Don't let your fun wilderness hiking trip turn into a life-threatening ordeal. Follow some simple hiking safety tips so that you'll be prepared for unexpected situations and avoid problems that can be a danger -- getting lost, dehydration, weather-related issues, accidents and injury. Proper preparation is a big step towards assuring that your hike will live up to your expectations.
You're just going on a day hike, so why is it smart to carry extra supplies? Don't make the mistake of thinking that you could never end up spending the night in the wilderness. Experienced hikers have gotten lost, become ill or been injured before you. It's wise preparation to imagine a worst-case scenario where you'll need to be ready for a night spent outdoors. Don't leave essential items behind -- when in doubt, pack it along.
A GPS device is a great navigation tool, so bring it along if you have one. Most hikers rely on a map and a compass.
Even in warm summer months, hypothermia can be a serious danger in the mountains. Weather conditions can change rapidly, so be ready for rains or high wind. Pack some warmer clothing including a fleece jacket, long pants, hat, gloves and extra socks. Timberland's Full-Zip Hooded Sweatshirt is a great layering piece for a summer hike. These items won't add a lot of carry-weight, but could be a real lifesaver.
In hot weather, unprepared hikers can suffer heat stroke and dehydration. Bring along plenty of water and keep sodium levels high with salty foods or sports drinks. In arid and hot climates, time your hike earlier in the morning or later in the day when temperatures are cooler.
Always leave your trip plan with a trusted family member or friend. This is a written statement of where you are going -- include a copy of your map! Write down who you are going with, when you are leaving and when you plan to return. It should also include instructions on who to call for help if you haven't returned by a certain time. The person entrusted with this plan should be reliable enough to follow through and check that you have returned at the specified time.
Every wilderness area has unique hazards. In some, it could be a danger from animals. Knowing you are hiking in country inhabited by bears or mountain lions means taking certain precautions. In the high peaks of the Rockies, dangerous afternoon lightning storms are common during spring and summer. In desert landscapes, heat and dehydration are a deadly combo for hikers every year. Be aware of what you could possibly encounter, and take the necessary precautions.
Take a wilderness first aid course. You'll learn basic first aid skills, like how to dress a wound or treat a broken bone, what to do for altitude sickness and heat stroke, how to recognize hypothermia and how to administer CPR. Hopefully these are skills you'll never need to use on the trail, but knowledge is power. Preparation is the smart way to ensure a safer summer hiking season.
Discover popular outdoor adventures where you live with our Outdoor Activities Guide. From hiking trails to balloon rides, we've got you covered. What are you waiting for? Mother Nature awaits!
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