It’s hiking season. Here are trail safety tips from The Mountaineers and other WA outdoor experts – The Seattle Times | Gmx Pharm

Whether it’s your first hike or your hundredth, it’s always a good time for a refresher on how to hit the trail safely and prepare for whatever the elements throw at you.

What does safe hiking mean? Prepare yourself with a plan and a backup plan, share your itinerary with a buddy, use resources, know where to go, and choose the right gear, like quality hiking shoes, layers, and a first aid kit -Set.

Hikers in Washington are treated to resources and organizations that support the great outdoors, including The Mountaineers, which runs hikes for all skill levels and has a gear library with inexpensive rentals for everything from boots to hiking poles and tents.

The Mountaineers, REI, Gearhouse—there are tons of places in Seattle to shop for the right gear. With safety in mind, here are tips from outdoor experts for planning and executing safe hikes this summer.

Make a plan, rely on resources

Preparation for a hike begins long before the trailhead. Sometimes security means starting small.

Ananth Maniam is a hiking and climbing tour guide for The Mountaineers who has climbed more than 100 peaks in Washington state. In addition to using groups like The Mountaineers to build a hiking community, he recommends finding trails with AllTrails, a trail finder app and website, as well as Meetup.com and Facebook hiking groups.

When Maniam first started hiking, he relied on buses to get to trailheads, proving that the wilderness could be reached by public transit. “If you’re not ready for something big, you can go to a city park like Discovery Park,” Maniam said.

One of the best places to start planning a hike is with the Washington Trails Association. Visit wta.org for resources on choosing a hike via the Hike Finder Map, up-to-date trail conditions via Trip Reports and lots of other helpful hiking advice. The WTA Trailblazer app is handy, with maps, links to a weather forecast at each trailhead, and more.

WTA hiking content manager Anna Roth recommends reading travel reports “first and foremost”. Make a solid plan for the hike you want to tackle, but have a B and C plan in case the trail gets too crowded or you feel ill-prepared for the conditions.

If you head to the Cascades this summer, be prepared for more snow than normal. “There’s still a lot of snow in the mountains,” Roth said. “This is the time of year when conditions in the mountains can be surprisingly different than in the city.”

Get the right gear

Even with a perfectly planned hike, you need to know how to stay safe and prepared for a plethora of outdoor variables.

Maniam plans conservatively and starts early, especially when venturing into new territory to avoid groping in the dark or feeling pressured to complete the trek quickly. “Have a plan with someone else,” he said. “Don’t just say you’re going hiking, tell them where you’re going.”

He recommends downloading area maps, bringing a personal locator beacon in case an ambulance needs to be called, carrying plenty of electrolytes and water, and carrying bear spray or bug spray if needed.

And yes, you need the 10 Essentials, tools that meet 10 vital survival needs: Navigation, Sun Protection, Insulation, Lighting, First Aid, Fire, Repair Kit, Nutrition, Hydration, Emergency Shelter.

Through The Mountaineers, hikers can take advantage of an affordable rental gear library for gear ready for the trails. Summer hiking essentials include trekking poles, first aid kits, water bottles, daypacks and more.

Thousands of hikers annually walk sections of the Pacific Crest Trail, a 2,650-mile trail that begins at the Mexican border and ends at the Canadian border in Washington. With 512 miles of the PCT in Washington, there are countless ways to get on this trail. It seems daunting, but the point remains: each year, experienced hikers complete the entire journey safely.

It took Kristine Kleedehn five months to complete the PCT in 2012 and she became an expert on wearing the right gear and hiking safely in all conditions.

“My clothing system has changed based on location, but I’ve always had an insulated jacket and rain jacket and rain pants,” Kleedehn said of her hiking threads in Washington. “Always be prepared for rain because when you’re dry it’s much easier to weather the cold and avoid hypothermia.”

In case of emergancy

For more fearful hikers, it is safest to go in a group. “Stay together as much as possible when you’re going into new territory,” Maniam said.

Others feel completely safe on their own. As a female solo hiker on the PCT, Kleedehn was never afraid. “The more you do it, the more comfortable you become,” she said. But relying on the buddy system is always a good choice.

A key to safe hiking is knowing your skills and not going too far. Maniam strongly believes in a rescue option, which means you don’t have to commit to a hike or trail at all costs. “Never be afraid to turn back when conditions aren’t right, and listen to your intuition,” Kleedehn repeated.

If you find yourself in an emergency on the trail, you know what to do. Many hikes are within cellular coverage, so calling 911 is the default, but if you don’t have cellular coverage, a personal locator (such as a SPOT device) is invaluable. This gives you the ability to press a button and call a search and rescue team to help.

In the midst of summer’s dog days, there’s no better time to hit the dusty trails. With numerous local resources explaining where and how to hike safely, it’s easy to find a summer hike for any skill level. From the shores of Washington’s coast to the Cascade Range and beyond, the Evergreen State has countless treasures just waiting to be explored. Just make sure you do this safely.

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