitely an example where I could have planned and prepared a little more than I did…

In December of 2016. My best friend Jordan and I were planning a backpacking trip along the Three Ridges Loop on the Appalachian trail, southwest of Charlottesville. The loop is one of Virginia’s most popular backpacking trails and a beautiful hiking route.

As we began planning our trip, we first looked to the Environment. When we talk about the environment, we are speaking to the things that are out of our own control. Some examples would be the weather or topography. The weather looked relatively mild for being the dead of winter, with highs in the mid to upper 40’s and lows in the mid 20’s at night. There was a very small chance of light rain/sleet in the area but nothing that we couldn’t handle. We also knew that there would be some snow on the mountain from weeks prior but nothing deep enough to be concerning.

Next, we thought through the Element itself. Element is the actual thing you are doing. Hiking, mountain biking, fishing etc. Some questions to ask yourself at this point would be what is the activity and where will it be taking place? The Element of our trip was that it was an overnight backpacking trip, easy enough.  Based on the current weather conditions as well as our individual levels of Experience we felt like we would do just fine.  Knowing the experience of the members in the group is our third “E” as we make planning decisions.  Everyone has varying levels of experience in different elements and you have to consider this when planning a trip.

After deciding that the environment, element, and experience were sound for the weekend, we began to look at our Equipment.  This is the stage where packing properly is key. Will the equipment you have get you through the element? Things to think about packing here could include adequate amounts of food and water and extra supplies.  Knowing that the temperature would be relatively cold, especially at night, we packed multiple layers of well-insulated clothing. For myself, I brought a down jacket as well as a fleece pullover to wear overtop of a thin merino wool shirt. Layering would allow me to be as warm as I needed to be either I was hiking at noon or hanging by camp at night. I also always bring a rain jacket with me, obviously to stay dry but it also works great as a windbreaker. A warm hat, wool socks, waterproof boots, gloves also found their way into my pack.  After preparing, we set out on the trip.

Once we started hiking the weather seemed perfect, everything was going according to plan. Because we layered well we could easily take off and put on clothes, as we needed. We hiked for about seven and a half hours on the first day and set up camp up on a ridge. Once it started to get dark the temperature began to drop rapidly, we failed to account for rapid weather changes that can occur at a higher elevation. It actually began to precipitate a wintery mix of snow and sleet, which made making a fire nearly impossible. Therefore, dinner consisted of rock hard cliff bars that had all but frozen solid in our packs. We bundled up for a very cold and sleepless night.

The following day came early and we were eager to get moving and get off the windy ridge. About 3 hours into the hike, we ran out of water and realized there were not many streams along the second half of the route. The last four-ish hours became brutal, with major elevation gain/loss and no water.  We were spent. When we finally reached the car, we headed into the closest town for some much-needed pizza. It was there that we talked about the trip and kind of “debriefed” the trip. Ultimately concluding that we could have…probably…maybe been a little better at planning and preparing.

Don’t make the mistakes that we made.  Use these 4’E’s to thoroughly plan out your trips, think through as many scenarios as you can, and do your best to prepare for the unknown. 

Stay safe in the woods!

Preparing for Failure

September 6, 2018

Written by: Joe Frey

Working as an outdoor professional, I have learned a lot.  I’ve attended several training and received certifications to keep myself and the people I interact with safe in the outdoors.  There are certain precautions that I take before going on any type of adventure and certain equipment that I always like to have with me.  As I continue to accumulate all of this information, I often am concerned about the dangers of being ill-prepared.  I realize that other outdoor adventurists may have no clue about the precautions and equipment that they need to stay safe on a simple hike or excursion.

We all seem to love the idea of adventure, but often ignore the risks that go along with it. Though we have all heard of disastrous and heartbreaking stories that have happened in the outdoors, we still don’t think to take the necessary precautions.  I think that we all need to be learning strategies and taking steps to promote safety in the wilderness.

In my experience, the most important strategy to avoid disaster is the idea of a “float plan.” The float plan is nautical terminology for writing down your trip details before departing.  This includes the destination, number of people going with you, time leaving, time coming back, and any other possible problems (cell coverage, high water, darkness).  The original purpose of the float plan was to keep captains and their crews safe, but I think we should apply the concept of a float plan to our everyday adventures.

