Playing it Safe on the Trail
Common-sense steps to avoid trouble
Whether you backpack in wilderness, a national park, or on state game land, no
one is more responsible for your safety than you. Here, according to outdoor
experts and law enforcement officials, are some basic precautions to take every
time you shoulder your pack.
· Don't hike alone.
· Plan ahead. Ask rangers or local authorities about trouble spots or places to
· Always sign in at the appropriate ranger station or trailhead register.
· Leave an itinerary with someone who will notice and act if you're overdue.
· Don't advertise your schedule or campsite plans. Definitely do not leave
detailed route maps on your car windshield.
· Make your vehicle as unappealing a target as possible by removing all
valuables, including the radio, if possible. Park in an open, visible location.
· Make yourself as inconspicuous as possible. Dress plainly and don't flaunt any
· Be especially alert at road crossings, trailhead parking areas, and any place
easily accessible by car. As a rule, troublemakers travel by vehicle, not by
· Practice stealth camping. Avoid pitching your tent in easily accessible
campgrounds and heavily used campsites.
· Remember that you aren't obligated to befriend everyone you meet on the trail.
If someone makes you nervous, move on. Be on the lookout for potential danger
signs, such as drunkenness, drug use, suspicious or unbalanced behavior,
aggressive curiosity, even obviously inadequate gear.
· Be observant of details, report suspicious activity, and alert oncoming
· Avoid confrontations. Don't engage a person who is hostile or threatening. A
snappy retort may give you momentary satisfaction, but it could cause a tense
situation to escalate. Remain neutral and keep moving.
Tip adapted from BACKPACKER magazine, May 1997; by Steve Hendrix