Safe Tips for Springtime Hiking
Springtime is one of the most amazing times to hit the trails, whether to train or just to get some fresh air and remove the “cobwebs” from wintertime dormancy. However, there are some important safety tips that every hiker should consider before and during their trip. Let’s go over some basic and practical suggestions that can help you to be better equipped during early-season hikes.
We all know that temperatures fluctuate wildly during the spring, and this is particularly true in wilderness and mountainous areas. Not only that, but weather can change with little or no warning as well. Consequently, you may end up starting a hike in 70 degree weather only to find yourself in a cold rain a few hours later. Nights can also get cold, and snow levels can vary significantly during this transitional period of the year.
It’s important to dress for the occasion, and make sure to pack some good, breathable material that can keep you warm if you need it. The last thing you want on a hike is to be faced with an unexpected cold, windy or wet weather situation without appropriate clothing. Any of these can lead to exposure and the onset of hypothermia, creating a potentially life-threatening emergency on an otherwise normal and routine hike. Err on the side of caution and pack accordingly.
Wild weather can also have an impact on your hike by obscuring or blocking trails, causing flash floods or generating high winds. This can influence everything from your ability to move to the safety of your chosen campsite. Make sure that you stay abreast of forecasts and be prepared for unexpected changes. Have a backup plan and one after that so that you have more than one option if you’re caught in unexpected inclement weather.
Bring a current trail map that has some kind of protective covering to keep it from being destroyed if it gets wet. Bring a compass and take time to study the trails, terrain and enhance your situational awareness a little bit. Make sure that you know as much about the area that you will be hiking as possible, and consider any potential hazards that may come your way. Trails can be hard to detect, signage may not be clearly visible, and visual cues that you may remember from the last season may no longer be there. The more homework you can do before heading out will also give you options if you encounter unexpected problems in the field.
First Aid Kit
Have you ever opened a box of old adhesive bandages only to find out that they’ve degraded or lost their stickiness? Have you ever found a tube of ointment or some medicine that has long been expired? It happens to the best of us all the time. We don’t use our first aid kits so we forget to check that the items are fresh and up to date. Make sure that you go through your first aid kit, as well as the rest of your gear, to make everything is as it should be before starting your trip. The last thing you want is to have an emergency in the field only to find out the medical supplies are past their shelf-life and useless.
Don’t Forget to Tell People
Finally, and we’ve mentioned this before, make sure that you tell people where you are going and when you plan on being back. Check in at ranger stations or take other appropriate precautions so that people know your approximate whereabouts in case you run into trouble.
Hopefully these general suggestions will help to get your mind on hiking safety and what you need to do to prepare effectively. What other ideas do you have that you can share with others so they can increase their chances of having a trouble-free hike as well?