How to be safe backpacking (trekking, hiking)

There’s much to love about the outdoors. Getting back to nature with the fresh air away from the concrete jungle and digital devices are just a few reasons to get outdoors.

Unfortunately, every year people get lost backpacking, sadly some people die.

The risk of this occurring can be greatly minimized by thoroughly planning your expedition.

This article provides some tips on how to be safe backpacking (trekking, hiking).

Check the Conditions

Check the weather conditions and forecast. Depending on where you live and the time of year need to consider the threats.

If it is hot dry and windy a fire could startup. Or a storm could be brewing and make the trekking adventure dangerous.

Go with others

If you injure yourself you might not be able to help yourself.

However, If you are with others and someone gets injured there is a team of people who can help.

 

How to be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking)
If you are with others and someone gets injured there is a team of people who can help. 

Let someone know before you go

Before you go backpacking (trekking/hiking) let a friend or family member know, providing them trip details and when they can expect to see you back.

Tell them a specific time to expect your return, and be sure to tell them to report it if you haven’t returned on time.

If this isn’t possible, you can also leave a note on your car that says where you’re going and when you plan to return.

That crucial information could help rescuers know where to look in the unlikely case you run into trouble on the trail.

Take a map

Our next tip on how to be safe backpacking (trekking/hiking) don’t rely on your mobile phone.

Relying on mobile phone for map location can be a risk as they may not provide coverage in remote locations.

Before leaving the house, search the internet for a map or purchase one from a local store.

 

How to be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking)
Relying on mobile phone for map location can be a risk as they may not provide coverage in remote locations.

Gear to take

If you intend on trekking overnight you will need to take additional gear. Carrying these items will help you be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking).

Sleeping Bag
Many packable size sleeping bags on the market will keep you warm at night. Consider the temperature rating of the sleeping bag.

Have put together an article on this for you.

Headlamp
When the sun goes down it can be very dark.

Headlamps provide additional comfort. They also allow you to check the noises in the bushes.

A strong headlamp provides a beam of light helping search teams to locate you.

 

How to be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking)
How to be safe bushwalking, packing a headlamp will provide comfort and safety

Food 
Muesli bars are a fantastic companion as they are small take up little room in your backpack. They are also packed full of calories.

Clothing 
It’s best to wear more clothes than less. It is always easy to peel off layers of clothing when warm.

Make sure you pack warm dry clothes and a waterproof jacket.

Weather conditions can quickly change. It could be warm one minute and bitterly cold a few minutes later.

Wear a hat for protection from the sun and retain body heat if it gets cold.

Wearing the right gear for weather protection increases the enjoyment of the activity and keeps you safe from hypothermia (too cold) and hyperthermia (too hot).

 

How to be safe bushwalking, wear and carry warm/dry clothing

Shelter

Packing a hiking or trekking tent will protect you from the elements, providing safety and comfort. They can also signal to rescuers.

If safe and accessible try to find an area where you could spread out the tent or its fly during the day.

This will increase the chances of rescuers spotting you.

If you want to be minimalist and do not want to pack a tent, take a tarp with some pegs/stakes.  Have written an article on this

 

How to be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking)
Packing a hiking or trekking tent will protect you from the elements, providing safety and comfort.

Gaitors

Gaiters are tough canvas or nylon sheaths that fit around the lower part of the leg to provide some protection from the scrub.

They also protect from a snake bite and stop your socks from filling up with grass seeds.

When considering gaiters, make sure they fit comfortably around your leg and down over the top of your boots or shoes.

Most gaiters will have a strap or cord to go under your shoe to keep them firm.

Where the countryside is not so rough, but there is a lot of grass or weeds, you can wear sock protectors to save your socks from their seeds (short elasticized skirts that fit around the bottom of your leg and go over your socks and the opening in your shoes).

Shoes

Your feet are a very important thing to consider when bushwalking. Look after them by wearing well-fitted shoes.

Specialist outdoor footwear so they will get you into the bush or desert, to wonderful places, and back out again.

Care for your feet is just as important as having the right footwear and socks.

Cut your toenails before every trip to avoid pain and possibly loss of the nails. Deal with tough or cracked skin well before a trip.

 

How to be safe bushwalking (trekking, hiking)
Wearing well-fitted shoes makes all the difference

Water

Make sure you overcompensate with the amount of water you take away camping.

If you are going trekking for more than a day it can be impractical to take a sufficient amount of water.

Drinking straight from natural sources can be risky and might find yourself with stomach upsets.

We recommend taking an inexpensive water purifier or purification tablets.

They may not remove all the parasites but will remove most of them significantly reducing the risk of illness.

  • Boiling. This is one of the easiest options, so long as you have a stove with plenty of fuel for cooking. Boiling for 3 minutes will kill all parasites and make it safe to drink (allow for a full three minutes if over 6,500 feet).

 

  • Water filter. These are popular because they’re lightweight, but require either squeezing or pumping to work, which can be time-consuming or annoying.

 

  • Steri-pen. This method utilizes UV light to purify, and works quickly: typically one minute or less to treat water.

 

  • Chlorine pills. Chlorine tablets and pills are a very lightweight option but will require some wait-time, usually 30 minutes before it’s ready to drink.

 

For further information on how to purify the water, we have another article detailing this subject

First Aid Kit

Bushwalking/trekking/hiking is normally performed in remote locations, so can medical help.

Taking a First Aid kit is a good idea in case something goes wrong.

If you don’t have the room in your pack, take some supplies such as antiseptic cream and bandages for any scrapes or scratches.

For more serious injuries like a snake bite, we suggest packing a pressure bandage.

In the event you do get bitten by a snake, Health Direct provides the following advice

Follow these steps to apply a pressure immobilization bandage:

  • First, put a pressure bandage over the bite itself. It should be tight and you should not be able to easily slide a finger between the bandage and the skin.
  • Then use a heavy crepe or elasticized roller bandage to immobilize the whole limb. Start just above the fingers or toes of the bitten limb, and move upwards on the limb as far as the body. Splint the limb including joints on either side of the bite.
  • Keep the person and the limb completely at rest. If possible, mark the site of the bite on the bandage with a pen.

Once immobilized call emergency services or get to the hospital as soon as possible.

Leave no trace

A basic rule of thumb is, leave the area better than you found it. Take any rubbish with you, setting an example of leaving the area in the best condition.

Final Thoughts

Getting back to nature through hiking, trekking, backpacking, bushwalking, or whatever you want to call is a fun, healthy adventure.

However, there can be risks caused by injury, an illness caused by the elements, and problems getting lost.

With some careful planning and measures taken these risks can be greatly reduced.

The tips above on how to be safe backpacking are intended to provide some guidance.

 

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