Enjoy the outdoors safely
We have been blessed with great natural beauty in this country and South Africans flock to the great outdoors in great numbers to enjoy the soaring mountains, unspoilt beaches and green, shady forests. But while you’re enjoying the beauty and splendour of nature, you should take care at all times to make safety your number one priority.
We asked qualified tour and mountain guide, Tim Lundy for ten pointers to enjoying the outdoors more safely.
Tim is the author of Family walks in Cape Town and a talk show host on Cape Talk (Hiking with Tim Lundy). He also has a podcast series with Traveler24 which focuses on all things hiking. This is what he had to say.
1. Plan your route carefully
Before you set out, it’s always advisable to consult a topographic map so you’ll be familiar with the type of terrain you’ll encounter. You can find these maps in local outdoor stores, bookstores and online. Learn how to use a map and compass. Call ahead, read a guidebook and study maps of the area you’ll be hiking to become familiar with trails, roads, rivers, streams, mountains and other features. Use these as reference points as you hike: Know the time of sunset, the tide changes (especially when hiking in coastal regions or Marine Protected Areas) and weather prediction for the duration of the hike before you set out. Take steps to make sure you don’t become lost. Bring a trail map when possible. CapeNature reserves include a huge variety of terrain, from windswept mountainous areas, sheer cliff s and low-lying interval and fynbos covered terrain. The terrain can be very steep and rocky, so plan accordingly, as short sections of trail can take much longer than anticipated.
2. Inform others of your whereabouts before setting off
Inform family members or friends where you intend going, the trails you are hiking, the route you intend following, when you will be departing from base camp, how long the anticipated hiking trail will take to complete and when you expect to return. Hikers Network has a great initiative, a free hiker tracking tool, that monitors and tracks hiking groups. For more information, just click through to http://hikersnetwork.co.za/safetymountain and sign up.
3. Always take along a warm top and a rain jacket regardless of the weather conditions
Take along warm clothing and a rain jacket as mountain weather can be unpredictable. This will help you in the event of unexpected bad weather. If you are injured or need to rest for longer than expected, you may be forced to spend time in the outdoors after nightfall and if the cold and rain sets in, then hypothermia becomes a distinct possibility.
4. If you going for a day walk, pack enough food for the day, not just a few hours
Take enough food along so that if there are any unexpected emergencies or delays, you will have enough to sustain yourself for at least 24 hours. What you take along obviously depends on personal taste and preference, but it should be nutritious, lightweight and easy to prepare.
5. There should always be a good first-aid kit in your bag
Apart from the standard supplies in your first-aid kit, you should also take along emergency supplies like extra bandages and transact plasters (for muscular pain), Mercurochrome headache tablets, painkillers, muscle relaxant, mosquito lotion, medicine for allergies and treatments for diarrhea.
6. A minimum of 2L of water for each hiker is the general rule.
Dehydration sets in when the body loses more water than it takes in. About 75% of the human body consists of water. Water is lost from the body through sweating and urination and therefore it must be replaced regularly to avoid dehydration. Drinking plenty of water is a necessity out on the trail. Dehydration can lead to poor decision-making, heat exhaustion, cramps and heat stroke. It is essential to drink enough water anytime you go for a hike. Since water isn’t always available from streams or brooks, you should plan to carry all the water you need. There are several schools of thought on how much water you should carry, but a general rule of thumb is to pack more than you’d think you need. It’s better to err on the side of bringing too much water than too little.
7. Sun protection such as a hat and sun block are as important at rain gear
Wear a sun hat with a wide brim to protect your ears, face, scalp and back of your neck. The dangers associated with spending too much time in the sun are very real as more people develop skin cancer as a result. Try to limit exposure during the day when the sun’s rays are strongest — between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Choose hikes that provide shade at these times and save your open hikes for early in the day.
8. A good pair of shoes will take you a long way!
Whether you are just starting out hiking or if you have been hiking for some time, it is critical to ensure that you have the right shoes for a comfortable and safe hike. When hiking, we rely on our feet and ankles to keep us upright and moving. Be sure to take care of them with good hiking boots.
9. Never split a group up unless it’s to save someone’s life in the group
As a general rule, always try to stay in the group. Don’t split up and go in different directions. If lost or forced to stop because of severe weather, stay together and remain in one place.
10. Never hike alone. If you run into problems then you truly will be alone!
It is safer to hike in groups of two, three or more. When you start the hiking trail as a group, hike as a group and end as a group. Pace your hike to the slowest person. It takes many more hours for a Search and Rescue Team to locate individuals as opposed to locating the group. Accidents happen to even the most experienced and best prepared hikers.
CapeNature hiking trails range from easy strolls to challenging climbs with panoramic views of mountain ranges and seacoasts. Each reserve is unique and representative of the distinct natural fynbos regions the Western Cape has to off er. The variety of trails provides a chance to intimately explore the complex protected fynbos environment. Enjoy your natural heritage but take care to follow Tim Lundy’s advice and stay safe at all times.