How Do You Protect Yourself When Hiking? | Hikers University

Hiking is a great hobby for those who love the outdoors, but it’s also important to stay safe while hiking. So, how do you protect yourself when hiking?

When hiking or camping, you will be exposed to the elements and will likely be very far away from the city. This means you need to take extra care and follow safety precautions to stay safe.

Wearing the proper clothing, staying on the trail, and carrying a map and compass are just things you can do to stay safe while hiking. Carrying extra food and water and containers to store your food is also a good idea while on a hiking trip.

We have met with many hiking and camping enthusiasts who have shared their tips and secrets to staying safe while on a hiking or camping trip through the years. Here, we will share those golden nuggets of hiking wisdom with you so that you can stay safe on your next trip.

As for hiking and camping experts, we are in the ideal position to provide you with all of the information you need to protect yourself when hiking.

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How Do You Protect Yourself When Hiking?

Just because you will be out in the open does not mean you can’t keep yourself protected against nature and wild animals. The best safety tip for hikers or campers is always to tell someone where you're going hiking and when you expect to return. This is essential because imagine yourself trekking in a beautiful state park, enjoying the magnificent canopy overhead when you slip and twist your ankle due to the trail's numerous variances.

On your painful journey down, you hear a pop; that’s your leg breaking. Ouch! Yeah, but you still have your cellphone, right? But, wait, you’re out in the wilderness, and there’s no service. No one will know when you should be home or where to look for you if no one knows where you are, so you should tell someone before heading out on a hiking or camping trip.


Bears are an essential part of the forest where you find refuge. Bears, for the most part, are uninterested in humans. If you're carrying food, smell particularly significant, or happen to run across a mom bear, your encounter will very certainly be more dramatic. We doubt your machete will assist you much with a bear. Instead, make sure you have a bear whistle and bear spray on hand so you can scare the bear away from a longer distance. Remember to enlarge yourself and speak loudly, "No bear, back up bear!"

Carry a Map/GPS

It's OK to bring your phone (save for snapping dangerous selfies), but relying on it for instructions is a mistake. Carry one of the several GPS navigation devices that include an emergency rescue capability that sends an SOS to authorities and your precise GPS position. Find a current map and print it off to bring with you. Study it and devise a strategy for getting where you want to go. Before you go, make sure you know how to orient yourself.

On a well-marked trail, pay attention to landmarks and check your map frequently. You should also turn around now and again to check how the route appears from the opposite direction. This will make returning home much simpler.

Stick to the Trail

So, you’ve planned out a hiking trail that suits your skillset; now, all you have to do is make sure you stick to it for the entire hiking trip and back. You must stay on that trail for your personal safety, the natural resources, other hikers, and a prospective search party.

When you leave the route, your chances of encountering a dangerous obstacle increase. It's also simple to become disoriented. The foliage in certain areas, such as the Smokies, is so dense that signage might vanish fast. A rescue mission will be far more difficult and risky if you become lost or disabled off-trail.

Off-trail hiking can also lead to "social trails" or unauthorized pathways dug into the woods by intrepid hikers. Social trails may damage flora and put animals in danger if they follow you thinking it's the appropriate path.

If you get lost, stay calm, count to ten, drink some water, and analyze your situation. Panicking is not going to help. Instead, consider the following: Is it possible to return to a familiar track or location? Otherwise, remain still. If you think you can make it out of the woods, keep in mind that following streams downwards will nearly always take you back to habitation. At least one person should stay with the injured individual in the event of an accident. Basic first aid procedures should be learned and used. Others in the group should take detailed notes and call the Forest Service in their area.


Depending on where you will be hiking, always dress in layers. These days, puff coats are incredibly light and small. Put them in your daypack, and don't expect to use them. It's preferable to have it and not require it than to require it and not possess it. In your daypack, have a plastic poncho and an emergency blanket because if you're soaked, there's no way you'll keep warm. Wear bright colors and carry an LED light in your daypack. This will make it much easier for rescuers to find you on the ground or in the air.


While hiking, the National Park Service suggests drinking half a liter to one liter each hour. The exact amount you'll need will be determined by the nature of your journey and your regular water intake.

While you can bring all of your water with you if you want to conserve weight, see if there are any sites along the path where you can replenish your bottle with drinkable water or if there are any natural water sources.

If there are natural water sources, you may make use of them (and lessen your load!) by carrying filtration and disinfection supplies. According to the NPS, you can boil water using a heat-safe container and a heat source. A physical filter, as well as a cleaning pill or liquid, can be used to remove more prominent pollutants and destroy tiny microorganisms. While hiking, never consume unpurified water (or otherwise). Even the clearest spring water you've ever seen might include potentially hazardous bacteria.

Protect Yourself from the Sun

Apply a broad-spectrum sunscreen with at least SPF 30 to any exposed skin and reapply according to the product's directions. Clothing composed of sun-protective fabric is another choice for frequent hikers. Shade your face and neck with sunglasses and a broad-brimmed hat. The National Park Service suggests staying hydrated and taking regular rests, ideally in the shade, to avoid heat sickness, varying from unpleasant heat rash to life-threatening heatstroke.

Protect Your Feet

Blister treatments should always be included in your first-aid kit. Stop and check your feet for indicators of a fledgling blister, such as redness and irritation, as soon as you feel discomfort. Consider using blister treatments before hiking if you're breaking in new boots or have a problem spotting blisters.

Start Small

Some things are difficult to realize until you're out there, such as that you probably could have done without that 16-ounce jar of marmalade since your pack is too heavy. That is why, especially if you are new to hiking, it is recommended that you do a short trek before embarking on a longer one.

You may test your gear, feel the weight of your pack, break in your boots, and determine how much food and drink you consume on your own. Plus, if you start little and slow, you'll like it more, which will motivate you to keep going. You can always take on a more challenging hiking trail once you experience surviving out in the open.

Hiking alone increases your vulnerability to unwelcome touch. If you do it alone, keep all of the above in mind and be especially vigilant. You might consider removing your headphones because they can be distracting. When speaking with strangers, use the word "we" rather than "I" and avoid broadcasting your loneliness.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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