The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most scenic natural paradises in the southeastern United States. With 522,419 hectares of land to explore and more than 14 million visitors a year, it’s no surprise that people come from all over the world to experience this landscape for themselves. The park is also home to some of America’s tallest peaks, including Mount Guyot, Clingmans Dome, and Mount Le Conte, all of which make for a breathtaking hike to say the least.
However, not every hiker or camper leaves the park without learning a few survival basics along the way. With so much terrain to tackle, it’s not uncommon for some people to get lost, lose their way, or end up in the wilderness longer than planned. In that case, SmokyMountains.com has some expert tips and tricks when it comes to hiking and camping in the Smoky Mountains.
10 Do: When hiking, be prepared no matter what
Every hiker should be armed with both the knowledge and equipment to deal with scenarios that might arise unexpectedly. With a total of 41% of hikers getting lost simply by going astray, it is not surprising that many of these become rescue situations. Most of the time, the hikers themselves do not have access to additional food, water, or shelter.
9 Don’t: Go hiking or camping without giving someone the plan
SmokyMountains.com strongly discourages a “self-rescue” situation in which a hiker may have to find a way to save themselves because they have not disclosed their whereabouts to anyone. In this case, it would rely on the hiker finding an open field to signal for help, surviving a night or more in the wilderness unprepared, or finding high ground to call cell phone service for help.
8th Do: Ration commissions when you’re off course
For those camping, packing groceries for the night is a breeze. However, in a survival situation, particularly in the Smoky Mountains where terrain is difficult and trails long, food rationing may be necessary. In case of
Austin Bohanan, who was missing for 11 days before being found in the Smoky Mountains, wasn’t even an option. With data showing that the human body can survive 30 days or more on stored calories, Bohanan was able to trek further out of harm’s way without even finding food.
7 Don’t: Go to the lower level if cellular service is an option
It might be tempting to follow a creek or river inland, and while this is a good option for inland areas where cell phone reception isn’t possible, it’s not always foolproof. Again, in the case of Austin Bohanan, his first instinct was to go to a higher level – that’s how a cell phone signal could be found. While he couldn’t find a signal at the top of a mountain, he was able to go back down and follow a creek that eventually led him to other park visitors.
6 Do: Consider researching different types of accommodation
According to SmokyMountains.com, this can be an important life-saving measure. In the Smoky Mountains alone there is a seemingly endless number of resources, down to lumber and undergrowth, that can be used to construct various shelters. Falling or easily snapping branches can quickly become a shelter, while fir branches and dry leaves can quickly create a cushion between a hiker and the ground. It is also not uncommon to find shelter in shallow burrows or burrows.
5 Don’t: Try hunting, foraging, or setting traps with no prior experience
While this survival instinct can kick in and become an overwhelming urge right away, according to a study by SmokyMountains.com, it’s not the best idea. The reason is that it uses calories and energy that a hiker can’t afford and wastes valuable time that could be spent moving or staying in place.
4 Do: Always pack high-calorie and high-protein foods
Whether you’re hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park or elsewhere, packing high-calorie and high-protein snacks is a must. Not only can these be rationed for days, but they also provide the energy needed to search for other sources of food or move on until help or a way out is found. Almond butter or similar coconut oil packs, which are easy to consume and provide quick energy, are recommended.
3 Don’t forget a map of the area before heading out
Another common mistake, according to data, is when a hiker sets out on a trek without bringing a physical copy of a regional map. A topographic map is also helpful for understanding heights and where to potentially expend more energy, so the value of a good old physical map shouldn’t be underestimated!
2 Do: Also, download digital maps and consider a hiking app
For parks like the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in particular, a digital map from a site like SARTOPO can literally be a lifesaver. Additionally, hiking apps are a great thing to use along the way, including the hiker-approved Avenza, a GPS app.
1 Don’t panic if you get lost on the trail
Statistics show that hikers are usually rescued within the first 24 hours of a hiker’s disappearance. These chances are increased when hikers have given someone else a plan of where they will be, their campsites, and the trails they plan to follow along the way. Therefore, panic will only make it worse – stop to stay on the path, or consider an open field or higher ground for a self-rescue.