Hiking is one of the best activities you can do for your physical and mental health. It can help you lose weight, gain muscle and bone density, boost your mood, and increase your energy levels. That’s not to mention how great it feels when you take a shower and crawl into bed after a long hike! However, in order to have a wonderful experience and keep ’em coming in the future, it’s important to take a few hiking safety tips to heart. From the moment you pack your backpack to the time you climb into your car to drive home, keep this list in mind!
Enjoying America’s Hiking Trails With Friends and Family
Are you anxious to hit the trails but want to make sure it’s an extra special time for your loved ones? Look no further than Adventures From Scratch! These amazing books include 55+ scratch-off adventures that offer on-the-go challenges, tear-out surprises, and much more. Whether you’re traveling with friends or family, you’ll be able to deepen bonds and preserve memories along the way. And if you really want to get your creative juices flowing while nurturing your explorer’s spirit, check out the Adventure Travel Journal. Armed with these hiking safety tips, you’re starting out right!
How to Stay Safe While Hiking
Below, you will find a list of hiking safety tips that all hikers should abide by! Commit these to memory—you’ll not only keep yourself safe but those around you, as well.
1. Do your research.
You would never go to a new city or a new country without having a rough idea of what lies ahead of you, would you? No, you will likely do some Google searches, read a few travel guides, and prepare accordingly. Hiking shouldn’t be any different!
When you research a particular trail or park, you know what skill level is needed to complete a hike, what type of hiking gear you need to bring with you, and roughly how long it should take you to finish. If the trail is well-traveled, there should be a ton of great information out there on the AllTrails app or in location-specific Facebook hiking groups. Always check in at the visitor center of the park or look at the information board for any up-to-date info you may need.
2. Never hike above your fitness level.
I know, I know. This one probably elicits a fair bit of groans amongst seasoned hikers. However, it’s always important to know your fitness level and skillset when it comes to hiking. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t challenge yourself at all. But it does mean you should stick to hiking trails that are at your level or just a tiny bit higher.
This is particularly true when you’re hiking at high altitudes if you aren’t used to the elevation. Hiking at a high altitude can make you feel more tired than normal and can make you feel dizzy or disoriented. This could be very dangerous if you’re hiking on challenging trails. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and stick to hikes you know you’re capable of finishing.
If you aren’t sure about how difficult a particular trail is, do some research on it. You can either Google it, pick up a hiking guide or trail map, or check out AllTrails. This is a great app that can help you learn more about a trail, including the elevation gain, trail length, and layout. You can also read reviews from other hikers who have recently completed the trail, which can give you some extra insight as to what the trail conditions currently are.
3. Hike with a friend.
When you’re planning on hitting the trails, bring a friend or family member along. Try to never hike alone if possible. Having someone else with you means you can help one another in case of an emergency. It also means you have someone to take to help pass the time when you’re putting in the miles. If possible, try to find someone who has the same pace and stamina as you so you won’t be constantly waiting for one another.
4. Stop by the visitor’s center.
If you’re hiking in a national park or state park, be sure to stop by the visitor’s center to let the park rangers know about your hiking plans and ask for up-to-date information on the trail conditions. The people working there will be able to give you the best insight into the trails and can also inform you about any trail closings or road closings that may impact your plans.
5. Don’t panic.
If you do happen to find yourself in over your head on a trail, don’t panic. Take the time to think about your options. If the trail is steeper or trickier than you thought it would be, just take it one step at a time. If you need to take a break, do it. Hiking shouldn’t be a race against other people (or even yourself!), and taking it slow and steady can greatly increase your chances of making it to the end.
6. If in doubt, use trekking poles.
When it comes to hiking safety, trekking poles can make the difference between you staying on your feet… or not. Hiking poles not only take a lot of the pressure off of your knees when you’re hiking downhill or carrying a heavy backpack, but they also help you make your way around or over obstacles like rocks, mud puddles, and fallen logs. They are generally very lightweight and easy to carry yet provide a ton of benefits—you can say they’re worth their weight in hiking gold!
7. Bring the right hiking gear.
You can be in the best shape of your life, but if you don’t have the right hiking gear with you, you may be unable to finish a hike. Hiking boots or trail runners, good socks, rain gear, and extra layers of clothing are some of the most essential items you can have with you. Ideally, your clothing will be made out of merino wool or quick-dry synthetics that will help keep you dry and regulate your body temperature longer.
8. Carry a first aid kit.
First aid kits should be an essential part of every hiker’s backpack. This doesn’t necessarily mean having to carry one of the big bulky ones that you can buy ready-made at the pharmacy. Instead, you can create your own first aid kit with just a few essentials in it, such as medical tape, gauze, and painkillers or anti-inflammatories. When combined with gauze, medical tape comes in handy and can be used to protect blisters from forming and cover cuts and scrapes. You can even use medical tape and gauze to make a makeshift splint or sling in an emergency.
9. Wear a headlamp.
Headlamps may look a little dorky, but they can be a lifesaver when you’re hiking in the dark. They allow you to keep your hands free so that you can use hiking poles or use your hands to stay balanced. Headlamps are usually lightweight and tiny, making them easy to shove in your backpack. If you don’t use it frequently, always double-check that it is working before you head out on your hike, and make sure there are spare batteries in your bag in case you need them.
10. Use sun protection.
No one likes getting a sunburn, particularly when you’re carrying a 20-pound backpack. When you’re out hiking, apply sunscreen frequently. This is especially true when you’re hiking at high altitudes where the sun is stronger. Try to apply sunscreen at least 20 minutes before you start the hike and then every two hours after that.