For me, whether I’m hiking, camping, or just headed downtown, I tell someone where I will be going and what time I plan to be back.  Along with this, if I am going somewhere or doing something with more risk (water activities, dangerous hikes, extending hiking trips) I will set a time that I need to check-in with that person.  While this may sound like a hassle it can be extremely helpful in the event that something does go wrong.  Mother Nature is powerful and we never know when tragedy may strike.  I encourage everyone to get a “buddy” or a couple “buddies” to contact when going on your next adventure so that you too can prepare for the unprepared failure.

Stay safe!

*While the main focus for this post is not gear, check out REI’s Day Hiking Checklist, which can be a great tool for any type of adventure, not just hiking.

*Also a great resource, this is an article written by a retired U.S. Coast Guard maritime incident investigator, bringing perspective to the idea of a float plan and communicating that plan.

*Also, if you have not heard the tale of Aron Ralston, be sure to read about his near-death experience in a Utah canyon.  Aron feels that his lack of communication was “one of the greatest mistakes I’ve made in my outdoor career”.

Summer Hiking

June 21, 2018

Written by: Linda Galvez

Summer is by far one of my most favorite times of the year and there is nothing quite like a Virginian summer-time hike. There are several hiking trails within an hour of Lynchburg including Cole Mountain, Humpback Rock, Spy Rock and many others, we really are located in a great section of the Blue Ridge Mountains! This summer the Outdoor Rec department did not waste any time in scouting and planning new trips to these areas. One trip that stood out to me was a day-trip to the Moorman’s River.

The trip started off great, Lynchburg had just gone through several days of non-stop rain and we were excited to get outside. We started our hike from the second parking lot just beyond the Sugar Hollow Reservoir where the yellow-blazed trail begins. We came to the first crossing and it was completely flooded with what looked like class 3 rapids! We took a few minutes to assess the situation and after deciding we did not have the proper gear or experience to cross, we turned around and headed back to the parking lot.
We didn’t want to waste a beautiful day so we researched other hiking options that were nearby and wouldn’t take too long to complete. We headed 20 minutes west to Humpback Rocks near Afton Mountain. We chose the 1-mile loop as we were pressed for time and it sounded easy, but quickly learned it was a difficult 800ft ascent to the top! There were several park benches scattered at the beginning if you need to rest, but those seem to disappear once you begin the final half-mile ascent.  The trail was rocky at times, but there were wooden and rock steps for the more difficult parts. As it had been raining, the path was slippery and muddy so be sure to watch your footing if you head out after recent rainfall. Once at the top, we had great views of the Shenandoah Valley to the west and the Shenandoah National Park to the north.

From the top, the view is truly breath-taking. I found myself a little nervous, but with the help of our staff, I felt a lot more secure to take the memorable picture.

Here are just a few reminders for you while kicking new trails off your summer check-list:

  • Be sure to take a few friends that have hiking experience even if it’s a new hike to the whole group. This was my first hike to Humpback rocks and I felt encouraged by going with experienced hikers as company and they were able to lend a hand if something happened.
  • Pack a lunch, extra snacks and plenty of water!  You never know if that short day-hike may turn into something more extended or rigorous.
  • Disconnect from your phones for a few hours to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation.  It can be all too easy to “miss the moment” if you have music playing or are taking breaks to update your status.
  • If you are ever in a situation where you begin to doubt or hesitate your abilities, it is probably best and safer to just turn around and find another hike. Virginia has so many options, so be ready with a backup trip in case of bad weather or if you encounter problems. If all else fails, take a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and stop at a pull-off for lunch!

Winter Camping

February 1, 2018

Written by: Jordan Tatro

Our cold Virginia winters don’t have to limit the fun you can have in the outdoors! The same beautiful picturesque landscapes you have enjoyed in the warm months are just as alluring in the winter, especially when snow is involved. Not only is it still beautiful, but some of your favorite spots will be void of people and bugs.

If you are an experienced camper, or new to the game, winter camping can be a rewarding and fun experience. All you have to do is plan and prepare properly, and you will be set for a great adventure.

Here are some tips and tricks to make your winter excursions enjoyable and safe!


  • Go with a group of friends, preferably someone who has experience with winter camping.


  • Share exact locations, and contact times with a responsible friend.


  • Study the area and the route you will be taking, come talk to us if you want advice!


