You probably don't think of hiking as being a dangerous activity and indeed ninety-nine percent of the time it's anything but dangerous and provides millions of people with a great deal of pleasure and often a sense of adventure. It's easy to forget however that you are often out in the wilderness and far away from civilization and so, when accidents do happen, even quite minor accidents can quickly become serious if you're not prepared.
Here are just a few basic safety tips to ensure that your hiking trips don't land you in trouble.
Tip No1 - Consider taking a partner of friend along.
If you're going for a short hike in a nearby area which is a well-traveled area with easy terrain then there's often no need to worry about heading out alone. However, if you are hiking through wild country, perhaps heavily forested areas with winding trails and steep canyons, then the possibility of getting lost or sustaining injury becomes very real and you should consider carefully whether or not you are wise to head out on your own.
Taking a partner along can have many advantages, especially if that partner is an experienced hiker.
At it's simplest 'two heads are better than one' and if you do get lost or run into difficulty you're much less likely to panic if you have somebody with you to help solve the problem. If you do sustain an injury then having somebody with you to administer first aid and, if necessary to go for help, can not only be useful, but can literally save your life.
Tip No 2 - Let somebody know where you're going.
As a novice hiker you should certainly stick to clearly marked and well traveled routes and should not start to stray from these routes and start 'exploring' until you have gained some experience and also had an opportunity to learn and practice the basics of map and compass work. However, it won't take you too long before you're ready to tackle some more adventurous hiking and, at that point, the possibility of getting lost or injured and needing help arises.
For this reason you should always tell somebody where you're going and when you expect to return so that they can send out a search party if you don't return as expected.
Tip No 3 - Take along some basic equipment.
While there's no need to take everything including the kitchen sink with you, it's a good idea to always carry a basic 'survival kit' with you and your local hiking club will be able to give you excellent advice on the sorts of items that this should include.
The sort of things we're talking about here might include matches and a lighter, a first aid kit, a good knife (something practical rather than a simply impressive one hundred gadget affair) and a flashlight.
It's also a good idea to have a map and compass with you and a fully-charged cell phone.
Tip No 4 - Take along some basic provisions.
Water or other fluids like sports drinks are clearly essential as you can lose a great deal of fluid even over a short period of time on a hot day. Dehydration can dramatically reduce your physical performance. You should remember however that water weighs about 8 lbs per gallon, so take enough but not too much.
If you're thinking about cutting down on the amount of water that you can carry and planning on drinking from local streams, then don't. Natural water sources may look inviting but they are often loaded with bacteria and can make you very sick very quickly.
Also take along enough food to last you. There's no pleasure in being hungry out on the trail but remember that you can last a lot longer without food than you can without water so, if it comes to a trade-off, carry more water and less food.
Tip No 5 - Use your common sense.
It's all too easy when you get out into the wilderness to get carried away with your own enthusiasm and try all sort of thing which, with hindsight, you quickly realize were just plain stupid. Mother Nature may be both beautiful and inviting, but she is also quite indifferent to your fate when you do something stupid.