Mountain Hiking presents another installment of TJ On The Trail With…, a series of interviews with Hiking Experts, just for you! By T.J. Fraser
“Hiking? Are you crazy? NO WAY! I’m not about to get eaten by a bear.”
“I haven’t been hiking since I was a kid. I think I’ll throw some trail mix and a water bottle in my pockets and knock out 20 miles in the forest. I’m still in shape.”
“I’ve done this trail 20 times. No need to bring much because I’ll definitely be back before the sun sets and it starts getting cold.”
Disaster and wilderness first aid expert Matt Rosefsky knows all too well how false assumptions can lead to accidents or even keep someone from enjoying what nature has to offer. As the Founder of the Outdoor Adventure Social Club in Charlottesville, Virginia, Matt is an experienced instructor and adventure guide with a resume that includes enough certifications to look like a huge bowl of alphabet soup.
Some of his credentials include Wilderness EMT (NREMT-B), Basic Life Support for Healthcare Providers (CPR & AED) and serving as an instructor for SOLO Wilderness First Aid and First Responder courses. Toss in an M.A. in East Asian Studies and M.B.A. from the University of Virginia along with a Masters in Mechanical Engineering and a Bachelor of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering both from Cornell, and it’s safe to say the Matt knows a few things about a few things.
While I could have asked Matt to explain how a 2,000 ton, metal behemoth flies through space, I kept the questions a bit more hiking specific. Here, Matt shares with us some of the words of wisdom from someone
who not only understands the common mistakes that can happen on the trail but how to respond if they do occur.
T.J. Fraser: As an experienced guide and adventurer teaching outdoor classes to beginners, what is the biggest misconception, or apprehension, your students have about getting in to nature?
Matt Rosefsky: I would say the two biggest misconceptions people have are that nature is too dangerous to enjoy safely — which often revolves around spiders, snakes and predators; and that there really isn’t a need to be prepared for the unexpected.
As for apprehensions, some fear they won’t be able to handle a particular outdoor adventure when they actually can. There are others who have no apprehension at all which may lead to them getting deeper into the unexpected than they realize.
T.J.: What is the most important skill you think the beginning hiker needs to have?
MR: “Be prepared” as the Scouts aptly put it. Learn and adhere to the principles of hiking there and back safely, such as those at www.hikesafe.com Read about the trail & wilderness area; know what to expect and plan for. Tell someone when to call for help if you don’t check in by a certain time. It’s amazing what a little planning can do to help stay safe on the trail.
T.J.: As a SOLO instructor, you’re an expert in safety and first-aid. What are the three most important safety items every hiker should have in their pack before they hit the trail?
MR: If only I could limit to three! I would say the first is a good trail map and the ability to read it. The second would be supplies in case you get stuck out overnight which should include a flashlight or headlamp, warm clothes, rain gear, food, a way to purify water and the other basics. And the third would be a properly stocked first aid kit including a whistle. A prerequisite to all of these is any possibly-needed life-saving medications such as prescribed inhalers, or antihistamines and epi-pens.
T.J.: What are a couple of the most important wilderness first-aid skills hikers should have?
MR: I would say every hiker should have the Patient Assessment System care-giving recipe knowledge and practical skills down pat. When an accident occurs it’s easy to become emotional when what is needed is clear-thinking. By knowing what to look for in the case of emergency, hikers will be better able to respond appropriately.
T.J.: What are some of the most common mistakes you’ve seen experienced hikers make that may lead to problems on the trail?
MR: What I see a lot is unpreparedness. Knowing a trail and trusting one’s own abilities instills confidence of finishing a hike by a certain time. But as we know; the unexpected can happen. And if it does, problems can arise if one isn’t prepared to be out there overnight if it’s a day trip or at least one night longer than expected if it’s a planned overnight trip.
T.J.: If someone finds themselves in an emergency situation in the backcountry what is the most important thing they need to remember?
MR: Stay calm and think, exude calmness and confidence, and if someone is hurt, calmly and methodically go through the steps of the Patient Assessment System care-giving recipe.
T.J.: You’ve hiked, backpacked and traveled all over the world. What is the one trail or location that stands out to you most?
MR: New Zealand is a stand-out for me. It may not have what are considered to be the world’s most spectacular places but what it does have is many, if not most, of the world’s greatest features of different types of ecosystems all within a short distance of each other. From visiting glaciers to viewing sea lions and whales off beaches, to rainforests and live volcanic formations, New Zealand offers an extraordinary amount of diversity.
T.J.: What is the one trail or location in the United States that you’d most like to visit?
MR: I’d have to pick returning to Alaska just because there’s so much to see. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is on my list.
T.J.: What is the best piece of advice you would give to hikers in order to keep them safe?
MR: “Be prepared.”
T.J.: What is your favorite all-around boot or trail shoe?
MR: A favorite is tough to say but what I do know is that any boot I choose needs to have Gore-Tex lining for waterproofness. I once had a highly reputable, brand-name boot with a “waterproof” insignia permanently attached to its side. It didn’t say Gore-Tex though and I unhappily discovered on a backpacking trip that it was not at all waterproof. Beyond that, I prefer high-tops to help a bit with ankle support and to make stream crossings easier.
T.J.: Any exciting trips coming up?
MR: I have a 10-day backpacking journey through Sequoia National Park to the summit of Mt. Whitney set for this August/September. I can’t wait!
T.J.: What is the one word that describes the feeling you have when you’re in nature?
Matt knows the importance for each of us who ventures in to nature to have the skills necessary to keep ourselves safe while also being able to effectively assist in an emergency. This is why he encourages hikers to search for a local SOLO course near you and take one of the many preparedness classes they offer.
And if you happen to live in Virginia, Tennessee, New Jersey, or West Virginia, you can take classes directly with Matt through his traveling disaster and wilderness first aid SOLO courses. Check out his upcoming schedule for a date and location near you as well as read some of the great testimonials about his courses.
A big Mountain Hiking to Matt Rosefsky for sharing his thoughts and expertise.
Find Matt on Facebook at www.facebook.com/medicwfa