Hiking can be an enjoyable hobby, but many people forget about the dangers while they’re out enjoying nature and fail to prepare for a hike. Every year seasoned hikers and adventurous novices alike overestimate their capabilities and find themselves lost, or worse.
The National Park Service reports that they rescue over 250 people each year at the Grand Canyon, and hundreds more at other locations. Surprisingly (or maybe just surprising to half of us) young males are the most likely demographic to need rescue services, according to Travis Heggie, former risk management specialist for the National Park Services.
Why Hikers Need Help
There are dozens of reasons a hiker may find themselves in need of aid. From slipping and injuring a leg to poor navigational awareness leading off the trail, it’s difficult to prevent every unwanted scenario. One Colorado resident who was recently blown off a Rocky Mountain National Park trail by a 90 mph blast of wind can attest to the curveballs Nature can throw your way! In most cases, however, the problems that hikers encounter are preventable with proper technique. Dehydration, fatigue, and low extremity injuries all fit this category, and each are among the most common reasons for hikers to be unable to complete their trek. Don’t fall into this trap.
Take Steps to Avoid a Disastrous Hike
You should never rely entirely on your cellphone when in the wilderness. It’s a common mistake many hikers make. After all, we can rely so heavily on our phones in urban areas that we take for granted the power and cellular reception requirements these device need to function. Natural landscapes don’t accommodate our technological lifestyles: that refuge from the grid makes them all the more attractive. But neglecting to make your phone redundant will prove costly. There is no guarantee that you’ll have cell reception or that your device will maintain a charge long enough for you to use it in a situation where you need it. A physical map and compass will prove much more reliable if you find yourself astray. You can read more about how to use them in our previous post on navigation.
It’s also important to pack more than, not just enough, water for your hike. If you don’t, one slight wrong turn could leave you too parched to complete your hike. It also doesn’t hurt to pack a water purifier either – there is no such thing as too much drinking water when you’re on the trail. Check out our gear picks of hydration compatible day packs.
While other great tips such as keeping updated on the weather, dressing appropriately, or investing in high-tech survival gear are worth mentioning, it’s most important to note that clear communication before, during, and after your hike is vital. Before you depart you’ll want to make sure someone knows where you’re going and how long you expect to be away. While you’re hiking you don’t want to lose track of anyone in your group. And when you’re back you’ll want to put your friends and family at ease by letting them know you’re safe. Follow these steps and you’re sure to be safe and happy on every hike you embark on.
Preparedness Saves More Than Lives
With hundreds of rescues to perform every year the National Park Service spends a great deal of time and money helping imperiled visitors. State and local parks have similar expenses, however there are different approaches towards covering the costs, depending on the agency.
In National Parks as well as many state and local parks, taxpayers foot the bill for search and rescue teams. This is generally done because it’s cheaper than any potential litigation that would result from billing the rescued. If National Parks charged for search and rescue services they would also open themselves to lawsuits if they failed to recover a lost or injured hiker in time.
States like New Hampshire, Colorado, and Washington have implemented a search and rescue card system to offset costs of budget-consuming rescue missions. The cards are a form of insurance for hikers, buffering them against the nasty bill they would otherwise receive for being rescued.
Of course regardless of who’s paying, these missions drain any park of both its funding and ranger time, so it’s better for everyone if people prepare properly. For your safety and to enable the park agencies to continue provide the highest quality access to the land, practice and promote safe hiking.