Trail Safety: 6 Critical Mistakes to Avoid While Hiking in the Mountains
Writer & outdoor enthusiast Amanda Wilks shares her tips on making sure your hike is both safe and something to remember.
The best way to enjoy nature and the outside world is commonly through hiking. Hiking in the mountains is both relaxing and healthy, as you get to connect with nature while engaging in full body workout activities.
Although hiking is an exciting experience, there are some common mistakes people make that you would undoubtedly want to avoid.
1. Wearing Inappropriate Clothing and Gear
Hiking is a pleasant experience, although not easy. Therefore, when you are preparing, it's essential to ensure that you pick the right gear, depending on the terrain of your adventure.
Your gear includes footwear, pants, and jackets. If you are trekking in cold places or areas with a little downfall, you must ensure that your entire kit has waterproof material and can keep you warm too. In case you plan on visiting a wet area, it is advisable to learn how to waterproof your boots.
In addition, keep in mind that while wearing new shoes can be fulfilling, it remains a poor choice. A brand-new pair of boots can be unreliable, because you don't know how they feel when worn in rugged terrain. Brand new shoes, no matter how smart they are, will give you an unforgettable experience and it is not going to be a good one. Picking the wrong gear is costly, and it can ruin a fun day.
2. Not Knowing How to Keep Safe from Wild Animals
Walking in the wilderness makes you exposed to various life-threatening situations. Encountering predators on the trail is not uncommon, so before you set for the adventure, you need to make sure that you've done your research and know what to expect and what type of animals you may meet on the road.
Depending on the region, there are several species of wild animals you may encounter. However, the most common threat is the bear. You want to avoid becoming a victim, so it's best that you try to make as much noise as possible, especially when passing through sections of trail which aren't marked. This will help you keep the animal at bay. You need to be alert all the time and watch the surroundings, so that you don't get taken by surprise. Furthermore, you need to avoid carrying any kind of meat with you, because animals have a keen sense of smell and this way they are able to easily find you. Don't forget to keep an eye out for fresh scat, digs or any other signs that animals are active in the area and last but not least, make sure to always carry bear spray and know how to properly use it in case of a bear attack.
3. Misinterpreting the Map
Therefore, you must ensure you learn how to read a map accurately and integrate its use with a compass. A compass will always help you know about the logistics of the spot you are in. Such information is better than getting to the mountain with limited knowledge about the surroundings. These tools are very important, but only when you use them with utmost keenness.
If you are visiting the place for the first time and you don't have a tour guide, then all your hopes will be in the map you possess. In case you misinterpret any of its signs, there is a high probability that you will not get to your intended destination.
4. Not Taking the Necessary Safety Measures while Climbing
Hiking in the mountains is enjoyable. It gives you an exciting experience, making your efforts worthwhile. However, it's possible to bump into unpredictable situations as you are going up or descending. In order to avoid accidents, ensure to double check your climbing gear such as knots and belay devices before you put them to use. Tie the ends of your rope well and test them properly for safety.
Additionally, it is good to bear in mind that the weather is not always friendly. Therefore, you will have to, at least, start early to ensure that you cover as much ground as possible before things worsen. It is quite terrifying to climb down the mountains when it's dark. Additionally, you must also ensure that you take keen interest in the weather a few days before the hike so that you can prepare adequately.
5. Being Overconfident
As a beginner, you don't have to prove your skills by setting your targets too high. Up to 42% of rescue calls in Utah National Parks were triggered by insufficient equipment, darkness, and fatigue.
You can easily avoid this mistake by estimating your hiking speed and set goals. Additionally, if you miss to hit your target and your turnaround time has come, just go back. Don't push beyond your limits and try to meet your set target, especially when you have exhausted your climbing time. Although a descent will take half the ascending time, you must ensure to follow the set time to avoid feeling fatigued while in the middle of the hike.
6. Getting Separated from the Group
If you are hiking as a group, it is always good to start and finish as a unit. Ensure that throughout the hike, you remain together without separating at all.
If you go on a different trail and leave the group behind, you become exposed to all kinds of unpredictable situations, without having anyone to save you. You may make a wrong turn and get lost while it's getting dark outside, you may get severely injured or face a sudden storm. In such moments, communicating with other members of the group can be impossible or difficult.It's best to set a schedule for the entire group, in order to ensure that everyone makes it to the destination on time and completely safe. A good idea is to redistribute weight to fast hikers by taking it from the slower ones, have one person to set a moderate pace, and plan to stop on several trail junctions.
If you follow the right procedures, hiking in the mountains can be a fulfilling experience. Just make sure that you know how to keep safe from wild animals, how to follow a trail without getting lost, how to dress for this type of activity and then you can be on your way!