Hiking 101: How to stay safe in the great outdoors

Recreation

ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — On October 1, two hikers became lost at night while hiking Sleeping Beauty Mountain in Fort Ann.

They did not have headlamps, maps, food, water or hiking equipment. The Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) forest rangers were called and located them on the trail. They provided the hikers with jackets, food and water before leading them to the trailhead.

On October 9, forest rangers were called to Kaaterskill High Peak in Greene County to assist two lost hikers who did not have headlamps after dark, That same night, two other hiking groups also needed assistance at Hunter Mountain due to not having lights after dark.

These are just some of the search and rescue missions DEC forest rangers have conducted in 2021. DEC has responded to 356 search and rescue incidents statewide this year. In 2020, forest rangers conducted 492 search and rescue missions.

If you’re thinking about exploring the great outdoors, here are some hiking essentials and guidelines from the DEC to keep you safe all year long.

10 Hiking Essentials

DEC suggests you carry these with you on any hike you go on:

  1. Navigation: map, compass, GPS system, extra batteries
  2. Clothing: Waterproof/windproof jacket, hat, thermal undergarments, wool socks
  3. Light: Headlamp, flashlight, lanterns, extra batteries
  4. First aid supplies: Use a pre-made kit or build your own
  5. Emergency kit: Whistle, signal mirror, duct tape, pocket knife, bright colored cloth
  6. Fire: Matches in waterproof container, lighter, fire starters
  7. Food: High protein and high calorie items, pack extra food
  8. Water: Pack at least two liters per person, water filtration or purifying system, carry more than you think you’ll need
  9. Sun and insect protection: Sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellent, bug net
  10. Emergency shelter: Tent, space blanket, tarp

Fall

The fall can be quite dangerous for hikers if you’re not prepared. It starts getting darker earlier and the temperature drops. Always make sure you bring a light (headlamp, flashlight, lantern) and some extra batteries. Make sure to park extra layers (fleece, thermal shirt) in case the temperature starts to drop.

Prepare for your hike by looking up when sunset is and make sure you are at the trailhead by dark. If you can’t make it out in time, a light would come in handy.

Winter

During cold weather, make sure to dress properly. You can wear thermal undergarments, a fleece or wool insulating layer, waterproof outer layers, thick socks, a winter hat, gloves or mittens and waterproof, insulated boots. Goggles and a face mask are essential when facing high winds (especially on high peaks).

In addition to hiking boots, you should have crampons or snowshoes. Crampons provide traction on the trail, especially when it’s icy. Snowshoes provide support when in deep snow and prevent you from creating holes in it. Snowshoes also provide some support on ice.

Make sure to insulate hydro-tubing or pack water in the center of your pack to avoid freezing. You can do the same thing with food.

There is always the threat of hypothermia when the weather gets cold. Hypothermia occurs when your body loses heat faster than it can produce heat, causing a dangerously low body temperature. Stay warm and dry to prevent this. Being tired, hungry, or dehydrated also makes you more susceptible to hypothermia.

Spring

Spring brings cool and rainy weather. You should wear a waterproof jacket with a hood and waterproof pants. Wear layers of non-cotton clothing so water does not soak inside your clothing.

Trails are wet, slushy, or even icy in early spring. You should wear waterproof hiking boots, gaiters, and crampons. Gaiters are garments worn over the ankle and lower leg to protect against snow and mud.

Do not walk on anything that is iced over. With the temperature beginning to rise, ice is likely to break. Stay off of ponds, lakes and other bodies of water. Also, avoid snow and ice bridges over streams; they are likely to give way.

Walk through, not around, mud and water on trails to avoid trampling vegetation and widening trails.

Summer

Summer brings the heat. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke can occur when your body’s cooling mechanisms are overcome by heat, causing a dangerously high body temperature. Because of this, do not hike in extremely hot weather.

When hiking in the summer, make sure to wear sunscreen, slow your pace, drink water and rest more often, seek shade and avoid long periods in direct sunlight.

More safety suggestions:

  • Plan your where you’re going and when you expect to return. Check trail conditions before hiking.
  • Know what time the sun sets and plan to return before dark.
  • Tell someone where you are going. Update them if anything changes.
  • Choose trails within your or your group’s fitness level and ability.
  • Hike in a group and stay together.
  • Drink water regularly; rest and snack occasionally.

If you are lost or injured

First, don’t panic. Stay calm.

In case of emergency, make sure to have these phone numbers saved in your phone:

  • DEC Emergency Dispatch: (518) 408-5850
  • In the Adirondacks: (518) 891-0235
  • In case of an emergency, the New York State Forest Ranger dispatch phone number is 833-NYS-RANGERS

If you can’t access these numbers, you can always call 911.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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