Hiking Safety Tips

Hiking safety may not be the first thing you consider when planning a trek, but things can always go wrong so it’s best to be prepared. We don’t want to put you off. Quite the opposite; we want to give you the advice you need to stay safe and enjoy your time outdoors!

Obviously there are different levels of risk depending on your experience, destination, the weather and any other activities you may participate in during your hike. Mountaineering in the Himalayas is a whole lot more risky than a walk through the English countryside, but having said that, an unfit and unprepared walker in England could find themselves stranded and in need of rescue if they don’t plan ahead and take precautions. So what should you do to improve your hiking safety?

1. Make sure you’ve packed everything you need, including plenty of food and water, and extra layers. In Summer, take sunscreen and a hat to ensure you don’t get heat stroke.

Read our ‘Packing for a Day Hike’ post here

2. Plan your route before you go and work out how long it’s going to take. If you’re going on a day hike or you’re out in Winter months, set off early so you can return before it’s cold and dark.

3. Work out when your ‘turn back point’ is and stick to it. If you’re making slower progress than you thought you would and you know you can’t complete the hike safely in the remaining daylight hours, you’ll need to turn back. Don’t leave this too late otherwise you’ll be at risk of injury, hypothermia and exhaustion, especially if you haven’t packed for a multi-day hike.

4. Dress appropriately for the terrain, weather and distance. If you haven’t hiked much before you may need sturdy boots with good ankle support to reduce the risk of rolling your ankles. However, boots get sweaty and uncomfortable in the Summer, so in hot weather a pair of trail runners may be better. If you’re hiking somewhere with a moderate chance of rain, you’ll need to consider your waterproof layers and keep a set of spare dry clothes in your bag. Certain fabrics are better for moisture-wicking and make for a more comfortable walk in rainy or sweaty conditions, hence hikers are often seen in exercise-wear and practical hiking clothes. Denim is the worst material for hiking in because it doesn’t dry quickly, it’s too stiff and it’s really uncomfortable to move about in. Once your jeans are wet, they will not dry for hours and you’ll be at risk of hypothermia.

Read our ‘15 Tips for Hiking in the Rain’ post here.

Read our ‘How to Choose the Best Footwear for your Hike’ post here.

5. Listen to your body. Know your limits and slow down if you’re starting to hurt or feel ill. It’s OK to take lots of breaks or to turn back if you’re not feeling well. We all have days when we’re not at our best. If you push on despite your body warning you to stop, you’re risking your health and safety, and potentially putting someone else at risk when they have to come and rescue you.

6. Take a map and compass, or a good GPS system (only if there is good signal and you have spare batteries!) and learn how to use them.

Read the British Mountaineering Council’s post on How to Take a Compass Bearing here.

7. If you think you’ve taken a wrong turn, or you’re not sure you are still heading in the right direction, stop walking. Make sure you can find yourself on the map and you know which way you are facing before you head on. If you are still unsure, head back to the last place where you were certain you were on track and check your map again. Don’t walk blindly on; you could end up miles away from your intended destination, and in a worse case scenario, you could suddenly be faced with hazardous terrain that you weren’t expecting.

8. Check the weather before you set off. This is especially important if you’re climbing a mountain because the summit is likely to be much colder and windier than the valley below. There may even be storms and blizzards in the mountains whilst the towns below are sunny and dry.

9. Tell someone where you are going and when you should be back. Make sure they have your mobile number, so they can try to contact you if you don’t return in time. Charge everything before you go!

10. Make sure you have the necessary skills and experience for your hike. For complete beginners, we’d recommend sticking to well-marked paths or shorter routes initially.

And finally… have fun!

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below. Do you have any other advice for fellow hikers? If you like this post, please pin and share it!

Important hiking safety tips