Hiker Safety Tips

Your Safety Lies in Your Hands

We would like to remind hikers that, whether or not they have a Hike Safe Card, they are responsible for their own safety. Search and rescue activities are expensive, time consuming, and can put rescuers in danger. Please take the time to become familiar with the skills and equipment necessary to recreate safely in the outdoors so that you don’t require a rescue — we’d rather meet you on the trail as fellow hikers under positive circumstances! Activity that crosses the line into recklessness can still be charged by the state of New Hampshire, even if the subject holds a Hike Safe Card.

Safety Tips:

Hikers should always prepare themselves with the proper knowledge, equipment, and experience before heading out into the wilderness. Proper clothing and footwear are critical for all hikes, and hikers should also bring a headlamp, map, and compass regardless of how short of a hike they plan to take.

RESEARCH the trail you are hiking so you are familiar with the challenges, know what to expect in terms of distance and elevation gain, and have your map handy. Pick a trail that’s a good match for your experience level.
TELL SOMEONE where you are going, the trails you are hiking, when you will return, and your emergency plans. If you are unable to call 9-1-1 to report an emergency yourself, it will be up to the person you have entrusted with your hiking plans to determine when you are overdue, and to reach out to emergency services and inform them of your hiking route.
Check the FORECAST AND TRAIL CONDITIONS before setting out on your hike; the White Mountains can create their own rapidly-changing weather and are home to some of the worst weather in the world. The weather on summit can also be wildly different from the weather at the trailhead!
Have PROPER FOOTWEAR to reduce the risk of slipping and injury. Good hiking shoes should provide adequate support, traction, and protection. The most common issue that requires a carryout is a slip and fall resulting in a lower leg injury, often due to some combination of fatigue, slippery trails, and improper footwear.
PACK APPROPRIATE GEAR, including your Ten Essentials, and be prepared to be self-sufficient for 24 hours or more! If you become injured it can take search and rescue teams several hours to reach your location.
TURN AROUND IF NECESSARY, should trail or weather conditions deteriorate beyond what you are prepared for. There is no shame in exercising good judgement should a hike exceed what you are equipped to manage, and trying again another day.

Do Not Rely On Your Smartphone For Survival

Some hikers try to rely on smartphones for navigation only to discover, often at an inopportune moment, that most mobile mapping apps don’t work without cellular signal and phones batteries drain quickly when they are in areas with no service (common in the White Mountains). Hikers caught out after sunset have also discovered that mobile phone flashlights are not very bright and also quickly drain the phone’s battery, sometimes leaving them stranded in the dark without a way to call for help when the battery runs out.

Bringing an analog map and compass as well as a headlamp can help you find your way home if your phone breaks, gets wet, or runs out of battery.

Hiker Safety Education Resources:

The following resources can help a new hiker learn what they need to be safe in the outdoors or help an experienced hiker gain more skills that can be used to help themselves or others in need.

The hikeSafe Program is a joint effort of the United States Forest Service and New Hampshire Fish and Game, the program helps promote hiking preparedness and can educate you on the basics of what to bring and what to do to stay safe in the backcountry.

The Appalachian Mountain Club promotes the protection, enjoyment, and understanding of the nature and trails of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. AMC chapters throughout the region, including the New Hampshire chapter, lead outdoor trips and training sessions that can help new hikers gain skills and experience in the outdoors under the supervision of experienced trip leaders.

Stonehearth Open Learning Opportunities is one of the oldest and most respected wilderness medical schools in the United States, located in Conway, NH. SOLO’s courses, such as Wilderness First Aid, can help hikers gain lifesavings skills and are essential for wilderness professionals including SAR personnel.

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