Before you hit the trails on a hike, there are a few things you need to know about safety. This includes how to stay safe on the trail, additional safety precautions you can take, how to stay safe when hiking alone, how to keep kids and pets safe on hikes, wildlife safety, how to stay hydrated, and how to deal with hiking emergencies.
How do you stay safe on the trail?
The following is a straightforward checklist of what you can do to stay safe when hiking.
- Bring the right gear.
- Research your route.
- Check the weather forecast.
- Check trail conditions.
- Take a first aid course.
- Pack a well-stocked first aid kit.
- Learn wildlife safety.
- Carry bear spray in bear country.
- Create an emergency plan.
What are the most common hiking accidents?
The most common hiking accidents are getting lost, falling, trips, sprains, dehydration, rashes from poisonous plants, snake bites, insect bites, hypothermia, heatstroke, sprains, and getting caught in a thunderstorm.
How can you prevent common hiking accidents?
Most common hiking accidents can be prevented by taking the precautions listed below.
- Carry and wear the right gear
- Plan carefully
- Learn fundamental hiking skills like first aid, using trekking poles, and using a map and compass
- Stick to the trail
- Respect wildlife
- Use common sense
- Check the weather forecast in advance
- Check avalanche forecasts
- Don’t take any risks
- Wear clothing with a high UPF rating
- Treat hot spots before they become blisters
- Don’t attempt to cross rivers in spate
- Avoid canyons after and during rainfall
What oversights do hikers make over safety?
The following is a list of the safety oversights most frequently made by hikers.
- Underestimating the difficulty of a trail
- Neglecting to check trail conditions
- Not carrying the Ten Essentials
- Setting off too late in the day
- Not respecting wildlife
- Trying to navigate without a map and compass
- Ignoring the weather forecast
- Neglecting to purify water from rivers and streams
What trail-specific information should you know pre-hike?
Before you set off on a hike, you should know everything listed below.
- The length of the hike.
- Elevation gain.
- The difficulty of the trail.
- Trail conditions.
- What wildlife you might encounter.
- The weather forecast.
- Where the trailhead is.
- What type of terrain you’ll be hiking in.
- Your average hiking speed.
Does anyone know where you plan to be?
Before you go hiking, it’s best to share your plans and itinerary with someone at home, letting them know when you’re leaving, where you’re parking, which trail you’re hiking, and when you expect to return.
Are you prepared for potential weather changes?
To ensure you are prepared for potential weather changes when hiking, get the most recent forecast before setting off, carry the ten essentials, pack rain gear if there’s even a slight chance of rain, and make sure you have a ‘Plan B’ in case you need to bail.
Do you have a first aid kit packed?
You should pack a first aid kit for every hike. Your kit should, at a bare minimum, contain antibacterial ointment, antihistamine, antiseptic wipes or cream, assorted band-aids, butterfly bandages, gauze pads, insect sting treatment, medical tape, moleskin (or other blister treatment), non-stick pads, pain-relief medication, safety pins, scissors, and tweezers.
Why do you need to warm up before a hike?
Warming up before hitting the trail will prepare your body for exertion and make it less susceptible to injury.
What hiking safety tips should you be aware of?
The following list includes our top hiking safety tips.
- Research Your Route
- Choose the Right Trail (and Know Your Limits)
- Use the Layering System
- Avoid Cotton Clothing
- Pack the Ten Essentials
- Check the Forecast
- Make a Plan
- Share Your Plans With Someone at Home
- Carry Spares of Essential Gear
- Make an Early Start
- While You Hike
- Carry Bear Spray
- Carry a whistle
- Use Poles
- Treat Wild Water
- Face Upstream and Use Poles When Crossing a River
- Staying Safe in the Sun
- Stay on the Designated Trail
- Stay Together
- Turn Back
- Check for Ticks
- Inspect Your Gear
What additional safety precautions can be taken?
The following list includes Some additional safety precautions you can take for a hike.
- Checking in at a ranger station before setting off.
- Sharing your plans/itinerary with a friend at home.
- Carrying bear spray.
- Carrying an emergency shelter or bivy.
- Creating an emergency plan.
- Bringing spares of important gear.
What gear will improve safety on the trail?
