Be Prepared and Aware While Hiking
Communication and Public Affairs
U.S. Army Combat Readiness Center
Fort Rucker, Alabama
As September gives way to October, cooler weather arrives. Summer has faded into fall colors. As many of us still seek ways to participate in activities while social distancing, hiking and other outdoor activities could be on the rise.
Exploration outdoors in fall can be a pure joy, but can also present dangers that far exceed those of hiking in the summertime. Hikers should do plenty of advanced planning and take precautions before hitting the trail. Here are some tips for safer hiking from NPS.gov:
- Let a responsible person know your route and return time.
- Check the current weather forecast and be prepared for quickly changing conditions.
- Always hike with another person. Keep your hiking party together and stay on officially maintained trails. Always keep children in your sight when hiking. Do not allow them to get ahead of you or fall behind.
- It will get darker earlier: In early fall, it’s easy to forget that the sun sets sooner with each passing day. Remember to check the timing of sunset before heading out and allow yourself enough time to be off the trail before it gets dark.
- Be seen, be comfortable: Wear bright colors in fall, especially if you’re hiking in an area where people may be hunting. This is not the time to try and blend in with the forest, so stand out and be seen. Avoid cotton clothing. Dress in layers that can be easily removed or added as you heat up or cool down. Always carry a wind-resistant jacket and rain gear — even on sunny days. Wear shoes or boots that provide good ankle support.
- Pay attention to trails: Leaves are eventually going to fall from the trees and blanket the trail you’re hiking. While it’s stunning to witness, it can create confusion if you can no longer follow the path easily. To avoid getting lost, basic navigational skills become incredibly important. Carry a current park trail map and know how to read it. A handheld GPS or compass could also be useful, but make sure you know how to use one properly. Practice before your hike.
- Watch for wildlife: The fall is a busy time of year for animals who are readying for a long winter’s nap or for a season of scarcity. Because of this, your encounters with them may be more frequent. If you’re hiking in an area with moose, bear, elk or any other large mammal you may startle, be sure to make enough noise to alert them of your presence.
- Adequate supplies: Carry two small flashlights or headlamps — even on a day hike. If you have trouble on the trail, darkness may fall before you can finish your hike. Take a minimum of two quarts of water per person per day. All water obtained from the backcountry should be treated either by filtering or boiling. Bring some jerky or trail mix to snack on if you do become lost. It will give you some energy to fight off the cold weather. Carry a small first aid kit designed for hikers and campers. Make sure you include medications for those with medical conditions.
Planning ahead before taking to the great outdoors can be the key to a fun and safe adventure. Remember, safety starts with you! More information on fall and winter safety is available at https://safety.army.mil.