OUTDOOR BASICS

Hiking Safety: Preparedness at its Highest Elevation

Hiker walks on train in Himalayas
Jessica Bayne
Written by Jessica Bayne

As hiking grows in popularity it has become a common sport and past time. Even with this excitement, the importance of hiking safety should not be forgotten. When you are prepared for a hiking trip, you will feel secure as you are hitting the trails.

Having proper knowledge about what you should not do when hiking, how to prepare your body for hikes, and what to wear when on the trails are all factors that can keep you out of harms way. Hiking is an activity that should always be taken seriously.

Though heading on a random trip out into nature seems like it would be a freeing experience, it can also get you extremely hurt if you do not take the right precautions.

nosebleed camper

Whether you are taking a day trip or an extended trip, you should always prepare yourself! However, before we go onto the actions that should be taken, lets talk about the actions that should be avoided.

As the old saying goes, “if you knew better, you’ll do better”. So with our warnings, we can help someone prevent these mistakes on their hike! And these tips aren’t just for beginners. Anyone has the ability to make these mistakes.

What NOT to do When Hiking

Do NOT Overestimate Your Capabilities

When it comes to testing your limits and physical abilities, on the trail is not the place to do so. Whether you are a beginner or not, you should always take time to consider your health and limits and compare them to the trail you plan to hike.

exhausted hiker on the trails

There is information all over the Internet to inform you of the trails length, elevation, and difficulty level. Think about the amount of activity you put yourself through on a regular day at the gym. If you think this trail will push the limits of your hardest days, reconsider your trail and be honest with yourself.

Do NOT Hike Without Telling Anyone

Whether you prefer to travel in groups or individually, you should always inform others when and where you are going to be hiking. By informing someone when you will be back, they will know to look for you when trouble arises. However, that may be too late to help if you are in dire straights during your hike.

Call using satellite phone

It is recommended to keep a GPS device or a locator on your being so you can be easily found if there is an emergency.  It is always necessary to take precautions when on the trail, but when you are alone it is important to be even further prepared. Also, check out our tip on how to choose the best personal locator beacon for more safety options.

When You Think You Are Prepared, You Probably Aren’t

When you are on a hike, there is no telling what you might run into and what you may need. The weather is constantly changing and emergencies can emerge at any time. Though over packing can also be detrimental to a hiking trip, you want to ensure you have the essentials for the unexpected.

essentials you need for hiking

This is especially true when you go on a hiking trip by yourself. Even if you are only heading out for a day trip, keeping in mind a few essentials is helpful:

  • A Map
  • A Compass
  • Bug Spray
  • An Extra Set of Clothing
  • Sunscreen
  • A flashlight
  • A Knife
  • A First Aid Kit
  • A Fire Starter
  • Extra Food

Do NOT Wander Off The Trail

Regardless the amount of hiking you have done and how familiar you are with the trail you are hiking, it is never recommended to travel off the designated trail.

Girls hiking off trails

Unless you have taken the necessary preparations to wander the woods and have acknowledged any potential dangers, it is highly recommended to continue on the path that was created. Staying on the trail will keep you from getting lost or injured.

Do NOT Alter Your Plan

Once you have created your plan for your hike, it is important to stick to it. Without sticking to a plan you can easily be caught unprepared after sunset, when the temperature drops significantly.

Hiker girl freezing cold

It is also easier to wander off trail without the sun to guide you or give you the light you need to see. Without the proper visibility, anything could go wrong. Making sure you are sticking with your original plan can ensure a safe hiking trip.

Do NOT Bother Plants, Animals, and Nature

The best way to stay safe from potential threats is to stay on the designated trail and observe from a distance. Eating any berries or greenery could be poisonous or have negative effects on your health. Wandering off the trail or bothering nature can attract dangerous animals such as snakes.

The act of disturbing rocks could be a threat for you or other hikers later down the line. It is important to be mindful of your acts when you are on the trail. If you disturb the trail in any negative way, it could have a negative effect on you.

hikers climbing rocks

Now that we have covered what should not be done when hiking, we will cover how to prepare your body for a safe and productive hike. When you are physically ready and equipped with the proper hiking techniques, you will be able to explore elevations you’d never considered before, and you will have an overall better time throughout your hike.

Many people believe safety while hiking solely lies in the knowledge you have and the necessities you bring along. While these are important, you must first condition your body to the high altitudes so you can endure the entire hike. By using these tips, your mind and body will be ready for the hike.

How To Prepare My Body For The Hike

Consider Your Posture

When you are hiking, you will be using muscles that you normally do not. When you keep your neck and spine elongated, the alignment in your body will release tension. Using the correct posture helps your work (or should I say hike) smarter instead of harder.

hiker woman with correct posture

When you are aware of your posture, you are also aware of your footing and balance. All of these elements work together to help increase your hiking experience.

Implement Balance in Work Outs

When you practice your balance, you will have a stable stance as you are hiking on unnatural grounds. Though many people think of strength and endurance when preparing for a difficult hike, balance is just or even more important.