The following list includes some gear you can take to improve safety on a hike.
- Trekking poles for balance (and self-defense)
- Two-way satellite messaging device
- Snake gaiters
- Sun protection
- Water purification system
What gear can you take in case of emergency?
The following list includes some gear that may prove useful in a hiking emergency.
- First aid kit.
- Two-way satellite messaging device.
- Mylar blanket.
- Signal flares.
- Accessory cord.
- Bivy bag.
- Water filter or purification tablets.
How does hiking insurance differ from regular travel insurance?
Most standard travel insurance packages will not cover you for more ‘extreme activities’, and often this includes hiking. Standard travel insurance usually also doesn’t include coverage for accidents over a certain altitude or helicopter rescue/evacuation.
Is it worth getting hiking insurance?
Hiking insurance isn’t necessary for US citizens hiking in the USA. However, if you’re traveling abroad to do your hiking, it could save you a fortune in cancellation fees, medical bills, search and rescue bills, and repatriation bills.
What are the main hazards of hiking at night?
The main risks of night hiking are getting lost, trips on exposed roots and rocks, falls, inability to see approaching wildlife (predatory animals are more active at night), hunters (who might not be able to see you), and hypothermia (temperatures are lower at night).
What can you do to minimize nighttime hiking hazards?
To stay safe on night hikes, ensure you have adequate illumination, steer clear of hunting areas, bring plenty of warm clothing, and make sure you are proficient with a map and compass.
What are the main hazards of hiking through water?
The two main hazards of hiking through water are drowning and hypothermia.
What can you do to minimize water hiking hazards?
The following are a list of steps you can take to minimize hiking water hazards.
- Plan a route that avoids crossings of rivers that may be in spate.
- Make a human chain (linking arms) when fording rivers in a group.
- Check trail conditions before setting off.
- Never hike in slot canyons during periods of rainfall in the area or nearby areas.
- Dress in quick-drying layers and pack waterproof clothing.
- Wear shoes/boots with good grip to avoid slipping on wet rocks.
How do you know if you are near a hunting area?
To know if your hiking trail is in a hunting area, check the NSSF (National Shooting Sports Foundation) or your state’s Fish and Wildlife Department website.
What can you do to minimize hunting accidents when hiking?
When hiking in any area where hunting might be taking place, make yourself highly visible and make as much noise as possible. Wear a blaze orange vest and pack cover, talk in loud voices, whistle, put a blaze orange vest on your dog, and shout to hunters if you hear gunshots.
How do you stay safe hiking on your own?
When hiking alone, you need to take extra safety precautions, prepare thoroughly, and be able to take care of yourself. The following list details how to do so.
- Learn to navigate.
- Get trained in first aid.
- Share your route with a friend at home.
- Create a plan and stick to it.
- Pack all of the ten essentials.
- Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
- Carry a phone or two-way messaging GPS.
- Trust your gut.
- Don’t take any risks.
What are the greatest hazards of hiking on your own?
When hiking alone, you don’t have the luxury of a companion to help you out or seek help in the event of an accident.
What steps can solo hikers take to be safe on the trail?
If you’re planning on doing a solo hike, it’s best to share your route itinerary with a friend, carry some form of protection (pepper spray or bear spray), carry a phone or two-way messaging GPS, trust your gut, and avoid taking any risks.
What gear is particularly useful for a solo hiker?
The most important piece of gear a solo hiker can carry is a two-way messaging device, such as a satellite phone or GPS – in the event of an emergency, this will be your only way of seeking help in the absence of a hiking buddy.
How do you keep children and pets safe on the trail?
The best way to keep children and pets safe on a hike is to keep them visible at all times. We recommend dressing your kids in bright-colored clothing and giving them a safety whistle, and keeping your dogs on a leash. If you let your dog go off-leash, make sure they are wearing a high-vis vest.
What are the greatest hazards of hiking with kids?
The most significant dangers to your kids when hiking are getting lost, poisonous plants, insects, or reptiles, fatigue, and allergic reactions.
What precautions can be taken for hiking with kids?
The following list includes steps you can take to keep your kids safe while hiking.
