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10 Hiking Tips You Probably Didn't Think About

Updated on January 28, 2012
Self explanatory.
Self explanatory.
You probably shouldn't dangle your feet over a cliff. It's not safe!
You probably shouldn't dangle your feet over a cliff. It's not safe!

In my years as a hiker, I have thankfully never had an accident in the wilderness. I believe some of the reason is pure luck and some of the reason is due to the safety rules I follow on all of my hiking trips.Most hikers know the most basic rules and tips for making the trail a safe, gratifying experience like telling someone where you are going, carrying plenty of water, and carrying a first aid kit. But there are a few things you might not have thought of that could mean the difference between a great hike and a hike from hell.

1) THE RULE: Never hike while carrying anything in your hands especially not your camera. If you stop to take a picture of something, be sure to put your camera back in your pack before you start walking.

THE REASON: If you fall, you will almost certainly shatter whatever is in your hand and you don’t want that to be your camera unless you don’t like your camera and are looking for an excuse to buy a new one.

2) THE RULE: Never carry a straight blade knife in your pack. Only carry folding knives that stay folded and are preferably in a sheath.

THE REASON: If you fall, you could fall on your pack and you don’t want that blade jamming in to your flesh. Stranger things have happened.

3)THE RULE: When you stop to take a break and you pull your snacks, water, and a bunch of other stuff out of your pack, be sure to place those items together and in an obvious place.

THE REASON: If you scatter everything around, you will inevitably not see something and will leave it behind. Also, be sure to look thoroughly around your rest area before you restart your hike. This way you can put that Cliff Bar back in your pack and not end of dying of starvation because you left it on the trail 10 miles back.

4) THE RULE: Wear glasses or sunglasses when you hike.

THE REASON: If you fall, you could fall in to a bush, tree, or any other prickly thing and you don’t want to get poked in the eye. No one likes a one eyed hiker.

5) THE RULE: If you are hiking in bear or mountain lion country, instead of constantly and tiredly saying, “Hey bear, yo bear” every few seconds or wearing an annoying tinkling bell that will ring in your ears for days, consider putting your car keys on your belt loop with a small accessory carabiner.

THE REASON: The sound of the keys is loud enough that any self respecting predator should hear it and get out of your way and the sound of the keys isn’t quite as annoying. If the predator isn’t self respecting, you’re screwed.

6) THE RULE: Walk slowly when you hike and look around a lot.

THE REASON: So many hikers take off like they are running a marathon and they inevitably miss things along the trail. If you’re a rockhound or collector like me, walking slowly makes it more likely that you will find something of interest. Also, walking slowly enhances your experience as you are able to absorb the natural beauty around you including the cute hiker’s butt in front of you.

7) THE RULE: Don’t be afraid to wear denim jeans when you hike.

THE REASON: Denim jeans are durable, comfortable, and a lot less money than “special” hiking pants. A lot of hard core hikers will only wear “special” aka expensive, waterproof cargo pants. They claim that jeans absorb too much water and don’t dry very quickly. Well, what are doing swimming in pants anyway? Sure if you are going to be waist deep in water, you’ll need special pants for this but most hikers don’t get that wet. If you’re worried about it, apply a waterproofer to your jeans.

8) THE RULE: Wear pants or shorts with many pockets.

THE REASON: Of course there’s the obvious, you can put your camera, your compass, your flashlight, your whatever in the pockets for easy retrieval. But if you like to pick up and keep rocks, fossils, and other things you find along the trail, having pockets to put these things in will save you from having to unshoulder your backpack a hundred times in order to put in the items. And, you should keep your hands empty when you hike so you can shew flies.

9) THE RULE: Never step on things that look like twigs, roots, or branches. Always step over them.

THE REASON: Sometimes when you are hiking, you aren’t paying close attention to where specifically you are putting your foot. You may see something that from the corner of your eye looks like a branch when actually it’s a snake! Also, you may step on the branch thinking it will break and clear your way. When it doesn’t, you trip falling to your death down a distant canyon.

10) THE RULE: Keep your cellular phone turned off.

THE REASON: You need to conserve the phone’s battery power in the event you actually need it in an emergency. You don’t need to post your status or receive Facebook updates when you are hiking. You can wait until you get home. Have some respect for mother nature for Pete’s sake. Some people say that cellular phones can be tracked by a search and rescue team if they are looking for you in an emergency. I don’t know if this is true or whether your cell phone needs to be turned on for this to work. But if it is true, you can always turn the cell phone on after the accident unless you’re dead and then there’s no hurry to find you.


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