  • Think wool, synthetic, down, and Gore-Tex fabrics! Make sure your outer layer is not flammable so you can stand near the fire.


  • Bring a sleeping bag that is rated 10 degrees lower than the coldest temperature you will face
  • It is wise to use two sleeping pads during the winter, the higher the “R” value of sleeping pad, the better it insulates.

Decision Making

July 21, 2017

Written By: Chris Marvel

This year has been an eye-opening one for me in my professional career. After spending the last seven seasons in agriculture, this past January I was fortunate enough to be welcomed into the Liberty University Outdoor Rec department. It has been a non-stop learning experience from the beginning. I have been acquiring and developing countless skills such as challenge course facilitation and river rescue techniques. Though one of the most important skills that I am continuing to develop is my ability to analyze and prepare for unpredictability.  In my past experiences as a farmer, planning a season includes all sorts of details ranging from when to plant, watering schedules, and projected harvest times.  Though at some point in the season, it can all be thrown off by the weather. There is no safety gear to protect a farmer’s crops from a damaging storm, flood, or extreme heat. Through my blend of farming and outdoor recreation experience, I have learned that Mother Nature is a force to be reckoned with and requires our respect and preparation.

My experience in the farming world brought first-hand opportunities to see how much weather has changed even in the last century and the dangers of its irregularity. I recently read this article published by the Washington Post on the effects of the controversial issue of climate change. The article suggests that in the past “global warming” was discussed to potentially help the farmer with a longer growing season. However, the new changes could be bringing colder temperatures that would hurt not only seasonal crops but all kinds of vegetation. It is no secret that there has been an escalation in the severity of weather all across the world and it is becoming increasingly unpredictable.

So, how do we prepare for these unpredictable weather systems as outdoor enthusiasts?  As someone who grew up going camping, fishing, and hiking, I was never the one responsible for planning the trip. When my parents said the car was packed, I begrudgingly climbed into the backseat only knowing the number of travel hours I had to endure until we reached our destination. Now being an outdoor professional, I am inspired to give my children experiences I had growing up.  To do this, I must learn to plan the adventures. Like the farming planning a season, I am trying to plan and predict the unpredictable force of nature.

I am about to let you in on a big secret that one could argue is the glue that holds the LU Outdoor Rec department together; the Four E’s of Decision Making. We use this process as sort of a “risk analyzer” and teach it to all of our staff members.  Whether you are floating down the James River, planting a garden or hiking through the Appalachian Trail, it is important to take time to think through the details. The ever-changing and unpredictable force, Mother Nature is not something to be feared; however, it needs to be respected, enjoyed, and approached with a plan. If you are new to these activities or like me, simply rediscovering the forest and rivers, think through our Four E’s and enjoy your next adventure!

Be safe!

The Four E’s of Decision Making:

First, analyze the environment that you are entering into. This is made up of anything that is outside of your direct control.

  • What is the weather like (sun, precipitation, temperature, humidity)?  Will the weather change during our activity?
  • What is the geography like (terrain, water conditions, trail conditions)?
  • What about other people, plants, or animals present?
  • Are you prepared to handle potential environmental concerns if they should arise?

The element is the actual thing that you will be doing.  It is important to analyze the details that will be involved in the activity itself.

  • What is the activity and where is it taking place?
  • How long will this element last?
  • Is somebody else aware that you are engaging in this element?  Do you have a plan to contact them?
  • Why are you participating in this element?

Experience matters!  It is very important to realize your level of experience regarding the certain activity.  This is not to say that beginners always struggle and experts never fail.  This is to become aware of the experience of the group and take this into consideration as you make your decisions.

  • Have members of the group partaken in this activity before?
  • Are they comfortable with this activity?
  • Who is the most experienced member of the party?  Are they available for advice and teaching opportunities?

You need to look around at the things that you have and be sure that it will get you through the element that you are performing.

  • Are you adequately prepared with the right equipment?
  • Are you taking enough food or water?
  • Is your equipment in good condition?
  • Are you familiar with this equipment?
  • Are other participants familiar with this equipment?
  • Have you used this equipment under similar conditions?
  • Do you have backup equipment?
  • Is your equipment in good condition? (AGAIN…Double-check it!)

Overall: Is it appropriate to be partaking in this ELEMENT, in this certain ENVIRONMENT, having this level of EXPERIENCE with this EQUIPMENT?