- Establish ground rules
- Educate them on animal safety
- Teach them about the dangers of certain wild plants
- Make sure they’re visible at all times
- Give them an emergency whistle
- Make sure they wear bright clothing
- Ensure they have suitable clothing and gear
What are the greatest hazards of hiking with dogs?
The following list includes the greatest dangers to your dogs when hiking.
- Wild animals
- Poisonous plants
- Prickly plants
What precautions can be taken for hiking with dogs?
The following is a list of what you can do to keep your dog safe when hiking.
- Keep them leashed
- Make sure you carry plenty of extra water
- Bring a doggy first aid kit
- Take breaks in the shade on hot days
- Conduct thorough tick checks during and after your hike
- Dress them in a blaze orange vest in hunting season
What safety precautions can you take in different weather conditions?
- In snow and ice. Use crampons or microspikes and carry an ice axe. Use a map and compass – trail markings may be obscured or hidden.
- After or during heavy rainfall. Wear high-cut boots and gaiters, and use trekking poles.
- After landslides or rockfall. If the trail isn’t closed, seek and use a safe diversion that will steer you well clear of the affected area.
- In a drought. Carry plenty of water and be prepared for sore feet from hiking on hard ground (blister pads and well-cushioned shoes are recommended)
How can fall create adverse trail conditions?
In fall, trail conditions can vary significantly from day to day. Depending on where you are in the world, you can expect everything from ice and snow to muddy or waterlogged trails to bone-dry trails and extreme heat.
How can you prepare for these conditions?
Owing to fall’s often unpredictable weather conditions (and potentially large temperature variations on any given day), you should be prepared for any eventuality. Pack plenty of warm clothing and rain gear, but don’t forget your sunhat and sunscreen.
What are the greatest hazards of hiking in the snow?
Snow on the trails increases your risk of slipping and also makes progress much slower as more effort is required. Deeper snow can also make some portions of the trail impassable and poses an avalanche risk where the trail is exposed to steeper slopes (30–50 degrees).
How can you prepare for these conditions?
When hiking in the snow, check avalanche forecasts and trail conditions before setting off, pack plenty of insulated clothing, wear three- or four-season boots, and bring an ice axe and crampons (or snowshoes).
What are the greatest hazards of lightning when hiking?
The greatest hazards of lightning when hiking are a direct strike (if you are on high ground like a peak or ridge), or a ground current strike if you are on lower ground.
How can you prepare for these conditions?
The following are steps you can take to avoid lightning strokes when hiking.
- Check the weather forecast
- Carry a barometer
- Hike early to avoid afternoon thunderstorms
- Stay off of high ground in a thunderstorm
- Don’t take shelter under isolated trees
- If caught in a thunderstorm, crouch on the ground with your feet together and head between your knees
How can wildlife encounters impact safety on the trail?
Encounters with snakes, bears, moose, wolves, and even coyotes, skunks, and badgers all pose a safety risk when hiking. An encounter could result in serious immediate injury or force you to abandon the trail for more hazardous terrain.
What species are hazardous to hikers?
The following list includes wildlife that hikers need to be particularly wary of on the trail.
- Mountain lions
- Raccoons, skunks, foxes, coyotes, and bats (all can carry rabies)
How can you observe wildlife without disturbing it?
Use the following tips to observe wildlife without disturbing it.
- Stay a safe distance – around 25 yards for most animals but 100 years for predators like wolves and bears or larger threats like moose.
- Make use of viewing blinds – these can be found in many wildlife refuges and allow you to watch wildlife without disturbing it.
- Don’t feed! – Never feed wild animals, no matter how cute they might be.
- Keep your dog leashed.
- Use binoculars and watch from a distance.
- Use zoom lenses for photos instead of getting up close.
- Keep quiet.
What should you do if you meet a bear?
According to the National Parks Service (NPS), if you meet a bear while hiking, don’t run, group together, make noise, avoid eye contact, and slowly back away. If the bear continues to act aggressively, use your bear spray and fight back if necessary.
What gear can you carry in case of a bear encounter?
The most important thing to carry when hiking in bear country is common sense. The next most important thing is bear spray. When used correctly, bear spray will deter a charging or aggressively behaving bear and give you time to get to safety.
