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Hiking Safety Tips

Hiking Safety Tips

S
pring has barely arrived and already parts of California are starting to see warmer weather. As the temperatures begin to rise, more and more people begin to venture outside. Whether it is just to their yard, or to something more adventurous like a natural forest, the outdoors are calling people. One of the best ways to explore the state is with a hike.

Living in the city, it can be easy for people to forget how truly wild natural areas can be. They are great places to see and visit, but a person needs to explore these places with the proper caution. Failing to do so can result in some nasty run-ins with the local wildlife. To help ensure everyone’s safety, check out these hiking tips.

Some Tips for the Trail

When it comes to hiking safely, there are all sorts of things that a person should. These different things can either ensure that a person doesn’t get lost or that they don’t have a run-in with the local wildlife. Unfortunately, wild animals don’t always understand that most people mean them no harm.

Before heading out on a hike, a person should:

  • Check the forecast. No one wants to hike in inclement weather.
  • Have a trail map, a physical one. Don’t rely on cellphones in the wild where reception is often spotty at best.
  • If taking a pet, consider getting them a backpack. This way they can carry their supplies. Also, bring a first aid kit for the critter.
  • Learn to identify poison oak by its distinct, three-leaf shape. No one wants to get itchy.
  • Tell someone where they are going and for how long. Doing this can help prevent a 127 Hours type situation.
  • Wear appropriate, comfortable clothing.

Lastly, have a list of all necessary items and check it off before leaving.

When a person is out on the trail, they should:

  • Always pay attention to where they are stepping or placing their hands. There could be a snake, or other critters, hiding there.
  • Apply sunscreen, especially in Southern California.
  • Avoid eating wild plants. This is especially important for pets.
  • Drink plenty of water. Bring plenty of water for any pets on the hike too.
  • Give wild animals enough space and never try to feed or touch them.
  • Hike in groups. Staying in groups decreases the chances of attacks from predators. When hiking in groups, stick together.
  • If a person chooses to hike in a group, they should notify a trusted friend or family member of where they are going and for how long. Doing this can help prevent a 127 Hours type situation.
  • Keep any pets on leashes and harnesses. Don’t let them wander off and definitely don’t let them pester other hikers.
  • Only hike during the day. Hiking at night is an easy way to get lost.
  • Stay on the trail and never forge their own trail. Stepping off a trail increases the chances of getting lost.

Most importantly, a hiker should know and be honest about their skill level. The same is definitely true for a person’s pet if they chose to bring it along. Always consider what hikes are appropriate for pets.

What to Do if an Animal Attacks

For the most part, wild animals just want to be left alone. As long as people give them a wide berth and leave them alone, the animal will keep to itself. However, there are times, though rare, when animals attack people for seemingly no reason.

How a person should respond to acts of aggression from animals depends on what animal is being aggressive. Tactics that work for one species, such as bears, probably won’t work for species like mountain lions. A person should be aware of what animals are present in the areas they are hiking, and know the appropriate responses for encounters with them.

A good defense, that is available to anyone without the need of a special license, is pepper spray. Most animals don’t enjoy the feel of pepper spray and will leave anyone who sprays them with it alone. However, some animals are more persistent.

Some animals, such as mountain lions, are legally protected from hunting. However, if the animal is attacking a person, it can be killed. While the act of killing a protected species is frowned upon, if the act was in the defense of human life, it is usually permitted.

Have Fun and Stay Safe

The warm weather is so inviting that the ideas of going out and enjoying nature are hard to ignore, especially after being cooped up indoors for winter. Going for a hike is a great way to enjoy the warmer weather, and see a more natural version of California.

While out exploring nature, a person needs to be prepared. They need the right gear, equipment, and mindset while on the trail. They also need to know how to respond to wildlife and how to protect themselves in the rare event that they are attacked.

What are your thoughts on hiking? Is it a fun pastime, or is it too dangerous? Do you have any hiking safety tips that didn’t make this list?