11 Essential Hiking Safety Tips You Should Always Follow

AllsWell Team

Table of contents:

It is crucial to mind your safety and the safety of your hiking partners each time you set out into the wilderness. There are plenteous factors to consider. Try to be weather-wise and prepare your gear and outfit in advance. Conceal your hiking route map in a waterproof case to back you up if there is any problem with GPS navigation devices.

The more hiking safety tips you adhere to, the fewer challenges you and your group will face at any trail. So we suggest you run through the following recommendations to learn the essentials. These should help you to hit the trail fully prepared and have an incredible journey.

1. Consult With the Park Ranger

Whenever you choose to go hiking, it's crucial to consult with national park service representatives. Park rangers will be the best guides to instruct you. They'll teach you how to behave to preserve your safety and nature. Especially if you plan to visit a site you've never been to or visited years ago.

Don't neglect park rangers' instructions on how to act when encountering wild animals or facing sudden weather worsening. If you have a pre-arranged trekking route, ask for their opinion about it. You may have to redirect it due to trail closures and take another route for your own good.

2. Create an Itinerary and Share It with Someone Outside of the Group

In our previous article on camping safety rules, we've emphasized the importance of the itinerary. It's a brief note that you should hand in, e-mail or text to your family members or people from your emergency contacts

Remember that it should be concise and informative. You should outline the dates of your leave and return, provide the group members' contact information, and describe your route. Point out the spots where you plan to stay for the night or set a camp. Also, include the phone numbers of local emergency services and ranger stations.

3. Agree on an Emergency Plan

Following strict procedures in an emergency is one of the first safety tips. It allows you to go through life-threatening accidents with less or no harm. You should familiarize yourself and your hiking partners with first aid techniques and learn basics about survival and navigation in the wilderness. 

Here are the tried-and-true practices you can leverage if you're lost or separated from your group:

  1. Stop walking once you realize that you're astray. Calm down and don't panic.   

  2. Take time to recollect the noticeable landmarks that can bring you back to a trail.

  3. If you've missed the turn your friends took but are still on a path, don't try other directions. The right thing would be to head back where you've started and wait for your mates to return. Always arrange the point where you can go back and wait for the others, especially when you're not familiar with the area, and rely on the savvier lead hiker.

Be sure to have a map and compass and know how to read them. GPS devices and smartphones aren't enough, as any technology might fail you. A phone battery can die, and GPS maps might not render some natural barriers like steep rocks and a windbreak. So track your way and put it straight on the map for a safe hike.

Lastly, a personal locator beacon is your must-have if you're used to taking long runs and exploring backcountry areas with no cell service. PLB transmits emergency SOS signals through satellites to alert the nearest Rescue Coordination Centers (RCC) that will dispatch rescue teams to your location.

4. Bring at Least One Friend

Two heads are better than one. Most hiking safety tips recommend gathering a group to plan an upcoming journey more thoroughly. Hiking buddies would also give a helping hand if you get injured or even bring help if you are unable to keep on your own feet. After all, even the light-hearted chit-chat will cheer you up and ease the exhaustion from a long hike.

5. Use a Hiking Reminder App

Hiking reminder apps can keep you on track with your trip plan. Their helpful features enable you to:

  • Plan the route, track your current position, and receive notifications if you get off the trail.

  • Find the information on the accessibility of the trails for differently-abled people.

  • Receive updates on trail conditions in certain national parks, and check their policies regarding the stay at the camping sites.

  • Check the community's feedback on particular trails and share your hiking experience.

6. Pack Ten Essentials

Packing a default set of hiking equipment, gear, and supplies is crucial for a pleasant time outdoors. The list of essentials below is from National Park Service (NPS) officials, but it's important to have your own judgment. If you aim for longer hikes, study the experts' blogs for additional information on professional gear and tools.

  1. First aid kit. In our guide on camping safety tips, we have already listed must-have medical aid items. Still, you should customize the kit according to the individual medical condition and environmental factors. Perhaps you'll need a few hand warmers if you plan a trip in the fall or winter. 

  2. Food and Water Supply. Bring extra food for at least 1-2 days. Grab some highly-nutritious bars that are compact and can give you sufficient calories. Bottled water should be enough to keep you hydrated, at least between the spots where you can refill it. The rule of thumb is that adult hikers consume at least 1 liter of fresh water during a 2-hour walk.

