Springtime Hiking Safety Tips

Springtime Hiking Safety Tips

Are there really any dangers of hiking in the springtime?  The weather is warmer, the chances of snow are pretty much gone, so what should I possibly know for safety when hiking in the spring?  Well to answer that question, there is a lot that we need to remember and be aware of during spring hikes.  Most hikers think they are safe during the spring and that though is what causes more injuries and hazards than anything else.  While some of these may sounds like repeats, they are still just as important as the others.  So let’s look at some of the basics to keep in mind this spring:

Springtime hiking will be wet.  Make sure you bring gear for wet weather.  Be wary of wet surfaces, stream crossings and muddy roads. Be especially wary of rising waters and flash floods.  Warm spring days and spring storms can cause very sudden rises in water levels. Pitch your tent well above the highwater mark even if it means a longer walk to the stream, or a slightly less impressive view. If you’re in a campground with designated sites, be sure to think through grabbing that sweet riverfront site. Just because they’re designated, doesn’t mean they’re safe for spring time camping.

As we mentioned during the winter hiking tips, avoid cotton.  Cotton will rob your body of the heat it needs during the cooler days and cold night of spring hikes and takes a long time to dry out.  Be sure to wear synthetic clothes appropriate for the hike and conditions you’re expecting.

During the spring, water levels tend to be up and that means that rivers and streams will be flowing faster.  It also means that some of our favorite trails may be covered with water and you may have to do a crossing.  Always ask yourself before crossing:  how cold is the water?   How deep is the water?  How fast is the water flowing?  How far is it to the other side?  How tired am I?   These questions can help you prevent a water injury if crossing.  And always remember the most important water safety tip, if the water temperature aren’t more than 100 when added up, hypothermia is a real concern if you get wet. 

Bears may not have been the only thing hibernating for some of you over the winter months.  Joints, muscles and lungs may have also seen the days of sleeping and watching nature from our couch and TV’s.   Don’t try to be the tough person and start out with a 15-mile trail run or 10-mile hike if you haven’t been running or hiking in months.  We should give our bodies time to condition and work back up to where we left of last summer if you didn’t maintain your hiking over the winter.  Remember to start out slow and work up to longer hikes so that you don’t give yourself an injury and miss out on the summer hikes!

If you haven’t been hiking since last summer or fall, maybe it’s time to check the hiking gear out before that first spring hike.  Or even if you have been hiking over the winter, it’s still a great time to do an inventory check and look at your gear.  Maybe find out why your left foot is always getting wet when wearing your favorite pair of hiking boots, or why your right side always hurts after using your trekking poles on a long hike.  If our hiking equipment is not up to standards and in the condition it needs to be, it can cause injury to our bodies as well.

It’s also good to keep watch for branches and other treetop hazards that may have formed over the winter months due to snow and ice storms.  When the squirrels and other smaller animals start becoming more active in the treetops, they will cause loose and broken branches to start to fall more.  Don’t find yourself getting hit with a fallen tree limb.

And with any hike you do, remember the basic 10 essentials that we always remind you of:  1. Navigation (map or compass)  2. Sun protection  3. Insulation (extra clothing)  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)  5. First-aid supplies  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)  7. Repair kits and tools  8. Nutrition (extra food)  9. Hydration (extra water)  10.  Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag).

These are some of the important springtime hiking reminders to keep you safe out on the trails.  Keep these in mind along with your basic every day safety and you’ll be hiking all year.  With spring here that also means the arrival of the beautiful flowers and small animals.  Don’t forget your camera when you start out on the trails and remember, take only pictures/memories and leave behind only footprints!  See you out there on the trails!

Blog post from Appalachian Wanderers.