The best way to prevent accidents and mishaps on any trip is to thoroughly prepare before heading out into the wilderness. Take some time to study maps of the area you’ll be trekking through, and try to obtain an accurate weather forecast before leaving home. Assess your own physical abilities and remember: always use common sense. Additionally, it is imperative to:
- Travel with a partner. The worst situation you can get yourself into is one where you run into an emergency and you’re by your lonesome. Before hiking out down the trail, give a copy of your itinerary to a responsible individual. Think about including information such as the make, year, and license plate of your vehicle, the date you’re beginning your hike, and the date you plan on returning.
- Assess your physical abilities. Being in good physical condition is one thing, attempting a hike outside your capabilities is another. Group trips should always be planned out with the weakest member of the group in mind. If you plan on doing a “big day hike” or a multiple-day backpacking trip, try to train for these adventures well in advance.
- Always think about your footing. This holds especially true next to cliffs and on steep pitches. By paying attention to where you are stepping down, you can avoid rolling an ankle or worse.
- Wear appropriate clothing. Before hitting the trail, assess the season and potential weather conditions. We always leave for a hike knowing we packed too much clothing.
- Check your gear. Maintain your equipment in good working order. You should always set up your tent, test your stove, and restock your first-aid kit before embarking on an overnight backpacking trip.
- Look at the forecast. Before trodding down the trail, try to catch a glimpse of the weather forecast. If you are on an extended backpacking trip, take regular barometric readings off of your altimeter. Look for high-level cirrus clouds, cloud rings around the sun and moon, and other signs of imminent bad weather.
- Learn first aid. A friend might thank you someday.
- Purify your water. It doesn’t matter how clear the water in the stream looks, it probably contains water-borne parasites or other harmful microorganisms. We’ve seen hikers in dire straits because they decided it wasn’t worth the time to boil, purify, or tab their water. Don’t be a victim of beaver fever; treat all of your water.