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  • Writer's pictureAndy Murphy

Hiking Safety Tips for Families

How to Stay safe on a Hike

I really enjoy hiking. Last year my family made a new year’s resolution to go on more hikes in 2021. So far we are on track to make our goal. One thing I’ve learned from hiking when I was in my 20s is that hitting the trail as a family is really different.

Today I want to share with you a few tips to stay safe as a family on the trail.

Having a great hiking adventure starts a week before you go. You’ll need to check the weather, the hours the trail is open, sunrise and sunset, what fees you can expect to pay, and most importantly map out your route.

“Preparedness blazes a trail to more adventures.”

Getting Ready

When mapping your route keep in mind the person with the lowest experience level or someone who is not as agile as everyone else. Plan the hike for that person.

It’s important to know the trail’s difficult rating, which is something that I go over in the hiking safety guide. National Parks and most state parks have websites that give you maps. Download these to your phone in advance. Don’t count on having cell or data service in the woods.

Print out a map in advance or grab one from the ranger’s office before you go. Once you make your route and your plan, share it with your family so everyone is on the same page.

When it comes to dressing for a hike, I want you to consider putting your kids into bright shirts. This way you can spot them if they wander off. Dayglow pink and yellow is not naturally occurring colors in nature so they’ll stand out among the trees.

On the Trail

Once we’re on the trail we want to have a safe time. If we’re not safe, we can’t really enjoy what we’re doing. Before your boot hits the trail, do two things.

First, tell someone where you are, what trail you are on, and when they can expect to hear back from you. This way if you don’t report back someone else can know where you were going and where you might be so they can send help.

Also, take a group selfie. This will be fun as it will be a great picture to share later... but it will also help rangers locate a member of a party that goes missing. Don’t rely on a shaky memory to explain to someone what clothes your wife was wearing. Show them the picture so they know exactly who to search for.

The Most Dangerous Game

I feel the biggest threat to us on a trail is another human. Even more so than a bear. Predatory people may feel emboldened to attack you in the seclusion of the woods because there are no bystanders around to report them. This means on the trail you are really responsible for your own safety.

It will be more difficult for help to get to you simply because of the nature of your location. With this in mind, you’re going to want to keep up your situational awareness just like you would in town.

I would suggest taking a cue from the animal kingdom and avoid humans while hiking. This means not lingering at congregating at anchor points like bathrooms, trailheads, and swimming areas.

Protective Gear

If you are looking for personal protective equipment for hiking, I will suggest pepper gel. The gel is better than spray as it won’t cloud and be pushed around in the wind. With spray, you could end up having it come back on you or your family. But it still shoots from an aerosol can just like traditional pepper spray.

Keep your gel where you can get to it quickly. Some will come with a holster with a belt loop on it for fast access.

And if you are wondering, yes human pepper gel also works on animals. But for larger animals like bears, you’ll want to have bear spray. But in both cases, don’t deploy this tool unless you have no choice.

So those are some of the things you need to keep in mind when you go for a family hike. There’s a whole lot more in The Secure Dad Hiking Safety Guide. I even discuss what you need to consider if you’re going to carry a firearm on the trail for personal protection, how much water to carry and I even give you two must-have checklists for any outdoor adventure.

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Andy Murphy

Andy Murphy founded The Secure Dad in 2016 with the aspiration to help families live safer, happier lives. What started as a personal blog about family safety has turned into an award-winning podcast, an Amazon best-selling book, and online courses. He focuses his efforts in the areas of home security, situational awareness, and online safety.


Andy is a husband and father. His interests include coaching youth basketball, hiking, and trying to figure out his 3D printer.

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