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Hiking Safety:
Female Hikers Need a Plan

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:


Hiking safety is about knowledge

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.


Hiking safety: physical problems

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.


Hiking safety means keeping yourself warm and dry - always.


Self-defense

Unfortunately, safety for women hikers may also mean self-defense.

A female hiker in the wild can become a female hiker attacked.

Wildlife

Certain reptiles and mammals can mean trouble if you happen to mis-read their body language.

Know when and how to use bear spray.

And always store your food in a way to discourage snoopy bears.


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)

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.

  • These critters are elusive.
  • Snakes would much prefer to avoid you, and rattlers give you plenty of warning.
  • Only solo hikers should be truly concerned about going up against a big cat.

Human predators

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.

As a female hiker, you have personal choices to make about safety:

  • self defense techniques,
  • carrying pepper spray,
  • hiking with a large dog trained to attack on command, 
  • carrying a weapon.
All of these choices carry a large amount of responsibility, to yourself and to others.

Don't become a statistic

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.

Awareness when hiking with trail buddies

Women who hike in groups or with a trail buddy tend to get chatty - nothing wrong with that, but someone needs to keep track of important things:

  • the time,
  • the distance to the campsite (on multiple day adventures),
  • the agreed upon turn around time (on day hikes),
  • anyone who appears threatening.

Solo hiking and mindfulness

When you're solo, you're in charge of your own hiking safety:

  • pacing yourself properly and remaining aware of how many hours of daylight are left in relation to how many miles of trail are in front of you,
  • knowing your gear inside and out, and
  • deciding how to deal with strangers on the trail.

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.

Tip: Every hiker should carry the ten essentials and a hiking survival kit, each and every time, especially when travelling solo.


Safety habits & training

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.

I highly recommend basic hiking safety and first aid training, some rudimentary plant & animal identification training, and deep familiarity with your gear.

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).

The double edged sword of
technology for hikers

Maybe you're wondering why I haven't mentioned technology yet.

Two reasons:

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.

  • OK, I'm not that bad (or quite that old!).
  • I do acknowledge that GPS can get you off a mountain in a swirling fog - if you can get a signal (Please, weather gods, align the satellites!).
  • And a Personal Locator Beacon just makes good sense when you're way out in the backcountry and may need to be rescued.
  • For enhanced features such as two way communication, trackability, and rescue messaging, a Satellite Messenger is what you need.


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.

Hiking during hunting season

Are you aware of when firearm and archery hunting seasons occur in your preferred hiking areas?

Do you know the top three things to do to avoid being mistaken for a game animal?

Read this!

Helpful hiker habits

I have an ingrained 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:


Knowledge is crucial

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!

In addition to regular first aid supplies, I carry some items to deal with run-of-the-mill hiking problems: insect bites, sore muscles, and skin chafing

And don't forget to carry a female hiking hygiene kit you can put together using these tips.

Fun freebie for you

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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