The Boy Scouts had it right:

Anyone heading into Colorado’s rugged wilderness must always Be Prepared.

Here are three essential tips for getting started.

Before you go, tell someone exactly where you’re going and when you expect to be back. Otherwise, no one will know you’re missing.

Anticipate bad weather

Check the weather reports before you head out. The National Weather Service and the Colorado Avalanche Information Center ( are reliable. If storms look likely, better to cancel and lose the $50 deposit on a backcountry hut than risk getting caught in the elements.

Find or build shelter

If you get stranded in the wilderness, first look for shelter. If there’s a cabin or a hut, break in–the owners will forgive you. No lodging in sight? Lay out a bed of pine needles, which provide insulation, and burrow in. A basic lean-to–thick branches or bark propped against a downed tree–will protect you from rain or snow. Tie any bright materials you have to the structure to alert rescuers.