How to safely hike alone?

With the increasing number of people going missing or having to be rescued by SAR in the BC area I thought it would be a good idea to share my top tips of staying safe when hiking, especially if you’re alone.

Few weeks back, I have shared top items you need to bring with you on a hike, details of which can be found here. While my post covered items commonly used, it was directed mostly at summer hikes. Hiking in the winter is a whole other ball game and some key items you will need are – Hot Water, Access to Hot Food (small camping gas heater), thermal clothing, two thermal blankets (one for cover & one for shelter if need arises to stay overnight) and hand warmers to name a few.

In the era of Social Media and people looking to get out of their homes more than ever, influence of “pretty photos” from mountain peaks or hill tops is the driver behind the trip destinations. Unfortunately, not many people do “their homework” and prepare for the trip accordingly, or are simply not fit enough to complete said journey. I am not here to judge or tell anyone what to do, but how to prepare oneself. Once you decide on your destination, here are some other key things to factor in:

  • Sunrise & Sundown Times: How long is the trip? What is the distance one way? Will the weather conditions that day affect your descent time? Will there be enough time for you to take a break and make a return trip? Do you know when it will get dark & do you know how to get down in the dark? If so, did you pack a headlamp?
  • Footwear: In the summer you only really need sturdy hiking boots, that will protect your ankles for sprains and perhaps the option of having them waterproof. In the winter, you need to make sure they are 100% waterproof (especially if hiking in back-country)to avoid potential frostbite, will you require crampons or snowshoes – again this comes down to your initial prep for your journey.
  • Journey Plan: Does anyone know you are going hiking alone? Do they know what time you’re expected to return at? Basically, as dramatic as it sounds “Will anyone know you are missing?” if you don’t turn up? Its very important to let a friend or a relative know, exactly where you are going, how long are you expected to be gone for and key is to notify them as soon as you’re back down safely or back home. There’s a great app called Get Home Safe which will allow you to create your journey plan and share it with others, so they know exactly where you are at all times.
  • Prepare for the conditions: This goes without saying and ties in with the points above, however prior research will help you deciding what to wear, what to expect on the trail and what to bring with you. For example, you might have expected heavy snow and bring heavy snow boots but it turns out it rained the night before and now you will only need hiking boots. This piece of preparation will help you pack accordingly, and avoid carrying unnecessary load. Great app commonly used by hikers is All Trails and you will easily get first hand recent reviews on there.
  • Educate yourself of the wanders out there: Generally you’d expect anyone who decides to go on a risky hike whether that’s in the snow or in the summer to have the common sense and familiarizing themselves with potential dangers out there. We can’t however expect everyone to know everything, (I know I didn’t at first and I am still learning). Therefore as a great resource I’d recommend reviewing BC Adventure Smart website where they share all outdoors news and articles on how to be prepared, depending on what activity you were thinking of doing.
  • Rescue Reflector: In the event where you end up getting hurt, stranded or you get lost its important to have a Rescue Reflector with you. This will not 100% save you but it will help SAR locate you from their helicopter. They retail around $50.00; they do not have a transmitter, therefore it will not help you in the event of an avalanche. Some winter/ski jackets have it built in, so if you’re in the market for a new jacket that would be a useful feature to look out for.
  • Be in the know: If you plan on hiking during the winter, please make sure you are staying on top of news; this is a great source of information to let you know of potential dangers out there such as avalanche seasons etc.

These tips will not protect you, but they will help you get ready. At the end of the day you may be the most experienced hiker and all it takes is a one bad step on a hill or cliff and you may find yourself in danger. If you don’t feel safe, don’t go, make sure someone knows where you are and always bring a headlamp and a spare power bank for your mobile in case you need to call for help.

Stay Safe & Happy Hiking.

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