Hiking and outdoor activities attract almost half the population of the United States each year. Whether they’re engaging in hiking, biking, jogging, or other outdoor pursuits, it’s clear that Americans love their natural spaces.
If you’re looking at getting more adventurous with your outdoor pursuits, you may be wondering how to enjoy nature and stay safe while doing so. After all, nature can be unpredictable and dangerous if you’re unprepared or uneducated.
Regardless if you’re a first-time hiker or an experienced nature enthusiast, there is always more to learn. Check out a mountain blog for top tips and advice. And keep reading here to learn more about practicing mountain safety!
Make Sure Your Gear Is Working
If you packed away your hiking gear last fall, don’t assume it stayed that way over the winter months. Dirty gear can break down during time in storage. Rodents may have gotten into your stash, or you may have missed some damage while packing everything away.
Before you even think about hitting the trail, take everything out of storage and inspect it carefully. Check for ripped seams, worn-off waterproofing, holes, gaps, or missing pieces.
Trust us, you don’t want to get to your camp for the evening only to find that you’ve lost your tent stakes or that your guyline is frayed and unusable. Or that your camp stove won’t light.
You also don’t want to wait until the night before your trip or even at the trailhead. Give yourself plenty of time to repair or replace gear as needed so that you can hit the trail knowing you’re as prepared as possible.
Pack the Right Gear
Make sure you plan your gear correctly for the adventure you’re on. There’s a sweet spot between overpacking, which can make for extra work and pain, and under-packing, which can leave you unprepared and potentially in danger.
Your packing lists will look very different for a short day hike compared to a long overnight. The seasons will influence what gear is necessary and what can be left at home… and when.
A day hike is the most minimal mountain adventure in regards to necessary gear. At a minimum, you should have the following:
- Good footwear
- Extra socks
- First Aid Kit – Make sure your kit has a blister kit. If you have any allergies or medication, pack a day’s worth in as well. Replace it regularly so you’re not dealing with expired medication in an emergency situation.
- Water purification – There are tons of great lightweight water purifiers in existence. For a day hike, you may only need to use it in case of an emergency.
- Emergency shelter – pack an emergency blanket in case you get caught out overnight. These are lightweight and reflect your body heat back, keeping you more warm and protected than if you were to go without.
- Food and water – Bring about 24 hours worth of food and at least half a liter of water for each hour you’ll be gone. The harder the hike, the more water you should bring.
- Whistle and/or signal device
- Map or navigation device
- Rain gear
- Sun protection
In addition to the gear listed above, you should also bring the following:
- 3-season tent
- Stove and fuel (plus fire starter and cooking gear)
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag
- Gear repair kit
- Extra food and bear canister
Plan Your Route
Don’t head out for a mountain adventure without first checking a topographical map. You may also want to consult with route guides and local experts about specific risks, elevation changes, snowfields, wildlife, and other factors.
Knowing what to expect is a big part of knowing how to prepare for the unexpected and anticipate safety issues before they arise. This is one of the biggest ways to practice hiking safety so you’re not surprised by things you could have found out in advance!
You can learn more about the importance of route planning and other safety measures on The Next Summit: A Mountain Blog.
Check Weather Conditions
Weather in the mountains is one of the biggest risks you can encounter. It can snow any month of the year. Afternoons bring lightning and thunderstorms, which are a big risk if you’re up on a mountain summit in the afternoon. Lightning can also spark wildfires.
Other dangers include avalanches, flooding, and even rockslides.
Checking the weather conditions in the days and hours leading up to your departure can help you know what gear to bring and what to expect. It can also help you decide when you need to leave the trailhead and establish a turnaround time if you haven’t yet reached the summit.
But because storms, fog, and even unexpected wildfires are always a possibility, be sure to practice awareness of your surroundings at all times. Don’t push your luck when it comes to poor weather exposure at high elevations!
Tell Someone Where You’ll Be and When You’re Expected Back
Always, always, always be sure and let someone know where you’re going, when you’re leaving, and when you expect to return. This can mean the difference between life and death if you were to have an accident or get lost.
While heading off on a solo trip at the last minute may seem adventurous and romantic, it can also leave you without any way of getting help. Your friend or loved one will be able to contact the right agency to initiate a search and rescue to help get help to you sooner.
Practice Leave No Trace Principles
Mountain preservation is one of the best ways to help future generations practice mountain safety. Don’t shortcut on trails, and don’t remove trees, rocks, or blazes. Pick up all trash and signs of human interference in the environment.
Definitely don’t ever start a fire unless it’s a life or death situation. Wildfires in the west are often started by humans, causing loss of life and property for thousands each year. This is one of the easiest, yet safest, precautions you can take when enjoying nature and your mountain adventure.
Check Out a Mountain Blog
Spending time in the mountains or nature of any kind is restorative and good for the soul. But there are always unexpected issues that arise, as well as accidents and preventable mistakes. In those instances, your planning and preparations can help manage the situation safely.
Be sure to take the necessary steps to ensure your safety and the safety of those with you! Check out a mountain blog to help you practice hiking safety on your next adventure. And don’t forget to find more exciting content on our site!