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Hiking Disasters and How to Prepare for Them

thick fog portent to natural disasters
El Cajas National Park, Ecuador

Just like any other outdoor activities or any activity for that matter, anything can go wrong. Hiking is not an exemption. Over the years there have been numerous accounts of hiking disasters and accidents and those are not to be taken lightly. Yet it should not also discourage you from stepping out of your comfort zone, explore the wilderness and experience mother nature in its rawest form. With that in mind, being prepared for anything that can happen is essential when planning your hiking trip.

Different Terrain Means Different Kinds of Disasters

mountain hiking gone wrong (c) Far & Wide

Research is very important when preparing for any kind of disaster you might encounter during a hike. Part of planning for your trip is making sure you are familiar with the area and knowing what possible natural disasters may come your way. For example:

  • Mountainous Areas. These areas may be prone to avalanches in the wintertime and mudslides during the rainy season
  • Coastal Areas, especially along the Atlantic coast are likely experience hurricanes
  • Desert Areas are prone to drought
  • Low-sitting Valleys may be prone to flooding during the rainy season as well
If you are planning to hike somewhere near where you live, you are most likely familiar with the weather conditions there and will be prepared for the kind of weather your area experiences at a given time of the year. But if you are planning to hike away from home, extensive research about the area’s conditions is highly advised.


Awesome bros trekking as training for Machu Picchu trail

Now that you’ve conditioned yourself to the nature of the area you’re going to hike, it’s time to prepare yourself mentally and physically for the events to come. With that in mind, you need to...

  • Be physically fit… May it be a day hike or a thru-hike, you need to make sure you are physically capable of taking care of yourself when disaster strikes. Going on multiple short hikes will help you condition your body to be prepared for your actual hiking day.
  • Bring a first aid kit… Aside from the basic first aid kit that you find in your local drug store, you need to also make sure your kit comes with accessories like a snake bite kit, whistle, light and emergency blanket. This will definitely buy you more time to get help should any emergency arise.
  • Learn basic first aid skills… Obviously because you need to know how to utilize the items in your kit and the right ways to be resourceful in the absence of any first aid supplies. If you are trapped in the wilderness for a couple of days, chances are you will run out of supplies. Knowing basic skills like finding a good water source, making fire from basic materials and navigating through the wilderness using maps and compasses will increase your likelihood of survival and going back to civilization unscathed and unharmed.
  • Bring a communication device… Although it may go against one of the basic principles of hiking which is spending time in nature and forgetting about the advanced city life, having with you a good communication device such as a two-way radio and a portable locator beacon will allow you to get help as soon as possible during emergency situations.
  • Make sure someone knows of your whereabouts… You need to let someone know, may it be a friend, a family member or anyone know where you’re going and how long you intended to be out. This will allow them to alert the authorities just in case a natural disaster strikes and you are not able to return home on your expected timetable.

Common Natural Disasters

dangers of hiking in the mist
(c) Snowys

As mentioned above, different terrains will pose different kinds of danger. With all the different kinds of natural disasters in mind here are some of the tips you can remember to survive them.

  • Bushfires. This can happen especially in warm areas such as California or Australia. This can happen when there are lightning strikes or unattended campfires. You should always be alert of any signs of bushfires and plan your exit to safety immediately.
  • Thunderstorms and Tornadoes. Any hiker should be aware of the possibility of lightning strikes during thunderstorms as well the possibility of a tornado formation. For lightning strikes, make sure you can get to a low, safe and enclosed structure and avoid wide-open spaces. If a tornado forms during your hike, you can lie flat on the ground protecting your head and neck with your arms if a shelter is not accessible at the moment.
  • Blizzards… are another form of thunderstorms often occurring in colder climates. Make sure you don’t sleep directly on the snow to preserve body heat. If a cabin or enclosed shelter is not available, building an igloo or digging a space out of snowdrift may be ideal. Make sure also that you start a fire as soon as you can to create heat.
  • Floods. Something that can possibly follow after a thunderstorm, make sure that you stay away from rivers and ravines while staying low to be safe during flooding. If somehow you find yourself in flood water, do your best to grab something like a stick or any object that would help in navigating through flood water while avoiding rocks and other debris. Still waters will also increase your survival or at least keep you from going further downstream where it can get more dangerous.
  • Earthquakes, Avalanches or Landslides. If you ever find yourself in an earthquake during your hiking trip, try to go to an open area as fast as you can. This will allow you to be safe from anything that might fall over you. And depending on where you are, avalanches or landslides are highly likely to occur after an earthquake. In this case try to be as far away as possible from the sliding mud or snow.

Closing Remarks

a file of hikers embarking the unknown

(c) REI

Knowing these kinds of disasters might occur during your hiking trip should not discourage you from doing the thing you greatly love. Instead use this as a good material to learn from to keep yourself away from harm during your hiking adventure. Remember that knowing is part of the journey. And knowledge is practically power during these kinds of situations.


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