Safe Hiking Tips
Who doesn’t love a great hike in the woods? Be prepared for your walk or hike, don’t let an afternoon adventure turn into a nightmare. A fall or twisted ankle can leave you stranded miles from a trail head, making emergency access difficult. Planning is an important step in be prepared for your adventure, keep these general safety tips in mind.
It is safer to hike with a companion, but if you prefer go solo, let someone know where you will park, what trail you will take, and when you will return.
Recognize your abilities and the abilities of your group. Pick a trail that everyone can successfully complete and enjoy safely.
Have a way to communicate. Carry a power bank along with your cell phone, especially in the cold. But remember, a lot of our trails are in remote areas with limited cell coverage. Searching for a cell signal can quickly drain your phone battery, so consider turning off your phone or switching to airplane mode until you need it. Have a whistle or other signaling device. Many backpacks have them built into the chest strap.
Be weather-ready. Check the weather before you head out on your hike. If conditions are not ideal, don’t take the chance! Be prepared to seek shelter if you encounter severe weather, know what to do in case of lightning or flash flooding.
If you will be hiking in hot weather, think about how much water you will need for the day. Plan ahead to prevent dehydration or a heat-related illness. Some hikes have reliable water sources whereas others do not, and you may be required to carry extra water or treat water. Hiking can drain your energy quickly. Dehydration and heat exhaustion may sneak up on you while you are hiking on the trails. Be sure to drink as you are thirsty. Snack on nutritional foods such as trail mix, nuts, and granola bars to keep your energy high.
Wear proper shoes for walking. Heels, open toed shoes, and flip flops are not ideal for hiking. Chose sturdy, rubber-soled hiking boots with ankle support for dirt and gravel trails, tennis shoes for paved, urban pathways
Let the slowest hiker set the pace. Always stay together. Put the slowest hiker near the front to keep your group together. While it may take a bit longer to reach your ultimate destination, staying together helps reduce the chance of someone getting lost and if someone gets injured you are there to help.
Keep Track of Your Time and Distance. Remember that your total hike time includes the time it took you to hike to your destination and back to your starting point. If any of your hike, in either direction, is uphill, plan for it to take at least double the time it took you to go downhill. Be aware of the time you set out and turn around so you don’t get stuck outside in the dark. Set a turn around time if your trip is taking longer than planned and make sure you stick to it.
Know your limits and pay attention to how you are feeling when on the trail. A good rule of thumb is that if you can talk while you are walking, you are traveling at the perfect speed.
Stay away from rapid waters and slippery slopes. Be careful and cautious when hiking near water including waterfalls and swift or cold water. Climbing on rocks near waterfalls is extremely dangerous and can lead to a fatal fall or drowning. Do not attempt to cross streams during icy conditions, flooding, moving or white water, or any time you cannot be certain of the water depth. If you plan to cross any rivers, plan and prepare to do so safely.
Spray for mosquitoes and check for ticks. Repellents, long pants, and sleeved clothing are the best ways to protect yourself from insect bites. Wear bug spray repellent to ward off mosquitoes and ticks. Check your clothing and your body for ticks during and after your hike.
Be aware of wildlife. You might see some wildlife while you are out exploring. Learn more about the animals you may encounter in your area and educate yourself on responsibly watching wildlife and staying safe.
Lastly, have fun! Hiking is a great family friendly activity and has many health benefits.