Safety Tips for Hikers on the Appalachian Trail

Appalachian Trail pic
Appalachian Trail
Image: appalachiantrail.org

A mental health technician by profession, Todd Belok is an avid outdoorsman in his free time. Todd Belok has hiked and camped along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania and Maryland.

When you hike along the Appalachian Trail, you may at times be far from medical or police assistance. This requires you to be vigilant and aware of your surroundings, particularly if you find yourself in a social situation that makes you feel uncomfortable. Experts recommend that you avoid anyone who seems dangerous or intoxicated, and that you always avoid insinuating that you are hiking alone.

Situational awareness also extends to weather, which can come up suddenly on the trail. Hikers should know how to spot electrical storms and how to seek shelter when one appears to be coming. Similarly, all hikers should know the terrain challenges inherent in the areas they wish to hike, and should plan routes according to party members’ abilities.

Health may also be a concern, particularly as camping often involves communal eating and living. Medical professionals warn hikers to avoid sharing food or utensils, wash hands before eating whenever possible, and filter drinking water. Regular body checks are likewise important, as tiny deer ticks can spread illness to even the most conscientious hiker.

Finally, whether alone or in a group, it is important that you convey your location to someone off the trail. This should be a person with whom you are comfortable checking in on a regular basis, and who is willing to follow a pre-determined procedure if a scheduled check-in does not occur.

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