Wilderness survival films tend to focus on bears, wolves, sheer rock faces, and toppling (at least once per movie) into a cold, surging river. But most hiking safety tips — while often a matter of life and death — deal with more prosaic issues. The American Hiking Society asks that we keep a few main points in mind when we set out on foot to conquer some swath of the outdoors, no matter how small:
• Pack smart. Here are some things you should bring on every hike: appropriate footwear, a map and compass, extra water and a purifier, extra food, rain gear and extra clothing, a light, a whistle, a means of starting a fire, a first-aid kit, a multi-purpose tool, sunblock, and sunglasses.
• Let people know where you’ll be, and check the weather beforehand.
• Don’t overdo it. Scale your hikes to the level of physical exercise you already get throughout the year, and only build up to longer excursions in increments.
• Learn your plants, insects, and critters. Diagnosing things like rashes, allergies, and bites often needs to happen on the fly.
• Pack it in, pack it out, and animal-proof your food. Sleep at least 200 feet from where you prepare your meals.
• And of course, respect wildlife. Let the wild be wild.
There’s more to learn, so study up at americanhiking.org.
— Hunter Styles, firstname.lastname@example.org