The key to a safe hiking experience is to anticipate all possible hazards and prepare for them in advance. This article details what precautions to take for such risks as extreme weather, hypothermia, natural adversities, and getting lost.

The crucial thing to consider before embarking upon a long distance hiking excursion is that your circumstances may end up drastically different from what they were at the onset. This holds especially true at high altitudes, where temperatures can drop drastically and other weather conditions become potentially more hazardous as well. Moments of extreme weather, unforeseen hazards, and emergencies are not typically times when most of us think and respond with the greatest clarity. The key, then, is to anticipate as many of these moments as we possibly can before we commit to our journey — and then hope that none of them actually happen.

First, assure yourself that you can make the entire hike without getting lost. Even if it’s a familiar trail, bring a good guidebook and map along. A compass is a good addition, too — but be sure you know how to use it. Survival skills, like first aid, should become so ingrained that we can still rely upon them even if we’re experiencing acute stress or panic when the time comes to use them. This is also the reason why, particularly on hikes where there’s any kind of unusual risks involved, it’s much safer to travel with at least one other person.

Other items that are essential for unforeseen circumstances are a first-aid kit, a flashlight or headlamp (with back-up bulbs and batteries), a whistle for emergency signaling, toilet paper and a trowel, sunscreen, and insect repellent.

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