Mountain trekking is good for the soul! We love spending time in nature, we know you do too. Between the valleys, plateaus, and mountain peaks, in Summer and Winter, there’s a so much to enjoy. However, the serenity, beauty, and views can take drastic and dangerous turn, after all, mother nature is unpredictable at times.
Even expert trekkers have a deep respect for the mountains and always prepare themselves for the uncertainty of the environment. That’s why we have put together a How to Stay Safe When Mountain Trekking, to help you get prepared too.
Mountain trekkers have a saying which sums it all up, ‘getting to the top is optional, but getting back down is mandatory.’
So while you may want to push your body to the limit and explore the mountains, you need to ensure your training, knowledge of the region, and equipment are up to the recommended standard.
As a mountain trekking beginner, you are probably have a million things running through your mind, (excitement, nervousness and so many questions). That’s why its important to be pragmatic, methodical and thing it all through. Don’t worry, we understand how it feels. We have taken the liberty to prepare a comprehensive list of everything you might need to ensure you are safe in the mountains, a 15 tips on how to stay safe when mountain trekking.
Though some of these tips may seem obvious, have a good ol’ read through of all the tips to refresh your memory or learn a few new hints and tips. That way you can take everything you know and have learnt back to your trekking buddies. Now you can ensure a safe and awesome trip to the mountains.
Let’s dive in!
1. Plan your trip
We recommend that you start with simple and not-so demanding mountain trails. While you might be tempted to go on some significant hikes right off the bat (probably because your friends are doing so), you shouldn’t give in to the temptation. As a beginner, you should know your limits and be okay with them. There is no need to fast forward yourself to expert trails. After all, you don’t want it to be your last mountain trek.
Once you pick a mountain trail that you feel is great for you, below are some of the essential things that you should plan for before you set off!
Click to se a great adventure planning app, Fatmap.
How long will the trek be? Many reviewers often provide these details, so this information shouldn’t be so hard to find. Knowing the duration of the mountain trail will help you to determine the things that you should pack. And being a beginner, your trail may not require you to pack a tent (most beginner trails are day trips).
We recommend that you have a trekking companion. If you don’t have a friend who is into mountain trekking, don’t worry as you can always hire a trekking guide to keep you company and assist you through the trail. And if you are worried that hiring a trekking guide will be expensive, think about your safety and the uninhibited and worry-free fun you’ll have.
Stick to a strict budget. Although mountains are public land, you are still expected to pay entry fees. The fees you pay varies from one mountain to another. As such, you should first check the official mountain trail website for the expenses before heading out. You should also prepare for the transport costs, environmental fees, tourism fees, guide fees and other charges that might pop up during the journey.
As you plan for your trekking, check on the weather news. Doing so will allow you to know which clothes to wear and any additional equipment you should carry. If the weather forecast is terrible, then you should postpone the trek altogether.
Check on the terrain to know beforehand if you’ll be trekking on inclined steps, through thick forests, in between rivers or rocky ground. Familiarize yourself with the details of the trail. Will the trail be snowy, sandy, grassy, rocky or muddy? Once you have these details, prepare your mind to tackle it.
2. Bring the right gear
As we’ve pointed out above, the equipment you carry will depend on the length of your hike, the terrain, weather, and your budget. If you don’t see mountain trekking as something you’d do in the long term, you shouldn’t get expensive equipment or get professional outfits. Just get outfits that are comfortable, lightweight, and versatile.
3. Dress appropriately and bring layers
Every time you step outdoors, you should remember to bring layers. You can think of the layers as a new age trekking thermostat. Layering has been tried and tested over the years. Professionals believe that it’s comfortable even when the weather changes up on you. All you need to do is slip off or on a layer depending on whether it gets hotter or colder.
How should you layer? Easy. There are three layers you should be aware of:
• Base layer – this wicks the sweat off your skin.
• Middle layer – this one retains body heat and protects you from cold weather.
