Is hiking a dangerous sport? It depends as hiking is not always dangerous but it can be. There are hiking hazards that you should try to avoid and most of these dangerous can be avoided by using common sense and preparing. Arrive Alive should be our motto!
Dangers of Hiking
What are the dangers of hiking?
There are 5 major Dangers of hiking:
- Getting lost.
- Medical problem like illness or a stroke.
- Hyperthermia, heatstroke, fatigue, dehydration and exhaustion.
- Hikers getting trapped in bad weather, veld fires, flooding or lighting.
Most of these dangers can be prevented and when occurring it can be resolved without life lost but some times people do die on the trail.
Preventing Dangerous Aspects
In this instance prevention is better than cure.
The following 5 steps can prevent or help with the dangerous aspects of hiking:
- Prepare and Plan you Hike.
- Have the right Hiking Gear and Safety Equipment.
- Physical Fitness is important and be aware of Medical Conditions.
- What to do In Case of an Emergency on a Hiking Trail.
- Respect the Environment.
1. Prepare and Plan you Hike
Someone must always know where you are going to hike and how long it is going to take. There are WhatsApp groups you can subscribe to where they will track you. You check in with a Start time and point, how many people in your group, a brief but accurate description of your route, end point and ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival). It is important to stay on this route if you change it for whatever reason you must inform and update your Tracking group.
When you are done you inform the tracking group or if you have an emergency you must inform this tracking group as well and if they don’t hear from you they can send the emergency services to your location.
If you don’t want to use an outside source, you must make sure that the person you use, must know your route and they must know when to start looking for you.
You have chosen your hike but now you need to do your due diligence.
Do some research on your trail, find out the potential animal life, is there cellphone coverage? Investigate technology such as apps and wearable panic buttons that might work even when no cellular signal is available.
Know the regulations on the trail, what is allowed and what not. Do you need a permit, when does the trail open and close.
How long is the route? How challenging is the route? Choose a hiking trail according to your ability, this is supposed to be fun. Hiking up a mountain when you are not fit is not fun!
What is your group’s hiking experience and what is their pace? How much time does it take for an average hiker?
Is water available on the trail or must you carry your water?
Make a gear list before heading out to make sure you have everything you might need. Try not to hike alone especially a track you don’t know. There is safety in numbers.
Planning and preparing for your hike can prevent most of the hiking dangers as you would know what equipment to take and what dangers to keep a look out for.
2. Hiking Gear and Safety Equipment
Gear is important but also gadgets, I have a few on my list. Gadgets can make any outdoor adventure a lot of fun. There are pros and cons to all equipment. Please see my reviews on hiking gear, gadgets and safety equipment as well as my 12 Essentials List to take on a hike.
Map & compass.
Buff, hat, sunscreen, sunglasses.
3 Layered Clothing, Hiking Boots, and Day pack.
Adventure medical kit that includes Allergic tablets.
Loud whistle & Lighter,
Duct tape, safety pins.
Multi-tool knife, paracord.
Fully charged cellphone with emergency numbers programmed.
Fully charged power bank (solar-charged).
3. Physical Fitness and Medical Conditions
As hikers we seek the natural beautiful environment we hunt for that freedom you found at the top of a mountain or deep in a forest. We search for the least travel path following the river through all its kinks and hiding spots until we arrive at Nowhere and what an adventure it was. To enjoy all this you will have to be physically fit and if you have a health condition you should find out from your doctor if you can hike and if you can, what sort of hikes can you participate in.
Being hiking fit can make you experience so much better. Check out my 3 Easy Exercises to get hiking fit.
A lot of injuries can be prevented if you are fit for example your balance increases and that can help with falling. If you are tired and fatigue is setting in you tend to put one foot in front of another and not keeping an eye open for snakes and other insects that you could have side stepped if you were alert enough.
I know even if you are fit insects can still sting and snakes can still attack but most of the time snakes tend to leave people alone and only when we wander into their territory they attack.
4. Emergency on a Hiking Trail
Always make sure you have the emergency numbers programmed in your phone. If you are on a trail were cellphone coverage is not ideal make sure you have an alternative way to contact emergency units.
What to do if:
- Bitten by a snake
Call the emergency number in your country if you don’t know what specific number to contact The Global Crises Solution Center has world wide emergency numbers.
- Make sure you know what the snake looks like – this information you will have to give to the emergency unit.
- Move away from the snake.
- Lie down with the wound below the heart.
- Try to keep calm and remain as still as possible – this will help to prevent spreading of the venom.
- Remove the shoe from the foot if the leg is bitten or jewelry if the arm or hand was bitten.
Cut a bite wound.
Attempt to suck out the venom.
Apply ice or water.
- Attack by a bear
How you handle a bear depends on the type of bear that is attacking.
- If it is brown – lie down.
- If it is black – fight back.
Make sure to carry Bear spray.
Or climb a tree.
Leopards are beautiful and on many people’s safari list. Walking in a leopard’s spoor (footprints) can be very exciting but trust me when doing a circular route and the leopard’s spoor is mixed with yours – not so exciting anymore. In fact that distinct prickle feeling that you get when someone or in this case something is looking at you gives the word “hunting” a whole new meaning.
