10 Safety Tips When Hiking In The Outdoors
Hiking can be absolutely fantastic for getting away from it all. You can get some fresh air, immerse yourself in nature and enjoy some fantastic views – and it can be an enormously rewarding activity. In the great outdoors, however, you’re naturally exposed to the wild and you’re that little bit further from civilization and from help. Recklessness and poor planning can all too easily lead to real disaster, so it’s crucial to think ahead and keep safety in mind. Here are 10 tips to keep you safe on the trail.
1. Wrap up right
Even if you’re just taking a short stroll up a hill, take a top with you in case things get cold – and remember that conditions can change quickly. Additionally, make sure that you have sensible footwear, ranging from comfortable sneakers to sturdy walking boots depending on the environment. If you’re planning a full expedition, make sure to take spare clothes (pack light and warm items to get the maximum benefit) – and even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky, ensure everyone has a waterproof jacket with them. The alternative is to be caught out by a shower and to find yourself soaked and miserable – which is when other dangers can all too often hit.
2. Plan your route
It’s a good idea to know exactly where you’re going and what your destination will be. You don’t want to find yourself lost as the sun goes down, after all, and while you can normally find a hotel in town, lodgings and suitable camping grounds are fewer and further between in the great outdoors. To ensure that you can follow your route, always take maps and compasses with you (even if you’re following a trail) and don’t rely on satellite navigation provided by your cellphone – which is reliant on your phone’s reception and battery life. Equally importantly, make sure a friend or family member knows your route and when you should be coming back, so if you don’t arrive on time, they’ll quickly know that something has gone awry.
3. Don’t overdo it
When working out your route, think about your level of fitness and plan realistically. If you haven’t walked further than the subway station then a 20-mile cross-country hike may be a challenge. Equally, when en route make sure to allow for regular breaks. After all, tiredness leads to mistakes and pausing for a moment can often save a twisted ankle.
4. Stay on the trail and don’t travel alone
This has been good advice since time immemorial: don’t stray off the path. If you’re going to the bathroom, make sure you know your way back, and don’t become disorientated. In conjunction with this, it’s always best to travel with a buddy. They can watch your back in all manner of situations, they can share the load, allowing you to split hiking essentials (only one set of cookware needed, for example), and they can help you navigate and stay aware.
5. Think about what you’re carrying
You want to carry as little as possible while making sure that you have everything you need. Multi-tools like a Swiss Army knife can be absolutely invaluable, while having some tape around means you can patch up anything that’s the worse for wear (like a ripped jacket). Then, when packing, make sure that the things you need to access most frequently are at the top, while your camp equipment (like your sleeping bag, tent and roll mat) are at the bottom of the pile. To make sure you have all the necessary hiking equipment, check out our post on gifts for hikers.
6. Take a first aid kit
There’s no excuse not to have a full first aid kit, with plasters, bandages, gauze dressings, safety pins and gloves – to be checked and replenished before each trip. Beyond that, think about the local flora and fauna and whether you need to carry anything to treat snake bites or if insects might be a particular problem in the area. Also, make sure that you know if any of your party are on medication or might have special medical needs such as requiring antihistamines or asthma inhalers.
7. Work out what you’ll be eating
Make sure to carry plenty of food for your trip and take more than you need, so you have supplies in the event of an emergency. Energy rich foods like nut bars can be a great nutritional alternative to chocolate while fruit can be a fantastic pick-me-up. If you’re taking food that you need to cook, consider the logistics. You’ll need lightweight pots plus some dry matches as a bare minimum. Then, if you want to prepare pasta, for example, you’ll need to be able to bring a pot of water to boiling point and separately heat sauce – all of which will take time and energy. Even if you are committed to eating Italian, though, you don’t want to be in a situation where you find yourself stuck on a mountainside with nothing but a bag of penne.
8. And what you’ll be drinking
Make sure to carry plenty of water for everyone in your party. If it’s a hot day, carry extra, and take care to plan break off points for your route in the event that it all gets too much for anyone.
9. Watch out for hypothermia
At the end of a long wet day, it’s all easy to succumb to hypothermia so it’s important to prepare against it and to watch for the symptoms. If someone starts shivering, displaying confusion or showing signs of extreme exhaustion, then they may be suffering from hypothermia. In this case, it’s essential to get them to shelter as quickly as possible and then to give them food, cover them in blankets and take off any wet clothing. However, definitely don’t give them a hot bath or alcohol.
10. Avoid slippery surfaces
It might seem easy or exciting to take a shortcut across a steam or through a waterfall but it’s a surefire way of getting extremely wet, and putting yourself at risk of a fall and a head injury. If you’re in a location where waterfalls are actually fenced off, then take heed. Putting yourself at risk means putting others at risk as they try to help you.