While hiking can be a fun activity to do during the summer, factors like extreme heat and elevation gain can make it a risky activity.

When venturing out into nature, it’s possible you’ll lose cellphone reception or underestimate how much water you may need or lose track of time, so it’s important to think about safety before you head out.

Here’s a brief guide on hiking safely.

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Hiking safety tips

  1. Make sure you have the water, equipment, food and clothing for the hike you’d like to take. If your hike involves a significant elevation gain, the temperature at the top of the mountain will likely be cooler than at the bottom of the mountain, so bringing another layer may be useful. It’s also important to have enough water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized throughout your hike. Your hike may require certain shoes if the ground is muddy. Check the weather before you set out.
  2. Think about temperature and elevation. Hot temperatures outside in the the summer may mean you need more water and breaks than you would ordinarily. Going up to higher elevations increases your risk for altitude sickness and it can be more difficult to breathe at those altitudes. Having plans in place for temperature and elevation can help you prepare for a safe hike.
  3. Consider the wildlife and geography of where you’re hiking. If the area you’re hiking in has bears, rattlesnakes, mountain lions or other animals, it’s important to know what to do if you encounter them. The National Park Service has a guide for encountering bears and mountain lions. It’s also valuable to be aware of the area you’re hiking in. Are there bodies of water? Where are the trails?
  4. Plan for emergencies. It’s best to hike with someone else, but some may prefer to hike on their own. Either way, it’s a good idea to give a trusted friend or family member your contact information, the time you plan to start your hike, your approximate route and the time you expect to wrap up. Carrying basic first-aid items and a paper map of the area, along with a compass and a flashlight, can also help during emergencies.
  5. Stay on the trail and leave no trail. Staying on the trail can prevent you from harming wildlife, but it can also discourage certain animals from approaching you if the trail has a fair amount of people on it. It’s also imperative to leave no trail of your visit. This means picking up after yourself. If you plan on doing an overnight trip or stopping for long periods of time, consider using bear-resistant canisters to store your food.

What are common mistakes made while hiking?

  1. Not bringing enough water. Hiking on a hot summer’s day without enough water can lead to dehydration or fatigue. It’s sometimes difficult to know if the water you encounter in nature is potable or not.
  2. Wearing the wrong type of clothing. Certain fabrics like cotton aren’t the best choice for hiking. If your clothes get wet from sweat or water and stay wet as you climb on a mountain, the drop in temperature around you and the drop in body temperature may pose a risk. It’s also important to consider temperature fluctuations when deciding what clothes to wear and bring while hiking.
  3. Not bringing a map. With cellphones, it may seem obsolete to bring a map, but it’s possible you could lose cell reception or your battery could run out. Bring a compass along with the map so you can figure out how to safely find your way home.
  4. Forgetting to check the weather. Is there a risk of flash floods? How hot will it be outside? Is there a risk of avalanches? Depending on the time of year and the location, there are different events influenced by weather that can curtail your hiking experience. Check the weather before you leave and if the weather doesn’t look good, consider going on another day.
  5. Not considering personal physical ability. Hiking is physical exercise and depending on the hike, it can be strenuous. When compounded with heat and other factors, hiking can be more difficult than it ordinarily would be. Training in advance and selecting hikes appropriate for your level of athleticism is important.
  6. Losing track of time. If you got a late start or are moving at a slower pace than you thought, it’s easy to lose track of time. Before you know it, the sun could be setting and you could be several miles away from your car. Keeping an eye on the time can help you know when to turn around so you can avoid hiking in the dark or through an impending storm.

What are the top hiking risks?

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The website Mountain Hiking lists these risks as some of the top hiking risks.

  • Dehydration.
  • Altitude sickness.
  • Getting lost.
  • Accidents and injuries.
  • Hypothermia.
  • Heat stroke.
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