How To Stay Safe While Hiking In The Wild

If you’ve been planning your first hiking trip in the wild, you’ve probably wondered how you will keep yourself and your family safe.

Here’s the thing:

Hiking is a great way to spend time with your family and friends, but it’s not as simple as some might think.

Yes, taking small hikes around your local park doesn’t present much of a challenge and requires very little planning. The problem is:

Things become much more challenging when you start venturing into the wild. You must ensure you have the right stuff, know what wildlife is there, understand your emergency plans, and much more.

All of this can be pretty complicated for beginners out there. Hiking in the wild involves a lot of pre-planning and essential safety knowledge.

And this is what this article is going to give you. So, if you’re interested in what this article offers, don’t go anywhere!

9 Tips For Hiking In The Wild & Staying Safe

As mentioned earlier, if you’re new to hiking, you probably want to know how to keep the people you care about safe while out in the wild.

And that’s okay!

Even advanced hikers will have to brush up on skills and knowledge from time to time to make sure they are still on top of things.

If you ask most experienced hikers to give you some safety tips, they will probably name one of these 9 things. And today, this article is going to break them down for you:

Make Sure Your Bag Is Packed & Ready To Go

Make Sure Your Bag Is Packed & Ready To Go

One of the first things you should think about to help stay safe while hiking is having your backpack ready to go the night before.

Having your backpack packed and ready the night before reduces the chance of you leaving something important behind. 

The thing is:

Everyone is human, and there’s still a chance you might forget to put something in your backpack.

This is why you should also check it before you leave in the morning. It’s all about taking proactive measures to give yourself the best chances of success.

When you ask any experienced hiker what they keep in their backpack, they will probably mention the same seven items (of course, there could be others, but this should be a good base):

Navigation Tools

You should always have a map of the area and a compass in your backpack. Yes, you can bring your phone or a GPS system, but it won’t give you the same quality of information as a map. Not only that, but if your phone/GPS runs out of battery, you will be in trouble.

Lots Of Water

Staying hydrated on your walk is super important, even more so if you’re in a hot country. If you’re going on a day hike, carrying enough water with you shouldn’t be too much of an issue. 

But, if you’re going on a multi-day hike, you need to get creative. Ideally, you should try bringing a water filtering bottle or some purification tablets.

Snacks For The Trip

Just like staying hydrated, you need to think about nutrition while hiking. Even if you’re going for a couple of hours, it’s still worth having some fruit or energy bars with you. When you’re tired and hungry, you start to make mistakes which can lead to injuries.

Emergency Survival Gear 

Emergency Survival Gear 

No hiker worth their left arm will leave the house without having an emergency kit. You never know what’s going to happen, and praying everything will be fine isn’t going to cut it. 

Make sure you have things like… 

…and anything else you think will come in handy.

Spare Set Of Clothes

You never know what the weather will be like in the mountains; to make things worse, it can change in a second. 

So, you must ensure you have enough clothes to deal with any situation you find yourself in. Try wearing warm insulating clothes just in case the weather turns on you.

Waterproof Clothing

Just like it’s essential to bring a warm set of clothing in your backpack, you should also have a set of waterproofs. Unfortunately, you never know when it will rain when you’re in the mountains.

It doesn’t matter how much you check the weather before leaving the house; it can change instantly and without any warning.

Sun Protection

The final thing you should think about taking with you is protection from the sun. Hiking in the midday heat can be hazardous if you don’t protect yourself. So, always make sure you have sunscreen and a sun hat with you in your backpack.

Always Check The Weather Before You Leave

One of the most important things you should do before you leave the house is to check the weather report of the day. It will give you an idea of what it will be like while you’re in the mountains.

Here’s the thing:

Weather reports aren’t 100% accurate, so you need to take them with a pinch of salt. Just because it says it’s going to be sunny, it’s not guaranteed.

The good thing about checking the weather is it will give you an idea of what to expect. In other words, it will allow you to make final adjustments to your backpack and your hiking plan.

But that’s not the only reason you should check the weather report:

Weather reports give you many other pieces of information that can come in handy, including when it gets light/dark and the wind speed at altitude.

Tell People Where You’re Going (It Might Save Your Life)

So many hiking accidents could have been avoided if people had just told someone where they were going and when they would be back.

One of the most famous instances of this happening is with Aron Ralston, who had to cut his arm off after a boulder slipped and trapped his arm.

But more recently, a woman called Claire Nelson slipped off a cliff and shattered her pelvis from the fall.

She lay there for four days as coyotes circled her looking for easy food. She knew the golden rule of telling people where she was going, but this time, Claire didn’t tell anyone, which is why she spent four days at the bottom of the cliff with very little to eat.

