In 2020, there was a 200% increase in hiking trail usage because of the pandemic.
Hiking lets you reconnect with nature, explore your local area, and sneak in your daily exercise. Perhaps you’re eager to hike but you’re worried about being unprepared and getting into an accident.
Sounds familiar? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Here are seven hiking safety tips to consider.
1. Consult a Park Ranger
Before creating a hiking checklist, consult the local park ranger as they have extensive knowledge about the area and will tell you if anywhere is off-limits.
The park ranger will also inform you about the wildlife and if there have been recent changes to the environment like rockslides. Don’t be afraid to ask whether you need to bring hiking safety equipment or what to do in an emergency as it’s their goal to keep visitors safe.
2. Come Prepared
Not sure what to bring hiking? Luckily, we’ve compiled a list so you’ll bring the necessary hiking gear.
On your checklist, make sure you bring a cell phone, flashlight, and insect repellent. It’s also important to bring extra clothing (e.g. socks or a raincoat), and candles with matches. Plus, bottled water, water purification tablets, and a map or compass.
Wear bright colors so you can be easily spotted in an emergency and if you’re hiking in winter, avoid light shades as it blends in with the snow.
Although it’s tempting, don’t bring too much. Your backpack should weigh less than 25% of your body weight and be comfortable to carry. And, to be safe, get a rain cover for your backpack if there isn’t a built-in one.
Further, buy proper hiking shoes with good cushioning and grip. Choose synthetic or woolen socks because they’re moisture-wicking to protect your feet from blisters. Also, consider the itinerary so if you’re going through waterfalls then get the best canyoning shoes for the job.
As a general rule, bring enough items so you can respond to an emergency and spend at least one night outdoors. So make sure you pack a first aid bag, repair kit, and an extra day’s supply of no-cook food like jerky or energy bars. And don’t forget emergency shelter including a tent, space blanket, and a tarp.
3. Invite a Friend or Two
Instead of solo hiking, invite your inner circle to avoid being stranded. Choose a trail that aligns with everyone’s fitness, divide the itinerary between yourselves, and create a hiking plan.
In this, make sure you know the starting and finishing point, duration of the hike, and the anticipated finish time. Send this to a friend who isn’t going on the hike so they can relay this information to the emergency services if you haven’t returned.
Most importantly, keep someone at the front who hikes at a moderate pace so you all stay together.
4. Check the Weather Forecast
Check the weather forecast up until the moment you leave so you can pack extra essentials. For instance, you may need a raincoat or sunscreen.
Note, if you’re caught in an unexpected thunderstorm, find the nearest shelter and stay away from tall objects like trees or telegraph poles.
5. Drink Plenty of Water
When you’re hiking, drink at least one liter every hour. Before you leave, ask the park ranger whether there is anywhere to refill your water bottle.
Pack purification tablets or a stove to boil water in case you stumble upon a river or a lake. Note you must never drink unpurified water, even if it looks clear because it could contain harmful pathogens.
You must also protect yourself from the sun especially in the summer. Make sure you wear sunglasses, a hat, and slather on sunscreen. You should regularly rest in shade and listen to your body to prevent heat exhaustion.
6. Stay on the Trail
Although it’s tempting to explore the wilderness, stay on the trail to avoid getting lost. If not, it’ll be harder for emergency services to find you and you could trample on vegetation and disturb animals.
Most hiking accidents happen in the second half of the trip because you have less energy, your body feels fatigued, and you focus more on finishing than the next step. So stay present and be careful with your footing especially over rocky terrain.
And to avoid being stuck in the dark, set a turnaround time so you’re back before night falls.
7. Consider Wildlife
It’s important to know what to do when you encounter wildlife. For instance, if a bear appears then stay calm and avoid eye contact. Slowly move away so it has plenty of room and if it doesn’t flee, shout and clap your hands to scare it off.
Depending on where you’re hiking, you may encounter a cougar or coyote. Don’t make any sudden movements and make yourself larger by standing up, opening your rain jacket, or holding a backpack above your head.
Still hasn’t fled? Then shout and throw a rock, stick, or water bottle at it.
Those Are the Top Hiking Safety Tips
Hopefully, after reading this article, you now know the main hiking safety tips.
It’s wise to consult with a park ranger to understand the trail, bring hiking essentials, and check the weather forecast beforehand. Always follow the route and know how to deal with wildlife encounters to be safe. Good luck!
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