Tips for Smart and Safe Backcountry Hiking

Safety must always be the paramount consideration on backcountry hiking trips, followed closely by comfort. Planning for both safety and comfort begins long before a hiker arrives at the trailhead. The process starts with knowing what to needs to go in your pack and, of equal importance, what ought to stay at home. Once the actual hike begins individuals need to be aware of their physical limitations and exercise sound judgment to avoid potential pitfalls. Backcountry hikers also should practice good ethics, following the credo: Leave No Trace.
Tips for Smart and Safe Backcountry Hiking

Pack Smart

Your enjoyment of a backcountry hike may well hinge on how well you prepare for the journey. Always try to pack a light as possible. Lugging around a 60-pound backpack all day will definitely diminish a hiker's backcountry experience. The length of the hike will dictate to a large degree the amount of gear that must be brought along. Hikers who are planning to spend a single night in the backcountry may choose to pack heavier food items like fresh fruit and cans of baked beans or sodas. In contrast, individuals who are heading out for a week will likely opt for lightweight dehydrated meals and trail mix.

But whether a hiker is planning to walk 5 or 50 miles, some necessities should always be included in their pack, such as a first-aid kit, waterproof matches and a butane lighter, an up-to-date trail map, a compass or a handheld GPS unit, a knife, a large plastic garbage bag and a rope.


Hike Smart

Fatigue increases the risk of injury. Know your physical limitations and set reasonable expectations for the amount of ground that you intend to cover. It also important to take breaks. Stay hydrated and don't forget to eat.

Know where you are and where you're going. Many maps include descriptions of landmarks and most trails have colored blazes. If you suspect that you're lost, stop immediately! Take a drink or eat something before trying to retrace your steps. If you feel panic setting in, take several deep breaths. Remaining calm is the most important thing that a lost hiker can do.

Individuals who intend to camp in the backcountry should arrive at their campsite well before dusk to avoid pitching a tent in the dark. Remember that food should never be kept in a tent. It should be placed in a bag and hung on a tall tree branch with rope.

Leave No Trace

The "Leave No Trace" concept goes beyond picking up your own trash. Hikers should stay on maintained trails and use existing campsites whenever possible. Visit popular areas during off-peak times to limit natural impacts and also enhance your enjoyment.

Article Written By Kirk Brown

Kirk Brown is an award-winning freelance writer with two decades of diverse media experience. A former newspaper reporter and editor, he also was managing editor of an acclaimed scuba diving magazine. Brown has written scripts for more than 50 half-hour TV programs focusing on technology and health topics.

The Latest from the Community

I don’t know why this trail isn’t listed. All I can find is the Roaring River CG, which is where the trail head...