Hiking safety tips that are relevant for both a beginner and an expert hikers.
Luscious green valleys, cool streams, thundering waterfalls, tranquil lakes, breathtaking mountains and hours long walking is sure to make you feel very high without any intoxicants while you trek close to the nature. Hiking in the new land and collecting new experiences is every adventurer’s drug. Hiking is a great adventure and possibly a cheaper, safer and more attainable one too. It is an adventure anyone can set out on as it doesn’t require much expertise or bookish knowledge. However, it isn’t just about walking either. Hiking has its own do’s and don’ts and certain unspoken rules that have to be followed to ensure you have an exciting, memorable as well as a safe trip.
Usually beginners or even expert trekkers have a habit of underestimating the situations and believing that they are superheroes who can easily conquer the paths that other mere humans have trod on. While this attitude might help you to travel many places and explore the unexplored, sometimes such over confidence can become deadly too. While hiking can be a life changing experience if carried out well, these tiny mistakes are too common to ruin your entire experience. So, here are some really common trekking mistakes to avoid while you trek to enjoy every moment of your adventure to the fullest. These hiking safety tips will help you enjoy your hike safely and hassle free.
Hiking Safety Tips and Common Mistakes to avoid
1. Being a Fashionista
Yes! A trek may be one of the best opportunities to meet a cool, well travelled, adventurous man of your dreams or a smart, beautiful independent girl who will take sweep you off the feet. Yes, you do want to look great while you meet them, but darling, your sexy pointed heels and your cool tight denim pants will definitely not do the charm this time. So, it is understandable you want to look presentable or even attractive while you are sweating out in the sun or shivering in the cold trails of your trek. But it could actually be a real hassle as certain clothing materials make movement hard as well as the weather unbearable. While looking like a macho man or a pretty princess in the movies might be your goal – realize that life is not a drama in a studio.
Hiking Tip: Dress suitably according to the terrain and the weather. It is best advised to avoid cotton clothes as they retain sweat or moisture and keep you wet for longer. It might be okay during the summer, but during the winter, it could cause cold and ruin your entire trek plans. Also dressing in jeans might make you feel like movie stars, but they have been proved to be the worst outfit to sweat it out in the wilderness. Similarly comfortable socks along with shoes of the right size would ensure that you trek easily without bruises, blisters or foot aches. Make sure you wear the shoes that has been broken into, new shoes usually prove to be a disaster for many. Do not dress in camouflage.
Water is the most important substance for life, but most of us may actually forget this while enjoying the stunning atmosphere while trekking. Most of the trekkers have the habit of drinking only when they are thirsty or when they rest. But by then the body is already too dehydrated and becomes tired. The dehydrated body in the wild could lead to serious health problems. Keeping your body hydrated throughout the journey will help you avoid most of the health issues during the trek.
Hiking safety tip, What to do ? Don’t wait to feel thirsty. It is advised to drink water every half an hour, even if it is just a sip to keep the temperature cool and body hydrated to walk easily and enjoy the experience.
3. Wandering off alone
While wandering off alone in your own little secret mission might sound wild and fun, but you may not be well acquainted with all trekking areas. There are a number of stories about solo trekkers or members of a group disappearing when they stray from the group or the trail. Although GPS maps may be very handy, but complete reliance on it may not be a good idea, especially when you are travelling in remote areas.
Hiking safety tip, What to do? Carry a reliable map and learn how to read maps before you go on your adventure. Follow the the trail as planned. It is best to stay close to your group. Even if you want to explore a little or enjoy the surroundings in solitude, let your group members or your Trekking Partner know and keep close to group or trail.
Tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Don’t forget to check in with them when you get back.
Although GPS and mobile devices may not work all the time, but carrying a cell phone may sometimes turns out to be the best idea. Signals from the cell phone have been used to locate lost hikers in the past.
You can carry a whistle, It can be heard far away and takes less energy than yelling.
4. Being a moocher
May I borrow your sunscreen? May I borrow your toilet paper? Stop borrowing stuffs from others. Everyone on the trek packs tightly to avoid the extra weight! Treks in some distant places might be harsh and sometimes you might forget to carry along a thing or two. In such emergencies, it is okay to ask around for some help with the utilities. But make sure you are not the weird and annoying neighbor that keeps borrowing things too much.
