7 Hiking Safety Tips

Shelter, food and water are life's most basic necessities, and things that are all too easy to take for granted. So much so that when it's time to get away from it all and disappear into the woods for a rejuvenating hike, it's easy to overlook your most basic needs.

Without proper planning and packing, even a short day hike could turn into a potentially dangerous outing. So, before you brush off weekday stress and lace up your hiking boots, remember these eight hiking safety tips.

  • Make a Gear List

Whether you're hiking for three hours or three days, you don't want to have an "uh-oh" moment on the trail, when you realize you've forgotten something important. Make a gear list before heading out to make sure you have everything you might need. The must-have list includes: water, extra water, rain gear, compass, map and extra food.

  • Bring a Map

Of all the hiking safety tips, bringing a map is one of the most important. You should never rely solely on GPS technology, especially with limited service and unreliable battery power. Always pack a map, and if you're not sure how to read one, take some time to learn beforehand.

  • Hike During the Day

Whenever possible, plan to hike during the day; not only is it easier to get lost in the dark, but the region where you're hiking may be home to a variety of wild animals that come slinking out at night.

The best way to avoid being stuck out in the dark is to set a turnaround time. Regardless of how far you hike, you should stick to your predetermined time to ensure you finish hiking before the sun goes down.

  • Know the Area

Exploring new hiking trails is always exciting. Unfortunately, it also means you're unfamiliar with the territory. Before heading out, check regional hiking information for:

  1. Local wild animals and what to do if you come across one
  2. Local poisonous plants—think poison ivy, sumac, oak
  3. Local hunting areas/seasons
  4. Any and all hiking alerts

You can find most of this information on regional government websites, or the site for the trail/mountain itself.

  • Check the Forecast
Check the forecast up until the moment before you leave. This is important in determining what gear you need to bring, like a rain jacket, sunscreen, extra water or warmer clothing. If the forecast does predict rain, be sure the trail you're taking is still passable in such conditions. Call your local Parks and Recreation Department, where they can direct you to real-time information.
  • Be Confident Not Cocky
Whether you've hiked 30 times or five, you know what you can and can't handle. When hiking in a group or with a more advanced friend, you may be inclined to take on something you aren't ready for. Don't risk injury; be honest with your skill level before hitting the trail.
  •  Stay Together
Last but not least, stick together. When hiking with a large group, it's easy to separate into groups of fast and slow hikers. Often, this happens naturally, but it isn't always safe. Keep someone at the front that hikes at a modest pace, to ensure everyone stays together.
These hiking safety tips are especially important with children or those new to hiking; don't let a rejuvenating hike become dangerous. Pack enough sustenance, appropriate clothing, and the right gear for a safe and enjoyable trip into the wilderness.