Adventure travel safety: 5 tips to avoid a Darwin Award

Jun 23, 2016 BY Luke Rees

Adventure travel can never be completely safe. The element of risk is what gets the adrenaline flowing, it’s what makes it fun and what turns a holiday into an adventure. But risks can always be reduced, so thinking of adventure travel safety we have put together 5 tips to avoid a Darwin Award.

Adventure Travel Safety on New Zealand trekking holidays flickr image by Tom

Adventure travel safety

Darwin Awards are given out for the most stupid and avoidable deaths each year. They are awarded posthumously to people who’ve removed themselves – and their genetically predisposed idiocy – from the gene pool, thus doing humanity a favour.

What constitutes an adventure is different for everyone. For some people a walking holiday in Belgium or flotilla sailing on the Med would be an adventure. For others it’s climbing peaks in the Himalayas, jumping out of planes or surfing the biggest waves.

Talking of surfing, when you travel and surf the web abroad you are at more risk of having details stolen. So download a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to create a secure connection to shared internet in order to keep you safe. It also means you can browse the web as if in your home country, giving you access to content that might not otherwise be accessible.

However, the adventure travel safety advice below works no matter how adventurous you are and what activities you are doing. In fact it is all common sense, like not running with scissors. But as the examples we’ve included with each of our 5 tips to avoid a Darwin Award show, not everyone uses common sense in adventure travel safety.

Adventure Travel safety biggest waves surfed Flickr image by Jeff Rowley Big Wave Surfer

Look before you leap

In 1998 a man in Norwich jumped from a 70 foot multi story car park into the River Wensum. Unfortunately he had not checked the river depth and the three feet of water was not enough to save him.

Look before you leap applies both literally and figuratively. Don’t jump off stuff if you haven’t checked out the landing, but also don’t head into any adventure without some planning. For example, people regularly die hiking in the mountains because they don’t take suitable gear or supplies.

Respect electricity

In 1999 ‘Rodney’ was enjoying a good time Jetskiing on Lake Washington. When the battery ran out he came ashore, plugged the jump leads into a 110 volt output and ran back into the water. It’s safe to say he did not stay safe on this particular adventure.

Adventure Travel safety jetski lake michegan Flickr image by Blok 70

The lesson here is to be careful around electricity, particularly when abroad, as things might not be the same standard as at home. Electricity and water do not mix, so don’t touch plugs and light switches with wet hands, or use sockets in bathrooms.

There are lot’s of other tips I could give, but it’s best to let experts – such as the charity Electricity Safety First – tell you. While in a different country plugs and voltage etc will probably be different to your own. Fires and electric shocks are often caused by ill fitting adapters, so check out this guide to travel plug adapters.

Use safety equipment

In 2008 David Monk died after sledging down a ski slope on a safety matt he had removed from metal barriers. Ironically he died crashing into the now unprotected barrier.

Adventure Travel Safety 5 tips to avoid a darwin award flickr image by Trysil

Using safety equipment is a highly debated topic – just ask any ski forum their opinion on helmet wearing to see what I mean – but there is no doubt safety equipment saves lives. So if you are offered a helmet, life jacket or safety rope gratefully use it. And, unlike David use it correctly.

Don’t ignore warnings

In 2007 hurricane-strength winds battered southern Spain. People were advised to stay inside to sit out the storm. But one ‘brave’ kitesurfer thought high wind and epic waves would be fun. They found his body over a kilometer from the sea.

Weather forecasts, a local’s advice and expert opinions are paramount to adventure travel safety. Sometimes during adventure travel you can get unlucky, but if you ignore advice or warnings and something goes wrong it has nothing to do with luck.

adventure travel safety Google image by Mary P. Madigan

Tell your mum where you are going

Let’s end with a story of survival. Most people have seen the film 127 hours, which is based on the true story of Aron Ralston. He cut off his own arm after it got stuck by a displaced boulder while canyoning in Utah. He didn’t tell anyone where he was going, so even after being missing for five days no one knew where to look for him.

Of course you don’t have to tell your mum, but at least let someone know where you are going and what you plan to do. Then if things do go wrong at least people will know you are missing and know where to start looking. In many national parks there are systems to check in and out – use them.

If you enjoyed our adventure travel safety tips then please share it. The more people who read it the less will end up as a Darwin award.


Canyoning, Jet Ski, Multi Activity
Darwin, Safety
Travel Articles

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