Man balancing himself on fallen tree

With balance you can avoid any unnecessary injuries. An easy way to practice your balance throughout the day includes standing on a single leg for a few seconds and alternating. This is not a difficult task, but you will notice how this affects your hiking experience.

Start Small (Naturally)

Instead of going to the gym and strengthening your muscles with machines and weights, it is more helpful to practice the act of hiking. If you are new to the hobby completely or you are interested in hiking a new trail, work your way up.

young woman backpacker climbing on seaside mountain trail

Walk simple trails with the pack you will be carrying on the other trail, or practice pitching a tent to the point it is easy. These are the types of strengths you will need when hiking, not defined abs and quadriceps.

Focus on Your Breathing

When you are hiking, you will be introducing your body to new elevations and working harder than you ever have before. When you can synchronize your breathing with the steps you take, you will notice how easier the trail is than you remember.

Girl hiker taking a breath

The best way to breathe when on a hike includes inhaling as you take one step forward and exhale as you step forward with the other foot. When your breath and steps are coordinated, your mind and body will work as one and every movement will be in rhythm.

Work on Your Speed

When you are hiking you do not want to be heavy on your feet. Staying quick, agile, and nimble are great features to have. However, some people must work on their pace. If you have a hard time staying on track with your plans or you fall behind during group hikes, you may be one of them.

Lucky for you, all hope in a fulfilling hiking hobby is not lost. By adding interval training to your workouts, you will be able to see a huge difference when you are on the trail. Simply pick a distance and time yourself. Attempt to beat your time over and over again and your improvements will show.

Group hiking with increased speed

Now that your mind and body is prepared for the hike you are planning to take, you must prepare your wardrobe. Yes, you heard right, the clothing or gear you must wear is important to your safety and comfort while hiking.

Though there are entire brands that only sell hiking gear, we will be speaking about the basic necessities when you are hiking. The most important pieces of gear you will need include a proper pair of shoes, the right clothing for the temperature, and a lightweight yet strong bag that can carry your supplies.

Old man hiking with light equipment

Hiking places you in an environment that is often out of sight and out of mind, so your normal day-to-day clothes are not fitting for the trails.

The Necessary Gear For a Hike

Shoes

Find yourself a nice quality pair of shoes, preferably hiking related. However, if you are hiking on smooth and level trails, you can use a pair of sturdy running shoes. Regardless if you are using running shoes or hiking shoes, you should look for a few specific traits when searching for the perfect shoe.

  • You will want to make sure it fits. This should be a given, but if for some reason you have purchased the wrong size do not take it on the trail. You will be sorry if you do. Your comfort is important to your safety and your ability to finish the trail.
  • Keep the soles sturdy and thick. It wouldn’t hurt to look for shoes that have a protected toe, either. A strong sole will protect your feet from any rocks and allow you to go through puddles without getting your feet wet.
  • Make sure the shoe has traction. When you are hiking a trail, there are many different surfaces you will be exposed to. Whether the atmosphere is wet or dry, traction can keep you properly balanced and trekking along the hike.

Hiking shoes with good ventilation

Clothes

When you are hiking, you are at least outside for a majority of the day. This means you are exposed to the temperature changes as the sun rises and sets, the inconsistent weather forecasts, and elements such as shade or none at all. The best way you can be fully prepared for a hike includes layering your clothing.

Unless, you plan on hiking in extremely hot or cold weather, you should be prepared to have at least three layers on top and bottom. If you get hot, you can take them off and place them in your bags or wrap them around your body.

group hiking in hot weather

Preparing for some form of precipitation is always a good idea. Small details such as purchasing hiking socks and keeping an extra pair can keep your feet dry if it rains or if you are sweating inside your shoes. There is nothing worse than wet socks when you are hiking! During the winter months, be sure to choose the best cold weather gear for hiking for more options.

Hiking Bag

Depending on the duration you will be on the trail, the size of your bag will vary. However, you should always have a hiking bag to carry your necessities. If you need a reminder, there are a few necessities listed above for you to consider.

two backpacks for hiking

The bag will keep you organized and prepared if anything should happen throughout the duration of your hiking trip. However, it is important not to pack too heavily or you will have a hard time keeping up with others, even if you have been interval training.

The Final Verdict

We have taken you through a few safety tips that are helpful for beginners and experienced hikers alike. We hope you have a better idea of how to prepare for the hiking trails. Investing in hiking includes time, money, and dedication. You will need all of those aspects to grow in your hiking capabilities and strengths.

Hiker near like

If you are interested in improving the way you hike and taking your hobby to the next level, we challenge you to keep learning and searching. You will know when you are fully prepared for your next big hiking trip.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding hiking safety, please comment below. We understand it may be hard to feel completely prepared, but we are here to help! Not to mention, we enjoy and appreciate the feedback!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jessica Bayne
Jessica Bayne

Jessica believes that the only things you need to explore the world are a good backpack and a bit of courage to make the first steps. She also loves the beauty of a sunset seen from the mountaintop and the delicious flavor of a meal prepped over the camping fire. Ready to start a new adventure at any given time, Jessica knows how to be prepared for any situation and understands how important is to find the right gear. She also knows a lot about the type of gear to have and how to choose the products you actually need.

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