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).
Gear and Food
6. Water, water, water!
Take a minimum of 1l of water with you no matter the weather. Never assume you will find drinkable water en route.
Forge Recommends: Have at least two bottles of water with you. Take along powdered supplements for some added flavour and electrolytes.
Finding water en route is seldom guaranteed. Always pack at least 1 litre. (Pic: Table Mountain, CT).
7. Must-haves in your backpack
Carry a backpack with the following:
warm jacket and raincoat
headlamp with spare batteries
basic first-aid kit
Water (as mentioned!)
Forge Recommends: Keep your belongings in one or two dry-bags. This will not only protect them from rain but also, nobody likes a soggy sandwich!
No matter how long you plan on hiking for, always carry the essentials. (Pic: Table Mountain, CT).
8. Sun protection
Wear a hat and sunblock.
Forge Recommends: Overheating and sun stroke are serious threats when you spend all day out in the mountains. Use sunscreen with a minimum SPF (sun protection factor) of 30.
Get yourself a hat to suit your swagger. (Pic: Genadendal Trial, Overberg).
Take safety into your own hands. With these 8 tips, you are good to go. However, we strongly advise anyone intending to head for the hills to consult the thorough There and Back Safely document compiled by CapeNature, for a comprehensive guide to hiking safety considerations, responsibilities and emergency procedures.
For more information on how to be prepared for Search and Rescue operations and more tips on how to deal with crime related threats, visit our 'Mountain Safety' page (also linked in the menu tab in the Forge App).
Have other tips that you think we should add? Let us know! Email us at email@example.com.
Be sure to get the free Forge App on your mobile and download our offline maps to take with you onto the mountain, then share the stoke using #ForgeSA.
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