“Know before you go” is a simple summary for safely enjoying camping and hiking, suggests Franklin Pemberton, Public Affairs Officer on the Colville National Forest.

First, know yourself. How rugged of an experience are you, your vehicle, and companions prepared to have? Maintained campgrounds offer easier road access, water, fire rings, vault toilets; they are also the first to be notified in the event of fire danger. Are you heading for the solitude of the backcountry? While the rewards are great, dispersed campers’ responsibilities and capabilities must be much higher.

Know the area, fire danger, weather, and restrictions of your destination by contacting agency headquarters for information, including existing campfire restrictions, closures, and existing fires.

Know locations of alternative trails, nearby campgrounds, and roads, as trail or road closures may occur. Don’t rely solely on electronic mapping; bring a compass and paper maps of your area.

Know the weather forecast for your destination; and keep an eye out for changing weather, lightening, and smoke.

Let others know, too. Notify family or friends about your destination and expected time of return. Sign your party in and out at campgrounds and trailhead logbooks. If you change your plans en route, leave a note on a trail sign.