• Outer layer – this layer shields you from the rain and wind.
Even if you don’t wear all these layers, it’s always a great idea to have them with you depending on what the weather forecast is. This way, you are always ready for anything.
4. Adapt to circumstances
It’s super important that you learn to be flexible during the planning phase and when on the mountain. If you wake up on the d-day and the weather is not as you expected, or for some reason, you are not in the best physical and mental shape, choose a shorter and easier route or postpone the trek altogether. Additionally, if the weather takes a turn for the worst during the trek, or you feel like you are struggling, turn back – there is no shame in it. You will live to fight another day.
5. Bring water and don't forget to drink
Excessive heat or sun means that your number one challenge throughout the trek will be dehydration. And yes, this applies even when you are trekking during the winter season. Expert trekkers and hikers advice that you don’t drink water from rivers unless the point you choose to fetch your water is close to the source. But in the event you do drink water from the river, choose a spot that water is flowing fast. Natural springs with clear waters are usually safe. The other option is to carry your own water.
But whatever you choose, the point is that you should remain hydrated throughout the trek. Water will help keep you cool and give you the strength to carry on.
6. Protect your head from the sun
Sunburns and sunstrokes are potential risks. And believe it or not, many trekkers suffer from the two often. And here’s the worst part – they affect trekkers in summer and winter as well. How is this possible? Well, you know that the higher you go, the colder it becomes, right? The same is true for the sun – the higher you go, the stronger it becomes.
For this reason, you should protect your head and face from the sun. You can pack a hat or sunscreen (anything that will protect your skin from the harmful UV sun rays). You need to apply it on your face and body in intervals throughout the trek.
7. Know your route
We cannot dispute the fact that exploring new trails and mountains is exciting.
However, with new territory comes considerable uncertainty, which can end in disaster. Before you head out for the mountains, gather some information regarding the region.
Look out for information on;
• Wild animals in the area and what you are expected to do if you come across them.
• Poisonous plants in the area. In regards to this, think of oak, poison ivy, and sumac. But note that different regions have different flora.
• Hunting seasons and areas in the mountains.
• Any hiking alerts around the time of your trekking.
Luckily, this information is always available on the official mountain trekking sites. Expert hikers and trekkers also share relevant and vital information about the areas they’ve experienced.
8. Get your backpack ready
The first thing we have to mention is that you should not burden yourself with a heavy backpack. You are just starting out, and you need to build your momentum. Your trail may be a couple of hours long, but it might feel like days if you carry a heavy and bulky backpack. When you are packing items in your backpack, you shouldn’t mind leaving some things behind. Pack only the essentials, including clean water, snacks, extra clothing, smartphone, and a first aid kit.
9. Always tell someone about your plans and where you are going.
As we pointed out earlier, if you are a beginner, it’s vital that you tag a friend along or hire a guide. The friend you bring should be more experienced in mountain trekking than you are. Also, tell a loved one that you are going mountain trekking.
Share all information concerning the trek, including the location, the length, how long it’s expected to take, your starting point, your endpoint, and any other spots you’ll stop at during the trek.
When sharing the estimated trekking times, remember to factor in some time at the peak or vantage points where you’ll stop to take in the view and relax.
Doing so will let your loved one know when things are taking too long and if something might have gone wrong. Then they can alert the authorities and know exactly where to start the search for your rescue.
10. Start hiking early, so you don't end up in the dark
During the planning phase, you must have factored in the length of the trail and the number of hours it will take you to complete it. Since you are a beginner, you should add two more hours to the recommended trekking hours since your pace will be a little slower (not unless you are confident in your fitness levels and are sure you can hack it in the recommended time).
Say, for instance, your trail needs 5 hours. You should make sure that you hit the road from 8 am to ensure you hike when it is still day. Also, you don’t want the midday sun to get you. The only exception for this is if you’re going to get the view of the sunset from the trail. And even then, you should plan your time adequately so that darkness doesn’t engulf you while still on the trail. If this happens, you could easily get lost.
