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30 Essential Hiking Safety Hacks For Safe And Well-Organized Adventures

30 Essential Hiking Safety Hacks For Safe And Well-Organized Adventures

Those of us who soaked up the Oprah-recommended book called “Wild” got to live vicariously through author Cheryl Strayed’s adventures as she white-knuckled her way through a precarious hike up the Pacific Coast Trail.

Those of us who don’t want to experience the foot-bleeding, skin-peeling, moose-fleeing drama that she faced during her arduous journey would do well to follow these 30 hiking safety hacks.

1. Get great-fitting boots

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    Boots that fit improperly can make you suffer from unnecessary blisters and lost toenails. Grabbing a pair (or two) of the best-reviewed hiking boots on Amazon that aren’t too tight or way too big for your feet is critical.

    2. Walk around with your backpack before leaving

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      If you pack too many items in your backpack, you’ll needlessly suffer from carrying a heavier load that necessary. Test out picking up, toting and putting down your intended load on your back while still at home, before embarking on your journey.

      3. Send yourself supply boxes ahead of time

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        Instead of trying to carry everything but the kitchen sink on your back, send yourself boxes full of supplies at pre-planned points at post offices along your trail hike – especially if it’s an extended walk.

        4. Make sure to learn what’s poisonous and what’s edible

        As chronicled in the popular book and movie called Into the Wild, Christopher McCandless died most likely as a result of eating a mold-filled plant or from confusing wild sweet pea seeds with those of another flora. The crucial lesson to be learned is to ensure what you’re eating is safe.

        5. Give up if the hike becomes too dangerous

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          Don’t be so set in stone on following your hiking plan that you’re not willing to make changes. Certain seasons bring inordinate snowfall and ice or other treacherous conditions to some trails, making them impassable.

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          6. Take a buddy if you feel led to do so

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            There’s safety in numbers. Though we love to read the tales of folks brave enough to venture off on solo hikes, it helps to consider bringing others – especially more experienced hikers – along on your trip.

            7. Know your trail

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              Use a map, GPS device and compass to figure out where you’re going, but make sure you’ve also studied every nuance of the area you’re planning to hike – and that you know how to use landmarks to determine where you’re going, just in case all of those devices become lost.

              8. Bring sufficient snacks

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                Keep consuming enough high-quality calories to give you energy for your hike. Stuff your bag with freeze-dried foods that are both lightweight and nutritious.

                9. Check out a menstrual sponge

                Yeah, I’d never heard one either until I read the report of Strayed, the female hiker who used a menstrual sponge to collect her monthly flow. She’d wash it and reuse it instead of dealing with sanitary napkins and tampons.

                10. Hang your food

                Always hang your food or use a bear canister in order to keep it safe from animals, and to help prevent critters from sniffing around near you, advises the Washington Trails Association.

                11. Take enough water

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                  Even if you anticipate running into drinkable, fresh-water sources along your path, realize that it’s healthy to bring a water bladder full of liquid in order to keep you well hydrated each day.

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                  12. Sunscreen is critical

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                    Even if it’s the dead of winter, the sun can still beat down on you in dangerous ways. Protect your skin with sunscreen lotion that contains a high SPF factor.

                    13. Learn how to safely start a fire

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                      Even if it’s raining, it helps to follow the Boy Scout rules on how to still use collected wood, your handy pocket knife and starter accessories to get a fire going that can keep you warm, give light and cook your food.

                      14. Bring extra Band-Aids

                      Experienced hikers say that you can rarely have enough Band-Aids – even more than are found in the standard first-aid kits. Because backpacks tend to rub against shoulders and backs, they can cause blisters that need to be covered.

                      15. Remember the first-aid kit

                      Speaking of first-aid kits, REI has a great one that includes things like Moleskin for blister protection and other wound-care specifics that might not be found in other non-hiking related kits.

                      16. An ice pick can be your best friend

                      As dramatically chronicled in Wild, learning to properly use an ice pick can help you navigate precarious trails by offering surer footing in the case of icy surfaces.

                      17. Take something good to read

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                        Although safety is very important, it doesn’t mean you can’t bring fun items along with you. During the downtime and slow hours when you’re not staring at the sunrise, you might want to pull out your favorite Divergent book or a compact copy of the New Testament to keep you company.

                        18. Inform others of your hiking plan

                        Instead launching off without letting any family members or friends know where you’re going, leave your detailed hiking safety plan with at least one person you can trust – and plan to check in with them at appointed times.

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                        19. Do shorter hikes first

                        Before setting out on the monumental hike of a lifetime, plan to complete several smaller hikes first in order to acclimate yourself to the process.

                        20. Learn how to set up your tent before you leave

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                          It can be tempting to let your tent stay nice and tidy, planning to unpack it and read the rules when you’re on your hike. It’s better, however, to learn the intricacies of tent setup – which can be daunting – in the safety of your own backyard first, instead of in the wild.

                          21. Keep as dry as possible

                          Dampness and cold can be the enemy to a good hike. Even rain jackets may need to be put through an extra waterproofing process.

                          22. Use your fingers to estimate the remaining daylight

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                            Sort of like using a sundial to tell time, there’s a neat way you can use your fingers to determine if you have enough hours of light left to hike on or whether you should hunker down for the evening.

                            23. Look up to the moon and stars.

                            In order to find your true north and south directions, without needing a compass you can observe the moon and the stars.

