Safety on Trips

Nakia (left) and another member of the Dartmouth EMS team.

Hi all! My name is Nakia Wighton, and I am an ’18 from Northern Vermont. I am the Risk Management Coordinator for First Year Trips 2017. My sophomore year, I became certified as a Wilderness Emergency Medical Technician, and now work as an EMT both on campus and at home in Vermont. I also teach First Aid and CPR classes on campus. My role on trips is primarily to make sure that we as a program have the resources and knowledge we need to minimize and manage illness and injury during trips.

When I was preparing to go on First Year Trips myself, my family and I had many questions about safety and medical concerns. I had been camping before, but never for more than a night. What if I got sick or hurt? What did I need to do to make sure I felt my best so I could enjoy my trip? And what if I didn’t like any of the food?  Though it was a new experience, I managed to have a great time on my flatwater kayaking trip. In hopes of easing some anxieties, I have compiled some common questions that people have when preparing for trips.

What happens if I get sick or hurt during trips?

The trips volunteers are here to help you in any way that we can. All of our volunteers are required to be certified in both CPR and First Aid, and many are trained as medical responders and technicians. If you are feeling sick or get hurt, let your leaders know. Both during and after your trip, there will be people available to make sure you get the resources that you need to recover. We have an entire support croo of individuals at the ready to respond to the needs of any trip.

I am new to the wilderness of the Northeast. Is it dangerous?

The natural landscape of each are poses it’s own unique potential hazards- but don’t worry! With the right gear and knowledge, you can manage your risks and have a great time! Here are some common things that people worry about in the wilderness:

SPIDERS: Most spiders in this area are relatively harmless. Some of them do bite, but most are not poisonous. They leave a bite very similar to mosquito bites, though they may be slightly more red. Contact with poisonous spiders in this area is not common, but always let your leaders know if you have recently been bitten and are experiencing any symptoms, as allergies to spiders are possible.

SNAKES: Like spiders, most snakes in New Hampshire are not poisonous and will not harm you. The one venomous snake in the area is an endangered species, and you are very unlikely to encounter it. Like any wildlife, however, it is best not to disturb any snakes that you come across. Simply walk around or avoid the immediate area of the snake. Many types of snakes are common in grassy areas, but these are generally harmless.

WILDLIFE: In general, wildlife will not bother you if you do not provoke it. Avoid touching wild animals or running away. In most cases, animals will avoid humans and this will not be an issue.

Staying Healthy on Trips

Being in the outdoors can be a fun experience, but  there are a few extra steps you can take to make sure you stay well in the outdoors, especially while exercising:

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! You have heard this many times in your life, and you will hear it many times on trips, but this is super important. Even if you are used to being outside or exercising, you need to make sure you are hydrating properly. Depending upon weather and your activity level, the typical recommendation of 64oz might not be enough to meet your minimum needs. Fill up your water bottles any time you have access to potable water (or water that can be made potable with iodine treatment, which all trips are supplied with). Drink continuously throughout the day, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you need a water break. Signs of dehydration include: headache, dizziness/lightheadeness (including dizziness/lightheadedness that occurs only upon standing), nausea, and vomiting. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, let your trip leaders know immediately. You should rest and drink water (slow, small sips if you are feeling nauseous) until you feel completely better. This is very common, and has happened to most people at one time or another, so please do not feel bad about speaking up. Rest and rehydration are important at this stage to prevent more serious complications. It is also a good idea to have a snack during this time if your stomach is not overly upset, as dehydration and low blood sugar can look very similar.
  2. Eat plenty and often.  Even people with no known medical conditions can experience low blood sugar as a result of prolonged activity. That sounds really scary, but all it really means is that you get to eat lots of snacks! I was concerned going into trips because I wasn’t allowed to bring my own snacks, but don’t worry, we provide plenty of snack variety for you! You may find that you are hungry more than usual during trips, and this is to be expected if you are more active than usual during trips (I mean, how many of us really spend hours hiking, kayaking, swimming, or climbing for days in a row normally?). Increased activity means increased caloric needs, so eat if you are feeling hungry! Eating plenty of complex carbohydrates and protein will help provide you with the energy you need throughout the day and help prevent low blood sugar. Your trip won’t run out of food and leaders will be taking snack breaks often throughout the day. Common symptoms of low blood sugar include shakiness, dizziness, headache, nausea, cold sweats, and confusion. If you experience any of these, let your leaders know. You should rest and eat something with simple sugars (fruit, candy, jam, or glucose tablets) in addition to something with complex carbohydrates or protein (nuts, seeds, cheese, breads, pasta) in order to raise your blood sugar and keep it steady. You should also hydrate during this time (symptoms of low blood sugar and dehydration can be very similar).
  3. Stretch! Stretching at night can help prevent sore muscles and help you recognize problem areas so that you can adjust your form or modify your activity to prevent further irritation.
  4. Make sure we have your information! If something has changed with your medical history or dietary concerns since you filled out the forms, let us know! Your trip leaders are given your medical information to review prior to the start of your trip to make sure that they know how to support you. Your dietary information ensures that your trip is equipped with plenty of food that is consistent with your dietary needs and preferences. The more we know, the more we can do to ensure that your medical or dietary concerns do not interfere with your trips experience. Please also be sure to bring any medications and supplements that you take with you- even if you only take them as needed. Be sure to keep your medical equipment (medications, etc.) in a safe place in your belongings so you don’t lose them.
  5. Wear bug spray and check for ticks! Ticks are small insects that bite by burrowing their heads into the skin, allowing them to feed off of the blood of the animal or human. Tick’s are notorious for carrying Lyme disease, which is caused by a bacteria. This may sound scary, but a few simple measures can help prevent the spread of tick-borne disease such as:
    • Wearing insect repellent containing 20-30% Deet
    • Covering skin with pants, long sleeves, and socks (this may or may not be practical depending upon the conditions, but is an option to consider). Choose clothing that is light in color so that ticks can be spotted more easily.
    • Avoid areas where ticks are most prevalent whenever possible, and perform a thorough tick checks after exposure to these areas. Ticks are most frequently found in wooded brush and long grass. When moving through these areas, stick to paths as much as possible.
    • Check yourself for ticks (have someone else help!) multiple times per day, every day while on trips. Ticks are most commonly found on the body in warm places. These include the backs of the knees, armpits, back of the neck, the back, and the abdomen. Remember, ticks need to be on you for 24 hours or more before they can infect you with Lyme Disease. Look/feel for bumps on the skin with a small black body attached. Your trip leaders will receive training about how to look for ticks, so if you have any questions ask them!
    • If you find a tick, don’t panic. Have someone help you attempt to remove it by gently grasping the tick by the body and pulling backwards until the skin tents. From this point wait until the tick lets go by itself. This takes some patience, but the tick will get tired and release itself from the skin after a few minutes. Commercial tick removers can also be used, but generally this method is the best method for removing the whole tick from a human. Many of these measures are also helpful in preventing mosquito bites and mosquito-borne disease. Though West Nile Virus is still rare, it is possible to contract it in Vermont and New Hampshire, but this can often be prevented through use of insect repellent, wearing long clothing, and avoiding standing water.

