By the end of this article, you’ll be able to know the hiking safety tips essential for every backpacking trip.
Tense events can start as a series of minor errors on the trail. Your clothes might get wet, and the trail becomes slippery after a light rain. On reaching for your water bottle, it spills its contents all over the map. You end up taking the wrong path; as a result, failing to leave before dusk. What a bad experience!
Fortunately, situations of this nature are avoidable. Here are some hiking safety tips to help you stay safe on the trail:
1. Consult a park ranger.
Before heading out on your next hike, consult a park ranger or other knowledgeable source for information on trail conditions and route options. This is especially important if you’re hiking in an unfamiliar area.
Park rangers can also provide helpful tips on staying safe while hiking, such as carrying enough water and being aware of potential hazards on the trail.
2. Bring at least one friend.
When hiking in the wilderness, it is always best to bring along a friend, especially if you are hiking in an area with known predator activity. You can watch each other’s backs and be sure someone knows where you are in case something happens.
Only a few people have friends to go hiking with. In this case, it is still best to hike with someone, even if you don’t know them well. Joining a group hike is a great way to meet new people and stay safe in the wilderness.
3. Create an itinerary and share it with someone outside the group.
Before you depart, create a sketch that will include the location, time, and projected finish time of your starting point, destination, and route. Remember, it can take a lot of work to forecast how long a hike would take, particularly on unfamiliar territory.
Please share this with someone who isn’t hiking with you so they know your expected route and timeline. This information will make communicating with a search team easier if you fail to arrive on schedule.
4. Agree on an emergency plan.
Hiking can be a fun and rewarding experience, but it’s important to be prepared for emergencies. Before you head out on a hike, agree on an emergency plan with your hiking partner (or partners).
Decide who will call for help if someone gets injured, and make sure everyone knows the route you’ll be taking. It’s also a good idea to have a map of the area in case you need to find your way back to the trailhead.
You should agree on a meeting place if you get separated and have a plan for how you will communicate if one or more members of your group do not have cell service. Knowing your route and how long it will take you to complete it is also vital. You can quickly tell first responders where to find you if you run into trouble.
5. Prepare for the weather.
Find out what severe weather conditions are most likely at this time of year and how to be safe by speaking with the rangers or visiting the park website. Even with the finest weather predictions, storms can develop suddenly.
Lightning and thunder frequently present risks. The NPS advises moving toward shelter and dispersing if you become trapped in them in case one person is struck (unlikely, but still). Avoid open spaces with a lot of height (like fields or boulders) and towering objects like trees, water, and metal.
6. Pack Essentials.
It is essential to be adequately prepared when hiking, especially if you are hiking in unfamiliar territory. This collection of first aid and emergency items can help you in the event of minor injuries, sudden weather changes, or unexpected delays.
The following are the 10 essentials that you should always pack when hiking to ensure your safety:
- Map or compass for navigation.
- Flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps for illumination.
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a wide-brim hat for sun protection.
- Jacket, hat, gloves, and rain shell for insulation.
- First Aid Kit in case of an unfamiliar medical emergency.
- Extra food to keep your energy high.
- Matches, lighter and fire starters for cooking and staying warm.
- Water and treatment supplies for hydration.
- Tent to protect you from severe weather conditions and exposure to the elements.
- Knife, screwdriver, and scissors for repairs.
7. Buy proper hiking boots and socks.
When venturing on a hike, be prepared and take all the necessary safety precautions. Invest in proper hiking gear, specifically hiking boots and socks, while considering the type of hike. For example, if you’re planning on hiking in wet conditions, you’ll want to ensure waterproof boots and socks. They should be comfortable, durable, and offer good support.
8. Protect yourself from the sun.
Most hikers start trekking early in the morning or late afternoons to escape severe sunburns and heat illness. To prevent this, apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 to any exposed skin. Remember to reapply as directed by the product’s directions.
If you are a frequent hiker, you can also wear garments made of sun-protective material. Use sunglasses and a hat with a wide brim to protect your face and neck from the sun. Drink plenty of water and take frequent rests under shade, to avoid developing heat illness.
Learn about warning signs of dehydration or heat stroke before they become serious. The NPS advises pausing if you or anyone in your group develops signs of heat exhaustion, such as headache, nausea, dizziness, or confusion. Then, if it is safe, you should take the injured person into a cool, shaded area, call for assistance, give them water to drink, and douse them.
9. Stay on the trail.
This may seem like common sense, but it’s essential to stay on the trail whenever possible. Not only will this help you stay safe, but it will also help you avoid leaving any impact on the natural surroundings.
Staying off the trail increases your chances of coming across a dangerous hazard. And if you do become lost or injured off-trail, a rescue operation will be riskier and more complex. Follow the correct route to avoid trampling plants, disturbing wildlife, and causing erosion.
Hiking is a great outdoor activity that will increase your general well-being. Just make sure to prepare in advance for a fun trip.
What should you not do before a hike?
Avoid taking alcohol before hiking as it is a diuretic. This can lead to dehydration as it hastens body fluids removal. Instead, drink water to be well hydrated.
What is hiker code?
The hiker code is an informal set of guidelines that hikers follow to minimize their environmental impact. These guidelines include Leave No Trace principles, respecting other hikers, helping out fellow hikers in need, and being prepared for your hike.
How do you hike without injury?
Before hiking, maintain your fitness, warm up and stretch to loosen your muscles and get your blood flowing. Put on hiking boots and use trekking poles for support and reducing swelling.
What do female hikers wear?
The recommended hiking outfit for women is a sports bra, athletic shorts, a water-resistant jacket, leggings or joggers, woolen socks, and hiking boots.