11. Bring your first aid kit, including a heat blanket
It’s crucial that you carry a first aid kit. But even more important, you should know how to use the contents of the equipment. Getting pre-assembled first aid kits makes it easier and takes the guesswork out of piecing yours together.
However, many trekkers love personalizing them to suit their needs. But even then, all packs should include adhesive bandages, treatments for blisters (these are pretty common), adhesive tape, gauze pads, disinfecting ointment, pen, paper, gloves and OTC painkillers. The length of the trek and the number of people will dictate how many of each item you pack in the kit.
In addition to the above items, you should always have a heat blanket. Heat blankets come in handy when you unexpectedly have to spend the night outside if you get injured, and you need to stay warm. A heating blanket could be the one item that decides whether you live or die.
12. Take care of nature
Part of the reason why trekking is great is the raw nature experience it offers. While there are management bodies formed to protect and keep the trails clean, it’s your responsibility as a trekker to leave the trail better than you found it. This means that you should not leave anything on the trails that weren’t there.
Carry your trash away with you and pick up any trash you might come across on the trail. The cleaner and more natural it is, the more you can enjoy the trail and the views. Also, leave your axe and saw at home and only light campfires on designated spots.
13. Keep your distance/respect wild animals
Try and restrain yourself from feeding the animals you come across on the trail. You might think that you are helpful, but on the contrary, you are developing a human dependency in the animals.
You see, with time, the animals will develop taste buds for human food and will start raiding campsites to steal food. If you end up camping in the mountain, try to cook your food and eat it a safe distance from your campsite. This will help to keep the bears away from your site.
14. Turn around if necessary
As we’ve pointed out a couple of times, there is no shame in turning back. Below are some factors to help you decide whether you should turn back or not:
• How much daylight is left?
• How much water or food do you have left?
• Do you have the right gear with you to continue with the next phase of the trek (in case the trail gets very steep or rocky)
• Do your chances of getting an injured increase when you proceed?
• Are you experiencing severe altitude sickness?
Although turning back is never a popular decision, we guarantee that it’s not a bad one either.
15. Pro Tip: Make sure you have travel insurance for the destination you are going to
Many trekkers don’t get travel insurance, but it’s a good idea that you do. There are a couple of things that could go wrong when you are on the mountain. These include;
• Altitude sickness
• Food poisoning
• Delays courtesy of bad weather
• Injuries as a result of animal bites during the mountain trek
• Loss or damage to your belongings
Most travel insurance policies cover hiking, trekking and bushwalking in their standard plans. However, some travel insurance companies only cover ‘adventure activities’ as an optional extra and require that you pay a premium for the cover. Due to this, you should ensure that the insurance you get covers the type of trekking activity you are about to indulge in. The common limitations that apply include:
• Type of trek – some cover basic treks only
• Altitude limits – others cover to a specific altitude
• Legal disclosures – some require that you sign a document that includes the trek
• Travel warnings – some don’t cover travels to countries that have been issued with travel warnings
• Unattended belongings – some only apply if you take measures to keep your belongings safe.
Mountain trekking is fun. If you’ve never experienced it before, you are in for a real treat. However, to ensure that things don’t go south, you should adhere to the above safety tips. The mountains can be harsh and ruthless, so it’s upon you to take safety measures.
When you go trekking and come back safely, be sure to share your story with the world to encourage a trekking and hiking lifestyle – let people know what they are missing out on.
That’s it for the moment, guys, we hope you find this article useful! If you are heading on an adventure, send us a pic, tag us online and let us know how you got on tag @dopesnow or @ridestore using #Dopesnow #Ridestore.
Hey, I’m Angelica A Pro Freerider and content producer. I love to write about adventures, inspire people to get outside and discover. Lover of big mountain snowboarding, wine and dogs!