Of all the stupid things I’ve ever done…

I used to be a travel writer and a solo adventurer and I’ve seen and done a ton of really cool things.

I’ve also done a lot of stupid things. Note the time I led a group of friends into the deep, dark forest in the afternoon. The late afternoon. Yeah, we walked out in total darkness, cold, hungry, and unable to see two feet in front of us. While we laugh about that story today, it could easily have gone very, very wrong.

Things can go bad quickly in the wild, unruly outdoors.

This is a fact of life that outdoor enthusiasts face all the time – because the best adventures and most awesome pictures and stories are almost always found way, way off the beaten path.

While this lifestyle offers fascinating and peaceful opportunities in the great out-of-doors, it also contains certain inherent risks. Best to prepare well and thoughtfully, in advance, so the stories you tell all turn out to be happy and fun ones. Common preparations are these:

Wear layers, let more than one person know where you are going and when you expect to return, bring plenty of water and food, check relevant weather reports, and carry a cell phone and GPS. And pack a bandana. Here’s why:

  1. Lost?
    Tie your banana to a tree branch or ski pole to help rescue teams find you.
  2. Cut or Bite?
    Use the bandana as a tourniquet by wrapping it tightly above the blood flow of your injury.
  3. Sprained or Broken Body Part?
    Use your bandana as a sling or compression support on joints or muscles.
  4. Hot?
    Dip your bandana in water and wrap it around your neck; this is one of the most efficient ways to lower your body temperature and prevent heat stroke.
  5. Cold or Wind-Blown?
    Fashion a head or face covering with your bandana to help fend of the chill, wind, and dust.

Some times even the smallest detail can make the difference between fun and disappointment, comfort and misery, and even life and death. On that note, here are five ways a big, bright bandana – tucked into your backpack or back pocket – can make a huge difference to your experience in the back country.