Black Bear Safety

June 14, 2017

Written By: Jordan Tatro

In our area of Central Virginian wilderness, it is pretty common to come across the Blue Ridge’s largest predator, the black bear. On average male black bears on the East Coast will weigh between 125lbs-550lbs, while female bears top the scales between 90lbs-375lbs.  Researching this post, I could only find one documented unprovoked black bear attack in Virginia (Roanoke Times, 2015). It occurred in Douthat State Park, which is towards Lexington.  A woman was bitten and clawed by an unprovoked black bear. Thankfully she survived and only received stitches for her wounds. Though these attacks are rare, it is always important to prepare yourself for this type of situation.  In case you ever encounter a black bear, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

“Respect wildlife by giving animals their space and you will have a better chance of staying safe.”

Running can trigger a bear’s predatory instinct, and by running you assume the role of prey. If the bear does not seem to be aggressive, you can slowly walk away facing the bear at all times.

If a black bear is getting too close for comfort, or charging, make yourself as big as possible by putting your arms out and spreading your legs. Grab anything that can make loud noise (i.e. pots, pans, etc.), and bang them together. If there is nothing for you to grab, yell at the bear. Black bears are known to be scared away by loud noises.

Out of all the species of bear, black bears are the most proficient climbers. I personally have heard stories of black bears going up trees to get to hunters in tree stands! If you must climb to escape, try to climb to where the branches are too weak to hold the bear.

A black bear may “bluff” charge multiple times before actually attacking and may decide to not attack if they deem you not worth the effort. If the bear rears up on it hind legs, it is checking out the situation rather than preparing for an attack. Stand your ground, but be ready with bear spray or sticks to fend off the bear if it does decide to attack.

This method may work in situations with brown bears, but if you are being attacked by a black bear you should fight back. If you play dead during a black bear attack you are as good as dead. Black bears are very skittish, and fighting back might be enough to scare them off.

Bear spray may seem like overkill in Virginia mountains, but it is the most effective method for deterring a bear from attacking. Bear spray can be purchased at most outdoor stores from about $25-$50. Most bear sprays can shoot from 20-30 feet. The spray is more effective than a handgun in stopping bear attacks and also can be used to protect yourself from people if necessary.

These guidelines are not the end all be all on what to do during a bear encounter. Every situation is unique and no method is guaranteed to work. Just remember to respect wildlife by giving animals their space and you will have a better chance of staying safe.

Please do not let his article scare you from getting out into nature! Most bears avoid confrontation when possible, bears have ample opportunities to attack humans and they choose not to. You can help yourself and others avoid bear confrontations by following these safety guidelines:

  • Do not feed bears.
  • Do not encourage them to come into your campsite (store food hanging in a bear bag and away from camp).
  • Keep your dogs on leash when in bear territory.
  • Travel in groups being sure to make plenty of noise.

Black bears have been seen on Liberty Mountain and due to lack of food have been known to roam into Lynchburg. There was even a bear sighting on Wards Rd! If you spend enough time in the mountains you will definitely come across a black bear, and when you do we hope it is safe and inspiring!


Importance of License/Permit Fees

December 20, 2016

Written by: Jordan Tatro

I have always seen God’s beauty most prominently in nature.  Growing up in Virginia has allowed me to witness amazing scenery all my life. Virginia offers some diverse glimpses of nature; from the beautiful crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean to the immaculate sunsets along the Blue Ridge Mountains. Virginia is a magnificent state. From a young age I have spent time fishing off the coast of Virginia and in the Chesapeake Bay. Those wonderful memories led me to a recent passion for fly-fishing. One of the major expenses necessary when getting into the sport are the licenses and permits to fish for trout. I easily could have decided to not pay for any of those licenses of permits, as I haven’t come across a game warden once since I started. The temptation to simply “fish for free” is very common in the sport.  It is very easy to think that not paying the small fee isn’t hurting anyone.  But, my motivation to purchase all of the proper licenses isn’t solely to avoid legal trouble, but more to ensure the protection and conservation of nature here in our gorgeous state.

