As the weather gets warmer, many people look forward to spending more time outdoors, exploring various hiking trails while enjoying the tranquility and beauty that nature has to offer. Unfortunately there have been several occasions where hikers have gone missing which proves that, if a hiking trip is not well thought out and planned carefully, what should be an enjoyable and memorable experience will turn into a hellish nightmare for everyone.
However, you can avoid tragedy while maximizing your adventure in the woods by following these six tips.
The More the Better
Whether you’re going for a three-hour hike or a weekend long hiking trip, always make sure you have more than what you need for the duration of your trip. That includes food, water, clothing and First Aid supplies. Dehydration, hypothermia, heat stroke and hunger are the greatest threats to our safety when in the great outdoors, far away from any town centre. You never know when or if a situation will arise in which you need those extra supplies. Having extra supplies will thwart a potential disaster from happening.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Always hike with a group of people, never go on your own even if you know the trail really well. Some trails are well marked and include maps, but not every trail is marked. In any case, bring a compass. If you are unfamiliar with a trail you want to hike, join a guided tour or, if possible, find a friend who knows that trail well.
Always be aware of your surroundings while on a trail and make sure you stay close with the group of people you are with. Never wander off the trail.
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Regardless of where you are hiking, always dress for the weather and keep in mind that weather can change on a whim. Below is a breakdown of clothing that’s appropriate for different seasons and climates.
Summer/Hot dry Climates
- Any lightweight clothing that is breathable, light in colour and loose fitting.
- Nylon, polyester, cotton and merino wool are good choices for warm or hot weather.
- Shorts and t-shirts are ideal for hot weather, but a light, long-sleeved shirt and khaki pants protect your arms and legs from being sunburnt and bitten by mosquitoes or other bugs.
- Be sure to apply sunscreen to your legs and arms if you opt for shorts and t-shirt.
- A hat, preferably one that is wide-brimmed, will protect your head from the heat and also prevent your face, neck and ears from being sunburnt.
Winter, Spring/Moderate to Cold Climates
- Wear layers of clothing.
- Lightweight or mid-weight fleece is ideal as it dries quickly and keeps your body warm.
- Wool socks that fit well and aren’t too thick as well as waterproof boots that are well insulated will keep your feet dry and warm.
- Avoid cotton as it takes long to dry when wet.
- Be sure to bring rain gear that is lightweight, breathable and completely waterproof. Helley Hansen, Arc Teryx and the North Face Venture are highly recommended for their quality and ability to keep out the rain for longer periods of time.
Whether you’re hiking in the snow or in the mid-summer heat, wear boots that have good grip, fit well and that provide good ankle support as that will maximise your level of comfort and also help prevent you from injuring your ankle.
Check the Weather Forecast
Before your scheduled day or weekend hiking trip, be sure to keep an eye on the weather forecast. It is best to reschedule and wait for better weather if the forecast calls for any of the following: wind, heavy rain, snow squall, thunder and lightning, or heat where day time temperatures exceed thirty degrees Celsius. Remember, it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
Beware of Wildlife
Out in the wilderness, we share the same space with bears, cougars and other wildlife that are potentially threatening to us. It’s not uncommon for hikers to encounter wildlife, particularly bears, during the spring and summer months. Bears will keep away from groups of people and they will not attack unless they feel threatened or if they are hungry. So, to protect yourself as well the wildlife, make lots of noise while hiking on the trail and bring a bear whistle. If you encounter a bear during your hike, back away slowly and take an alternate route if possible or else backtrack until the bear leaves and is no longer in sight.
If you are camping overnight, put all of your food and other perishables, including toothpaste, into a bag and string it onto a tree away from your tent(s).
Generally it’s best to avoid hiking in areas that have a high bear population, so if you’re unfamiliar with an area you want to hike, research it first before you make any plans. You will find all the information you need on a government website.
Know Your Plants
Not all plants are a good source of food. There are some plants that, when ingested, will cause severe illness and/or death if medical attention is not immediate. You don’t have to be a horticulturalist, steeped in knowledge of many different plants, but you should know and be able to identify plants that are poisonous. If you are unsure whether a certain berry is poisonous or not, avoid them.
Communicate Your Schedule
Before you set out on your hike, notify a friend or family member of your whereabouts and let them know an approximate time you plan to be back home. That way, they will know that if you don’t return by the scheduled hour, they will be able to take the appropriate and necessary action in order to find you.
Hiking is an activity that is both fun and rewarding. If you take all six of these tips into consideration before your hiking trip, you and your friends will be able to enjoy your adventure.
Do be adventurous, but use common sense and be safe!
Christina Vanvuren. 10 Ways to Stay Safe While Hiking and Camping – 2018 Guide
Jessica Sanders. 8 Hiking Safety Tips
Teton Sports Team. How to: Stay Safe While Hiking