by Diane Spicer
Personal hiking safety begins before you leave for the trail head.
Trust me on this:
So these best hiking safety tips will help you put together a workable plan tailored to your hiking style.
Let's jump right in with your first basic steps.
These two simple steps will go miles (oooh, hiking pun) toward keeping you out of trouble.
1. Write out an itinerary, and leave it with someone you trust. as well as the agency or authorities in charge of your route.
2. Pour over maps of the area you're planning to hike through and:
This advice works for both day hikers and backpackers.
But the stakes are higher for a female backpacker, due to the distances away from a trailhead, and the number of days involved in a backpacking trip.
As you can see, hiking safety is all about KNOWLEDGE.
Luckily, you can gain knowledge quite easily on this website and from other sources I recommend.
Ultimately, hiking safety is your responsibility, even if you always surround yourself with seasoned outdoors people.
What would you do if YOU were the only one capable of making decisions on a backpacking trip?
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.
Or know exactly where you are.
Mental issues such as the brain fog of hypothermia may keep your hiking partner -or you- from making good decisions in the moment.
And nothing is more anxiety provoking than getting lost while hiking.
There are a myriad of physical problems which can flood your system with fear and impair your hiking safety in the great outdoors without impairing your judgment.
Let's take a look.
For bonus safety points as we go along, ask yourself:
"How can I control or minimize
this problem for myself?"
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 not only as a day hiker, but as a seasoned backpacker.
Consider these hiking safety tips on physical problems that you might need to avoid or handle appropriately:
But don't stress when you see that long list of safety concerns for hikers!
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.
Let's look at a few scenarios a backpacker or day hiker might face on the trail.
Certain reptiles and mammals can mean trouble if you happen to mis-read their body language.
How would you react to a bear charge?
What about safety for women hikers traveling 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.
If you're hiking through mountain goat terrain (sub-alpine or higher), use these safety tips for greater awareness of your options when confronted with a curious goat.
Also of concern: other humans.
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.
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.
As a female hiker, you have serious personal choices to make about safety regardless of whether you're on the trail for a day or a multi day backpacking trip:
All of these choices carry a large amount of responsibility, to yourself and to others.
No one can choose for you, so take time to think through the consequences for yourself.
So what do you need to know to keep yourself from becoming a hiking statistic in a police report?
At the very least, you need to stay aware of your surroundings.
If you're backpacking, someone should be looking for landmarks and topographical clues that you're getting close to your campsite for the night.
When you're hiking 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 the thought of being in charge 24/7 overwhelms you, you're not quite ready for a solo backpacking hike or trip.
No worries, just learn more trail skills to build up your confidence!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Are you aware of when firearm and archery hunting seasons occur in your preferred hiking areas?
Can you plan a safe backpacking trip by avoiding designated hunting areas?
Do you know the top three things to do to avoid being mistaken for a game animal?
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 good hiking habits for safe trails you might want to adopt or adapt:
As I am doing these things, I remind myself to mentally review 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.
In addition to regular first aid supplies, carry some items to deal with run-of-the-mill hiking problems:
A survival kit might make sense for your hiking plans, too.
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 day hikers and backpackers can be as simple as that!
Hiking Safety For Female Hikers
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She's been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for 5+ decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
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