There are so many different dangers on our mountains - one always has to be aware of possible hazards (e.g. loose rocks), and know your snakes/spiders and other potential dangerous flora/fauna, while being surefooted, knowing your route AND potential weather! Add to that criminal activity prevalent on some of our trails and it’s all a bit intimidating, especially lady-type or newbies to the trails! What are the best tips on offer for ways to be prepared for almost any situation?
Brilliant topic Peanut! Here’s my 10 cents:
- Hike in a group of three or more: I’m a big fan of being in the mountains alone, but the fact of the matter is if something goes wrong, it’s A LOT more serious when you’re on your own, than with some friends. Also, being in a group is an immediate deterrent to most muggers.
- Pay close attention to weather-related dangers: Loose rocks and soil after rain, snakes in summer, etc.
- Know your limits: The closer your activity brings you to the limit of your physical ability, the smaller your margin for error becomes. Either back off, or be extra careful.
- Don’t mistake confidence with competence: Many people have perished in the mountains, not because they were unfit or weak, but because they were over-committed with insufficient gear and experience. You don’t know what you don’t know.
- ALWAYS carry enough water, a windbreaker/rainjacket and a headlamp. You can survive A LOT with those three items in your pack.
Perfect addition to this topic. Nic Shaw lists his top 5 tips for heading into the mountains:
Nic Shaw is a keen mountaineer, trail runner and adventurer. He’s also a Mountain Leader Instructor and the Director of Entabeni Expeditions & Outdoor Centre based in the Central Drakensberg and Stellenbosch.
This is such a great and comprehensive response, thanks so much Arno.
I have an additional question…What would you pack in your bag as ESSENTIAL safety equipment for shorter vs. longer hikes? I know that would depend on whether you have any first aid/medical skills or not, as well as how much space in your backpack one has/the technical grading of the hike, but surely there are crucial items that might be life saving in a given situation? e.g. a space blanket (also small/light to carry)
In addition to a rain jacket, headlamp, beany, pocket knife, cellphone, letting someone know where you’re going and enough water (these apply to anytime you head into the mountains) I would add the following items:
Shorter/day hikes: Elastoplast or any other sticky bandage (could probably use duct tape too): It can act as a plaster on a cut, a tourniquet to stop major bleeding, bind sprained fingers, strap a sprained ankle, etc…
Longer hikes (2 or more days): Elastoplast, Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, antiseptic cream, space blanket
I think that would be absolute minimum, but I’m sure someone else can add to that list.
If anyone has read this topic and thought I need a rain jacket, Cape Union Mart are currently having a sale on some their rain jackets:
As we head into summer with more and more people on the trail, i personally believe that one of these should form part of your essential gear, more so for day-hikers : https://www.capeunionmart.co.za/be-safe-carry-mace
For the trail runner: https://www.capeunionmart.co.za/mace-sport-jogger-defensive-spray
If you are going to use any of these, test it on yourself at least once. Check if it sprays a mist or a jet too.
In an outdoor environment where it can be windy it would be pointless to be overcome by your own self-defense spray.
If you know how it affects you and what to expect you are one up on your assailant if the wind turns or something unexpected happens…
They are all jets in a gell form - no mist
MACE is also the only defensive spray contracted to the US military and police. It’s the worlds first and No1 brand of defensive sprays.
Test it on yourself at your own peril
Of course I never meant to empty half the can on yourself in one go but having an idea of what to expect if the wind should change on you might just save your bacon…
Coming from a long SAP background I can assure you that I have “tasted” more than my share but being prepared in knowing what to expect could possibly prevent a nasty outcome one day.
Also consider the possibility that the fight could get physical beyond the spray. That mist / gel / liquid could transfer from the attacker’s body to that of the defender.
Would use spray to take flight rather than fight.