If you aren’t a big fan of sunscreen, you can always wear long sleeves and pants. This will protect you from getting sunburnt and help you avoid coming into contact with poisonous plants. If you’re wearing pants, don’t forget to tuck them into your socks. This keeps creepy crawlies out of your trousers.
11. Drink plenty of water.
One of the most important rules in hiking is that you always drink enough water. While it certainly isn’t appealing to carry excess water with you on a long hike, keep in mind that water isn’t always accessible. Try to plan ahead, and make sure there is potable water along the trail. If not, plan on carrying the extra weight, even if it means having to take something else out of your backpack.
If you’re planning on going on a multi-day hike where you may not have access to clean drinking water, you should also bring your own filtration system. There are many different ways you can sterilize and filter water, including water bottles with built-in filters, straws, and microfilters. Otherwise, you can carry iodine tablets with you and use them to clean water.
Dehydration can set in surprisingly quickly, especially when it’s a hot day or you’re hiking at higher elevations. Not having enough water with you can make hiking suddenly become life-threatening. Don’t rely on drinking water being available on the trail, and always bring extra water with you. Don’t worry too much about having to use the toilet frequently. If you’re sweating, there’s a very good chance you will need to go to the bathroom much less often than normal. Besides, it’s always better to pop a squat behind a bush than to collapse because of dehydration.
12. Wear insect repellent.
Did you know that mosquitos are the most dangerous animal on the planet? These pesky little guys lead to more deaths than any other animal. If that doesn’t make you want to slather yourself with insect repellent, think about how itchy your legs or arms will feel when they’re covered with sweat, dust, sunscreen, and insect bites.
13. Double-check the weather forecast.
When you’re about to set off on a long hike, check and recheck the weather forecast… frequently. Weather conditions can change really quickly in some areas, and the last thing you want to do is get caught in massive thunderstorms with no rain gear or emergency shelter.
This should go without saying, but also keep an eye on the weather when you’re out on the trail. If you see big black clouds rolling in quickly, try to finish the hike as soon as possible, even if the weather forecast says it will be sunny all day. If that isn’t possible, try to find shelter and wait it out.
Checking the weather frequently before you go hiking also lets you know how much rain an area has received. This should give you an idea about whether or not the trail will be muddy or if there are any other hazards you should keep an eye out for.
14. Keep your cell phone charged.
Don’t you hate it when your phone runs out of battery when you’re trying to watch your favorite Netflix show or are in the middle of a Zoom date with your bestie? Imagine what would happen if it died while you were navigating around your hometown. Now, multiply that by 1,000.
This is kind of how it feels when your cell phone runs out of battery when you’re on the trails. While you’re hiking, your phone acts as your flashlight, GPS, and camera. In an emergency, it’s also a way to contact the outside world if you need to call for help. We know that many phones, especially older ones, have batteries that don’t last the entire day. If this is the case, bring a power bank with you.
15. Tell someone where you’re going.
We’ve all heard the stories about hikers going off to the backcountry for a day hike and never being heard from again. Never be that person! Make sure to always tell someone, such as a friend or family member, what your plans are, when you start, and when you finish. If it’s a long hike and you have cell service, message them at the trailhead and along the way to let them know roughly where you are. This way, it’ll be much easier for the search and rescue team to find you if something bad happens.
16. Never underestimate the elements.
When we spend most of our time in air-conditioned cars and heated homes, it’s easy to forget just how powerful Mother Nature can be. Always hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. This means bringing a lot of water, extra food, sun protection, rain gear, extra clothing, and even waterproof matches and a firestarter.
Although it’s tempting to forgo some of these items to lighten your load, they can come in handy in case anything goes wrong. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke, dehydration, hypothermia, and altitude sickness can easily occur when you’re out on the trail. We guarantee that you will be incredibly grateful you have these things when you need them.
So, Are You Ready to Roam?
Well, how about it? Are you getting pumped yet? Hiking can be a beautiful experience. Some trails will be super chill, but that doesn’t mean you can venture out into nature without the proper preparation and respect.
We hope this list of hiking safety tips has given you everything you need to stay safe out on the trails! If you’d love to read more about great hiking trails or camping safety tips, make sure to head over to the Let’s Roam Explorer blog. Here, you’ll find hundreds of articles on awesome travel destinations all over the world, such as “The Best Hiking Trails in the U.S.” Or, check out our beginner’s guide to hiking!
Don’t forget to download the Let’s Roam app before you hit the road. This app not only gives you access to all of our fun-filled scavenger hunts, but you can also find user-generated tips and tricks for destinations across the United States.
Frequently Asked Questions
When you’re hiking, the most important safety tips are to drink plenty of water, know your limits, and take it slow in case you begin to feel unwell. And be extra careful at high altitudes!
The most essential safety tip when hiking in the mountains is to always be aware of your surroundings. This means knowing the weather forecast and up-to-date information on the trail conditions.
In order to hike safely at night, it’s important to carry a headlamp with you so you can see the trail. You should also use trekking poles to help increase your stability in case you trip on something.
It’s really important that you let someone know what your plans are and keep them updated throughout the hike if possible. These basic safety tips can help you stay safe throughout the hike.
When you’re hiking, never go off the trail unless necessary. It’s also important that you make plans and stick to them. Check out this list of 16 essential hiking tips for more info!
First, prioritize your safety while hiking. Then, consider bringing along a friend and the Adventure Travel Journal so that you can document your time in nature!