Leopards are cautious animals, usually avoid humans and in a confrontational situation they should back down unless they feel threatened or if it is injured and unable to hunt so you have just become easy prey.
How to avoid being attacked by a leopard:
- Don’t approach, resist the urge to turn your back and run, back away slowly and keep your distance especially if there are small cups.
- Keep small children and old people secure especially at night.
- If a leopard charges, shout, clap your hands and try to appear bigger.
- Insect bites and stings
- Remove the stinger from the skin.
- Wash the sting.
- Apply an antiseptic cream or drawing ointment like Tea Tree Oil or 8-trek. Even a wet aspirin tablet will work.
- To keep swelling down put on ice or cold water.
Contact the emergency unit if you can’t breath or have a fever or chills.
- Criminal Attacks
- Hike in groups – there are safety in numbers.
- Don’t hike at night.
- Use Pepper spray.
- Contact the emergency unit if you have been injured by a criminal attack.
- Getting Lost
- Stop Walking and take a deep breath.
- Check your map and orient yourself with a compass.
- Take your options into account and make a plan.
- Retrace your steps if you can.
- If it is late and you are tired – seek shelter.
- Inform your WhatsApp group that your are lost, take a distinctive picture of where you are and give the map and compass details.
- Put your phone on flight mode.
If you have to spend night:
- Find shelter – if there are none use your emergency blanket as a cover.
- Layer up with clothes.
- Hang colourful items around you so that you can be easily spot or make a arrow out of rocks and sand or SOS in your direction.
- Make a fire. This will keep you warm and the smoke can also help to be easily spot. Please control the fire, as the last thing you want to worry about is a forest fire.
How to survive until you are found:
If you have no cellphone coverage and no other means of contacting rescue units or if you are not found during the night you might have to survive until you are found.
Here are 6 steps to help in your survival:
- Keep hydrated.
- Eat something.
- Stay warm and dry.
- If you are injured – clean the injuries.
- Try to stay where you have informed the rescuers you are but if you need to move make sure you inform them either by phone or by making an arrow in the direction you are moving.
- Keep the fear and loneliness at bay, do some small tasks and keep yourself busy.
- Getting trapped in bad weather, veld fires, flooding or lighting.
Finding shelter when trapped in bad weather or lighting is very important.
Do the following in thunder and lighting storms:
- Avoid water, metallic objects, solidary trees, high ground and touching other people.
- Seek ditches, trenches, shrubs and low ground.
- Keep a high level of safety awareness for thirty minutes after the last observed lightning or thunder.
When trapped in a flooding:
- Find higher ground.
- Try to leave the area immediately.
- Avoid walking through flood waters. Don’t Drown! Just 6 inches of moving water can knock you down.
In bad weather:
- Stay dry.
- Stay warm.
- If you get wet – try to keep the wet things away from the dry things.
If you are caught in a veld fire and you can’t out run it.
- Lie down on the ground, cover your head, breathe deeply before the smoke gets too close, and hold your breath when the fire passes over and around you. If you have blankets or extra clothing with you, try to cover any exposed parts of your body.
Getting Sick on the Trail
|Diarrhea is one of the most common illnesses on the trail.||That is why you shouldn't just drink water
Always carry water purifiers or filters
Keep your hands clean and when sharing food try to pour it and not touch it.
|Ear infections and ear aches|| If you are coming from sea level and plan to ascend quickly, or even relatively quickly, several thousand feet in a day this can be a real painful problem.
Try to take preventive actions and if not put something in your medical kit to help with ear aches.
|Yeast infection is also very uncomfortable on a hiking trail.||So pack in something that can help for it.|
Should you decide to lay down your hiking partners should encourage you to:
- Keep hydrated.
- Rest and sleep
- Switch to liquid nourishment or watered down oats.
If it gets worse contact the rescue units.
5. Respect the Environment
Support the Leave no Trace philosophy.
Hike in such a way that future hikers cannot detect the presence of previous hikers. Followers of this practice follow strict practices on dealing with food waste, food packaging, and alterations to the surrounding environment.
Sometimes hikers enjoy viewing rare or endangered species. However, some species are very sensitive to the presence of humans, especially around mating season. To prevent adverse impact, hikers should learn the habits and habitats of endangered species.
Follow the 7 Hiker’s protocols:
- It is illegal to collect or disturb plants, animals, rocks or cultural artifacts.
- Destruction or removal of plants, animals, and historical, prehistoric or geological sites
- Wildflowers and other natural objects are beautiful indeed. Leave them intact for others
- Always stay on designated boardwalks and trails to reduce damage to soil and plants
and protect fragile vegetation, in particular vegetation marked as in process of
- Do not feed wildlife.
- Put your food and garbage away.
- Do not litter.
“We wouldn’t have a society if we destroy the environment.” by Magaret Mead
Hiking can be dangerous but managed correctly it doesn’t have to be.
Prepare and Plan your hike.
Wear protective clothing.
Use insect repellents.
If you are trapped or lost don’t panic.
Let’s go hiking.