Your body is all conditioned, your spirits high, and the weather forecast in the Alps is great, so hiking in Matterhorn seems like the perfect holiday itinerary. But you never had any experience hiking something that high yet, and you hardly have any idea on how to pack up and prepare.
Wild outdoor adventures such as hiking are by no means similar to your childhood camping trips. In the mountains, the climate can be unpredictable, so what you thought is the ideal weather could suddenly turn way colder than you anticipated. The terrains are also rocky, and there could be poisonous plants and wild animals along the trail.
You should take safety issues seriously if you’re going on a hiking trip for the first time. Even experienced hikers are still meticulous when preparing for every journey. Thus, while you’re still at the planning stages of your first hiking trip, take note of all these essential safety tips:
1. Choose a Destination Staffed With Park Rangers
Even if the internet is already teeming with informative blogs about certain mountains, it’s still better to get tips directly from a park ranger. That way, you’d get the most realistic and accurate information on what you can expect from the hike. Park rangers will give you warnings on what you might encounter along the terrains, such as toxic plants, wild animals, or rock slides. They’ll also give you additional safety tips.
2. Hike With a Group
Either bring your friend group with you or join a group of other experienced hikers. Having companions significantly lowers your risk of getting lost in the wilderness, which is an inherent risk of hiking.
3. Dress for the Weather
Park rangers would also give you tips on the weather, so don’t rely solely on weather forecasts. Avoid wearing denim jeans and sneakers; they’re highly uncomfortable for a hike. Instead, gear up with wool clothing (including undies and socks), stretchy pants, a brimmed hat, and sturdy shoes (preferably hiking boots). Apart from those, bring a rain jacket, a fleece jacket, and gloves. Bring sunscreen as well to avoid nasty sunburns.
4. Make an Emergency Plan
If network service would be available in the mountains, assign at least one member of your group to bring a fully-charged cellphone and a power bank. If there would be no service, decide on a means to transmit a message, such as using personal locator beacons or a satellite messaging device. One of you should also volunteer to personally seek help when it’s needed.
5. Bring a Survival Kit
Your hiking survival kit must contain the following:
- First-aid kit (ibuprofen, antihistamine, antiseptic towelettes, bandages/gauze, space blanket, personal meds)
- Map, compass, and GPS device
- Pocket knife
- Food (energy bars and comfort food that are enough for two days)
- Water (bring extra supplies as well as water purifiers)
- Fire starters (matches, lighter, or flint and striker)
- Makeshift shelter (space blanket, tarp, trash bags)
- Warm clothing
- Signaling device (whistle, locators, cellphones, and a mirror)
- Flashlight and batteries
6. Leave a Copy of Your Itinerary to Someone Outside Your Group
Before you set off, be sure to leave a copy of your itinerary to someone trustworthy outside your group, such as a park ranger. Make sure your itinerary has all the important details, such as the time you expect to return and where. Doing this will alert your park ranger in case you don’t return on the expected time.
Following these tips may result in a heavy bag, but in return, your safety is guaranteed. As you hike, make sure you stay on your planned trail and leave tracks behind so you can retrace your steps in case of an emergency. Start on a short and easy trail first, and then up your game as you go on more hiking trips.