                            24. Bring a quality knife

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                              Not that you want to use it like Aron Ralston had to use his when he cut off his own arm in order to free himself after getting trapped in rock canyons as shown in the movie 127 Hours, but a good knife can do everything from provide protection to help prepare food.

                              25. Pack extra clothes

                              Realize that if you’re hiking in a cold climate, you can still sweat and soak through your clothes. Make sure you have enough extra gear to change into whilst your other soggy clothes are drying

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                              26. Double-check last minute weather reports

                              Even if the location you’re planning to hike is predicted to be filled with sunny skies and pleasant weather, make sure you’re aware of up-to-the-minute storms or other approaching factors than can adversely affect your hike.

                              27. Research all the potential animals you may encounter

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                                Bring bear repellant spray, and learn the proper way to react if you’re suddenly faced with a big grizzly bear versus a black bear. Determine beforehand the types of wildlife your hiking area contains – be it teeming with coyotes, snakes, mountain lions or whatever – along with the best ways to keep safe from them.

                                28. Duck Tape can be very valuable

                                Duck Tape can serve a multitude of purposes, from taping up wounds to covering blisters to helping to remove a tick, so stock up.

                                29. Protect your smartphone in a waterproof case

                                If you can get a signal when you need it the most, a waterproof case for your cell phone can serve as a lifeline by keeping the electronic dry and usable. Life Proof makes a great one.

                                30. Stay calm, keep your wits about you and have fun

                                Newleycombe Cross In Snow

                                  Remember the main reasons you have embarked upon the journey. Even if you come across unexpected adventures, don’t give in to fear. Enjoy the exercise and keep calm. Remain visible and send distress signals in case of an emergency.

                                  Featured photo credit: Travel to Mount Cook National Park by ZIVOTNACESTACH.CZ via picjumbo.com

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                                  Last Updated on September 20, 2018

                                  How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

                                  How to Stay Calm and Cool When You Are Extremely Stressful

                                  Being in a hurry all the time drains your energy. Your work and routine life make you feel overwhelmed. Getting caught up in things beyond your control stresses you out…

                                  If you’d like to stay calm and cool in stressful situations, put the following 8 steps into practice:

                                  1. Breathe

                                  The next time you’re faced with a stressful situation that makes you want to hurry, stop what you’re doing for one minute and perform the following steps:

                                  • Take five deep breaths in and out (your belly should come forward with each inhale).
                                  • Imagine all that stress leaving your body with each exhale.
                                  • Smile. Fake it if you have to. It’s pretty hard to stay grumpy with a goofy grin on your face.

                                  Feel free to repeat the above steps every few hours at work or home if you need to.

                                  2. Loosen up

                                  After your breathing session, perform a quick body scan to identify any areas that are tight or tense. Clenched jaw? Rounded shoulders? Anything else that isn’t at ease?

                                  Gently touch or massage any of your body parts that are under tension to encourage total relaxation. It might help to imagine you’re in a place that calms you: a beach, hot tub, or nature trail, for example.

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                                  3. Chew slowly

                                  Slow down at the dinner table if you want to learn to be patient and lose weight. Shoveling your food down as fast as you can is a surefire way to eat more than you need to (and find yourself with a bellyache).

                                  Be a mindful eater who pays attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of every dish. Chew slowly while you try to guess all of the ingredients that were used to prepare your dish.

                                  Chewing slowly will also reduce those dreadful late-night cravings that sneak up on you after work.

                                  4. Let go

                                  Cliche as it sounds, it’s very effective.

                                  The thing that seems like the end of the world right now?

                                  It’s not. Promise.

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                                  Stressing and worrying about the situation you’re in won’t do any good because you’re already in it, so just let it go.

                                  Letting go isn’t easy, so here’s a guide to help you:

                                  21 Things To Do When You Find It Hard To Let Go

                                  5. Enjoy the journey

                                  Focusing on the end result can quickly become exhausting. Chasing a bold, audacious goal that’s going to require a lot of time and patience? Split it into several mini-goals so you’ll have several causes for celebration.

                                  Stop focusing on the negative thoughts. Giving yourself consistent positive feedback will help you grow patience, stay encouraged, and find more joy in the process of achieving your goals.

                                  6. Look at the big picture

                                  The next time you find your stress level skyrocketing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself:

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                                  Will this matter to me…

                                  • Next week?
                                  • Next month?
                                  • Next year?
                                  • In 10 years?

                                  Hint: No, it won’t.

                                  I bet most of the stuff that stresses you wouldn’t matter the next week, maybe not even the next day.

                                  Stop agonizing over things you can’t control because you’re only hurting yourself.

                                  7. Stop demanding perfection of yourself

                                  You’re not perfect and that’s okay. Show me a person who claims to be perfect and I’ll show you a dirty liar.

                                  Demanding perfection of yourself (or anybody else) will only stress you out because it just isn’t possible.

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                                  8. Practice patience every day

                                  Below are a few easy ways you can practice patience every day, increasing your ability to remain calm and cool in times of stress:

                                  • The next time you go to the grocery store, get in the longest line.
                                  • Instead of going through the drive-thru at your bank, go inside.
                                  • Take a long walk through a secluded park or trail.

                                  Final thoughts

                                  Staying calm in stressful situations is possible, all you need is some daily practice.

                                  Taking deep breaths and eat mindfully are some simple ways to train your brain to be more patient. But changing the way you think of a situation and staying positive are most important in keeping cool whenever you feel overwhelmed and stressful.

                                  Featured photo credit: Brooke Cagle via unsplash.com

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