Hiking is a fun and active way to enjoy the outdoors. But hiking can also be dangerous if you’re not ready for what you might face on the trail.
Before you head out on your next hike, it’s important that you take the time to prepare yourself for your adventure. To get you started, here are 7 common-sense tips for hiking safety to help keep you happy and comfortable on your next hike!
1. Dress in layers for protection against the elements
A simple step that you can do for increased hiking safety during your trips is to dress in layers. This is so you can protect yourself against all kinds of weather and temperatures.
Your base layer should be made from a breathable, sweat-wicking material that will keep you cool and dry as your body heats up during the day. Then, your mid layer should include insulating clothing, like a puffy or fleece jacket, to keep you warm.
Finally, your outer layer should be waterproof and windproof to protect you from any rain or snow you might encounter as you hike.
Keep in mind, however, that you don’t need a ton of clothing on a hike, especially during the summer months. But it’s always better to have too much rather than not enough!
Ultimately, dressing in layers will help keep your body at a comfortable temperature and provide protection from the elements. Doing so will keep you warm when you need it most, and make you feel cooler when you’re starting to overheat.
2. Bring the hiking 10 essentials
Another common sense tip for hiking safety is to bring the hiking 10 essentials with you whenever you go outside. These include navigation tools, extra clothes, food and water, first aid supplies, a headlamp with fresh batteries, a pocket knife, some fire starter, an emergency shelter, and sun protection.
While you likely won’t need to use everything listed every time you go hiking, it’s a good idea to carry the 10 essentials with you whenever possible. That way, if something unexpected goes wrong on the trail you’ll be prepared for whatever comes your way!
3. Pack more water than you need
One of the tips for hiking safety that is often overlooked is carrying enough water with you on your hike—more than you think you might need! That way, if something unexpected happens, you’ll always have enough water to keep yourself hydrated while you wait for help.
This is particularly important when hiking in hot and sunny environments. In these situations, dehydration can set in way faster than you might expect. When that happens and you don’t have enough water, it could lead to a life-threatening illness called heat stroke.
As a general rule, you should strive to carry at least 2 to 3 liters of water with you whenever you head outside. In very wet locations where stream crossings are frequent, you might not need as much water. But in the desert or on alpine ridges where water sources are hard to come by, you may need to carry extra water so that you don’t run out during your adventures.
4. Research current trail conditions
Before you head outside, it’s essential that you do some research on current trail conditions. Doing so can help you get a better idea of the challenges you might face on your hike, like snow or loose scree, so that you can bring the right gear for your adventure.
Additionally, check the weather report for your destination using Windy or another reliable weather app, and plan your outfit accordingly. For example, if it’s going to be cold and snowing where you’re going to be hiking, pack a warm jacket and waterproof boots.
Likewise, if it’s hot and sunny where you’re going, wear lightweight clothing with long sleeves and pants to reduce your risk of heat exhaustion or sunburn.
Furthermore, be sure to research any hazards that could present themselves on the trail ahead of time. This includes investigating the natural threats in your area, like avalanches, wildlife, and poisonous plants. Doing so can help you prepare for whatever lies ahead so you can handle anything that comes your way on the trail.
5. Use trekking poles
Although some people might see them as a bit dorky, trekking poles are an invaluable asset on the trail.
In fact, trekking poles provide excellent balance and support on tricky terrain. Trekking poles also help with weight distribution on your joints, which can make hiking on uneven surfaces more bearable. When trekking, the poles provide added stability and leverage, reducing the risk of falls on steep or slippery trails.
Furthermore, trekking poles can be used as a self-arrest tool in icy conditions or they can be used to make a splint in an emergency. Many trekking poles can also be used to pitch a tarp in a pinch, so they’re a great multi-purpose piece of gear to have in the mountains.
6. Share your plans with friends or family members
Another tip for hiking safety that might seem like common sense is to share your trip plans with a friend or family member. That way, even if something goes wrong, there is someone back home who knows you’re out on a hike and can send the proper help should something happen.
When sharing your trip plans, be sure to let your friend or family member know precisely where you’re going, what you plan to do, and when you expect to be back. Also, let them know when they should start to worry. We all get delayed from time to time and you don’t want your mom or best friend calling 911 because you said that you’d be back at 5 pm and it’s now 5:05 pm.
Writing this information down on a piece of paper or in a text message can be particularly helpful. That way, there’s no confusion about your hiking plans and that information is easily sharable with search and rescue personnel.
7. Bring a first aid kit and take wilderness first aid class
Most of the tips for hiking safety mentioned so far have been tips for preventing injuries and illnesses on the trail. Unfortunately, even if you’re doing everything right sometimes these accidents still happen. That’s why it’s important to always carry a first aid kit with you, too.
A first aid kit should include anything that could help in the event of an accident or emergency on the trail, such as gauze, bandages, tweezers, scissors, and medicines like ibuprofen and acetaminophen.
Finally, it’s always a good idea to take a wilderness first-aid class from a reputable organization like NOLS or SOLO Schools. Doing so will teach you how to handle some basic medical emergencies. These courses can be a lifesaver out on the trail, so it’s worth your time and energy to take a course before you head out the door.
Essential Tips for Hiking Safety: Final Thoughts
Being a hiker can be one of the most rewarding and exciting things you’ll ever do. However, it’s important to remember that hiking is not without its risks.
The tips for hiking safety mentioned above can help you reduce your risk of injury or illness on the trail, but only if you follow them every time you head outside. Of course, accidents happen, but by bringing the right gear and having the right skills, you can handle anything that comes your way in the mountains.