What to do? Be self sufficient ! Make sure you have a checklist and you pack every single item on it. Do not borrow unless you absolutely need to. Include the essentials like a first aid kit, sunscreens, trail maps, flashlight, GPS, mobile phones and fresh batteries. But make sure you do not look like a nomadic tribe moving from one home to the other or an anxious, drug-obsessed trekker carrying an entire pharmacy. Carry only the medicines or essentials like bandages, painkillers, ointments, wipes, etc. that might be required on the trail or the type of trek you are going on. While carrying too much could create a hassle, missing one important essential could be equally disastrous. Pack lightly and sufficiently.
5. Disrespecting the local people and culture
Some local people or original habitants might have their own way of life or certain cultures that they strictly follow. If you want to feel welcomed to a new place make sure to be a good guest too. Disrespecting such local traditions might cause some strife with the local people and you might also lose the hospitality or in worse cases even your meal and shelter for the night.
What to do? Respect the people and their values and while some practices might be too hard to adjust to, doing so will make you a favourite among the locals. So, if you want to make your trip a culturally enriching experience, learn about the locals before the trip and try to blend in as much as possible. It might just be one of the days you cherish for life. Learning few polite words in the local language may be really nice. And always remember to pack your million dollar smile and use it while you meet new people.
This may not exactly feel like a hiking safety tips, but trust us, this will prevent you from possible brawls and may even save you from a punch or two.
6. Going wild with the wilds!
You may think you are an Ace Ventura at your home with your cats and dogs, but this is not your territory anymore. While the animals might look cute and you might get the urge to pet them, make sure you do not awake the beast in them. When you see a beautiful wild animal, don’t be crazy! Friendly looking animals while provoked have poked the trekkers with their horns, dropped them off a cliff or trampled on by the animals.
What to do? Animals are unpredictable! Feel glad that you encountered such magnificent creatures and leave them on their own. Respect their privacy and do not try to disturb them in any way. Expert Hiking safety tip: Avoid bright colored clothing to avoid predators in the wild.
7. Eating in the wild!!
I know you miss your home food. But it is not a good idea to eat those bright looking berries in the wild. Some of these good looking fruits and berries may not just be awfully distasteful but also extremely poisonous. Let the wild enjoy their delicacies which mother nature has to offer.
What to do? Carry plenty of snacks and do not eat any fruits and berries in the wild.
8. Being a litter and destroying the environment
While the entire world worries about protecting the environment, it would be a shame if you need to be reminded not to disrupt or destroy the environment of the places you trek to. Usually while travelling to places with heavy backpacks, you may wish to drop some of your trash along the way. Littering and damaging environment of certain places could land you into problems such as paying fines or even a conviction.
What to do? If you are travelling to national parks and conservation areas, read the instructions and rules carefully. Do not do any kind of activity that would cause problems like fire, destruction of plants, killing of animals, birds, insects, etc that are the treasures of such places. Humans naturally have the urge to touch or own anything beautiful they see, but understand the importance of just admiring the beauty in its natural form and setting. Leave only the footprints , take only pictures ! So it is a good plan to learn about the disposal procedures before the trip so you can avoid being the messy trekker. This will not only help you keep the environment clean, it will also help you avoid any type of fine related to littering.
9. Neglecting weather
We all want to be a savior, the hero of some disaster movie who ventures out into the wild in crazy storms and conquers things or rescues his damsel in distress. Well real life is different. Weather conditions have serious effects especially if you are trekking to rural places with no or less medical facilities. Once you get sick or injured, it will be very hard to recover in time to continue with the trek. Weather conditions are an unpredictable part of the nature.
What to do? This is one of the most important hiking safety tips, which is sometimes ignored by even the most expert hikers. Always listen to the weather. It will be wise to refrain from continuing at the slightest hint of any weather abnormalities. To avoid such problems, be informed about the weather for the next few days/weeks in advance and constantly keep checking for weather updates as internet facilities are available in the remotest of areas. Also do not attempt to be Batman playing heroic deeds in the night. Night times are intended for resting for a reason. There is the danger of wild animals, losing trails, falling into ditches or off the cliffs and also getting mugged or assaulted at night. So keep travelling in the night to a minimum.
