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Tips for Hiking Safely

Hiking has exploded in popularity! As more people flock to the state parks, national parks, and local trail systems it can be a stress on not only the natural environment but Search & Rescue teams.

After reading about accidents in Acadia National Park, the White Mountains, and Baxter State Park it was clear to me that my next blog had to be about hiking safely. Not all these accidents are due to inexperience. Often, folks with years of experience find themselves unprepared for the conditions they are faced with. You never know when conditions will change. Weather can be unpredictable. I have found myself on the Knife Edge in Baxter State Park when the weather, which was predicted to be warm, sunny, and low wind, suddenly change and become cold and windy.

Important Considerations:

  1. Before leaving for your adventure, do your homework. Research your route. Is the route within your ability? Do you have time to complete the intended hike before nightfall? If something happens unexpectedly, is there an easier route down?

  2. Leave a hiking plan with someone at home. It should include where you are going, who you are with, and the time you expect to be back. Also, include emergency contact numbers in case they need to reach you.

  3. Carry emergency numbers with you, Warden Service, Park Service, and local hospital. I usually carry a cell phone. However, you can not always count on cell service. Knowing the quickest way down (your evacuation route) will help if you need to get down quickly (inclement weather, setting sun, etc…)

  4. Set a turn-around time and stick with it! The mountain will always be there and if it isn’t, you might have much larger problems to deal with!

I love that people are getting out and enjoying nature. Please stay safe, be responsible, and and take care of yourself and your hiking buddies.  Know before you go and be prepared. Remember, you can always hire a guide!

Here is the list of items that are always in my daypack:

Survival Bag

  1. Fire starter: I carry waterproof matches, a lighter, and tinder (dryer lint, cotton balls covered in petroleum jelly, birch bark...) in a small zip lock bag.

  2. Small lightweight tarp: a large contractor bag will work for a tarp or rain jacket.

  3. Mylar emergency blanket: reflects back your heat and also can be used to signal searchers.

  4. High calorie snacks: I'm a fan of Cliff Shot Blocks, granola bars, GORP or chocolate

  5. Water purification tablets

  6. Headlamp

  7. 25′ parachute cord

  8. Whistle

  9. Pocket knife (not pictured)

  10. Duct tape

  11. Zip ties

  12. Baseplate compass: and know how to use it

  13. Map of the area

Extra Warm Clothing

  1. Lightweight rain jacket

  2. Fleece or other insulating layer

  3. Extra wool socks

  4. Hat & gloves

First Aid Supplies

  1. Antibiotic cream

  2. 3 Triangular bandages

  3. Maxi pads (for bleeding control)

  4. Mole skin

  5. Tweezers

  6. Emergency blanket

  7. 4″ Wrap

  8. 3″ Roller gauze

  9. 2″ Medical tape

  10. Assorted band-aids

  11. 4×4 Sterile gauze

  12. Small notebook

  13. Gloves

This list may seem extensive but I fit all my emergency gear into a small 6″x3″ pack, the first aid kit easily fits into a quart size zip lock, and the clothing is in my pack. It’s relatively inexpensive to put together too! You can get a good baseplate compass for around $15.00. A trip to a second hand store will get you a fleece, rain jacket, hat, and mittens for under $20.00!


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