What should you do if you meet a mountain lion?
If you meet a mountain lion when hiking, back away slowly, make yourself appear big, maintain eye contact, make a lot of noise, throw rocks, and use bear spray and fight back if necessary.
What gear can you carry in case of a mountain lion encounter?
Some gear you can carry to help in the event of a mountain lion encounter includes trekking poles, bear spray, an air horn, and a straight-blade knife.
What should you do if you meet a snake?
If you see a snake while hiking, stop, back away very slowly, give it a wide berth when passing, and warn other hikers.
What gear can you carry in case of a snake encounter?
The following is a list of gear that can mitigate the risk of a snake bite for hikers.
- Snake gaiters
- High-cut hiking boots
- Trekking poles
- Snake bite kit
- A high-power headlamp for hiking in the dark
Why is staying well-hydrated important when hiking?
Staying dehydrated when hiking is vital because dehydration can make you confused and disoriented, which could cause you to get lost or wander near perilous ground. If you continue hiking while dehydrated, you may suffer from heatstroke, muscle cramps, and even kidney failure.
How do you ensure you are well hydrated when hiking?
When hiking, you should try to drink a minimum of one cup of water per hour, but this may vary depending on the level of exertion, temperature, altitude, and your personal absorption rates.
What do dehydration symptoms look like?
The following list summarizes the main symptoms of dehydration.
- Dark-colored urine
- Dry mouth or tongue
What are some water purification methods for hiking?
To purify water taken from wild sources like rivers, streams, and lakes, you can use water purification tablets, a UV sterilization pen, or a variety of water filters.
What is the best way to purify water when hiking?
Gravity filters are the best choice for large groups as they let you process/treat large quantities of water. For personal use, we recommend a mini pump filter or purification tablets.
What are the most common hiking emergencies?
The most common hiking emergencies are included on the list below.
- Allergic reactions
- Wildlife encounters
- Getting lost
- Extreme weather
How do you make an emergency preparedness plan?
An emergency preparedness plan for hiking should contain the items on the following list.
- How you will contact rescue services in an emergency
- Where you’ll find cell service
- A way to charge your cell phone or satellite messaging device
- An escape route from your trail
- A list of potential shelters on your route
What do you do in a hiking emergency?
In an emergency situation on the trails, assess the situation, treat any injuries immediately, create an evacuation plan, and contact mountain rescue or the emergency services.
What essential first aid skills should hikers know?
The following is a list of first aid skills that every hiker should know.
- Checking vital signs
- Cleaning and sanitizing wounds
- Treating blisters
- Treating burns
- Removing tick bites
- Using a tourniquet
- Making a splint
- Making a sling.
- Identifying and treating heatstroke
- Identifying and treating hypothermia
- Treating allergic reactions
- Treating frostbite
- Bracing a break or sprain
What emergency first aid kit should you pack?
A basic hiking first aid kit should include antibacterial ointment, antihistamine, antiseptic wipes or cream, assorted band-aids, butterfly bandages, gauze pads, insect sting treatment, medical tape, moleskin (or other blister treatment), non-stick pads, pain-relief medication, safety pins, scissors, and tweezers.
What should you carry for making a distress signal?
To make a distress signal when hiking, you can use a whistle, matches or a lighter, mirrors, or a flashlight or headlamp.
How do you make a distress signal?
There are various ways to make a distress signal. The most common (and effective) are with three sharp blows on a whistle, creating a “V”(assistance required) or an “X” (medical assistance required) with objects like sticks, logs, or rocks, or with your body, with a fire (three fires are best), by extend both arms and raise them up and down, or with three shots with a firearm five seconds apart.
What survival skills should you have in an emergency?
The following list itemizes survival skills hikers should learn in case they find themselves in an emergency situation.
- Making a fire.
- Navigating with or without a map and compass.
- Making a distress signal.
- Filtering water from wild sources.
- Foraging food.
- Building a shelter.
- Tying knots.
- Making a weapon.
- Administering first aid.
What are the biggest safety issues in a survival situation?
The following list identifies the biggest safety issues in a survival situation while hiking.
- Animal attacks.
- Rockfalls, avalanches, landslides.
- Flash floods.
- Human threats.