  3. Tent. Choose a seasonal type of tent and mind its capacity. Also, make sure that its fabric is waterproof. 

  4. Fire supplies. Waterproof matches are a must. Additionally, you can pack some lighter fluid and a portable gas stove. 

  5. Illumination. You'll doubtlessly need a long-lasting camping lantern and headlamps. On top of that, pack extra batteries and power banks.

  6. Insulation. Daily temperature fluctuations are steep and unpredictable, especially during shoulder seasons. To sustain a comfortable body temperature during your trip, take a cloth change and foam sleep pads.

  7. Sun protection. Sunburns shouldn't spoil your summertime hiking if you put sunscreen on or wear light long-sleeved shirts. You should also beware of heat exhaustion and avoid it by wearing a hat.

  8. Navigation items. As mentioned above, a topographical map and compass are vital in navigating unfamiliar terrain.

  9. Sleeping bag and pad. It's better to grab both when you're about to camp overnight, especially if you're heading to a mountainous area or planning to stay near bodies of water. The nights are particularly chilly in places like that.

  10. Tools. A multi-tool will provide you with all critical tools at once. 

7. Buy Proper Hiking Boots and Socks

Covering miles on steep trails without proper footwear is a pain, so do yourself a favor and put on sturdy and comfortable hiking boots. The key criteria for selecting them are molded rubber soles, ankle support, and toe box. We also recommend waterproof boots with ePTFE membranes sandwiched between the lining and a knit backer.

As for the appropriate hiking socks, the best choice for energetic rumbling in warm weather would be a pair made of 100% synthetic fabric. Nylon and polyester blend keeps feet dry and wicks moisture. If you seek proper insulation and comfort for winter and fall tours, we recommend you pick out products of wool/synthetic blends with extra-padded soles.

8. Protect Yourself From Overheating

Sun protection is vital as overexposure to midday sun rays can lead to heat exhaustion. Avoiding dehydration, taking a break from trekking in the shade beneath tree crowns, and cooling down your face and head with a splash of water will protect you from overheating. Pay attention to our heat safety tips which you can leverage whenever you're outdoors.

Another tip for hiking wisely in extremely hot periods is to set out early in the morning. Cover as much distance as possible till midday before the sunshine gets baking. Then take cover in a camping tent until 4 PM when sunrays become less relentless and continue your way.

9. Boil Water or Use a Purification System

Find out if there will be any source of drinking water where you're heading. It will help you to lighten your backpack a lot! 

Drinking water from natural sources is risky. Spend a few minutes filtering it and dissolve a couple of water purification tablets to eliminate contaminants and hazardous microorganisms.

Disinfecting water with tablets takes 30 - 40 minutes, so if you want to sterilize clear spring water faster, good old-fashioned boiling can be a solution. Just make sure that you've boiled it for at least 1 - 3 minutes.

10. Stay on the Trail

Staying on the trail increases the chances of being found by the rescuers if you get lost. Aside from common dangers like unwanted encounters with hostile wildlife, veering off the trail can cause what rangers call "social trails."

These are the paths paved by headless tourists through wilderness away from the official routes. Social trails cause adverse effects on the natural environment as people trample the vegetation and disturb wild animals. Moreover, they lead other hikers astray as those might appear to them the right way. So, please, be responsible and stick with the commonly used trails.

11. Evaluate Whether You're Ready for the Upcoming Trip 

On-foot adventures amid the wilderness are both exciting and challenging. And you need to have a considered judgment about whether you're skilled enough to trial yourself. Ask yourself:

  • Am I physically fit enough to take a round trip by this particular route?

  • What amount of supplies and equipment will I manage to carry without taking a break?

  • Am I experienced enough to travel this route alone, or is it better to have companions with me?

  • Will there be any difficulties with higher elevations?

There are always ways to go hiking without exhaustion. So have common sense and opt for scenarios where you can enjoy the trip and energize yourself from being in the great outdoors.

Have a Safer Hike with AllsWell Alert – an Emergency SOS App

The ability to send SOS messages in an emergency will double your hiking safety. AllsWell Alert allows you to request help from emergency contacts in any area with cellular service and reach out to multiple designated phone numbers at once. Thanks to inactivity monitoring, you can rely upon SOS messaging even if you lose your smartphone or cannot press the SOS button.

The AllsWell Alert app provides precise and battery-saving background GPS tracking to inform people from the emergency contact list about your actual location. Therefore, you can use it both to request help from the outside world and notify your group members if you get separated.

Try the full-fledged functionality of the AllsWell Alert personal safety app for free. Download the app on Google Play or App Store with a 30-day trial.

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