The Real and Not-So-Real Dangers of Being in the Woods


In response to several inquiries about the dangers of being in the woods, I’m providing a series of posts which detail some of the real and not-so-real dangers. This post is a brief list of dangers. I’ll be providing more detailed posts concerning a few of these dangers in the future. If I’ve left any out, feel free to share your thoughts in the comments area below the post.


Ghosts, demons, spirits, aliens, or any other supernatural entities. Let’s just go ahead and discredit this type of stuff first off. I’m not going to debate their existence. I’ve just never been concerned about this kind of stuff when in the woods.

Other People. Movies Like Friday the 13th, Deliverance, and The Hills Have Eyes (there are many, many others) lead us to believe that around every corner there’s an axe or machete wielding character ready to slay us. In truth, the vast majority of the people that you will meet are friendly and kind. You’re much more likely to run into people with intentions to harm in larger cities and towns.


Other People. Yes, this is also on the Not-So-Real List. Even though most people are friendly and kind, there is always a possibility of running into someone who isn’t. Good judgment is your best defense. Be aware of your environment. Women should consider camping in groups. Don’t allow your children to wonder too far away. Keeping an environmental awareness greatly reduces this risk.


American Black Bear
Public Domain Photo

Bears. Bears are the most common fear that people have about being in the woods. Certainly there are occasional bear attacks so there is some call for concern. There are some bears that are more prone to aggressiveness. I’ve not had to deal with Grizzlies, Kodiaks, Koalas, or Polar Bears. In my area of the Appalachian Mountains, black bears are our only concern. I’ve encountered several without incident. Research the types of bears common to where you will live. The best defense for bears is to avoid their young, keep your food sealed tight and store it away from your camp. There are sprays and other products designed to defend against bears but I’ve found little need for them.


Mountain Lion
Public Domain Photo

Cats. Not your sweet and loving kitty cat. I’m referring to Mountain Lions and Bobcats. These animals rarely attack humans but it can occur. Turkey hunters are more at risk than most others as they are well camouflaged and sound like a turkey. If ever attacked, fight back with all that you have. They’re looking for a meal, not a fight.

Other animals. Most animals are afraid of humans and will run or hide unless they are threatened. This isn’t to say that they will never attack. But generally speaking, they will leave you alone. Much like with bears, keep your food well contained and stored properly and it greatly minimizes this risk.


Northern Copperhead
Public Domain Photo

Snakes. There are poisonous snakes and non-poisonous snakes. Learn how to identify them in the area where you camp. Most non-poisonous snakes pose little threat. If bitten, treat as a regular wound but watch for infection. Poisonous snake bites require medical attention. Most snakes are not aggressive and will not actively try to bite people. Paying attention to where you step and where you put your hands will prevent the vast majority of snake bites.


Brown Recluse Spider
Photo courtesy of Philipe de Liz Pereira

Spiders. Most spiders are harmless. They don’t typically try to bite humans but will do so. Even most poisonous spiders don’t actively attack humans. But a bite from a poisonous spider at least can be an extremely painful experience, at worst can be death. Research what spiders are poisonous in your area and how to identify them. Try to avoid spiders as best as you can. If bitten, try to determine what type of spider it was. Monitor the bite for signs of reaction to poisons.


Public Domain Photo

Ticks. Ticks are a major concern, more so than most people realize. Some species of ticks carry Lyme Disease. Use bug deterrents and monitor for ticks often. Check over your entire body focusing on the hair of your head, folds and creases on the body and groin area.

Other Insects. There are a large variety of insects, some are harmless and some are serious concerns. Mosquitoes, flies, bees, and several others all pose their own types of dangers. Use chemical or natural bug sprays. Wear long pants and shirts when possible.

Through my experiences in the wild, I’ve found that there are a few other dangers to outdoorsman that are often overlooked but are significant and should be considered.

Dehydration. When water isn’t convenient, we drink less of it. When in the woods, you will likely be active and sweating. Drink more water than you think you need.

Heart Conditions and Other Health Issues. Woodsmen should have some semblance of physical fitness. Going from a couch to intense physical activity is a difficult transition for an out-of-shape woodsman’s heart. Also, pre-existing health conditions can be exacerbated when away from the comfort of our sedentary lifestyles.

Allergic Reactions. Anyone allergic to things like bees, certain fruits, nuts, and peanuts should be especially cautious. Always take medication with you – even if you’re only going out for a brief adventure.

Sprained Ankle - Duncan Style

The Author’s Ankle After a Mountain-Biking Accident

Slips, Trips, Falls, and Other Mechanical Injuries. These are by far the worst of all the dangers in the woods. Broken legs and ankles, knife injuries, scrapes, cuts, and tears are all likely when in the woods. Practicing safe knife handling, wearing appropriate footwear, paying attention to your footing, and using caution will help prevent these types of injuries.

Overall, there are a few significant and many less significant dangers to being in the woods.  A woodsman can reduce these dangers by taking precautionary measures, being cautious when in the woods, and responding quickly to any hazard or dangerous situation.

If I’ve left any dangers out, feel free to comment to let me and readers know about it. Also, if you’ve experienced any of these dangers personally, I’d love to hear about it.

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like A No Nonsense Backwoods First Aid Kit and Do You Need a Gun for Camping – A Woodsman’s Perspective.


6 thoughts on “The Real and Not-So-Real Dangers of Being in the Woods

  1. Was Deer hunting in Northern PA when a Black Bear Mamma and her babes were crashing through the woods. I was sitting on a long line of tornado downed trees and had no where to go. I jumped up and whistled and stomped my feet. They stopped and turned left and began to run faster than before.

    Kayak Fishing Fever

  2. Pingback: Ticks – What Every Woodsman Should Know – (Dangers, Prevention, and Treatment) | A guide to smoothing it in the outdoors.

  3. Pingback: BEAR-ANOID! How Do You Keep Bears Away from Camp? |

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