Now that the weather has warmed up, you may be getting the itch to head outdoors and hit the trails. For some this may be a regular occurrence and little direction is needed, but for the novice hiker, there are some safety tips you need to know.
Hiking can be a very fun activity that keeps you active and healthy, but if you don’t take safety precautions and plan your hike out properly it can be dangerous. First and foremost, don’t travel alone. If the trail is short, well-marked, and is thinly forested then you are most likely safe to travel on your own; but as a rule, always have someone with you. This is especially important for someone who is new to hiking. Even for experienced hikers, if an injury occurs, having a travel companion can be extremely helpful in terms of applying first aide or going to get help.
Be prepared with supplies. It is highly recommended to have an emergency kit complete with:
- Water (more than you expect to use)
- First aid kit
- Small flashlight with extra batteries
- Energy food
- Brightly colored bandana
- Trash bag (preferably a bright color – by poking a hole for your head, it can be worn as a poncho to stay warm and dry)
- Aluminum foil (strips can be tied into tree limbs to reflect searchlights or molded into a bowl for water)
Yosemite National Park provides a list of safety tips in the form of the mnemonic HIKE SAFE.
- Have a plan
- Plan out your trip in order to be familiar with the trail you are taking and the estimated time that it should take. This will make you less likely to get lost and allows you to plan out the appropriate amount of supplies to bring.
- Inform someone of where you're going and when you plan to return
- By letting someone know your whereabouts and estimated return time, they can call the authorities or park ranger if you do not return.
- Keep a flashlight and whistle with you
- Even if you plan on traveling during the day, if you get lost or you are out later than you planned, having a flashlight and whistle can help you find your way or signal where you are to others.
- Eat well, stay hydrated: carry plenty of water
- Always pack more than you plan on using just in case you end up getting lost or are out hiking longer than planned.
- Stay on the trail
- Don’t stray from the path you are on because you will be much more likely to get lost and will have a more difficult time finding your way back to the trail.
- Ask for HELP!
- Asking for help when it is needed could save your life, especially when you are in unfamiliar territory.
- Familiarize yourself with the area, use a map
- Review a map before you set out on your hike so that you have a general idea of where you will be going and how the path will bend and turn.
- Expect changes in the weather
- Be prepared for rain, changes in temperature, etc. because the weather can be very unpredictable and the terrain you are on can change as the weather changes (ex. the sky darkening, branches falling, mud/mudslides, etc.).
The most important thing is to use common sense and be prepared for any situation. Bring sufficient supplies, clean up after yourself, don’t feed any wildlife, familiarize yourself with the trail, and don’t overexert yourself on a long hike when you don’t know your fitness limits yet. Hiking can certainly be a fun experience, but you don’t want to end up in a dangerous situation, so follow these safety tips for a more pleasant experience.
We hope that this blog was informative. If you have any questions on this topic or any others in which you are interested, feel free to leave any questions, comments, or suggestions. Thank you for reading and stay active.