Now is a great time to go hiking. Spring is here and the snow has all melted making it the ideal opportunity to go out. But going hiking on impulse is not the smartest thing to do. Despite the great weather, the outdoors is still very unpredictable and it’s better to be prepared for anything that may come your way while on your hike.
Always be prepared and have a plan
The first thing to do is choose a trail or park that’s suited to your group’s experience. Hiking or trekking on advanced trails can be dangerous for inexperienced hikers. Once you’ve picked out a trail, study the map and have a good idea of the paths you’ll hike. Identify possible alternative and emergency routes.
Let people know where you plan on going before actually setting out on your hike. Casually mention to family or friends your expected whereabouts and give a brief description of the route and your planned schedules. There are plenty of cases where hikers or hillwalkers fail to inform other people where they intend to go, and if trouble rears its head, no one will be able to raise the alarm in good time or have an immediate inkling as to where you could be situated. Make sure to leave details of your trajectory with someone you can trust to call if you’re gone for too long.
Make sure you’re well equipped before setting off. These are safety gears that every hiker must have on one’s person during a hike. You can always add or remove more equipment depending if you’re backpacking for days or just on a regular one-day hike. The first three on the list are essentials that can fit inside your pocket without being encumbered and are tools that you can bring even on a simple half-day hike.
All group members should have a whistle. These whistles will produce sound with little effort that will give away your position in case you get separated or require rescue.
A compact portable device that has extensions for many tools which can be folded into the handle. This tool will help you in any type of situation that may arise during the hike. Not all multi-tools are alike. Find yourself a model that has the tools you might require in the outdoors.
The knife extension on your multi-tool might not be enough for heavier work. Survival knives can be an important tool in a variety of situations. Whether roughing it in the woods or prepping for the worst, a good knife will serve you through thick and thin.
Personal locator beacon (PLB)
When you’re on an outdoor adventure, PLBs are your best option for sending distress signals. It is a satellite-synced device that sends an SOS signal to rescue agencies, along with your location. Though there are no subscription fees required, it does have to be registered to be activated and also maybe a little pricey for amateur hikers.
Experienced campers know that having more than one option to start a fire is almost always necessary in the outdoors. While waterproof matches they’re not necessarily very durable and butane lighters are not waterproof. Get yourself a flint-type strike firestarter. These are very light devices that are about the size of keychains. What makes them the choice of most campers is that they are very durable, cheap, and waterproof. Some flint-type strike firestarters even last for up to 10,000 ignitions.
Getting hurt while in the outdoors is not uncommon and they may not be able to be treated immediately. Having a first aid kit on your person at all times is vital so that care to the injury can be provided, or the wound can at least be maintained until further aid is available.
Led headlamps are also a must even for single-day hiking activity. Sometimes you'll get caught up with the scenery and forget the time or simply misplanned the hike and could not go back before dark. Rushing to get back is also dangerous as visibility slowly deteriorates. That's why having a lightweight compact lighting device is important and keeping your hands free while lighting the trail on your next outdoor adventure is essential.
Always be ready and willing to cancel or reschedule your trip. If you’re not an expert and the weather looks like it’s going to be bad, it's better to hold off on your trip rather than going in blindly and risking the safety of your group. Postponing doesn’t mean canceling, so you’ll be able to enjoy your trip much more when you're confident about the conditions. Don't rely too much on TV news and go to National Weather Service for a more accurate forecast.
In case of emergencies
Keep calm at all times. Even with the best intentions accidents can happen, and when they do it’s critical to keep a level head and be ready to jump into action. By putting together an emergency evacuation plan and practicing it, you’ll be better prepared and know what to do in a crisis.
Know who to call. Your emergency action plan should include actions to take in the event someone else or you become injured or lost and also include emergency numbers to call or SMS to get help. If you are unsure of the emergency contact details in your location, research and create a list of numbers before your leave for your hike.
- UK - 999 or 55
- Europe – 112
- USA – 911
- Canada – 911
- Australia – 000
- New Zealand – 111
- Japan – 110 for police, 119 for ambulance and fire service
- Brazil – 190 for police, 192 for ambulance, 193 for fire service
- China – 110 for police, 120 for ambulance, 119 for fire service
- Hong Kong – 999
- The Bahamas – 911 or 919
- Barbados – 911
- India – 112
It’s crucial to know how to make an emergency or distress signal in case you’re trapped in a situation where you’re physically incapable of contacting emergency services, or your communication devices aren’t functional.
The distress signal is made by three blasts of a whistle, with an interval of one minute after every three blows. If your blasts are picked up by someone, you should expect to hear three whistles back. If there is no response, keep repeating this three-whistle-blast procedure to further draw attention to your location.
Rescue teams and helicopters may take some time to reach you. Keep blowing the whistle until you’re sure that help is on its way to you. This should be as obvious as spotting a group of rescuers making their way towards you and trying to make contact, or a helicopter attempting to land close to your position. If there is a helicopter, raise your arms forming a letter "Y". This means "Yes" and that you require rescue.
If a whistle isn’t available and you’ve got a torch instead, follow the same rule of thumb. Use three flashes of the torch followed by a minute’s break, and continuous torch flashes at intervals of one minute if there is no immediate response. You can use other methods to attract attention like building a fire. raising a flag or even flashing a mirror. Always do it in threes to indicate that you are in distress and need of help.
If a member of your group gets injured, you should assess the nature of the damage. For minor injuries, use your first aid supplies to clean and cover the wound. If the injury is more serious and someone else or you are incapable of walking, you will need to initiate a distress call or signal to call for help and evacuate. If needed, move the injured person to a more secure location. However, if the person has a possible spinal injury, never attempt to move them. Reassure the victim that help is on its way and attend to their needs, making sure they are as comfortable and warm.
If a member gets lost, contact emergency services immediately and report the last known location, including GPS coordinates if you have them. Provide a good description of the missing person including any medical conditions that person may have.
A crisis can strike at any time and If you’re planning a hiking trip, make sure you have an emergency plan in place. Review your plans and double-check all equipment before you set out on your hike. Always stay calm throughout any situation and think rationally of the next steps to take.