Sometimes it’s hard to resist exploring the outdoors, even if there’s still snow in the mountains. Before you head out, understand the risks that are always involved. Hiking in the spring could be particularly dangerous due to Mother Nature changing the weather at a moment’s notice.
“Hikers should especially be aware of mud and melting snow and ice, which can create slippery and unstable conditions on trails,” says Graham Brant-Zawadzki, MD, an emergency medicine physician and assistant director of the Wilderness Medicine Fellowship at University of Utah Health. “Be cautious around streams, as water levels may be higher in the spring.”
Mornings are usually cooler with less snow melt and water run-off, while afternoons can bring warmer temperatures and higher river levels.
Follow these tips for a safer hike:
1. ALWAYS check the weather BEFORE you go
Look at the forecast in the area where you are hiking. If things don’t look good, adjust as needed. Make your day about the activity, not the objective, advises Brant-Zawadzki.
2. Research your route
Choose your trail beforehand and become familiar with the terrain. Stay on marked trails.
3. ALWAYS tell someone your plans
Be sure to include where you’re going, what time you expect to return, and who to contact if you don’t return on time.
4. Layer up
Bring layers that can easily be added or removed. Consider a water resistant or waterproof layer.
5. Wear appropriate footwear
Your shoes should have good traction. Consider using a trekking pole for more stability.
6. Bring food and water
Your hike may take longer than anticipated. Some extra food and water may come in handy and give you an extra boost of energy.
7. Check your gear
Make sure the gear and equipment you are bringing is working and in good condition.
8. Don’t rely on your phone or electronic devices
You can lose service or power at any time during a hike. Consider bringing a map and compass.
Essentials to bring for every hike
Based on the terrain, hikers should consider bringing:
- Water and/or water filter or purification tablets
- High-energy snacks or meals
- Map and compass or a GPS device
- Sun protection including sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat
- First aid kit with supplies for blisters, cuts, and other injuries
- Extra clothing layers, including rain gear
- Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries
- Emergency whistle
- Signal mirror
- Multi-tool or knife
- Means of communication, such as a cell phone or two-way radio
- Bear/animal spray