Hiking is a wonderfully accessible pastime. The barriers to entry are minimal and in South Africa, there are routes aplenty to suit your mood and ability. Like any outdoor pursuit however, hiking, no matter the difficulty, can turn sour quickly and dangerous if you're not suitably prepared.
Timothy Chambers near the summit of Waaihoek in the Hex River Mountains (WC).
From the clothes you wear to knowing what to do in an emergency, there are important steps you should take so that you have an enjoyable experience and remain safe. Here are our 8 essential hiking safety tips to ensure just that:
1. Plan your route
Identify your chosen route prior to setting out and let someone (not coming along) know of your intended route. In some cases, having an alternative route is also a good idea.
Forge Recommends: Browse our trail maps (accompanied with all the basic information of the area) on your desktop and plot your route using the measurement tool. Then, download the relevant offline map on your Forge App whilst you have Wi-fi or data and strong cell-phone network connection.
2. Check the weather
The weather can obviously change your experience. Whilst blue skies might make for a great day out, high winds and rain will not only make you wish you stayed on the couch but could put you and others in grave danger. Know before you go!
Forge Recommends: Each online Forge map is accompanied by a Windy map widget pinned with the location each hike. Check these out and also consult your preferred weather apps when you head out. Mountain-forecast.com is a great site for hyper-local forecasts.
3. Charge your phone
Ensure your phone battery is fully charged.
Forge Recommends: Carry a fully charged power-bank.
4. Save emergency contacts
Have the relevant emergency contacts saved on your phone and on your person (i.e. on a piece of paper that is waterproofed).
Forge Recommends: Each map on the Forge App includes an emergency call function with the most important and relevant emergency numbers (pictured right) for that location. Make sure you and others have the app downloaded to your devices.
5. Hike in a group
Have at least another person accompanying you on your hike. The minimum recommended group size is four. Besides, the more the merrier and the better the banter!
Forge Recommends: Be familiar with the health and fitness of your group to ensure everyone has the same expectations of the hike. Brief the group on the intended route (difficulty and duration) and expected time of return.
Know the health and fitness levels of your group before you hike (Pic: Highmoor, Drakensberg).