10. Poor physical fitness
You might be a fit, well built and healthy person but hiking or trekking is totally different than doing everyday chores. You have to face different climate, terrain, geological hindrances as well as your body’s adaptability might be different at different places. People consider trekking to be like a stroll in the park but it just isn’t so. The body needs to adapt to the different environment, change its metabolic activities to adjust to the altitude and other factors.
Hiking safety tip , What to do? For this purpose it is advised to train for a few weeks before going out on a rigorous trek. Even if it is an easy trail make sure you are vaccinated, well protected and that you have a fit body to walk or climb, for hours at a stretch. It is best to warm up and stretch every day before trekking begins. Stretching after a hike could also help in reducing day-after soreness. Beginners should do proper cardio exercises and choose treks according to their fitness level.
11. Being the know-it –all
Whether you are hiking alone, with your loved ones or in a group with strangers, no one wants to hear a person constantly nagging about the route, unsolicited advice or very obvious facts. Along with annoying the group mates the person might also be ignoring the very signs of trouble or the dangers on the trip that could even be mortal.
What to do? It may be nice to share some nice advice and some of your thrilling adventure stories. But don’t keep boasting about your achievements and experiences, this is their adventure too, let them enjoy their piece of adventure. Do not be the moron that ruins the trip for everyone. Enjoy the trek, be careful and let others do the same. Having a happy company beside you can actually make the hiking much more fun and safe.
12. Rushing the trip
The main aim of any trek or hike is to enjoy the beautiful scenery, the company of fellow trekkers and the walk in the serene environments. But some trekkers miss the whole point of the adventure and instead become the rabbit trying to win the race who doesn’t enjoy the journey but only focuses on the destination. Trekking is not a race, each person has their own pace and ways of enjoying the trip.
What to do? Do not hurry to complete the trek quickly or you will be missing out on all the fun. Stop and rest for 5-10 minutes after every few hours and take this time to hydrate or snack on complex carbohydrates like dried fruits and nuts and relish the beauty of the nature while your body recovers. Enjoy every beautiful scenary along the way.
13. Buying cheap goods
Trekking for longer duration in foreign places could be an expensive hobby. But safety and comfort should be the first priority in any trip. You might be tempted to buy cheaper goods at cheaper stores, but supplies like tents, footwear, sleeping bags and other camping and hiking gears should be of better quality that are durable while being reliable. After all, in worst case scenarios, your life might hang in the balance of a rope, literally.
What to do? Get quality gears! You may even look for opportunities to rent some quality gears.
14. Safety First / overconfidence
Nature is very unpredictable and also very harsh. The weather, terrain, natural disasters or personal problems could occur any time. So the trip might not go according to plan. In such times, it is very important to trust your instincts or that of the others and to take the necessary precautions even if means halting the trek or going back. According to facts, people have been found to be injured or dead due to overconfidence in themselves and going against the nature or other circumstances than the problems itself.
What to do? Do not overlook any kind of irregularities or hints of problems. You might be an expert trekker but remember to always keep safety first.
15. Illegal activities
It is understandable that people feel free once they are out of their comfort zones, even more so when it is outside their countries. But being free is one thing and feeling invincible is just dumb. Such mistakes usually happen while travelling to developing countries with no strict laws and people usually tend to get involved in illegal activities like buying/doing drugs, misbehaving while intoxicated, buying illegal goods, hunting , etc to name a few. There might be no strict implementation, but every place has its own laws and rules. Always update yourself with the laws of a new place/ country you are visiting and strictly abide by them. Chances are you will not only make a fool of yourself, but humiliate your entire country.
What to do? Follow the rules of law and enjoy! This is the most general of all the hiking tips, but it is a very important one.
Hoping you will avoid these simple yet disastrous blunders, and have a fun enriching your hiking experience! We would love to hear from you about trekking mistakes. Tell us about your trekking mistakes and what have you learnt from them by commenting below. Share us your hiking safety tips, which we may have missed to mention on the list. You can also have a look at Tips to avoid Acute Mountain sickness (AMS) if you are hiking to higher altitude.