If you want to read more about her story, ABC wrote an excellent piece about it. And hopefully, it will give you a bit of insight as to why you need to tell people where you’re going.

Tell People Where You’re Going (It Might Save Your Life)

Hiking Boots For The Win

If one mistake can put yourself and your family at risk, it has to be not wearing hiking boots when you’re out in the mountains.

And the worse thing is:

So many people are guilty of doing it, and from an experienced hikers’ perspective, it’s crazy and annoying to see.

So many experienced hikers get annoyed at seeing people in things like sandals on a hiking track because you can almost guarantee they’ll need to call mountain rescue for assistance.

You might feel more comfortable hiking in a pair of sneakers or sandals at the time, or at least until you hurt yourself.

The problem is:

Sneakers don’t provide you with the ankle support or the grip you need to keep you safe while you’re hiking. Hiking boots have high ankle support to help prevent your ankle from rolling on uneven surfaces.

Understand What Wildlife Is In The Area 

When hiking in the US, you must be aware of the dangerous animals you could meet while out in the wild. 

You have all sorts of wild animals in the US, but there are few that you really out for and understand what you need to do when you see one:

  • Snakes: While there are some harmless snakes in the wild, there are also some that can cause you great harm if they bite you. To avoid them, you should ideally walk in the middle of the path, and if you do see one, stay away from it. Don’t get close and start pointing at it; it’s the quickest way to get bitten. You can use snake gaiters to protect your legs from snake biting.
  • Bears: One creature no one wants to run into has to be the bear. If you see a bear on your hike, try not to startle it. If it starts coming toward you, a healthy dose of bear spray should keep it away.  
  • Mountain Lions: Another creature you should try to avoid at all costs are mountain lions. Unfortunately, you usually don’t see these until it’s too late. If you see one stand tall and make a lot of noise, they should back away. And be sure not to turn your back on them. Keep your eyes locked on them and back away until you know it’s safe.

Of course, there are other animals you might run into while you’re hiking, but these are by far the most dangerous. Do some research about the wildlife in the area before you go there so you can make some plans.

Always Have An Emergency Escape Plan

Having an escape plan before you leave for your hike can be very beneficial if something goes wrong.

Unfortunately, it’s in our nature to panic in an emergency, which doesn’t help the situation. But, if you plan what to do in advance as a group, it actually limits the panic.

When you’re making your plan, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What are you going to do if you have no cell service?
  2. Which area is most likely to have cell service? Does the National Park have its own emergency number?
  3. Who is going to run for help if it’s needed?
  4. Does anyone in the group know first aid?
  5. Is someone going to bring a locator beacon with them?

Just answering these simple questions can prevent anything from going wrong in an emergency; just make sure everyone in the group knows the plan.

DON’T Wander Off The Beaten Path

One mistake many new hikers make is wandering off the beaten path. It’s honestly one of the easiest ways of getting yourself into trouble.

The thing is:

The paths are there for a reason, and if you follow them, you’ll get to your destination and back safely. 

The problem is:

So many people are looking for shortcuts, and this is putting not just you in danger but other people too. 

You have no idea if you will talk into danger when you take an alternate route to save a bit of time. There could be a 20ft cliff just round the corner that you blindly walk to, which can be life-threatening.

The worst thing is:

The more people start taking that path, the more it carves out a track. And this can lead other novices off the track and into danger.

Just stick to the path! 

Understand That The Return Is Always More Dangerous 

There’s a widespread consensus regarding hiking; it’s always more dangerous on the way back. And there are two reasons for this:

  1. You think you’ve done the hard part, and now your brain will switch off instead of focusing on the task.
  2. You’re tired, and your muscles are fatigued, causing you to drag your feet. 

If you want your best chance of staying safe on the second half of your journey, make sure you take regular breaks and walk at a slow and steady pace.

It will take you longer than expected to get back, but at least you’ll back it uninjured!

Turn Back If You Have To (Don’t Be Stubborn)

The last rule for staying safe while hiking in the wild is not being too stubborn to turn back and ignoring your body or Mother Nature’s warning signs.

So many accidents have happened from people being too concerned about making the destination instead of returning it safely.

Try to be flexible with your goals. Instead of planning to make it to the summit no matter what, change the goal to make it back safely.

Final Thoughts & Takeaways

There’s nothing better than taking on challenges in the wild; in fact, it can feel pretty exhilarating and bring you closer to your friends and family.

But you can only achieve that if you make the experience safe. Of course, there will be moments of uncertainty when you’re on the mountain. But, if you’re properly prepared, you should be able to get past any hurdle.

The most important thing to remember is not to push yourself to the limit and don’t be afraid to turn back if you need to.

It’s not about the destination; it’s about the journey and the people you spend it with!

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