Essential safety advice for hikers
The importance of staying safe while walking and hiking
Hiking is a great way of getting your body fit, healthy and active, as well as boosting your self-confidence. However, as with any outdoor activity, it is important to stay safe and be well-prepared for any emergency situation. From map reading to emergency food, here's the realbuzz.com guide to staying safe when out hill walking.
- Learn to navigate when walking
Even if you will be walking with a group you should still learn the basics of route planning, navigation and how to use a map and compass yourself. After all, if the group leader should have an accident who is going to lead you off the hill? Rudimentary map reading skills are very quick and easy to learn.
- Preparation and planning for a walk
Take time to plan and prepare for your walking trip. This will be time well spent and the chances of having a successful and enjoyable trip will be far higher if you have prepared well.
- Be safe when walking
When taking up hiking it is a very easy and common mistake to underestimate the amount of time you will be out meaning you could be caught out after sunset. Learn to use ‘Naismith’s Rule’ to accurately estimate the time your route will take.
- Emergency food
Always carry emergency food such as high-energy, low-weight food bars.
- Emergency communications when out walking
Always take your phone with you (sealed in a waterproof bag) when you are out on the hills. In the event of an emergency it will save valuable time if you are able to contact the emergency services immediately.
- First aid when out walking in the country
It is well worth taking the time to invest in some basic first aid training as this is useful knowledge to have, not only for hiking and mountaineering.
- Weather forecasting
A basic understanding of mountain weather can go a long way to increasing your safety on the hills. Being able to predict the weather either prior to your journey or during your walk is an invaluable tool. This is unlikely to be learned quickly and will come with experience of spotting ‘tell tale’ signs in cloud formations, changes in wind direction and other factors to be help predict future conditions.
- Actions in an emergency
No-one wants to think that an accident will ever happen to them but it would be fool-hardy to think that this will always be the case. Take some time to prepare for, and practice actions on different types of emergency. High levels of training mean you will react without having to think, which is beneficial since decision making abilities are severely impaired in stressful conditions.
In an emergency situation when out walking:
- Don’t rush. Remain calm otherwise a minor mishap can turn into a major incident.
- Quickly assess the casualty's condition.
- Determine if they can be treated and evacuated by the party or if external assistance is required.
- Call for external assistance if it is needed using your phone. If you have no network signal then someone needs to leave to get help. Never leave a casualty unattended unless it is completely unavoidable (if walking as a pair). At least two fit and reliable members of the party should be sent. Write down the grid-reference and a description of the location, as well as the casualty’s injuries to take to the rescue services. This is when a GPS receiver can prove invaluable in determining your exact location to give to rescue teams.
- Move the casualty to shelter and keep them warm, hydrated and reassured (but, never move a casualty if you suspect any spinal injuries).
- Never move far from your path or trail as this is where mountain rescue teams will focus their search. If you need to find shelter then leave a sign such as an arrow of stones indicating your direction to the rescue team