5 Signs That Tell You to Just Turn Around Outdoors

when-to-just-turn-back-featuredMany times, dis­as­ter just seems unre­al­is­tic. Bear attacks? That nev­er real­ly hap­pens. Light­en­ing storms above tree line? Come on — it’s Hol­ly­wood dra­ma. To an extent, part of being out­doorsy is being ok with the inher­ent risks (cal­cu­lat­ed ones) involved in the activ­i­ties you love to do. But then there are times when it’s wis­er to just turn around. It’ll require a bit of pride-swal­low­ing and maybe a wast­ed after­noon, but hey, it’s worth it to see anoth­er day.

You get a super late start
Being late on a trip not only makes you frus­trat­ed — it also leaves you with less sun­light. Every­one, no mat­ter how pro­fi­cient in ori­en­teer­ing, gets lost. If your esti­mat­ed trip time does­n’t make it with­in the time that the sun goes down, it might just be wis­er to turn back and wake up ear­li­er the next morn­ing. See, there’s a phe­nom­e­non known as the plan­ning fal­la­cy, which is a ten­den­cy to under­es­ti­mate the time and takes to com­plete a task. Say you bud­get your time for a hike and it runs over twen­ty per­cent, but that last twen­ty per­cent is in the dark — this is when peo­ple get in trou­ble. Remem­ber — Moth­er Nature doesn’t run on your time — you run on hers.

The ter­rain isn’t what you expect­ed
There’s no greater dis­ap­point­ment than get­ting stoked for a trip, only to find out that the ter­rain is much dif­fer­ent than expect­ed or has changed. Maybe the riv­er you were going to canoe is dan­ger­ous­ly fast or maybe the trail you’ve decid­ed to jaunt down is not as well marked as you remem­ber. Take this as a sign — acci­dents don’t hap­pen when any­one expects them. If the next few hours seems like it could be sketchy, you might be bet­ter off wait­ing a day.

You’re alone
One of the best things about the out­doors is that for most activ­i­ties, you’re like­ly to find a group who will accept you into their fold (oth­er than maybe surf­ing where you have to earn your stripes first. But at least you’re still with a group). Ski­ing or rid­ing by your­self? Find a group and ask to squeeze in. Hik­ing? Most def­i­nite­ly a group will let you join. On top of just being good folks look­ing for­ward to meet­ing new peo­ple, it’s a sur­vival tac­tic to ward off bears or have one more pair of eyes on the snow. When you’re alone, your chances of aid and res­cue are imme­di­ate­ly low­ered. So yes, it may be more fun to break from a group of newbs and hit some side coun­try by your­self, but you’re also aban­don­ing the folks who could be at your rescue.

The weath­er isn’t look­ing goodwhen-to-just-turn-back-2
Every­one knows this one but it’s always dumb­found­ing to see how many peo­ple will hold a fly fish­ing rod when there’s light­en­ing or how many peo­ple will jump into a kayak right after a flood (I’ve done that once and will nev­er again). Sure you want to sum­mit, but even the pros like Con­rad Anker and Max Lowe know when the weath­er won’t let them. Going out into dan­ger­ous con­di­tions isn’t badass — it’s wreckless. 

You just get that feel­ing
Your friends are get­ting ready to go and you just feel weird.  It may be because of small com­bi­na­tions of the exam­ples above, or it may just be a hunch. Your intu­ition in the out­doors is built from nat­ur­al instinct as well as expe­ri­ence, and if you don’t use it, you’re wast­ing it. Don’t feel the need to be a hero—it might feel lame in the moment, but many times when you make judg­ment calls in the favor of safe­ty, it reaps sweet rewards.