Justin Padgett is founder and executive director of Landmark Learning, a training center for outdoor educators based in Cullowhee, N.C. Padgett is an experienced backcountry trip leader certified in everything from swiftwater rescue to wilderness emergency medicine.

Justin Padgett

Justin Padgett

My wife hates camping because she’s scared of bears. i keep telling her bears are the last thing she needs to worry about. But what danger should we be most concerned with? Bears? Giardia? Rednecks?

In the Southeast, there is little concern for bears, but to keep critters away, hang your food 12 feet from the ground and from neighboring trees. Don’t eat in your tent, and keep your site clean. Gastrointestinal distress is high on the list of things you should be worried about. Wash your hands after each bathroom use and always before you handle food. Boiling is still the best way to create potable water; filters and halogenation are next best. Minor infections from improperly treated injuries are also a common danger. It’s important to bathe and keep small wounds clean.

My dad never went hiking without his compass. my mom always makes me take a cell phone.With safety in mind, is there one piece of gear i should always have with me when i hike?

The number one piece of gear is your brain. Plan ahead and prepare. Always know where you are and how to return to your vehicle. Be aware of weather reports and bring appropriate clothing and protective equipment. Cell phones can create a false sense of security. If you don’t know where you are, your cell phone may not be of much use.