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Is Hiking Dangerous? (How to Stay Safe Hiking)

by | Jan 22, 2017 | Hike | 0 comments

Is hiking dangerous?  The first time anyone asked me this question my response went something like this:

It’s just putting one foot in front of the other, and I’ve been doing that for quite a while now.  It will be grand.

As you can see, I’m a jump in at the deep end kind of man.  Since then I have seen some hefty injuries, experienced a steep learning curve and done a lot more research.

So, is hiking dangerous?

Injuries are exceptionally common and mainly avoidable, at the extreme end unfortunately people do die. If you are a jump in at the deep end kind of guy, like me, you may want to continue reading.  It might just give you pause for thought or give you a new perspective to the question “Is hiking dangerous?”.

So hiking places at 6 times more dangerous than swimming and a whopping 157 times safer than kayaking. Let’s start from the off with a touch of perspective to this article:

Number of deaths related to cardiovascular disease in the UK in 2014 – 154,639.

Whereas… the annual number of hiking deaths across the UK is usually less than 50.

So not only is hiking, in relative terms, exceptionally safe, it also lowers your chances of becoming one of those dreaded cardiovascular disease statistics. To be clear, you should definitely get out there, but take a little bit of knowledge with you.

Hiking Deaths

Hiking deaths in the UK usually fall into two categories, medical or fall related. Last year the Lake District had 11 medical fatalities, which were usually, but not exclusively, heart attacks.  There were 8 fall related fatalities.

Hiking Incidents

Hiking incidents are a combination of navigational failures and injuries.

Ah, the dreaded fall or trip.  It’s always funny until someone gets hurt, when it can get pretty serious. Suddenly you are 5 miles into the wild debating whether you can struggle back or need to call for rescue.

So how do we give our mountain rescue teams a break?

Although some injuries and fatalities are completely unavoidable there are steps that can be taken to minimise the dangers of hiking.

Appropriate route and pace for the group

You are only as quick as your slowest member, so pick a pace and difficulty level that they are comfortable with. Always build up your difficulty over a series of hikes. Heading off into the wild just to ‘have a go’ at a 10 hour summit as your first hike is asking for trouble. Whenever you hike, ensure that you take the appropriate amount of breaks and stay hydrated.

Is Hiking Dangerous - route

Footwear

This is my personal pet peeve.  I mean, fair play, get out there and doing it in whatever way you can but if you’re going to spend any money on any kit, this is where to spend it. Get yourself a pair of hiking boots or trail shoes. After watching someone limp his way through the final two days of the Inca Trail with a pair of busted ankles and using borrowed hiking poles as crutches, I can tell you that your footwear goes a long way. Look for something with grip and ankle support and thank me later.

Take care on edges

You got to the top, you deserve that selfie, but take it like a metre from the edge and not on the edge itself. I’m making light of a serious hazard; with 42% of deaths and 27% of incidents within the Lake District caused by falls the statistics speaks for themselves.

Is hiking dangerous - avoid the edge

Great British Weather

Each part of the country has its own weather stereotype, for example:

“There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter.” – Billy Connolly

But every region of the UK shares that wonderful unpredictability, heatwave causing thunderstorms anyone? Ensure you check the weather forecast on the morning of your hike, if it looks bad pack and plan accordingly.

Just don’t let the rain ruin your hike.

Navigation

A map and a compass are essential hiking gear. This is not enough though, you’ll need the navigational skills to go along with them.

Assist your rescue team

Know what to do if you get lost hiking but always pack spare clothes, food, a whistle and a torch. By making sure that your phone is fully charged you are more likely to be able to contact any rescuers and guide them to your position.

So, in summary, is hiking dangerous?  It certainly can be.  But in the grand scheme of things, the risk is pretty low and can be minimised with the simple steps above.


Although we never want to have see the mountain rescue teams it is good to know they are always there for us. To ensure this support continues to happen why not donate.

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About The Author

Strategy consultant by week, explorer by weekend. His first ever hike was a 9 day thru-hike at Torres del Paine and it was love at first hike. He now sleeps better in a tent than a bed. He would rather drive for 2 hours down a country lane than sit for 2 minutes in traffic. He has been known to lead driving safaris in areas without wildlife with a Justin Bieber soundtrack.

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