How SAFE is Outdoor Adventuring?

"You shouldn't be out in the forest by yourself, it's dangerous."
"Don't you get scared being outdoors by yourself, you might get abducted."

I have heard comments similar to these a lot over the course of my life. At the age of 19 I got a job working as a park ranger. A dream come true to say the least; I got paid to be outdoors. I did amazing things like prescribe burning, canoeing and driving 4-wheelers (all in the line of duty). I also did not-so-amazing things like cleaning up garbage, clearing trails and organizing sheds. Part of the job was working by myself in the forest and there were times when I would get nervous but mostly I enjoyed the solitude.

When I moved on to the University of Florida I got a job as research assistant and was once again in the forest a lot by myself, many days in the early morning before the sun was up. During this time there were a couple murders in the Ocala National Forest (which is just south of where I was in Gainesville). Once again, many of my friends started telling me I shouldn't be in the forest, especially by myself.

I am not saying their concerns where unfounded but I have always felt like some of the fears we have about being in the forest comes from sensationalized media. Should we not live in cities because X number of murders happen there on a yearly basis? I decided to do a little research to see if I could get an idea of how often and what types of injuries people are suffering from when pursuing outdoor adventures. So the question of the day...
Photo Source: Blog Chicka Blog

Here is what I came up with.

Bear Attacks in Yellowstone - Your chance of being injured by a bear in Yellowstone National Park is about 1 in 2.1 million (source).

Cougar Fatalities - There were about 20 between 1890 and 2011 (source).

Venomous Snake Bites - Your chances of getting bit by a venomous snake are less than one in 37,500 and about 1 in every 50 million people die from a snake bite each year; thanks to our wonderful medical care.

Deaths in National Parks - There were 143 deaths out of 283 million visitors in 2012 (source). The vast majority of these were not murder. In 2006 there were 9 murders out of 277 million visitors (source). Those are better odds than in most cities (source).

Search and Rescue Missions - In 2012 just 1% of search and rescue missions were unresolved (source). Most of the search and rescue missions were the result of being unprepared. Not packing enough food or emergency essentials for being stuck overnight.

This is not meant to be a comprehensive list serious injuries or fatalities in outdoors activities. There are, and always will be, risks to adventuring outdoors. Just as there are risks every time you get behind the wheel to drive. But I hope that this will help you see that the risks to adventuring outdoors are manageable with planning.

If you are worried about animals (bear, snakes, etc.), talk to a park rangers a head of time. There have been many times when I have stopped by the ranger station to chat about the park and see if there is anything I should be aware of before heading out. Always pack extra food, a first aid kit and a few supplies in case you get stranded for the night.

Greatest Risks to Adventuring Outdoors:

Having a good time. Even simple things can be a lot of fun, especially for kids. They won't remember their best day of TV.
Being more healthy. We could all use a little more physical activity. Turning off technology and heading outdoors is a great way to start.
Bugs. Bug attacks, unfortunately, are much more common than animal attacks. Luckily these can also be minimized with planning. Check out these tips for helping your kids overcome their fear of bugs.

I pulled together an amazing list of blog posts about safety and the great outdoors. Plan a head and be as safe as possible.

What's In Your Survival Kit?
How to Avoid Getting Lost
Campfire Safety for Tykes
Sun Safety
Lightning Safety for Tykes
Snake Safety While Hiking
5 Myths About Tick & Tick Safety Tips
Kids and Bears
3 Ways to Beat the Heat While Hiking
Fears of Hiking: Avoid These Excuses
Preparing Your Kids To Be Safe Outside
Baby's First Bike Helmet


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