All of this is to reassure you that we are prepared for and experienced with the New Hampshire outdoors and camping for multiple days. Our leaders and croolings have gone through lots of training to be ready for this and we can’t wait to meet you!


Packing For Your Trip

Section A is one week away! Here is a reminder email about the packing list. Don’t wait until the last minute!

Hiking frame packs: Hiking 1-4, Climbing, Mountain Biking, Nature Writing, Nature Exploration, Photography, Hike and Yoga, Ropes Course, Community Service.

External packs and internal packs. External packs are a little more “old school” – they’re the ones with the visible metal bars on the back of the pack. Their advantage: a high center of gravity means better weight distribution to the hips and makes these packs a good choice for clear, well-maintained trails. They also offer good ventilation, helping to keep your back dry. Internal packs are more streamlined – they fit more snugly against your back and the rigid supports are on the inside. Their advantage: a narrower and closer fitting structure allows for better balance and maneuverability on rougher trails. Either type of pack will work for Trips, so it’s a matter of personal preference and comfort. Keep your trip type and description in mind when you pick!

All other trippees (including those on Canoeing/Kayaking trips) should bring a single bag large enough to carry all their clothing and gear, plus a little extra room (duffle bags work well).

Hiking boots and shoes: There are a lot of different kinds of shoes out there made for moving around in the out-of-doors, and if you’ve never been in the market before it can be hard to know what you need. At a high level, the main differences between the types of shoes are stiffness, weight and ankle height. At one end of the spectrum lie light hiking shoes, which are often similar or identical to running shoes. These are flexible, low-weight shoes that are good for single-day hikes but don’t offer enough support for multi-day treks. For Trips, we prefer that you have hiking boots that are a little stiffer, more durable and that have at least a little ankle support (mid-cut or high-cut). More ankle support means less twisting and bending on bumpy terrain.

Speaking of blisters, one of the best ways to avoid them is to wear the right kind of socks. Go for anything synthetic (polyester, for example) or merino wool, both of which will prevent unwanted moisture and chafing. Thicker is better; you’ll be happy for the padding and they won’t heat up as much as you might think. Cotton athletic socks, by contrast, are never a good choice. I repeat, DO NOT WEAR COTTON SOCKS. There’s nothing worse on a trip than wet socks, and very little holds on to moisture quite as well as cotton.

Whatever kind of footwear you end up wearing, make sure you BREAK THEM IN before heading to Hanover for Trips. Many a blister can be avoided by making sure your shoes are well-molded to your feet before you start hiking, and the way to do that is simply to wear them. Around the house, into town to show them off, it doesn’t matter, just do your best to make sure Trips is not the first time your boots meet your feet!

Outerwear and jackets: Again, as with socks, shorts and shirts, no cotton here! Most hooded sweatshirts, for example, are a no go. Fleece pullovers are good, as are pullovers made of other synthetic wicking materials. The only full-on jacket you should need is a rain jacket or poncho – anything else will just end up occupying valuable pack space.


Packing List (2015 edition)!

