If you are bear watching, safety is key. Polar bears are very dangerous. Just look at the polar vehicles that take tourists out across the tundra in Churchill, Canada, and you will see that no risks are being taken. Similarly, it is up to tourists to not take any risks either. And this applies to brown, black or polar bear watching. Always listen to your guides. They are experts. Do not dawdle to get a good photograph. It is not worth it. And if you are hiking in bear country, follow all the rules too. The main ones are: keep all food hidden, concealed and locked away when possible; walk in groups and make plenty of noise in bear country; do not turn your back on a bear and run but back away slowly; carry pepper spray for emergencies.
If you are hiking in the mountains in early summer, there is still a risk of avalanches. Don’t hike immediately after a storm, as this is often when avalanches occur. Always check the avalanche forecast. There might not be snow where you are walking but, if there is a big melt higher up, it can travel down the valley.
Avoid the really steep slopes if you can. Slopes pitched less than 25 degrees are safest, while 30 to 45 degree slopes are most avalanche-prone.
If you are traveling in winter, storms can come and go quickly, but you need to be prepared. Especially if you are driving. Most rental cars should have emergency kits in case you get stuck, but ask for one if not. And if you are nervous of winter driving, give it a miss, and use a tour operator for all transport logistics for all winterworries to melt away in minutes.
If you are hiking in winter, or in the shoulder seasons, be prepared with all the right layers and emergency kits. Think thermal at all times.
Always use a helmet when rafting or kayaking in white water.
Wildlife awareness is important in the national parks. With animals like bears, cougars and snakes, you need to inform yourself of what to do in the event of an encounter before you go. Do not let your children wander too far ahead of you, so that you can keep a close eye.
Temperatures can plummet in many regions of the Canada. So always carry a sensible layer or two. Hypothermia can be life threatening and happen at any time of year, so check the weather forecast before you pack, and cater for extremes.
Lightning storms are common in summer, and usually take place during the afternoons. So best to hike early if you are going high, so that you are descending by the afternoon. If lightning does occur, get below the treeline and stay away from summits or isolated trees. Stay as low as you can and take your backpack off if it has a metal frame in it.
Exploring Canada’s wild spaces is an amazing experience but, if you go exploring, always be prepared with maps, compass, rain gear, pocketknife, matches and a whistle. And always tell someone where you are going. Most trailheads in national parks have a book you can sign to say where you are going, and how many are in your party.