Contrary to common misconception, the money that is spent on hunting and fishing licenses is not solely used to pay the game wardens’ salaries. It also goes toward making sure that you have plenty of fish to catch or deer to eat! The local governments use these fees to pay for stocking and population management research.  The funds also allow scientists to study fish populations so they can be managed more sustainably. Fish and Wildlife departments are then able to set limits on fish and game thanks to this research. These “nominal fees” also aid in further land purchases for public recreational use. This means more rivers to fish in and better access to the creeks! 

I also believe that as Christians we are told to obey the law of the land. Although we may not always agree with every little detail of the law, it is critical to abide by the law to maintain our witness. In Romans, it says “Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” If we truly believe that God is sovereign, we must abide by the laws set forth by current governing authorities.  This also means that we should pay attention to the local legislature and ensure that we are supporting appropriate land-ethnic laws that encourage healthy and sustainable practices in regards to all aspects of outdoor recreation.

Also, we should aim to glorify the Lord in how we interact with nature. In Genesis, it says “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Often this text can be misinterpreted to imply that we can do whatever we want with the creatures of the earth, but that is not the case. We must aim to glorify the Lord in our dominion over the creatures of the earth. This means to harvest their meat in a way that is sustainable and to take the necessary steps to make sure they are prosperous for future generations to enjoy.

From all of us here at Outdoor Recreation, we hope you will take all of these factors into consideration while hunting or fishing within our beautiful state.  If you have any questions about hunting or fishing licenses or how to purchase them in Virginia, check out the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries website or purchase your licenses and permits here!

Live Life Outdoors!

Nature Always Wins…so prepare

October 6, 2016

Written by: Ben Phenicie

Nature always wins.

We may think that we can beat it and we have a lot of fancy technology to keep us safe from nature’s dangerous side; but in a battle of sheer force, nature will always win. It is important for man to acknowledge that God created nature and he gave it as much strength and complexity as the human body. God did not give nature a soul but he did give it some muscle.

When we decide to go out and experience nature, it is crucial that we prepare for the worst. Weather can change in a matter of minutes and a loose rock on a trail or climbing route can ruin someone’s day. It is important to know how to think critically, avoid danger, and pack your bag to protect us from dangerous conditions and provide tools to help us get out of sticky situations.

What should you put in your bag? This is a small and unassuming question that can turn into a lengthy philosophical debate. Accomplished survival experts from the military, outdoor rec industry, and emergency medical field all have their opinions on what is most important when packing your bag. I am here to offer my humble opinion as a Liberty University Outdoor Recreation Manager.

  • Food and water are obvious necessities but many people neglect their need for hydration and calories as they venture into nature. Don’t be this person! Make sure that you are properly fed and hydrated BEFORE your adventure and also bring extra snacks and water. Drink small amounts of water often and try to avoid taking huge gulps at once.  This will prevent your body from eliminating these fluids before it is able to utilize them.  Packable foods high in carbs and fat may not be the healthiest but they carry the most energy per dollar. I usually pack some energy gel, granola bars, peanut butter, bananas or apples, etc.
  • Wear the right clothing and bring extra! Dress for the weather and avoid cotton. Synthetic clothing and wool keep you dry, which is very important. In hot weather you want to stay dry and in cold weather you need to stay warm and dry. You can also use extra clothing to give to others or to improvise bandages, slings and, splints. I usually pack a lightweight rain jacket, extra shirt and socks, and a camp towel.
  • It is always a good idea to keep a small medical kit with you. Even if you can’t fully treat someone’s health issue, you could keep them stable until they can receive medical attention from someone with equal or greater medical training. Here are a few of the most important things I keep in my first aid kit:
    • Nitrile gloves, Cleaning wipes, Tweezers, Antibiotic ointment, Bandages/Gauze, Wide athletic tape, Ibuprofen, Tylenol 

So, there is my opinion on what I think you should keep in your bag. I recommend keeping this bag nearby at all times. I take my backpack with me almost everywhere. I also keep a few extra things like a flashlight and knife with me but they aren’t completely necessary.

We are just finishing up our busy trip season, though we do have a few left if you haven’t spent time with us yet!  Our Intro to Backpacking trip is sure to be full of fun little tidbits and helpful advice for beginner backpackers out there.  It will also be a peaceful evening on the Liberty Mountain for those more experienced.  Though you don’t need to copy my formula for a well-loaded daypack, it is important to take time to think through the activities you participate in and what supplies would best benefit you when nature gets the best of you!