Hiking is an excellent way to get some exercise and connect with the natural world, but it can be risky. Be aware of the dangers you might encounter so you can prepare and stay safe on your hiking trip.
Research the Area
Learn about the place where you’re planning to hike. Find out how long trails are and what the terrain is like (i.e., flat, steep, etc.) so you can choose a path that’s appropriate for the fitness levels of everyone in your group.
Familiarize yourself with the animals, plants, and insects that are common in that region. Know how to avoid danger and what to do if you encounter a dangerous animal or come into contact with a poisonous plant.
Go with a Friend or Tell Someone Where You’re Going
There is safety in numbers. If possible, have one or more people go hiking with you so you can help each other if something goes wrong. If you go hiking alone, let someone know where you’re planning to hike, when you’re going to set out on your trip, and when you expect to return. If you don’t check in by a designated time, that person can alert the authorities.
Check the Weather Forecast
Before you go hiking, find out what the weather is expected to be like. If the temperature will be very high or low, you can be susceptible to heatstroke or hypothermia. Rain can be more than an inconvenience when you’re out hiking; it can make the ground slippery and increase the risk of mudslides and overflowing rivers. If weather will create hazardous conditions, consider postponing your trip.
The way you dress for your hiking trip will affect your comfort and safety. Choose clothing that’s appropriate for the temperature that’s expected. If there is a chance of rain, bring a jacket or coat, hat, and possibly gloves. Wear shoes or boots that are designed to handle the type of terrain where you will be hiking.
Bring Essential Supplies
Bottled water is a must for any hiking trip. If you’re going to be out for a significant amount of time, pack some nonperishable food. You should also have a basic first aid kit. A map and compass can help if you get lost. If you’re going to be in a remote area where you won’t have cellphone service, consider taking a locator beacon.
Stay Safe on the Trail
Once you set out, stick to a marked trail. If you venture off the path, you might get lost or suddenly find yourself in dangerous conditions.
Drink plenty of water and take breaks when you need them. If you feel short of breath, slow down or stop for a little while. If two or more people are hiking, adjust your pace as necessary so that everyone can stay together.