Start 14-Day Trial Subscription

*No credit card required

Kieran Golder's picture

Hiking Safety Tips: Precautions and Preparedness for Your Adventure

Ensure safety on every hike, no matter the length, by preparing for an elevated adventure. Research the perfect trail, equip yourself with quality gear, and tap into online resources for informed planning. Hiking techniques and safety skills empower you to savor the experience, leaving you refreshed and ready for new horizons.

Hiking Safety Tips: Precautions and Preparedness for Your Adventure

Hiking, camping and hunting in the great outdoors are great bonding experiences for family and friends. Staying safe on any hike, however, no matter the length, takes preparation to heighten the adventure.

Rather than hiking the trail nearest to your home no matter the difficulty, research to find the right path that matches your current physical condition. Always take along quality outdoor equipment on your hike. The gear may save your life. 

There are plenty of online resources for hikers to help plan and educate before rushing out the door. Finding the right trail will enhance the experience, so everyone involved cannot wait to repeat the hike next time out.

Hiking Techniques and Safety Skills

Hiking is walking, so anyone with two legs can do it to improve their mind and body. Everyone should learn a few basic and situational skills before hiking regularly. Smart hiking can be a tremendously enjoyable experience if planned well. The hike can leave a body refreshed and ready for the days ahead.

Never hike like a short-distance sprinter; walk as fast as you can for a short distance, then plod along for the rest of your journey. Develop a walking rhythm or cadence that you can maintain without a break for long distances. Your rhythm will develop over time and fluctuate with your skill level and environment. Using a safe rhythmic hiking pace, you will take fewer breaks and enjoy the countryside more.

Cold Weather Hiking

Hiking in the fall and early winter months can be the most spectacular time for an excellent cold-weather hike. There are fewer bugs and leaves on the trees, and the weather is usually just right. Make sure to use layered clothing depending on the location. A good pair of waterproof hiking boots is an absolute must. In cold weather, keep a good pace and try not to sweat; once you get wet, you may become overly chilled. Always wear a hat. Days are shorter, so plan your trip accordingly. Be aware of hypothermia, a condition where your body does not generate enough heat. Severe hypothermia is a life-threatening condition. Frostbite is another circumstance that can cause severe hardship during and after the hike. Numbness, white and rubbery skin are advanced symptoms. Know the symptoms and treatments for cold weather conditions; they may save your life.

Hot Weather Hikes

Safe hiking in arid and desert conditions can be challenging and dangerous if not prepared. If weather conditions for your hike location are at the extremes, consider postponing the trip when more reasonable weather is expected. Hot weather hikes strain lungs, hearts and limbs; again, preparation is the key to safety. Plan a route with plenty of trees for shade and streams for cooling down, and maybe spend the days at higher, cooler locations. 

Hydration is critically important; consider a mix of Gatorade and other electrolytes to replenish your strength. Salty snacks are also important. Keep a good pace without over-exerting yourself. Wear polyester shirts instead of cotton; polyester wicks away sweat better. Hike in the early mornings or late afternoons when the weather is not at the extreme. Always carry water and a good DEET based insect repellent. Don’t let the abundant, dangerous plants and insects ruin your hike, and watch out for venomous snakes sunning themselves on the rocks. Heat exhaustion and stroke are life-threatening. If you begin to sweat profusely, stop and rest; alert others in your group. Rest in a  shaded area; cool down the head and neck first.

Improve Your Hiking Safety

Fundamental hiking safety tips are available for every  novice or seasoned pro. Some of these tips are common sense, and others are hard recommendations that must be followed. Hiking safety needs to be your first priority, whether this is your first hike or 500th. A simple bug bite or dangerous fall can be life-threatening for those unprepared hikers. With experience, hiking rules become easier to follow.

Never hike solo, and always have a plan in case of emergencies, no matter the length or destination. Hikers’ most common mistake is taking off on a trek without notifying anyone or going alone. Going solo on any hike is automatically dangerous. Consider investing in a Personal Locator Beacon, which lets emergency personnel find you.

Bring personal protection. Whether you’re hiking, camping or hunting, bringing a trusted hunting rifle or shotgun will give you that added sense of security, especially when exploring areas known to have large predators. 

Failing to prepare is another common mistake made by nearly every hiker. One simple, unrecognized mistake can change the face of everything. For example, you twist your ankle on a short day hike and fail to bring along the necessities needed to get help. How are your survival skills if forced to spend the night on the trail without gear?

Research and plan and always consider safety. A good option is choosing a state or national park for your hike; Park Rangers can offer a wealth of information on trails, sites to experience and dangers to avoid. Rangers offer great advice on toxic plants to avoid, wildlife and dangerous terrain. Poison ivy, oak or sumac can ruin a hike fast.

Underestimating the trail ahead can be a dangerous mistake. Novice hikers always try to hike a trail above their physical condition. Be honest with yourself, and always choose a trail region that provides safe alternatives. Research national park websites that provide safety ratings, elevation and other pertinent facts.

Abandoning your hiking plan can leave you and your friends unprepared. Decide in advance the actions you and your hiking buddies will take in an emergency. Forgetting a satellite phone or personal locator beacon can have deadly consequences. Have a plan to take along all the must-haves you need to enjoy your hike. Have a plan on turnaround times and when to head back to camp. Extend your plan to emergency contacts and others. Create a plan to carry personal items to be completely safe on the trail, such as a compass, water, emergency blanket, etc.

Preparation is the key to enjoying your hike.