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On the whole, mountain hiking is safe. With some basic knowledge and gear, mountain hiking is rarely dangerous. However, without adequate prep, things can turn ugly quickly. Here are the top hiking dangers you should know about…
Top Hiking Dangers No. 1: Getting Lost
This happens way more often that you’d think. The DEC regularly fields calls from lost hikers. People read about a great hike online, set out for a fun day, and quickly end up lost and confused. If your only tool for navigation is AllTrails, you are not hiking safely and you should reconsider your plans.
Getting lost can be very frightening. Your best defense against a miserable day is lots of knowledge, prep and gear. This is one reason it’s always important to text someone your planned route and let them know what time you’ll confirm you’re safe — and what number to call if they don’t hear from you by that time.
Top Hiking Dangers No. 2: Fatigue & Dehydration
These two are major reasons for Search & Rescue operations in the Catskills and Adirondacks. Some people just seem pretty blasé about hiking into the wilderness!
At the very least, prepared hikers always carry The 10 Essentials which include enough food and water to keep energy levels high for the duration of a hike. You’ll have the best possible day if you research your route (length, route, terrain, elevation gain, bail out points), keep an eye on the weather, and know your personal limits.
You can learn how to predict your hike duration with this simple hiking pace formula.
Top Hiking Dangers No. 3: Hypothermia & Heatstroke
Since I started hiking in 2018, I’ve heard about a handful of cases of hypothermia — but a lot of cases of heat illnesses. Mountain hiking is extremely taxing. It takes some getting used to.
Start with easier hikes to gauge your abilities and develop your tolerance, experience and skills.
Learn how to hike smart.
Top Hiking Dangers No. 4: Accidents & Injuries
Mountain trails can be pretty rugged and twisted ankles account for a significant number of rescues.
Hiking poles can be a great help, here, because they double your points of contact and provide a lot of extra stability on tricky terrain. However, some people just don’t like poles and find using poles throws them off.
One thing that’s a must, however, is a great pair of hiking boots or shoes. I like ankle support, so I prefer boots over shoes.
A great skill here, too, is knowing when to turn around.
Top Hiking Dangers No. 5: Bites, Scratches, Toxic Plants
This is less of a problem if you stay in touch with your self-preservation instincts. Here’s how to keep bugs at bay.
Don’t eat anything you can’t personally identify with 100% accuracy; do not rely on apps to identify plants.
Attend to any scratches immediately. Earlier this year, on a very mild and easy hike, a knuckle on one of my hands took a very small cut somwhere in the woods. I didn’t bother to clean it up on trail, assuming it was no big deal. By that evening, my hand had swollen up like a balloon.
Attend to even small injuries immediately.
Top Hiking Dangers No. 6: Medical Incidents
Heart Attacks, Strokes, Sudden Illnesses — these are the rare unpredictable dangers we worry about, when we should probably be worrying about more the mundane, clear and present dangers above.
But they do happen. If you’re in any health or age risk category, consult a medical professional before hiking a mountain!
This is another great reason to text someone your planned route and let them know what time you’ll confirm you’re safe — and what number to call if they don’t hear from you by then.
- Consult this website’s safety section to learn more about staying safe on the hills
- At the very least, read how to enjoy your hike safely
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