How to behave in nature / fjellvettreglene

How to behave in nature / fjellvettreglene
Deciding to go on various solo hikes was one of the best decisions I could make – being a thorough person with obsessive tendencies when it comes to planning my trips and excursions I have found the perfect playground for being my true self. I was “mocked” for not being spontaneous and I apparently having no clear intention to live my life to the fullest, but each time I start developing the plans to visit a new location that particular part of my persona is having a field day and I do intend to keep enjoying myself in such ways for as long as I can walk.

When in nature – think for yourself, by yourself

Learning how to take care of yourself in an environment which can turn from nice & sweet to literally everything but gentle & forgiving is one of the best things which can happen to you. Being alone while doing that makes it even better; some of us thrive on being reliant only on ourselves and believe in true individuality. One of my core values/principles is: think and behave like you are the only person who can help you, and the only one you can rely on is yourself., when it comes to preparation. Meaning, I will take care of anything and everything in my power, and if the proverbial excrement hits the ventilator, it will be due to the higher power or the law of probability in action.

“Fjellvettreglene”, as the Norwegians call them

I am stunned by the stories about incidents which could have been prevented if an injured person just decided to think about safety first. Let me share with you what can be done to achieve this. (Norwegians, being the ultimate inspiration & true champions of nature loving and knowing how to enjoy it to the fullest, have created “fjellvettreglene”, a set of rules and guidelines about behavior while being outside; this is my extended version of these suggestions).

Know where you are going to

First and foremost, understand and know where you are going. Sounds silly, but really, know where you are going.
  • do a thorough research about the place you are visiting and have a full grasp of it; learn what amount of precipitations can be expected in that particular month, which temperatures are ruling the area, download the weather apps and stay updated
  • find online maps, buy paper maps, check out topographic maps and learn how to read them, learn how to use a compass before you go – think offline, because at some point you probably won’t have the access to the internet when you venture in the wilderness

Let someone know where you are going to

Before starting your trip, choose someone who you’ll inform about your plans, even if you intend to go for a short stroll in a forest behind your house. We can only assume that we can predict the outcome, but the variables outside can be quite wild.
  • always let someone you know where you are going
  • it is also very useful also to explain which pathway you shall be taking to reach that particular destination, especially if you are hiking in a foreign country
  • learn how to estimate how much time you would spend on such hike and how long would it take for you to return; this comes with time, when you get the full grasp of your pace, speed and tendency to stop and rest (or in my case, take photos and all sorts of videos)

What, how much and for how long are you bringing food and water?

Food and water will secure your functionality and directly affect your performance.
  • clean plain water is your top priority in every season – adjust the amount according to the intensity and duration of the trip but never underestimate your thirst and never rely on your surroundings on it; you’d be surprised how fast you can empty a bottle (I am not a water guzzler but still I surprise myself each single time I am in the mountains by noticing how much water I tend to drink)
  • some hikers prefer electrolytes and other high tech stuff, and that seems to be very useful when you expect that you will be sweating excessively
  • the type of food you would bring depends on the personal choices, but I always fortify my backpack with nutrient dense and weather conditions resistant food
  • I eat extremely sparsely when I walk, during a whole day walk (ca 12 h) I maybe stop and eat two times and strictly avoid any sort of nibbling anything, as I cannot even imagine carrying sweets or salty stuff like chips; the feeling of fullness annoys me and terribly slows me down, but this shows how different we all are

A lot of people bring weed/beer/whatnot to the hikes outside, for various reasons. I should not judge anyone’s choices, and in the end, I could not care less, but in essence – I prefer myself entirely clean, aware of my surroundings, vigilant and present. In case anything goes wrong, I want to be responsive and capable to withstand the pressure which comes along with an accident.

Orientation outside – is there anything more crucial than that?

The environment is the main reason I venture into the wilderness. The more time you spend in it, the more you’ll feel the urge to return and explore further beyond your limits. Your crucial skill for this is the ability to orientate and move in desired direction.
  • at every moment know exactly where you are using whichever possible technology or knowledge gathered using written materials
  • know how close/far are the nearest settlement and a hospital
  • have a clear idea how much would it take you, in case of an unplanned incident, to reach them by foot
  • pay attention to the roads and observe the frequency of passing cars, as some of those drivers can mean the difference between life and death – a road crossing Hardanger with 1 car/day is very different than a road towards a village near a resort which has the only store in 200 km radius which is opened 24/7
  • get to know the route as best as you can – avoid exclusive relying on digital maps – learn how to use paper maps and compass as well
  • do a heavy research about the place you are visiting, especially if you are visiting a foreign country
  • knowing a few sentences in local language is very useful: leave at home your assumption that everyone should have a functional knowledge of the english language (+ this is how you easily get extra points from the locals, you’d be surprised how many doors these sentences in broken local language can open up instantly)
  • pay attention to the weather predictions and be aware that in some places the weather can/will change from good to bad to worse in a second
  • listen to the locals – if they say to avoid a particular location, especially during dubious weather conditions – agree, express gratitude and turn around (sometimes it is the only thing you can do, however much heartbreaking it can be)
  • when the fog covers the trail – stop and rest if you are unable to see the markings on the trail – the fog usually glides over quite fast and could clear the view very soon after

Are you dressed appropriately?

Your gear is extremely important, and it:

  • should directly correlate to the expected weather and terrain no matter what, as it can literally save your head (I know, this is supposed to be intuitively obvious, but, you cannot even imagine how many tourists end up on hiking trips in flip flops in the mountains and expect not to get injured)
  • be aware that in some areas the weather easily changes and prepare for it
  • know how much you can carry
  • know how much you can carry for how long
  • bring a headlamp, especially in dark season, just in case you get stuck
  • a few plasters, painkillers or a small first help package are good to have
  • my fave is the area above the Arctic circle – take a look at how to prepare for being in an environment not known to be merciful and forgiving

Leave nothing but footprints behind you

Littering is a deadly sin when you go outside.
  • do not leave any trash behind you, practice #leavenotrace relentlessly
  • carry a small bag in which you will collect any trash you could have during the day, including used toilet wipes
  • pick up any trash you see, especially in places in which that trash cannot decompose (I saw a banana peel in an ice cave on Jostedalsbreen, my brain instantly imploded)

Leave the wildlife be

Flora & fauna add a special dimension to the Great outdoors, and there are many things that we can do in order to preserve it and/or not get hurt by it.
  • know which danger sources are near you – are there any venomous animals? Any predators? Which is the most impactful damage they can do to you? Do you have what it takes to fix yourself up in case an attack happens?
  • show the utmost respect to the plants and animals – do not pick the plants as you may inadvertently take a rare and protected species from its environment only for it to dry out until you reach your destination
  • pay extra special attention to the plants in the Arctic – they grow and regenerate at an extremely slow pace and walking over them does an enormous damage to them

  • avoid plucking mushrooms unless you have an excellent knowledge about the edible ones, and the time of the year when they are safe to eat
  • do not abuse, annoy, disrespect animals or provoke their reactions – leave them be
  • do not approach animals and therefore risk your life or health – they are driven by instincts and their behavior cannot be precisely foreseen
No one is perfect and unexpected occurrences can and will happen at any given moment. Our duty, to the nature we enjoy and ourselves, is to eliminate every possible issue we can, in order to stay safe and reduce the probability of injuries or death.