Alone on the trail – tips for staying safe
I’m loving Michigan’s summer weather, with the sunshine and warm, yet bearable temps. Perfect weather for hiking our local nature trails and biking the many trails (rails to trails, mountain bike and more). I love being outside with family and friends, yet also enjoy some quiet “me” time. Let’s admit it though – these are some crazy times we live in so I take precautions when on the trails alone, or even with a group. These precautions are not only to protect me from crazy strangers, but also in case of an accident or emergency.
Most backpackers/outdoors people know the 10 essentials to carry. These include a map, compass, sunscreen/ sunglasses, extra clothing, fire starter, headlamp/flashlight, first aid kit, knife, matches, and extra food (REI has a great webpage dedicated to the 10 essentials and updated “essential systems”).
On short outings when I’m staying near civilization, such a day hikes or bike rides, I don’t carry all of these (I don’t think it’s legal to start a fire on the Macomb Orchard Trail!) but I do carry enough items to feel safe. I also follow some random, basic safety tips so thought I’d share a few.
- Park in a populated, designated area. Always be aware of your surroundings. Pay attention to who is near and behind you. I took a sexual assault awareness and prevention class in college, which taught how to be smart when alone. Women tend to be too trusting at times (I try to find the good in everyone but the truth is not everyone is good!) but sometimes we need to be skeptical.
- I always take (and use!) sunscreen, snack and water with me, whether biking or hiking. I also typically bring a hat and sunglasses in case the sun is really bright. If you’re uncertain of the weather, consider rain gear, sweatshirt or a piece of clothing to add or remove if necessary.
- Always let someone know where you’re going to be and an estimated time you’ll be back to your car. If you have no clue when you’ll return, text or call someone when you do get back to your car. Even if you want some alone time it’s smart to not go off without notifying someone. What happens if you get hurt and can’t make it your car? Or darkness comes and you get lost?
- Since the point of hiking into the woods or biking on a quiet trail is to get away from the chaos of life and people, I prefer not to carry my cell phone. However, I usually do in case of emergencies. The ringer is on silent though. Because I lock my phone, I write my husband and mom’s cell phone numbers on a sticky note attached to my phone in case someone else needs to call my emergency numbers. Keep in mind that you can’t always get a cell signal in the woods.
- I clip a small, yet loud whistle to my shorts, pants or watch.
- I notice many bikers wear earphones on the trail. Music or news can help you focus on the workout but don’t block both ears. You may not be able to hear other bikers or walkers, or more importantly, may not hear a car horn.
- Cash is also something I stick in my bag. On local bike trails, such as the Macomb Orchard Trail or Paint Creek, there are stores or small restaurants to grab a snack, more water or anything else you may need.
Hopefully you’ll never experience an emergency or need a first aid kit but it’s better to be safe and prepared than not. What steps do you take to stay safe and smart when on the trails?