Leave only footprints. That’s a slogan that I take to heart wherever I go in nature. Maybe I should say “leave only boot prints” instead because let’s be real….you want to wear the right kind of footwear when you’re exploring the bush.
Humans have evolved to be creatures of convenience. We’re way more comfortable with air conditioning, running water and electricity. These days, we’re not as well adapted to various environmental conditions that can take a toll on us if we’re not prepared. The moral of the story? If you want to get out and appreciate nature, do your homework, and be prepared before you hit the trail…wherever that may be.
Pick a habitat or ecosystem you’d like to explore, either right here in South Florida, or somewhere completely different, like Antarctica. Do some research about the climate and weather, about the plants and critters you might encounter, and put together a list of essential gear you think you’ll need for your expedition.
Gear I use to survive the Everglades
Welcome back to the Lab everyone. Today we’re going to look at some of the gear I rely on to survive the Everglades. Let’s dive in.
So I grew up on the edge of the Everglades, and I’ve spent a ton of time out there. Let’s be honest, this can be a harsh environment. But it is such a unique and important ecosystem and I try to encourage everyone I meet to get out there and explore it, safely.
So on the table I have a bunch of equipment that you will …..NOT need. Bait and switch you say? Maybe we need a new title.
There we go.
A lot of people have this impression that you are putting your life at risk every time you wander into the outdoors. That’s nonsense. Getting on the expressway is way more dangerous. We put our life at risk every time we drink a soda, or these days, go to the store without a mask.
To safely enjoy the Everglades, you don’t need a snakebite kit.
And you don’t need heavy weaponry.
Or a huge knife. Although I’m going to hang onto this one right here.
On the flip side, you don’t want to be naïve and completely un prepared. I’ve seen plenty of tourists show up to hike a trail in the Glades during the summer wearing flip-flops and shorts. They usually last about 60 seconds before they’re devoured by mosquitoes.
Don’t be that guy.
You’re also not going to war, but it’s a good idea to be prepared. If you have the right basic gear and knowledge, it’ll allow you to really appreciate the Everglades for what it is: An amazing and important natural treasure.
So first things first:
Field guides. If you’re exploring the great outdoors, wherever it is, it’s smart to read up about the environment. Exercise that old brain.
The more you know about a place, the richer the experience will be.
Also, it’s good to be able to identify what’s safe, and what to give space. Which plants can give you a rash if you touch them, which snakes are venomous, that sort of thing.
Now for the gear.
Like I said, the Everglades can be a bit harsh, but only if you’re not ready.
During the summer months it can be really hot, humid, buggy and wet. But if you prepare, you’ll have a much more comfortable experience. So I’ve broken my gear into 4 categories. As follows:
Sun, Skeeters, Sustenance and other Stuff
Let’s start with sun.
I burn easily.
Use sunscreen, waterproof, SPF 30 or above
Nothing beats covering up
Buff: doubles as a PPE
Long sleeves shirts and long pants that are quick drying with spf
FreeFly apparel: mostly bamboo fiber. Quick drying, SPF 20, very soft with a built in hood. $60 from their website
Sunglasses: Woodies. Zebra wood stems, $30 on Amazon
Now on to Skeeters
This category isn’t just about avoiding mosquitoes. I’m lumping in anything that stings, bites or can cause a rash
Cover up. Long sleeves and neck gaiters help
Use DEET if you have to. 30% or more.
4 species of venomous snakes. Learn them, watch where you step
Snake guards. I almost never use them. About $40 on Amazon
Learn about them. Tend to be more aggressive during breeding season, at night
Mothers are very protective of their nests
If wet walking, take your time, avoid really deep water
Learn what to avoid
Poison wood, poison ivy, manchineel
If you are exposed, wash skin immediately with soap, like dish detergent. Urushiol is an oily compound that is responsible for causing the rashes you get from touching the leaves or sap from these plants.
Use a re-usable bottle please
I always have a few energy bars on hand
If you don’t plan on getting wet, a pair of nice, breathable hiking boots or sneakers with good support and tread will work.
If you’re wet walking, water shoes that are totally enclosed with good drainage, can be secured tightly are recommended.
A pair of old Chuck Taylors work just fine
Merrell Waterpro Maipo: bought these for about $80 on Amazon
It rains a lot in the Everglades. But it’s also hot and humid. You don’t want to get just as drenched with sweat than you would from the rain
Lightweight, breathable, GoreTex or similar technology
Marmot Magnus, about $100 on Amazon or REI
If it works in the rainforests of Costa Rica, that says a lot
It’s a tool, not a weapon
Leatherman skeletool: $60 from BladeHQ
Many very useful apps from offline navigation to weather to identification apps
So that’s it. The gear I use to, not so much survive, but enjoy the Everglades.
Don’t be intimidated by nature. But be equipped.
Don’t be that guy. Don’t be that guy. There we go.
Now get out there and explore and of course, leave only footprints. I’ll catch you all next time.