Hiking Safety Tips

Many Americans enjoy hiking for exercise and leisure, and it’s crucial to know a few basic safety tips before setting out on any hike. Even if you are very familiar with a hiking path or the location where you intend to hike, taking a few precautions will greatly reduce the chances of suffering serious injuries. Consider the following hiking safety tips and think of ways to protect yourself on your next hike.

Tips for Health and Wellness

Always carry water with you during any hike. Ideally, you should drink at least one quart of water every two hours. You may want to also carry high-protein snacks for long hikes (think trail mix, jerky, and protein bars). These can help fight fatigue and keep you energized during your hikes. They can also help prevent injuries from exhaustion.

Wear comfortable footwear that completely covers your feet, and you may want to consider investing in waterproof and/or steel-toed hiking boots with heavy treads for additional safety and traction on uneven walking paths. Dress appropriately for the weather in the area in which you intend to hike. It’s also wise to bring a few extra articles of clothing in case you fall into a stream or tear a piece of clothing. Extra socks are a great idea for any long-distance hiking.

Self-Defense and Personal Protection

If you intend to hike in an area where dangerous wildlife could be a problem, you may want to bring some type of personal protection. Many outdoor stores sell animal repellants and different types of pepper spray that can deter wolves, bears, or other dangerous wildlife. If you own a firearm, check your state’s concealed carry and open carry laws if you feel you might need to take your firearm with you for extra protection. Some criminals attempt to prey on unwary hikers for various reasons, typically because hikers are generally isolated from anyone who could help during an attack.

You should also keep a few emergency supplies with you in case of an injury or other emergency. A flare gun can help an emergency rescue crew locate you and evacuate you to safety after a serious injury. Fire-starting equipment and a waterproof blanket can help you stay warm while you wait for help after an accident.

If your state allows hunting, make sure you take this into account before hiking. Wear bright colors that make you easy to spot among the trees or a hunter could mistake you for a passing deer or other game. Hunting accidents are an unfortunately common occurrence and you can limit your risk of serious injuries by working around your local hunting seasons and avoiding areas that hunters frequent.

Have an Emergency Plan

If you plan to hike alone, tell someone where you plan to go and how long you intend to hike. Your cell phone may not have great reception in most hiking areas, so you may want to invest in a satellite phone if you intend to hike in dangerous or isolated locations. If you hike with a group, come up with an emergency plan and meeting place in case the group separates. Make sure every member of the group has food and water in case of separation. It’s also wise for each member of the group to carry a map of the hiking area as well.

You and your hiking partners should also know the area where you plan to hike. Take note of known dangerous wildlife, poisonous or harmful plants, and other known geographical risks in the area. For example, if you are hiking near a canyon, there is a significant risk of falling, so climbing gear, harnesses, and other safety equipment may come in handy.

Hiking is a healthy and fun activity, but it is also inherently dangerous. Hiking in certain areas will pose unique risks as well, so take time to develop a route and a required gear checklist before setting out. Taking the time to prepare can prevent serious injuries and increase your chances of rescue in an emergency.