The Dangers of Hiking

Sometimes I answer questions posed by members of Quora.  Here is one question and my answer:

What are the most common, likely dangers facing hikers in North America?

The most common danger is stupidity. It is important to be prepared when hiking in North America, or anywhere else for that matter. Here are some key dangers:

  • failure to know your planned route and advise others where you are going
  • failure to carry a map and compass and lack of the knowledge needed to properly use them
  • relying on a GPS unit (batteries die)
  • dehydration – an important part in planning your route is knowing where to find water at appropriate intervals and having and being able to use a water filter
  • microbes – giardia, cryptosporidium, etc. (thus the water filter)
  • weather – weather changes regularly and will likely be different two hours into your hike than it was at the beginning. Thus, lack of proper clothing to allow you to regulate your body temperature and a useful hat.
  • animals – there are a few animals that can be dangerous (bears, mountain lions, rattlesnakes etc), but for the most part they will avoid you if they hear you coming. If you are in rattlesnake country, you need to aware of where you put your hands and feet.
  • sprained ankles – wear proper footwear and travel with others
  • poison oak and poison ivy (recognize them and avoid them)
  • going beyond your capabilities. Too many people die because they feel the need to press on as the snow gets deeper or the next ridge seems close enough to make before dark or . . .

There are lots of things that can be added to this list, but all of them are insignificant if you plan your hike and have the knowledge to do it safely.

For more information, check out the article by Kieran Cunningham on 50Miler.

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