Having lived just a short drive from the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee all my life, I’ve learned a thing or two about hiking, both on-trail and off. Hiking can be quite the adventure, but if you’re not careful it can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation.
No matter where you’ll be hiking, be sure to follow these essential safety tips on your first hike!
1. Wear the right shoes
Wearing the right kind of shoes is must for hiking. You want sturdy, reliable footwear that will be able to rough through different types of land. Those new sandals may be cute, but not appropriate for this setting!
Hiking boots, of course, are going to be the ideal first choice, as they are perfect for all types of terrain. Tennis shoes should be okay too, especially if your hike will take place on a paved trail. Make sure they’re well broken-in though, as you don’t want any blisters from wearing brand-new shoes!
2. Bring the ’10 Essentials’
The ’10 Essentials’ are things I always have in my backpack during a hike. These are all must-have items that will come in handy in pretty much every emergency situation, such as getting lost or becoming too dehydrated.
Here are the ’10 Essentials’:
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)
Some of these you may not think necessary for your hike, but these are items that prepare you for a ‘worst-case scenario’ so even if you don’t think you’ll need them, take them anyway. Or at least make sure someone in your group has them, just in case.
3. Tell someone about your hiking trip
This is often overlooked by hikers, especially if it’s your first time hiking.
It is really important that you tell someone about your hike before you go. Should you get lost or something happen, this makes it a whole lot easier for a search and rescue team to find you quickly.
Here are some important details to leave with a family member or friend:
Where you’re going.
When you’ll be leaving.
When you’ll be back.
You will also want to leave some sort of ’emergency plan’ outlined, so that, if you don’t come back in time, your friend/family member knows what to do. This may include who they need to call and what needs to be done.
You can also get a SPOT tracker, which sends different messages (even without cell service) to either tell someone you’re okay or that you need help. It can also send your GPS coordinates, which of course is incredibly useful if you’re lost.
4. Do not go near wildlife
You’d think this was something that doesn’t need to be said, but it happens all the time. I’ve seen tourists with cameras surrounding a baby bear cub up in a tree before, which is so dangerous, guys.
I understand that people get curious and want pictures of an animal, but your life is not worth a picture to put on Facebook. So just try to give yourself a wide berth from any animals, especially ones that you know to be hostile when provoked.
5. Hike during the day
Especially if it’s your first time hiking, stick to hiking during the daytime. The lack of sun tends to bring out more animals, and it’s also much harder to see where you’re heading.
Try to plan ahead of time though and make sure you have plenty of time to finish your hike before dark. If you do get stuck hiking after dark, that’s where the headlamp/flashlight comes in handy.
6. Pay attention to your surroundings
Especially in cases of weather, it is important to pay attention to what’s going on around you. Keep an eye on the skies to determine whether or not you should build an emergency shelter (one of the 10 essentials!) and stop, or if it’s safe enough to just keep going.
Also, you want to make sure you’re not getting too close to animals or veering off-track too much.
7. Know your limits
Do not try to keep going if you’re feeling exhausted. Take a minute to rest, maybe eat a snack, and then continue.
The last thing you want is to get too dehydrated or become too fatigued while hiking. If you need to take 10 breaks, do it!
Be sure to keep these in mind on your next hike. The most important thing to remember is to have fun, of course, but be safe while doing it!
Where will your first hike be?
This post may contain affiliate links. This just means that I may receive a small commission for products/services bought through my links. This does not increase the price for you, and in some cases it may even save you money! For more information, click here.