Women Health

Staying Safe on Your Next Hike

Hiking in the Australian bush can be a very rewarding experience. Whether it’s your first time or you’re an experienced hiker, it’s important that you plan ahead and be ready for any unexpected challenges that might come up.

Check out the tips below for staying safe on your next hike.

Create a schedule and give it to someone

Make a plan about where you are going to hike, how long it will take and when you expect to return. Write the details down and give them to someone who is staying at home.

Discuss with them a plan in case you don’t return when expected. What will they do? When will they reach out for help?

Many longer hikes have a visitors book where you can register your hike. This is a good idea as it will help the rangers keep an eye out for you if you don’t return when expected.

Always carry a trail guide

Having a trail guide with you will help you stay on the right track and also help you make contingency plans if things go wrong. With a trail guide, you’ll know where the nearest huts are, how far the nearest town is or the nearest road crossing etc.

Many of the major hikes in Australia have trail guides that you can get for free or purchase at local visitor centres. You can often download them onto your phone for offline use. Just make sure you will be able to charge your phone for the duration of the hike.

Be prepared for the weather

The weather can change quickly, especially if you are in an alpine region. Always be prepared for the different weather possibilities. That means dressing appropriately as well as packing the right amount of water and essential gear.

Don’t underestimate sunny weather. Heatstroke and dehydration are real risks if you will be walking for a long time in the sun. Pack a hat, sunscreen and more water than you think you will need.

For wet weather, pack a poncho or rain jacket. You should also seal your belongings in waterproof bags inside your pack so they are protected.

Pack extra water

Bring enough water for everyone and then some extra. Keep in mind that in cooler weather and for shorter hikes, you won’t drink as much as you would on longer hikes and hotter weather hikes.

Rigid water bottles are good for quick access, but if you’re looking to save space in your pack, consider a water bladder or collapsible water bottle.

If you are going on a longer hike, it’s a good idea to also bring a water filter or purifying tablets so that you can drink from any rain water tanks or streams that you come across.

Look after your feet

Your feet will be doing a lot of the hard work during your hike, so it’s important to look after them with proper footwear. Not only will it make the hike more comfortable, you’ll also reduce the risk of hurting your ankle with the right shoes.

Joggers or sport shoes may be appropriate for shorter hikes. Keep in mind they won’t be waterproof and so they might not be the best choice for wet weather or muddy terrain.

Hiking boots are the best way to go for maximum protection. They are typically made with high ankle support to protect your ankles as well as your feet. Make sure you wear thick hiking socks to protect your feet from blisters.

Bring a head torch

Whether you’re planning an overnight hike or just a day hike, it’s a good idea to pack a torch. That way if you’re still on the trail after sunset, you’ll be able to navigate your way more safely. A head torch is a good choice as it allows you to have your hands free.

Take a first aid kit

Always bring a first aid kit with you when you go hiking. Whether you experience a headache, minor cut or major emergency, being prepared with first aid equipment and knowledge will help keep you safe.

First aid kit essentials for hiking include:

  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Assortment of bandages
  • Gauze pads
  • Medical tape
  • Blister treatment
  • Pain relief medication
  • Tweezers
  • First aid instructions

If you are hiking in an area that is known to have snakes, it’s worth also packing a specialised snake bite kit for Australia.

Know how to deal with snakes

Over the warmer months, you are more likely to encounter a snake on the trail. Although it may be worrying to see a snake, snake bites are rare. Snakes typically only bite humans if they feel threatened so it’s important to never try to handle or provoke the snake.

If you spot a snake, stay still and try to assess what it’s doing. Find a way around the snake at a safe distance if you can. If the area is known for snakes, it’s a good idea to wear heavy duty pants and gaiters.

Snake bite first aid

If you or someone in your hiking party gets bitten by a snake on the arm or leg, do not wash or clean the wound. Instead, place a pad or plastic wrap over the bite to soak up or protect the venom as it will be tested later to determine the type of snake bite.

Apply a snake bite bandage, also known as a pressure immobilisation bandage. Start by rolling a bandage around the snake bite area. Take a second bandage and, starting near the fingers or toes, roll the bandage up the limb towards the bite. The bandages should be applied as tightly as possible.

If you do not have bandages on you, you can use any stretchy material, including torn up clothing. Mark the size of the bite with a pen. You can then apply a stint with a long stick or pole to help keep the leg or arm still. You should then seek professional medical help.

Stay safe on the trail

Unexpected challenges will come up when you go hiking, so it’s important to always be prepared. Things tend to go wrong if you attempt too much too soon, so make sure you know your limits and work up to longer, more challenging hikes.

Remember to respect the environment, look after other hikers on the trail and have fun!