This post, from our Outdoor Logistics Coordinators, is a guide to packing for your DOC First-Year Trip! Enjoy!

Hey 19s!

We’re Cedar and Caroline, the 2015 outdoor logistics coordinators for Trips! We’re writing to make some very important points about packing for your First-Year Trip. You can also watch our packing video, posted here. The items you need to pack can be divided into a few categories.


Here we address some important items on the packing list that can be confusing. This is not a complete packing list. Cardinal rules: bring non-cotton clothes (no cotton T-shirts!), and remember that less is more. When it comes to socks, go for polyester or wool, which will help you avoid blisters. Do not wear cotton socks. You need a raincoat or a poncho. You need a warm layer. Do not bring a cotton hoodie. It should be a substantial wool, fleece, synthetic, or down layer.
image011image013    image015

You’re asked to bring 2 pairs of hiking shorts/pants. Athletic shorts are fine if you want to wear shorts. Here is an example of hiking pants (don’t bring blue jeans or cotton sweatpants).


You’re asked to bring a long-sleeved shirt/tight warm layer. This should be wool or synthetic.

You’ll need a wool or fleece hat:


And gloves or mittens:



The packing list for your specific trip will indicate what kind of bag or backpack you need. You’ll either bring a frame pack or a duffel bag and a daypack/small backpack, depending on your trip. If you need to have a frame pack, read on…

There are two major types of frame packs: external (cheaper, heavier) and internal (lighter, more expensive, better functioning). You can bring either.

Internal Frame:


External frame:


In terms of finding a pack that’s the right size, you have two things to consider. The first is volume/storage capacity. This is measured in liters. The absolute minimum size any pack should be for Trips is 50 liters. Aim for a pack that is in the 65 to 75+ liter range. The second thing to consider is that you want a pack that fits you comfortably. Fitting a pack can be difficult, so make sure you try yours on. Your pack will probably be size “small,” “medium,” or “large.” It will likely correspond to your shirt size.

You can buy a cheap rain cover for your pack or bring a large garbage bag, which will work just as well.

Let’s talk about pack cost. Packs under $100 can come from your local army surplus store, eBay, Amazon, or One example of a good external frame pack that usually runs for well under $100 used is the Large US Army ALICE.

The ALICE, ready for a trek through Wonderland.

Last but not least, if you are absolutely unable to get your hands on an appropriate pack, DOC Trips has a limited number of packs (and other equipment) that you can rent. If you would like to request a pack, please do so using this form no later than August 1st. Rental priority is given to those students receiving financial assistance, and all rental equipment will be distributed upon trippees’ arrival in Hanover. More expensive frame packs are out there, and you are welcome to purchase one although a fancy pack is NOT NECESSARY. Here are some links to pages with more information on choosing a frame pack:


Depending on your trip, you’ll either have to bring hiking boots, sneakers, or water shoes.  Most packing lists also encourage a pair of “camp” shoes, which can be anything ranging from flip flops to Tevas/Crocs to sneakers.

If you’re on any trip that involves hiking, you will need hiking boots. Continue reading here. The most important things about your hiking boots (if your trip requires them) are that they fit you, they are broken in, and they provide sturdy support to your feet and ankles.  If your packing list says “hiking shoes/boots,” you need something sturdier than sneakers that also covers your ankles.  It doesn’t matter if they are waterproof or not.

image009       image007

You should have room to wiggle your toes in the front and the sides of your feet should feel snug but not compressed. Try walking around a little – your heel should not slip as you walk, nor should your toes jam against the front of the shoe.  Poorly fitting shoes translate to painful blisters on the trail.

Whatever kind of footwear you end up wearing, make sure you BREAK THEM IN before heading to Hanover for Trips.

A couple of links with more information on choosing hiking footwear:


You need a sleeping bag (with a stuff sack) and a sleeping pad.  If you don’t have either and can’t borrow, DOC First-Year Trips can lend you these items.  Please refer to our website for more information about borrowing equipment from DOC First-Year Trips. Your sleeping bag must be synthetic or down (not cotton or flannel).

Pack it in a stuff sack lined with a plastic bag.  As for a sleeping pad, you have two choices: foam (cheap, durable) or inflatable (luxurious, expensive, fragile). Example inflatable pad (left) and foam pad (right):


Small essentials:

Toiletries: toothbrush, small toothpaste (you don’t need more than this! No razors, makeup, hairdryers, etc).

You need a flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries:


Plastic bowl and utensils (you can reuse Tupperware or a disposable plastic container with a lid rather than buying a fancy setup). For utensils a spork is awesome, but a fork and spoon from home work fine. Bowl options:


2 plastic water bottles (at least one liter each, not a small disposable water bottle):


Thanks for reading! As always, if you have any questions, please contact us at!


Your Outdoor Logistics Coordinators

The DOC Trips Video Packing List!

Howdy everyone!

This update is brought to you by our lovely Outdoor Logistics Coordinators, Caroline Resor ’17 and Cedar Farwell ’17. They made this awesome video packing list just for you all – check it out! Hopefully this answers all of your Trips-packing-related questions, and if not, look out for a full-blown packing list post coming from them soon.