hiking boots

HIKING RULES

10 Tips for Hiking Safety

Hiking is a great way to get close to nature, enjoy fresh air and exercise your body. However, with any outdoor activity comes risk—many of which can be minimized by following basic safety tips.

To ensure that you’re as safe as possible while out on the trails, here are 10 tips for hiking safety:

Research the Terrain Before Setting Out

Taking the time to familiarize yourself with the terrain ahead of time can help you make better decisions while out on the trail, such as knowing when and where to turn back if necessary or how much water and food to bring along.

Begin by studying topographic maps of the area. These can be found online or purchased at outdoor stores. Maps will provide you with a general overview of the terrain, including elevation changes and potential hazards like cliffs or rivers. 

Try to find out how long the trail is and what type of terrain it has – such as steep hills or rocky paths.

It’s smart to read online reviews and talk to other hikers who have been on the trail. They can provide you with more specific information about what to expect, such as any tricky sections of the trail or possible dangerous wildlife in the area.

Prepare for the Weather

Preparing for the weather is an essential part of hiking safety. Planning ahead and being aware of potential weather changes can help you enjoy a safe, successful hike.

Check the forecast for your area before leaving on your hike. This will give you an idea of what to expect in terms of temperature, precipitation and wind. Knowing the weather ahead of time will help you choose the appropriate clothing and gear to bring along on your hike, such as rain jackets and hats for inclement weather or sunscreen and extra water for hot days.

If changes in the forecast arise, be sure to adjust your plan accordingly. If there is a chance of thunderstorms during your hike, consider choosing a different trail or staying at lower elevations until the storm passes. 

It’s important to be aware of changes in temperature and elevation as you hike. Bring layers that can easily be added or removed depending on the conditions, and take breaks often to stay hydrated and cool off from any heat exhaustion.

Carry a First Aid Kit

A well-stocked first aid kit should include items such as bandages, gauze, antiseptic wipes and ointment, tweezers, scissors, tape and safety pins, a thermometer, pain relief medication such as ibuprofen, and antihistamines. 

It’s a good idea to include any personal items that you may need such as an inhaler or epi-pen if you have allergies or asthma.

Your first aid kit should always be easily accessible – make sure that it is in a place where you can reach it quickly in case of an emergency. 

Check your kit regularly to make sure that it is stocked with the necessary supplies and that any expired items are replaced as soon as possible.

Tell Someone Where You’re Going and When You Expect to Be Back

Before you start your hike, make sure that someone knows where you are going and when to expect you back. This way if something happens, they can send help if needed. If your plans change while hiking, it’s important to let the person know so that they’re not worried about you.

It’s a good idea to leave your route and planned stops with that person. This will help them narrow down where to look if you don’t come back on time or get lost. You can even provide them with a map of the area, so they know exactly where you were planning on going.

Be sure to check in when you get back, too. This will let them know you’ve made it safely. Following these steps can help ensure that everyone knows where you are and can help if needed while out on the trail.

Wear Appropriate Clothing and Gear

Wearing the right clothing and gear is an essential part of hiking safety. When selecting your attire and equipment, it’s important to choose items that are comfortable, lightweight, and suited for the type of terrain you will be traversing.

Make sure you have a good pair of hiking boots or shoes. These should fit well and provide plenty of ankle support. 

Consider wearing synthetic or wool fabrics that can wick away moisture and provide insulation in colder temperatures. Don’t forget to bring along a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off your face.

No matter how long your hike is, it’s always a good idea to bring a few basic items with you. These can include a first aid kit, water, snacks, and navigation tools such as a compass or GPS device. 

If you’re expecting extreme weather conditions, make sure to pack accordingly – this could mean extra layers for cold days.

Having a flashlight handy can be essential when out on the trail after sunset or in areas with low light levels. A walking stick can also come in handy, helping you navigate uneven terrain or providing support on long hikes.

Don’t forget to bring a whistle. This is an important tool for hikers that can be used to signal for help if needed – three short blasts of the whistle is generally agreed upon as a universal distress signal.

Have a Map/Trail Guide and Compass, Know How to Use Them

Having a map and compass – as well as knowing how to use them – is a crucial component of hiking safety. Maps and compasses provide you with the resources needed to stay on course and familiarize yourself with the terrain ahead.

Before heading out, take some time to familiarize yourself with your compass and map. Learn how to read the contour lines on a topographical map, how to use a compass, and what safety protocols are in place if you get lost.

It’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times and make sure that you have a clear idea of where you’re going. 

If possible, bring along a printed copy of the trail guide, as well as a laminated version that can be kept in your pocket.

Bring Plenty of Water, Food, and Snacks

Bringing plenty of water, food, and snacks is an essential part of staying safe while hiking. Dehydration and starvation can quickly result in dangerous situations, so it’s important to plan accordingly.

Start by carrying enough water for your hike. The general rule of thumb is two liters per person, per day. If you’re expecting a longer hike, or extreme temperatures, consider bringing more. 

It’s a good idea to bring some electrolyte powder or sports drink mix in order to replenish the minerals and salts that are lost through sweat while hiking.

In terms of food, bringing snacks such as nuts, dried fruit, and energy bars is a great way to keep your energy levels up. Plan to bring enough food for the duration of your hike in case you run into any unexpected delays.

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Taking the time to really look around you and take note of any potential hazards or changes in terrain can help you avoid dangerous situations.

When out on the trail, pay close attention to the flora and fauna around you. Look for signs of wildlife such as tracks, droppings, or fur. If you notice anything that looks like a potential danger, it’s best to back away and take another route.



Watch out for changes in terrain such as loose rocks or slippery slopes – these can often lead to hazardous situations if not approached with caution. 

It’s also important to be aware of any sudden changes in weather that may impact your hike, such as high winds or rain. Avoiding hikes in extreme weather conditions is always a good idea.

Stay on Marked Trails Only

Keeping to the path allows you to be aware of any potential hazards that may be present, such as animals, cliffs, or uneven terrain. Staying on a designated trail ensures that your journey is regulated and that proper safety protocols are being followed.

If you plan to explore off the beaten path, it’s important to do so with caution and make sure that you stay aware of your surroundings. Make sure that you always have a map and compass handy in case you get lost, as well as plenty of water and snacks in order to stay hydrated and energized. 

Make sure to wear appropriate footwear and clothing in order to protect yourself from the elements.

Check Local Regulations

Checking local regulations is an important step before setting out on a hike, as it helps to ensure that you are respecting any applicable laws or restrictions in the area. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the terrain and any potential hazards before embarking on your journey.

Start by researching the area you plan to hike in and taking note of any local regulations. Make sure that you are aware of any restrictions such as open or closed trails, hunting seasons, or campfire regulations. 

It’s important to check for any special permits that may be required for certain activities or areas.

The Takeaway

Hiking safety should always be a top priority. The 10 tips outlined in this article are essential for helping you stay safe when going on hikes. 

Always remember to plan ahead and be prepared, dress appropriately and wear proper footwear, bring plenty of water, use the buddy system if you go alone, watch out for dangerous wildlife, pay attention to the weather, and stay on well-marked trails. 

By following these tips, you can be sure that your next hiking adventure will be a safe and enjoyable one. Happy Hiking!

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