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Hiking safety begins before you leave for the trail head.
Trust me: Hiking safety tips follow a logical plan that begins with forethought.
Your first step: Write out an itinerary, and leave it with someone you trust.
Pour over maps of the area you're planning to hike through.
Figure out how far you'll hike, where you can get water if you need it, what the terrain will be like, and what Plan B might be if you can't complete the hike.
Trail safety for women hikers involves using your head once you begin your hike:
That's right, hiking safety is all about KNOWLEDGE.
Luckily, you can gain knowledge quite easily on this website and from other sources I recommend.
Always follow the links, and dig into the wisdom.
Hiking safety is up to you, even if you always surround yourself with seasoned outdoors people.
What would you do if YOU were the only one capable of making decisions?
For example: hypothermia strikes your hiking partner, and it's up to you to navigate out to the trail head... and you don't know how to read the map.
Food for thought, no?
Mental issues such as the brain fog of hypothermia may keep your hiking partner -or you- from making good decisions.
And nothing is more anxiety provoking than getting lost while hiking. One bad decision can lead to another.
But there are a myriad of other physical problems which can flood your system with fear and impair your hiking safety in the great outdoors without impairing your judgement.
Let's take a look.
Handling trail stressors as they arise is an important skill to develop. It's called trail mastery, and comes with experience and logging lots of trail time.
Consider these physical problems that you might need to avoid or handle appropriately:
...and the list goes on and on, in an unpredictable fashion.
But don't stress!
Instead, get prepared by reading up on these outdoor hazards and know what to do before anything bad happens.
Unfortunately, safety for women hikers may also mean self-defense.
A female hiker in the wild can become a female hiker attacked.
Certain reptiles and mammals can mean trouble if you happen to mis-read their body language. How would you react to a bear charge?
(As an aside, here's my favorite bear-related quote: "My advice for grizzlies is to try to maintain sphincter control." —KERRY SNOW, volunteer trail manager with the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, 1990)
I don't mean to make light of bears. When hiking through known bear territory, carry bear spray and know how and when to deploy it.
What about safety for women hikers travelling through rattlesnake country?
Or after a cougar sighting?
In my humble opinion, count yourself lucky! I have yet to see a rattlesnake or an entire cougar - only one tiny glimpse of a cougar backside disappearing into the brush.
Also of concern: any woman hiking solo has probably had a conversation in her head about "vibes" when meeting a solo male hiker.
I know some guys find this offensive ("Hey, why am I immediately suspect?"), but it's a cold, hard reality: Female solo hikers have been assaulted and killed by males.
Not so much the other way around.
If you hike near busy urban areas, you might want to consider how to keep yourself safe at trail heads or popular camp grounds.
And get really good at sizing up people in a hurry. This book can help.
So as a female hiker, you have personal choices to make about safety:
So what do you need to know to keep yourself from becoming a statistic in a police report?
At the very least, you need to stay aware of your surroundings.
When you're solo, you're in charge of your own hiking safety:
In essence, you're making continuous decisions which impact your hiking safety, top to bottom, day and night.
That's part of the allure of hiking solo!
But if that thought overwhelms you, you're not quite ready for a solo trip.
Every hiker should keep an eye on the sky (and not just because double rainbows happen, as in the above photo).
Cloud patterns and wind direction are billboards, telling you what the weather is doing. This is especially important in the mountains, where bad weather can whip up in a matter of minutes and make you cold and miserable.
Also make time to practice safe water crossing techniques in shallow, easy streams.
Or you could wing it in the face of adversity! Your choice (she said with a frown).
Maybe you're wondering why I haven't mentioned technology yet.
First, I'm a stubborn, old school hiker who would rather rely upon tried and true methods and knowledge, rather than a battery powered gizmo.
Reason number two?
Technology can convey a false sense of hope, or provide dangerous distractions, for some hikers. It's not a fool proof guarantee of hiking safety.
I also make it a habit to review my "short list" of safety skills at the beginning of winter and summer hiking seasons, including a quick session of looking at photos of cloud patterns and reviewing the living things that can make me itch or die.
More hiking habits:
As I am doing these things, I remind myself to mentally review the knowledge that will keep me safe on the trail.
Sometimes that sends me over to the bookshelf to look up how to treat sunstroke, or how to avoid avalanche danger.
And it keeps me confident in my knowledge base, should an emergency arise on the trail.
What's in your head should "outweigh" what's in your pack!
And don't forget to carry a female hiking hygiene kit you can put together using these tips.
Would you like to know what my "alternative" first aid kit has in it?(free pdf download)
It might make a fun addition to your hiking pack list.
Safety for women hikers can be as simple as that!
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